14th June 2021
Tomorrow the publication is expected of the report of the independent panel on Daniel Morgan.
We do not know at the moment whether the report will be momentous – or an anti-climax.
But regardless of the response of news organisations to the report, the report will be significant in its nature – even if it is not momentous in its effects.
The report is about three things.
The first is the 1987 death of a private detective in circumstances so brutal that the passage of thirty-four years cannot diminish the horror.
I do not know whether Daniel Morgan was about to uncover and expose police corruption or not when he was murdered – but the motivation for any murder does not really matter.
Even without what followed in the aftermath of his death, it was a singular murder that has never been properly investigated or explained.
The second is the messy and corrupt relationships between the private detective industry, the Metropolitan police and the media from the 1980s onwards – as they merrily sold and bought personal information.
Even if Daniel Morgan’s death was not about the potential exposure of corruption, the circumstances of his death was – for those connected with him – something which hanged over everyone involved for over thirty years.
And for some of those connected with him, the murder and its fallout – all those investigations and prosecutions – was no doubt an inconvenience and a perceived ‘problem’ that had to be somehow ‘managed’ while they were all otherwise engaged in the lucrative trade in the supply and purchase of private information.
This is regardless of whether anyone suspected for the murder was actually involved – the investigations and prosecutions never seemed to go away and were, no doubt, a nuisance.
Insofar as this report covers this messy and corrupt set of relationships, it will be the nearest we will probably get to the now abandoned ‘Leveson 2’.
Third, there is something rather extraordinary that requires an explanation.
Following Daniel Morgan’s murder there were no less than five investigations and prosecutions – all of which collapsed.
Like those castles built by the king in Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, each successive investigation and prosecution seemingly fell into a swamp – but here a swamp of compromised processes and irregularities and acts of self-protection.
It may well be that there were mundane reasons why each of these five investigations and prosecutions failed – and, of course, investigations and prosecutions fail all the time for all sorts of unexceptional reasons.
But how all these five investigations and prosecutions each toppled over is extraordinary – and extraordinary things require explanations, even if those explanations are themselves not extraordinary.
I have followed the Daniel Morgan story since 2012 – and I would have blogged more about the case and it possible implications had it not been for the launch of the independent panel inquiry.
The case is potentially a way into understanding what happened at the time between the police and the media and the private detective industry – and how all of this in turn affected public policy and the conduct of the media.
But the human side of this is also crucial.
Alastair Morgan – one of the most decent and determined people you will ever meet – has spent thirty-four years campaigning for justice and to uncover what happened with the death of his brother Daniel and its aftermath.
We should hope the report brings some sense of justice to Alastair Morgan and the rest of the Morgan family.
Thank you for reading.
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