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Without brave whistleblowers, Ali Dizaei would be running the Met police
08:08 GMT, 18 December 2012
'Plebgate': An officer has been arrested for allegedly leaking details of Mitchell's outburst to the Press
So much for the ‘public interest’ defence. A policeman has been arrested for allegedly leaking details of ‘Plebgate’ to the Press.
That was the scandal which brought down the Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell, who was accused of abusing officers on protection duty outside Downing Street when they refused to let him ride his bike out of the main gate.
After the story broke in The Sun, what purported to be a full transcript of the exchange was given to the Telegraph and was widely covered by Fleet Street.
Mitchell admitted swearing, but he was adamant he hadn’t used the words ‘plebs’ or ‘morons’. Even though Call Me Dave initially protested that the incident wasn’t serious enough to cost the Chief Whip his job, it played into the ‘Tory toffs’ caricature and Mitchell was forced to fall on his handlebars.
And that should have been the end of the matter. Despite the fact Mitchell could have been prosecuted for abusive behaviour, common sense appeared to have prevailed and his resignation was deemed punishment enough.
Certainly, No 10 didn’t want a trial pitching a prominent Conservative politician against the police and reinforcing the widespread impression that the country is being run by a bunch of privileged public schoolboys who view the lower orders with undisguised contempt.
It was assumed that Met Commissioner Bernard Hyphen-Howe would have one eye on the New Year Honours List and wouldn’t welcome a protracted run-in with his Tory patrons. But that was to reckon without his messianic determination to criminalise all contact between the police and the Press.
The original incident was quickly forgotten. Instead, the Met launched a full-scale investigation into who leaked the story to the newspapers.
On Saturday night, a member of the diplomatic protection squad was arrested and interviewed on suspicion of misconduct in public office. He was suspended from duty and bailed until next month.
Scotland Yard stressed that the officer arrested was not one of those involved in the confrontation with Andrew Mitchell. There is no suggestion at this stage, either, that any money changed hands for the story.
The Met Police Federation is furious, arguing that even if the leak was unauthorised it could have been dealt with using the internal disciplinary procedures. John Tully, the Federation chairman, said the arrest was ‘disproportionate’ and would only exacerbate the already rock-bottom morale at the Yard.
Investigation: The original incident was quickly forgotten but the Met launched a full-scale probe into who leaked the story to the newspapers
Of course it was ‘disproportionate’. Disproportionate is what Hyphen-Howe does these days, ever since he became Commissioner.
On Merseyside, he was the ‘Hail Fellow Well Met’ chief constable, always happy to share a drink and a meal with reporters. After arriving at the Yard, he now sees himself as a true and perfect knight in shining riot gear — the only man to clean out the stables after the previous regime’s mishandling of the phone-hacking inquiry and too-close relations with News International.
Hyphen-Howe swallowed whole the preposterous and patronising recommendations of the Filkin Report, which seeks to prohibit all off-the-record communication between police and reporters.
More from Richard Littlejohn…
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Forget 'hope and change'- this was a victory for fear and loathing
VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
In pursuit of those involved in
phone-hacking, he has sent in the heavy mob at the crack of dawn to
intimidate innocent journalists and their families.
Only a handful have been charged, yet their lives have been turned upside down. Seasoned crime correspondents have received menacing phone calls from anti-corruption officers demanding to know where they got their information. The Met even used the Official Secrets Act in an attempt to force a Guardian reporter to disclose her sources.
Within the Yard, officers speak of a reign of terror as the professional standards unit, under Deputy Assistant Commissioner Pat Gallan, seeks out anyone suspected of co-operating with the Press.
Gallan is a ferociously ambitious, former Merseyside colleague of Hyphen-Howe, said to fancy her chances of becoming the first black, female Met Commissioner. The aim is to stop any information getting out, except through rigorously controlled official channels.
The officer now facing charges over Mitchell is not the first to feel the heat.
A Met constable, PC James Patrick, is also being investigated for gross misconduct for criticising police practice and reforms in a book based on his Twitter postings.
