How the Daniel Morgan independent panel report substantiates its allegation of ‘institutional corruption’ in the Metropolitan Police

15th June 2021

The report of the independent panel into the death of Daniel Morgan – and how every investigation and prosecution collapsed – was published today.

And if you are to substantiate the serious allegation of ‘institutional corruption’ against the metropolitan police both historically and in the present tense then this is how to do it.

The report is solid, detailed, thorough, methodical, sourced, and it cannot be dismissed.

(Even if the report is ignored.)

It makes out a compelling case of corruption throughout the metropolitan police – and not just some dodgy officers at one police station.

But corruption needs a motive – and this is where the report is at its most compelling – it shows how the police were primarily motivated by reputational imperatives at each stage.

And the report demonstrates that this corruption continued with obstructing the work of the panel itself.

Given the weaknesses of a non-statutory inquiry, this is a far better report than one could have reasonably hoped for – and let us hope it brings at last some sense of justice for the Morgan family.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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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Cock-up vs conspiracy – and law and policy commentary

1st June 2021

Swapping human beings for gods, some people like to see an intelligent design behind anything extraordinary in human affairs.

A thing happens – out of the ordinary course of events – and that thing requires (even demands) a special explanation of how certain people intended it to happen and made it happen.

And sometimes – conspiracies actually do happen.

To always dismiss conspiracies is as misconceived as always seeing them in existence.

But conspiracies are (in my view and experience) rare, as they often require a group of people to act effectively but silently in concert in an emerging and often novel situation.

And so I am not a conspiracy theorist by inclination.

Conspiracies do happen – but often because there has been a cock-up, as it is usually only with a cock-up that a group of people are sufficiently focused and motivated to act silently in concert. 

(By ‘silently’ I mean, with no visible traces outside of that concert, as that would undermine the purpose of the conspiracy.) 

Yes, of course, everyone knows (who should know) Hanlon’s Razor – that a thing should not be attributed to malice that can be attributed to stupidity.

But that is not quite the same – not all conspiracies are malicious (often they are defensive), and not all cock-up result from stupidity but because, to invoke another law, when things can go wrong they will go wrong.

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The particular reason I mention this is, of course, the upcoming Daniel Morgan report.

Others following the independent panel inquiry have put forward possible explanations for why each investigation and prosecution collapsed in respect of the 1987 murder of Morgan.

I do not have any plausible theories – still less any knowledge – as to who was involved when and how.

This is not just safe libel-speak – I have no idea.

It may well be, for example, that there is a plausible and mundane explanation for why each successive investigation and prosecution collapsed.

But such a pattern of failed investigations does require its own investigation – and one of the purposes of the upcoming report is to provide a document-based understanding of what happened and who was involved.

There may be an elaborate conspiracy or sequence of conspiracies – or there may be a sequence of mistakes and improvisations – or there may be a mixture of both.

The best thing to do is to see what evidence is put together by the independent panel, and to see where there that evidence takes us.

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Podcast – discussion with Alex Andreou on the upcoming Daniel Morgan report and its potential significance

31st May 2021

In this podcast released today (but recorded last Friday) I discuss with Alex Andreou the significance of the upcoming Daniel Morgan report – and also the recent attempts by the home office into bullying the independent panel.

Andreou is a superb podcast host, combining a formidable intellect with a luxurious, melodious voice (in contrast to my high-pitched Brummie Wednesday Addams) – and we hope that this will be a useful primer in the run-up to the publication of the report expected in mid-June 2021.

You can hear it on one of the links here.

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Some early reviews:

 

Did the Home Office blink? – the significance of today’s announcement of a date for the Daniel Morgan report

28th May 2021

Today came the news that the publication of the report on the Daniel Morgan independent panel should be on 15 June 2021.

This is the report into the 1987 death of Daniel Morgan, the collapse of the many subsequent investigations and prosecutions, and the existence of (and the relevance of) any corrupt relationships between the police, the private investigation industry and the press.

The statement of the panel is here and should be read in full

This is, of course, welcome news.

It ends the stand-off between the panel and the home office – and, on balance, the home office has given way more than the panel.

The late intervention of the home office – to demand a last-minute ‘review’ of the report – is now unlikely to frustrate the publication of the report.

Delay and blocking

This statement means that, unless something happens to prevent it, there is now a fixed, imminent date for publication.

This should prevent the report being delayed indefinitely by the home office sitting on it during this (supposed) review.

If the objective of the home office was to provide room for delay (or even prevent) the publication of the report, then that objective looks like it has been defeated.

There is a little wriggle-room for potential further delay – but not as much as if there was no date set at all.

Redactions

The statement also deals with the issue of any home office redactions.

Any redactions that the home office insist upon will be identifiable – and so, it would seem, contestable in court.

Each redaction would be an action by the home secretary that could – at law – be looked at by the high court for its reasonableness and relevance.

Any redaction would thereby not necessarily be the end of the matter – but just the prelude for litigation.

The redactions cannot just be silently made, with no one to know.

Again this is a set-back if the objective of the home office was to have room to make such silent redactions.

Forewarnings and leaks

If, however, the home office had as its objective that it would be forewarned of the content of the report, this objective has been achieved.

This means that if – and it is only an ‘if’ – there is anything politically significant in the report then the home office will not have a shock and so will not be bounced.

It also means there is the possibility of leaks from the home office – perhaps to the media – in the days before 15 June 2021.

This is notwithstanding the controlled conditions for the review of the report – which will remind those with longer memories of Robin Cook and the Scott report.

Making sense of the Home Office intervention

As this blog has already averred, there appears to be no good reason for the late home office intervention.

The purported reasons do not add up – and they appear to be improvised and cynical.

As I set out in detail here, the choice of ‘national security’ and ‘the human rights act’ as grounds appear to have been for providing the maximum litigation cover for any home office delay, and not because of any genuine concerns.

I am not a conspiracy theorist by inclination – conspiracies do, of course exist, but usually to hide cock-ups, as only then will a number of people have the motivation and focus to act in concert.

As such I do not think there is any conspiracy between the home secretary and others to try and block or delay or gut the report.

The home secretary may well be (as a lawyer would say) on a frolic of her own in all this, without contact with anyone else with an interest.

It may well be that the home secretary simply did not like the idea of something being published by an independent panel beyond her control or involvement.

But whatever the true motive for the home office’s late bullying intervention, the statement today means that it is more likely than not that we will see the report published in two weeks, and possibly with few if any redactions.

The panel and its lawyers should be commended for facing off this illiberal and misconceived intervention.

*****

Hello there.  Thank you for reading – now help keep this blog available for you and others.

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