Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick’s tenure had been extended for two years in September 2021 only because of a lack of suitable alternatives, London Mayor Sadiq Khan suggested this week.
The then home Secretary Priti Patel, legally responsible for appointing the Commissioner, had asked the Mayor to work with her to find potential successors, as well as expressing her own concerns about Dick’s “over-defensiveness”, Khan said. “She was also having doubts about the Commissioner.”
The claims came as the London Assembly’s police and crime committee continued its probe into the Mayor’s role in the former Commissioner’s resignation earlier this year – pitting Khan against former chief inspector of police Tom Winsor, author of a highly-critical report into the ousting commissioned by the government after a request from Dick’s deputy Stephen House.
Winsor’s report, published in August, concluded that the Mayor had put unfair pressure on the Commissioner, intimidating her into resigning in breach of the statutory procedure set out in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
In irritable exchanges at the committee’s first session last month Khan argued that all “due process” had been followed prior to the resignation. “We weren’t in the formal process. We had not got to that stage,” he said.
But the Commissioner’s plans to tackle growing concerns about the Met, culminating in the police watchdog’s revelations about racism, misogyny, homophobia and sexual misconduct at Charing Cross police station, had not been adequate, he said.
Matters had come to a head on 10 February this year, with a meeting scheduled for Dick to “address the concerns I had in relation to systemic cultural issues and how to win back trust and confidence in the Met,” Khan said. But she had offered her resignation rather than attend.
“I’m surprised to this day that the Commissioner chose not to come to that meeting,” he added. “Had she come, I don’t put it beyond her to have persuaded me on these two issues.”
The committee’s second session focused on Winsor’s concerns that senior police officers needed greater legal protection from “undue political pressure”.
His report made nine recommendations, ranging from mandatory mediation to increased powers for the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and the Home Secretary to veto attempts to remove a Commissioner, and even the re-establishment of a police authority for London separate from the Mayor.
Prompted by Conservative London Assembly member Keith Prince, he also revealed that a former Home Secretary “furious with what happened in the case of Cressida Dick” had also urged him to propose new parliamentary powers to sack the Mayor if an independent report, such as his own, had found against them.
Winsor did not reveal who had made the suggestion, but his report confirmed he had spoken to former Home Secretaries Jack Straw, Charles Clarke, Theresa May and Amber Rudd, who had appointed Dame Cressida in 2017. He had also received written evidence from Patel.
Suggesting the Home Secretary should have the power to sack an elected Mayor “beggared belief”, Khan said. And he bore down on the proposal when quizzed at yesterday’s Mayor’s Question Time. “There was no reason for Sir Tom to mention that recommendation,” he said. “There were other recommendations that were made to him, that aren’t in his report, that he didn’t mention. What you are seeing is his bias seeping into everything he does,” he said.
“I stand by my decision to be on the side of those Londoners who felt let down by the failure of the former Commissioner to deal with the systemic cultural issues that infected the police service and the failure to have a plan to win back the trust and confidence of Londoners,” he said. Tory Assembly members challenging him were in danger of being seen as “unqualified” defenders of the former Commissioner, he added. “But Londoners know who was right and who was wrong.”
Sir Tom’s report would “gather dust on a shelf,” the Mayor said. “No Home Secretary has raised it with me or anyone at City Hall. The current Home Secretary and the current Home Office want nothing to do with his report.”
Khan nevertheless offered support to one of Sir Tom’s recommendations, that a Mayor seeking to start the statutory procedure to remove the commissioner set out in the 2011 Act would require the backing of the London Assembly by at least a two-thirds majority.
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