27th June 2021
Having set out what the Daniel Morgan independent panel meant by ‘institutional corruption’ in my last post, and having done a Financial Times video on how the panel applied that definition to the metropolitan police, the obvious next questions is whether any other public bodies would also come within this definition.
Or is it a term that can only apply to the metropolitan police in respect of specific matter over a specific period?
If the term ‘institutional corruption’ is to have any import, it must presumably be capable of being applied to other institutions and in respect of other corruption.
To remind ourselves, this is how the panel defined corruption in its report:
‘The Panel has adopted a broad definition of corruption for the purposes of its work.
‘The definition below is based on the key elements of dishonesty and benefit, and allows for the involvement of a variety of actors and a variety of forms of benefit:
‘The improper behaviour by action or omission:
‘i. by a person or persons in a position of power or exercising powers, such as police officers;
‘ii. acting individually or collectively;
‘iii. with or without the involvement of other actors who are not in a position of power or exercising powers; for direct or indirect benefit :
‘iv. of the individual(s) involved; or
‘v. for a cause or organisation valued by them; or
‘vi. for the benefit or detriment of others; such that a reasonable person would not expect the powers to be exercised for the purpose of achieving that benefit or detriment.
More succinctly, the test for corruption can be set out in four stages:
(1) WHAT – acts and/or omissions constituting the improper behaviour;
(2) WHO – by a person or persons in a position of power or exercising powers (and this may involve other people too);
(3) WHY – for the direct or indirect benefit of the person(s), their organisation or other people; and
(4) REASONABLENESS – a reasonable person would not expect that WHAT to be done(or not done) by WHO for that WHY reason.
The panel saw the following failings by senior managers as fulfilling the WHAT + WHO + WHY + UNREASONABLE requirements:
‘i. failing to identify corruption;
‘ii. failing to confront corruption;
‘iii. failing to manage investigations and ensure proper oversight;
‘iv. failing to take a fresh look at past mistakes and failures;
‘v. failing to learn from past mistakes and failures;
‘vi. failing to admit past mistakes and failures promptly and specifically;
‘vii. giving unjustified assurances;
‘viii. failing to make a voluntarily commitment to candour; and ix. failing to be open and transparent.’
Such corruption would be ‘institutional corruption’ according to the panel as follows:
‘when […] failures cannot reasonably be explained as genuine error and indicate dishonesty for the benefit of the organisation, in the Panel’s view they amount to institutional corruption”
The key term here is ‘dishonesty for the benefit of the organisation’.
Accordingly the full test for ‘institutional corruption’ appears to be:
WHAT + WHO + WHY + UNREASONABLE + BENEFIT OF ORGANISATION
The recent scandal of the post office prosecutions comes to mind as another situation that would meet this definition – especially the knowing non-disclosure and attempts to mislead the court.
The panel themselves mentioned ‘the report of the mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry, the report by Mark Ellison QC on his review concerning the Stephen Lawrence investigation, the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and the subsequent report by the Right Reverend James Jones KCB, the report of the Gosport Independent Panel, and the work of the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire.’
And I am sure some of you can think of others.
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