Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House has doubled down on the Met’s rejection of the charge of “institutional corruption” made in the independent review of the force’s investigation into the still-unsolved 1987 murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan, published last week.
Speaking at today’s meeting of the London Assembly police and crime committee, Sir Stephen (pictured) apologised to Daniel Morgan’s family for the Met’s failure to solve the crime and agreed that there was “much to learn” from the review of the case, which was ordered by the then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2013.
But while agreeing that the initial investigation into the 34-year-old crime had been tainted by corruption and that the Met could on occasion be “over-defensive”, Sir Stephen joined Met Commissioner Cressida Dick in refuting the wider charge. “The Met police service does not accept that we are institutionally corrupt,” he told Assembly Members. “Our current leadership prides itself on its integrity.”
The Commissioner would be writing directly to the Morgan family, he said, while the case remained open and a further forensic review would be carried out. Committee chair Shaun Bailey agreed to a suggestion that he should make a fresh call for anyone with information about the crime to come forward.
In a wide-ranging first post-election session of the committee, Sir Stephen also batted back concerns expressed by Tory AMs of “perceptions” that some demonstrations in the capital were treated differently from others – perceptions “not helped when you see police officers on their knees or openly supporting Palestine”, according to the Conservative Susan Hall.
Demonstrations were policed on their merits and concerns had been dealt with, he said: “It has been made clear that in a public order or operational situation, taking the knee is inappropriate. The police are there to uphold the Queen’s Peace, not to show any support for anything.”
Sir Stephen confirmed that the Met remains short-changed by “tens of millions of pounds” in National and International Capital Cities (NICC) grant designed to cover extra costs in London, including those of policing demonstrations and international events. Earlier this year it was estimated that the Met was due some £160 million from Whitehall under the formula used to calculate the grant.
New plans were also promised to tackle violence against women and girls and boost rape prosecutions. Extra patrols in public areas would be part of new operational tactics to be finalised in July, Sir Stephen said, while City Hall deputy mayor for policing Sophie Linden said that a new mayoral strategy, promised by Sadiq Khan during the recent election campaign, would be in place by the end of the year.
Linden also called for government investment in a new London “super court” to help with mounting backlogs in the capital’s crown courts hearing the more serious crime cases including rape. “It’s a really significant problem, particularly for rape cases,” she said, while Sir Stephen confirmed that crown court backlogs had more than doubled since February 2020, with more than 7,000 cases in the system overall.
Police investigation of rape allegations has also been hampered by an increasing number of cases and the need for extensive digital forensic work checking phones and social media, he said. “Our officers’ workloads are too high. We need more people.” Recent government announcements on boosting rape prosecutions, while welcome, also need “long-term funding and a step-change in the funding”, added Linden.
Green Party AM Caroline Russell meanwhile quizzed Sir Stephen on whether police action against e-scooters was too harsh, given that just 68 injuries caused by e-scooters had been recorded in 2020, compared to almost 4,000 serious injuries caused by cars.
Using an e-scooter was against the law, except on private land or as part of the current government pilot scheme organised through Transport for London, Sir Stephen said, adding that some 500 of the vehicles had been seized in the previous week in a police crackdown. “Their unlawful use is dangerous, and we are here to enforce the legislation.”
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