Some thoughts on having read the Daniel Morgan independent panel report

22nd June 2021

I have now read and re-read the Daniel Morgan independent panel report, and here are some thoughts that I do not think I have yet seen elsewhere.


First: corruption and other failings do not only go in one direction.

The problem that is most associated with the Morgan case is that corruption meant that the original investigations did not go far enough.

And this report certainly details the failings of those first investigations.

But what those following the case will perhaps not appreciate is that the later investigations can be regarded as having gone too far.

In particular, the manner in which the most recent investigations went about procuring and even contriving evidence so as to get the prosecutions is uncomfortable reading.

When the court threw out the prosecutions in 2011, it has to be said that the court was right to do so.

There were serious problems about how the prosecution case had been put together.

And botched, over-zealous investigations and prosecutions serve nobody – and even create false hopes


Second, and I will set out in more fully in a Financial Times video later this week: the panel substantiate their finding of ‘institutional corruption‘.

The panel define this term with care and show what comes – and what does not come – within the definition.

The panel then applies the defined term consistently, and the report provides a number of sourced examples illustrating institutional corruption – and showing implicitly why no lesser term would be as apt.

Those – such as former metropolitan police commissioner Ian Blair – who aver that there is no evidence of institutional corruption either have not read the report or are being dishonest.

The evidence is there – detailed and sourced and evaluated – and it is difficult if not impossible to gainsay that it fulfils the defined term.


Third: we may know more why the successive investigations and prosecutions failed, but we are no nearer knowing who murdered Daniel Morgan, and why.

If anything, the report shows the weaknesses of a number of theories about why Daniel Morgan was murdered – for example, the claim that Daniel Morgan was about to expose police corruption.

The murder case is still open – and, indeed, the report even points to a couple of new lines of enquiry.


And finally: some (minor) criticisms.

The numberings of sections and paragraphs of the report are difficult to follow – with paragraph numbering re-starting completely (and confusingly) with each chapter, and this makes it difficult to cross-refer between different parts of the report.

The report should have had a table of recommendations  and conclusions – for currently the recommendations (many of which are important) and conclusions are scattered throughout the report and hard to find.

But these criticisms go to form, rather than substance.

In substance, the report will be hard to dislodge as an indictment, and it needs a stronger defence from the metropolitan police than a pretence that there is no evidence of institutional corruption at all.


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13 thoughts on “Some thoughts on having read the Daniel Morgan independent panel report”

  1. That is very helpful and fleshes out your first reaction very well. I perhaps naively remain shocked that the very weak response of the Met to the robust finding of institutional corruption has been given such an easy ride by the media. Your point about going too far in trying to convict should also get more notice.
    Thank you.

  2. Your point about so-called “noble cause” corruption – a form of ends justifying means – is well made. Too many people have been convicted for crimes they did not commit, due to someone bending the rules in an attempt to secure the “right” verdict (rather, what the rules-bender believes to be the right verdict but fears may not eventuate without sufficient bending).

    On your evidential point, I’ve not read all 1251 pages of the report from end to end, but the bits I have dipped into look pretty clear, well sourced and well reasoned to me.

    Would Ian Blair have read the report by the morning after it was released? Perhaps he might at least have read the parts where own behaviour is discussed, such as the criticism of his inaccurate overstatement about the second and third investigations on page 608.

    In making his widely-reported remarks – that he saw “no evidence of systematic corruption” – he did not provide his own definition of “systematic corruption”, but he did go on to complain that “I just don’t believe the words institutionally corrupt in any way reflect what the public understanding of what that would mean”.

    So he seems to understand that the panel was using a specific definition of “institutional corruption” – not its own peculiar definition, but a typical definition used by people working in this field – but then to be throwing away that precise definition in favour of his own unarticulated common sense or “public understanding” definition.

    It is not about whether each and every person, or most people, or even a substantial minority, working within an organisation are actually corrupt. It is about the way the institution operates to defend itself at the expense of its primary purpose. In much the same way as institutional racism is not about racist behaviour of specific individuals, but how the institution operates as a whole.