Compare and contrast his treatment with the book published by bent copper Ali Dizaei, which was serialised in The Times and featured as Radio 4’s Book Of The Week.
Far from being disciplined, Dizaei was subsequently promoted, even though his book was fiercely critical of the Met and he was forced to pay libel damages to two senior officers.
Dizaei’s meteoric rise through the ranks was only halted after he was exposed as a liar and a crook by this newspaper.
That would not have been possible had brave Met insiders not been prepared to blow the whistle.
Get away with it: Without brave whistleblowers, incidents like this – which are in the public interest – would get brushed under the carpet
Yet now Hyphen-Howe has embraced a little-noticed provision of the Leveson Report, which recommends that any officer who uncovers wrongdoing in the force should have to ring a dedicated police hotline rather than tell the Press.
How many other scandals will then be hushed up as a result
You can be sure that neither Scotland Yard nor Downing Street would have disclosed any details of ‘Plebgate’ if someone hadn’t leaked it to the newspapers.
But if this wasn’t in the public interest, what is
We are entitled to know about the behaviour of our elected representatives — especially when it takes place in public, outside No 10 Downing Street.
There was no justification for keeping this incident under wraps. Even the much abused ‘national security’ excuse doesn’t apply.
Yet if Hyphen-Howe had his way, it could have been swept under the carpet. This isn’t just about the narrow relationship between the police and the Press, it’s about the public’s right to know. Coppers are supposed to be citizens in uniform. You could argue that it’s their duty to keep us informed.
Earlier this year, I was having an informal, off-the-record chat with a group of coppers. (Don’t worry, Bernard. No booze was involved, just coffee.) We were talking about Leveson, Filkin and beyond.
Put it this way, I said: if these rules had been in force a few years ago, the killers of Stephen Lawrence would still be walking the streets and Ali Dizaei would be Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
Does anyone still think stopping coppers talking to the Press is in the public interest
This week’s festive edition of Mind How You Go comes from Stoke-on-Trent, where two coachloads of carol singers were flagged down by police.
Motorcycle cops with flashing blue lights signalled to the drivers to follow them.
The 90 members of the Staffordshire-based All-Women’s Choir were thrilled. They presumed they were being given a police escort to their Christmas concert.
For ten miles they roared through traffic, sirens screaming.
It was only when they arrived at Port Vale football ground that they realised the police thought they were Chesterfield supporters on their way to the game.
One of the cops looked at the rows of women, aged between 18 and 80, and said: ‘You’re not football fans, are you’
Come on, Sting, give us a Toon
Against cuts: Musician Sting
Sting and Bryan Ferry head a list of pop stars who have written to the Guardian (where else) complaining about 2.5 million cuts to the arts budget in their native Newcastle.
Why don’t they write out a cheque themselves Sting is worth an estimated 200 million. Last year he was reported to have arranged his financial affairs to avoid having to pay the 50p tax rate.
This saved him 2 million, almost enough to make up the entire shortfall. Here’s an idea. Sting has just taken part in NBC’s Hurricane Sandy relief concert in New York. If he can raise money for the North Eastern United States, why not stage a concert at St James’ Park in aid of the arts in the North-East of England
I’m sure it would raise more than 2.5 million — especially if Bryan Ferry and Mark Knopfler also agreed to play for nothing.
Or would Sting rather be an Englishman in New York
From Clare Balding to Graham Norton, the BBC is blessed with prominent gay presenters.
Broadcasting is one industry where gays are arguably over-represented — from the weather forecast and make-over shows to Tinky Winky of the Teletubbies.
Some of our greatest TV talents, on-screen and off, are gay. So why does a new report claim homosexuals and lesbians are ‘still relatively invisible’ on the BBC
I’ve never heard anyone else complain that the problem with the BBC is: not enough gays.
are now 153 different languages spoken in Manchester, according to a
new study. And that’s just in the Manchester City dressing room.
French President Francois Hollande
declares that the EU is ‘for life’. Just as well that doesn’t apply to
his sex life, or he’d still be with the mother of his four children.
remarks were aimed at preventing a British withdrawal. I thought that
we’d voted to join a Common Market, not the Hotel California.