Tom Brake MP is Lib Dem Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities Co-Chair.
A friend texted me over the weekend, after the news of Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation, saying ‘What next?’. I texted back, ‘The Queen abdicates?’.
Revelations about phone-hacking and the Metropolitan police have been coming so thick and fast over the last couple of weeks that nobody would bat an eyelid (all right, I exaggerate slightly) if Her Majesty revealed a previously unknown Met and NOTW connection.
Sir Paul’s departure is just the latest extraordinary development in the phone-hacking saga.
Even though he was widely recognised as an outstanding commissioner who avoided the more political stances adopted by his predecessor, Sir Ian Blair, Sir Paul’s position became untenable after the Met’s links with an ex- NOTW Executive Editor, Neil Wallis and Sir Paul’s twenty night free stay at Champneys were revealed .
His resignation also brings the position of John Yates into further question.
To restore the Police and the Met’s credibility, we now need the following:
- Rapid progress on the full and open inquiry promised by the PM into the increasingly murky relationship between the Met and the Press. This inquiry must investigate the possibility that any number of media outlets were involved in bribing officers, in any of the police forces;
- The urgent appointment of a successor to Sir Paul, untainted by any aspects of phone-hacking or doubtful NOTW connections, and with a track record in counter-terrorism who will be up to speed on Olympics security matters within days of their appointment;
- Interim guidelines, clearly setting out the rules governing: Press and Police relations; the acceptance of gifts; and the employment of ex-employees of organisations with an on-going relationship with the Police.
These measures alone will not completely restore the Met’s now tarnished image, but they will indicate that the Government and the Met recognise the crisis of confidence facing our most high profile police force and are willing to grasp the nettle.
One final point, given the complete failure of the checks and balances that are supposed to apply to the Police Commissioner/Mayor relationship, now would be a good time to look again at the strict checks and balances that are supposed to be included in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, covering the activities of the Elected Police and Crime Commissioners and the Chief Constables!
Since Tom Brake submitted this article earlier today, John Yates has announced his resignation.