MPs call for new rules after “Keystone Cops” raid of Commons office

April 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

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The Commons Home Affairs committee has called for a “new protocol” for police officers in the aftermath of the arrest of Tory MP Damian Green as part of a leak investigation.

Mr Green, a frontbench spokesman, was arrested in November last year.

His home and his offices in the Palace of Westminster were raided by police.

They did not seek a warrant for the Parliamentary search, which “caused considerable disquiet and provoked a lot of media comment,” according to the committee.

In its report it concluded that “politically sensitive” investigations should be handled differently by police.

The committee hear evidence from the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith and the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, Sir David Normington.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson also appeared before them in his role as Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, along with Bob Quick, the senior officer in charge of the police investigation.

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Home Affairs committee, branded the Metropolitan Police investigation of Mr Green as more “Keystone Cops than ‘softly, softly.”

“This case has raised a series of serious questions about the way such extraordinary and politically sensitive cases are dealt with, and exposed what is perhaps a lack of readiness or preparation in such circumstances,” he said.

“It is regrettable that there should have been any misunderstanding over the issue of consent to search Parliamentary  premises, and we hope the Protocol issued by the Speaker in the wake of this operation is one of the lessons learned that will help the police and all parties determine the right processes to follow. We also welcome the Home Secretary’s review.

“Although we understand that the police were anxious to operate discreetly, some of their efforts may actually have complicated the situation.

“24 police officers, and a number of strategy groups, including some of the most senior police officers in the country were involved in the investigation, strategy, arrest of Mr Green and searching of his office.

“Despite this they even had to ring the Leader of the Opposition to ask for his help in locating Mr Green who was eventually found in Kent. This owed more to the ‘Keystone Kops’ than ‘Softy Softly’.

“Once a police operation is under way politicians should only be informed of operational matters in exceptional circumstances or their actions may be open to misinterpretation.

“They should treat the information they receive as strictly confidential. These exceptional circumstances should be the subject of a new protocol.”

Click here to read the report.

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Entry filed under: Committees, Commons. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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