  3. On being interviewed by the BBC regarding the report, Ian Blair was adamant that Dame Cressida Dick was the most accomplished police officer of our generation. Would that we could have an independent panel tasked to investigate that claim.

  4. off topic and I am sure you are aware of that little Function in the Adobe Reader called liquid. I found it unbelievable helpful with HMG pdf’s to make them more readable or better searchable

    1. Thank you; DAG may well have been aware of this, but I wasn’t. This will save me many tedious hours of painfully cutting and pasting into Word in order to search and comment on such documents.

  5. I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to seeing your FT video. Having looked at the report and acknowledging your comments on format and recommendations, I am sure these will all be made much ‘clearer’ on your video.

    Another professional service to add to your extensive portfolio of skills?

  6. I haven’t read the report so cannot comment on it (or in truth on the accuracy of your assessment). Ian Blair may have read it and thus be making an informed comment based on his knowledge, experience and his reading of the report. Again I don’t know.

    But isn’t there a bigger problem here than just this report? That is the need for “instant reaction” to any report. Does anyone ever say when asked by the media for a comment – “love to do so, but it’s hundreds of pages long” and I haven’t read it yet. And by the time they have had chance to read it the “instant” media has moved on.

    Take any relatively recent complex and (even moderately) lengthy document – the Bashir Report, the End to End Review of Rape, the Northern Ireland Protocol – and the majority of people who comment on them to the media will not have read them. (In the case of the NIP some MP’s effectively boasted that they hadn’t read it!).

    Too busy or too lazy? Those of us who have worked in the public sector know that Ministers and Quango Boards don’t read the documents. They get a distilled, summary version and a recommended “line to take”. I worked in one organisation where the Chair and Chief Exec insisted that no summary could be more than 2 sides of A4, regardless of complexity of the original document.

    It takes time to produce a considered response to a lengthy and complex document and responding to it “instantly” does democracy a disservice.

    So thank you for taking the time and trouble to produce a considered response. I know I’ll never get round to reading the Morgan report so, as ever, am grateful for your analysis.

    1. You have a good point about “instant” reaction, Dr Venn, and then the media cycle moving on. This report is so important and so damning, and so long in gestation, hopefully it will burn for a little longer.

      At least a Home Office team will have read the report before publication, to check for imaginary national security and human rights concerns – and no doubt to allow the Home Secretary to make an immediate statement – but isn’t the usual practice to circulate drafts to interested parties, not least for “Maxwellisation” to give anyone criticised the opportunity to respond? So for example Ian Blair presumably had an opportunity to see the bits that mentioned him before publication. I trust members of the Morgan get an opportunity to see it too? And then perhaps embargoed copies to the media, etc.?

      A little like the worthy output of the Law Commission, which reviews and then recommends changes to the law, a risk with inquiry reports is that everyone nods along and says “lessons will be learned”, and then they sit on a shelf with many of the recommendations not implemented.

    2. No doubt you meant it as a rhetorical question, but a few years ago I was asked by a media outlet for comment on a 500+-page international arbitral award that I could not possibly have read because the website where it was posted had crashed, and said so. That didn’t stop others who must have been equally in the dark from commenting, mind you.

  7. I can imagine that Ian Blair’s dishonesty isn’t with the public, though, but more with himself. Same goes for many officers – it is very hard to believe and accept such a damning picture.

  8. I look forward very much to listening to your fuller considered response. I hope that the Home Affairs Select Committee will hold an enquiry – and the chair, officers and at least some of the members be counted on to read and inwardly digest before asking cogent and pointed questions and coming up with a report. The problem with Select Committees is that they do not always follow through on their own reports…….and hold the government to account on the often weak responses that come from them.

  9. I am always a little concerned when I hear about ‘independent’ investigations ie are they?

    As this matter seemingly resolves around corruption, just how far does that go, including the investigative parties?

    I could go on but, a man was seemingly murdered, the police were seemingly not very robust in trying to establish who did it.

    Has anyone made any link between what happened and the Freemasons? (Or are they afraid to). It might avoid a lot of debate about what has really gone on.

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