The report of the independent panel on Daniel Morgan should be published tomorrow – and three things to bear in mind

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.

Many waited anxiously for, say, the Chilcot report or the Meuller report – only for the news to move on to other things within days, if not hours.

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.


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7 thoughts on “The report of the independent panel on Daniel Morgan should be published tomorrow – and three things to bear in mind”

  1. The thing is in recent years we have seen one now infamous example of that police/media relationship still alive…Cliff Richard and how the BBC were tipped off. Sadly it still lurks in the shadows…

  2. I was a Home Affairs Correspondent for the BBC in the late 90s/early 2000s. Alastair Morgan, along with his mother, was already at that time a well-established campaigner for the truth about his brother’s murder. Indeed he was so well-established, it was hard for him to make progress with media coverage because the case was complex and there was a sense of ‘oh him again’, despite the extraordinary story, even when it took fresh twists and turns. Nevertheless he was endlessly patient in briefing journalists fresh to the story and kept in touch with many, in the hope of keeping the story alive.
    At this distance I also wonder if his difficulties in gaining media attention may have also been caused because because journalists were either a) afraid of stopping the flow of information on other stories from their contacts in the Met., or worse, b) frightened of other possible repercussions if they did so (this was after all a gruesome murder), or c) had a vested interest of their own or their publication’s in stopping the truth coming out.
    I hope we’ll find out later today, and as you point out, there is much more to be said about the relationship between police and media back then. Mostly though, I hope Alastair receives some justice in the shape of public thanks for what he has done over all these years. It must have taken its toll on him and will certainly have distorted his life from whatever path he was set upon before his brother died. As in so many murders, as a close family member he is as much a victim of this crime as the person who died. I take my hat off to him.

  3. Do you have an auto-correct to ensure you always replace ‘hung’ with ‘hanged’? It’s misfired this time. Oops also for ‘Meuller’.

    Thanks for all of your estimable musings.

  4. Well.

    Not just individuals at the police condemned for their “venal behaviour” (“dishonest behaviour for personal, usually pecuniary advantage”), but also the police as an organisation criticised for its “lack of candour ” and “lack of transparency as well as
    prevarication and obfuscation”, “concealing or denying failings” tantamount to “dishonesty”, which “constitutes a form of institutional corruption”.

    There are specific incidences of named senior police officers obstructing the panel’s work (including Cressida Dick – page 1060, 1118-1122 – but then see the palaver over the next few years in getting proper access to the HOLMES database).

    Similar issues with the Hillsborough cases. Delay, deny, deflect, discredit.

    It redoubles the need for a “duty of candour”, similar to healthcare professionals. That sort of legal duty won’t necessary make people more open and honest, but should at least give some levers to use.

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