Nothing screams “cover up” quite so loudly as a Home Secretary interfering in the publication of an independent report – especially when it is on the murder of a detective investigating police corruption.
This Writer has been reporting on the murder of Daniel Morgan, practically since I started working on newspapers, and the lack of progress in his case indicates either a monumental failure – or monumental obstruction.
His body was found in a south London car park with an axe embedded in its head in 1987.
The motive for the murder has not been established. Some believe it resulted from a business dispute but following a fresh investigation the Met announced in 2007 that the motive for the murder was probably that Morgan “was about to expose a south London drugs network possibly involving corrupt police officers”.
There are claims that corruption in Rupert Murdoch’s News International media empire is also linked to the case.
The independent Morgan panel was set up in 2013 to investigate “the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the former News of the World and other parts of the media, and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them.”
Its terms of reference included “police involvement in the murder; the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder … and the failure to confront that corruption”.
And now Priti Patel, the government minister responsible for the police, is refusing to allow the report of an independent inquiry into his murder to be published until she has vetted it, despite not having the right to do so.
It seems she wants to black out any part of the report she says might affect national security or human rights obligations.
The Morgan panel, responsible for the report, has issued a statement attacking the intervention in the strongest possible terms.
It said it had been told the report would not be made public until it agreed to the pre-publication review by government, which breaches the understanding it has about its independence.
The panel claimed the Home Office wanted the right to black out any part of the report it considered may breach “national security” or human rights obligations.
“The Panel was informed yesterday (Monday 17 May) that a publication date will not be agreed until the home secretary and Home Office officials and lawyers have reviewed the contents of the Panel’s Report,” its statement said.
“A review of this nature has not been raised previously in the eight years since the panel was established in 2013.”
It added: “The panel believes that this last-minute requirement is unnecessary and is not consistent with the panel’s independence.”
It said: “The panel is disappointed with this position and hopes the matter can be resolved in adequate time for its report to still be published in May while parliament is sitting.”
And it said a senior team from the Metropolitan police had already checked to ensure there was nothing in the final report that jeopardised security.
The Home Office statement on the matter is contradictory.
It states: “The home secretary … has an obligation to make sure the report complies with human rights and national security considerations. This has nothing to do with the independence of the report and the Home Office is not seeking to make edits to it.”
But if Patel is planning to alter the report – in any way – before the public can see it, then she is seeking to edit it.
Daniel Morgan’s brother Alistair has said the panel should take a case to the High Court, to protect its independence.
Let’s hope it does. This case has been going on for long enough that another slight delay won’t make much difference – and resisting Patel’s interference could make the difference between finally having a conclusion and suffering another grubby cover-up.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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