From one perspective, I can see it is reasonable that
‘In order to make a police complaint, you must be eligible to be a complainant. This is defined by the legislation as someone who has directly witnessed the incident or who is directly affected by it.
Complaints can be raised by other people on their behalf, but only with their written consent.
Therefore, if you are not directly affected or were not present at the incident that you have concerns about, you cannot use the police complaints system to make your concerns known.’
– IOPC Website
However, in the light of today’s events, it does cause a certain amount of frustration: when the public actions (and inactions) of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police are open to the construction that she is acting to shield the Prime Minister from scrutiny at a time of public scandal, what can be done about it?
This is the best I can think of:
To all whom it may concern – including the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the Independent Office for Police Complaints* – I wish to complain about the actions of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, in relation to the Sue Gray report and the events surrounding it. The nature and timing of those actions create a strong impression of corruption and misconduct in public office, specifically that the Commissioner is acting, not in the public interest, but to shield the Prime Minister from scrutiny at a time when public confidence in him is at an all-time low. It is entirely wrong that the police should act from political motives against the interest of the public whom they serve.
The impression of corruption and misconduct has been created, not by a single act, but by a sequence of actions (or inactions) in which the only consistent factor appears to be that they serve the Prime Minister’s interest and not the public’s.
When the initial allegations emerged that led to the Gray report, there was a clamour for the Met to investigate, on the grounds that these were precisely the same kind of breaches of Covid regulations which the Met and other forces had pursued zealously against ordinary members of the public; yet here was a case where Met officers were in constant attendance and evidence of any coming and going was well documented for security purposes and no action was taken. Yet despite the presence of officers in the vicinity of the alleged incidents and the ease with which evidence could have been obtained, the Met announced that there would be no investigation, saying that there was ‘a lack of evidence’ and that in any case it was not policy to investigate such complaints retrospectively. With regard to the first point, if the police make no attempt to gather evidence (when it is there for the asking) they can hardly cite that as grounds for inaction. With regard to the second, it is not clear that the policy cited actually exists in any official form that can be examined – and an unwritten policy, to borrow Sam Goldwyn’s line, ‘isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on’ – it would appear, at best, to be an unofficial but accepted practice; at worst, an invention of the moment.
As the clamour grew, the next position taken by the Met was that it would wait till the Gray report was concluded before taking any action. For the police to defer to an internal enquiry where the matters alleged involved breaches of the law seems unusual to say the least. Once again, it is hard to see that the public interest was being served here, while it evidently did suit the Prime Minister, who found himself under increasing pressure as allegations increased but was able to take refuge behind the shield of the forthcoming Gray report to deflect any questions.
Only when the Gray report was imminent, three days ago (25 January), did the Commissioner suddenly reverse her position and announce that the Met would investigate, in terms that are difficult to reconcile with her earlier grounds for inaction. Many people, myself among them, concluded that this would mean a delay in the publication of the Gray report, and publicly expressed their concerns that such a delay, which again suited the hard-pressed Prime Minister, was the real intention of the Commissioner’s sudden change of mind and reversal of her position. Our fears were alleviated when it was reported, on the same day, that the Met had not sought any delay to the publication of the report.
Nonetheless, the report, which had been said to be complete three days ago, and was expected to be published on Wednesday (26 January), has still not appeared. Now today (28 January) comes a statement from the Met which makes clear that they have intervened to intefere with the publication of the report, in the following terms:
‘For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.
The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation.’
Far from clarifying the situation, this statement obscures it further, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it is intended to do so. Since the public has no idea which events the Met is investigating, the scale of their interference in the report is impossible to gauge. However, since (to use the Commissioner’s own words) the Met will only investigate “serious and flagrant” breaches of the Covid regulations retrospectively, we can conclude that what will be omitted from the report are those elements likely to be most damaging to the Prime Minister.
The second paragraph is a combination of the disingenuous and the nonsensical. In saying that they ‘did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed’ while at the same time asking for the most serious content to be held back, is tantamount to saying that they have not interfered in the report apart from the extent to which they have interfered in it or delayed publication of its content apart from the content they have asked to be held back. The public could have no confidence in a report published on those terms. As regards prejudicing their investigation, it is hard to see that such a claim makes any sense at all.
First of all, since this matter is not under the consideration of a court, it is not sub judice, though there is reasonable ground to suspect that the Met is playing on public ignorance to suggest that it is. That would be dishonest. Secondly, it is hard to see how, since they are already in possession of as much of the report as they deem relevant, their investigation could in any way be prejudiced by its publication in full. Indeed, it is difficult to grasp just what sense of ‘prejudice’ is intended here. Who is supposed to be in danger of being prejudiced by what?
There is a more sinister interpretation of these words and that is at the heart of my complaint. While it is hard to see how the full publication of the Gray report would in any way prejudice the Met’s investigation, it would certainly prevent their concealing from the public the extent of any wrongdoing on the part of the Prime Minister.
Given the pattern of behaviour that has preceded today’s statement, and against the background of the findings of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel that “we have found the Met to be institutionally corrupt” and “the public statements which we have heard from the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner in the days following the publication illustrate exactly the problem that we have been describing”, there is strong ground for supposing that the Commissioner, in her conduct of this matter, has at the very least brought the Met into disrepute**, and at worst has been complicit in a sustained, corrupt and politically-motivated attempt to shield the Prime Minister from public scrutiny and to bamboozle the public whom it is her duty to serve. If this falls within your area of responsibility, I would be pleased to know what you are going to do about it.
*I do not consider it worthwhile to include the Home Secretary, in whom I have no faith whatsoever – see this report of her own questionable conduct re the Met
**perhaps it would be more accurate to say ‘further into disrepute’ – recent events, such as the Sarah Everard case and the disgraceful handling of the vigil in her memory, have shown the Met in a poor light.