The Damian Green alleged web misuse case – the employer should investigate and take whatever actions they deem appropriate

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I may be reverting into my sandals here, but I can’t see why Damian Green should be sacked – unless his employer investigates his case (regarding alleged web misuse) and deems a dismissal is appropriate.

We’re assured (by, oddly enough, retired Detective Lewis – I can imagine John Thaw saying “LEWIS!” as I write) that there is no chance that Mr Green has broken the law. The pornography allegedly found on his computer may or may not have got there due to his actions – Mr Green strongly denies any wrong-doing. But the alleged images were, apparently, not illegal, and not even extreme. The case was years ago and the result of a contested search of parliamentary premises. The current controversy seems to be a battle of retired police officers. Retired Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy says unrelated non-criminal events uncovered by enquiries would normally be kept confidential with no action taken.

OK, so Damian Green has somehow got involved in a feud with one retired officer and hence there is a public battle going on here. Fair enough.

But it is entirely up to an employer to investigate any incursions of their disciplinary code, and I believe such an enquiry is ongoing as we speak within the cabinet office.

I am all for stringing up Tories to the nearest lamppost if it is justified, but in this case I find myself taking a very laid-back woolly liberal attitude to the whole thing.

If we’re handing over employer judgements to retired police officers and the Twitteratti, then we really are on a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

Update 3rd December: To be clear, this post was referring solely to the alleged web misuse allegedly found on a laptop in a parliamentary office eight years ago, and not to other matters. The post was written in response to media coverage of this specific issue at the time. The text and title has been modified to make this clear.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Green is a bad minister in a terrible government that is doing enormous damage to the country but this is not the reason to get rid of him. The “expert” has stepped up his claims and as others are pointing out he is now claiming to have wasted police time on activity that were not what he was supposed to be doing in the investigation. I was once a volunteer where there were computers for some volunteers to use. Aparently they quickly contained porn. If this was computers in his office the time it would require to establish exactly who did download any images would not be an appropriate use of police resources.

  • Maggie Ledra 2nd Dec '17 - 10:40pm

    Is that acceptance a reflection of how much we’ve dumbed down? How can we call our MPs honourable when we know it’s acceptable and legal for them to download pornography on their work computer. No wonder some politicians think they can say anything and get away with it. Explains Brexit ref.

  • Strange then how it was deemed a ‘sacking offence’ in 2015 when four judge’s computers were found to contain ‘legal’ porn…The statement was that “They have been removed from judicial office following an investigation into an allegation that they viewed pornographic material on judicial IT equipment in their offices.”

    …………The lord chancellor ( Chris Grayling) said that the material did not include any illegal content, but concluded that this was an inexcusable misuse of their judicial IT accounts and wholly unacceptable conduct for a judicial office-holder……

    “Sauce for the goose, etc.”

  • My understanding is that retired Detective Lewis only went public when,

    a) Sue Gray’s enquiry refused to hear evidence from him, and
    b) his former boss was attacked by a number of Tory M.P.’s who were chums of Green and he decided to speak up out of loyalty.

    The real issue is the honesty of Ministers – and of course the parallel examples quoted by Expats. We await the Cabinet Office enquiry and whether the Brexit Bulldog Davis resigns as he is rumoured to have threatened.

  • Paul Walter…………….”I may be reverting into my sandals here, but I can’t see why Damian Green should be sacked – unless his employer investigates his case and deems a dismissal is appropriate.”….

    You seem to forget that there is the original accusation of his inappropriate advances to a young Tory party activist…
    You also ignore the No.10 statement refusing to say even if the investigations findings will be published.
    What confidence should we have in his ’employer’?

  • Rupert Moss-Eccardt 3rd Dec '17 - 12:45pm

    I am surprised anyone posts here who believes the police should investigate and publicise whatever they like even if the activity they are publicising is not criminal.

    Obviously a definite criminal act on a computer is always criminal (child abuse images, for example). But other activity is criminal if the activity is not authorised by the person who grants authorisation. In most organisations there will be an Acceptable User Police (AUP) or System Operating Process (SyOPS) that will state, in general what is an isn’t allowed. So if a copper, when executing a lawful search comes across something that perhaps might be considered unauthorised then they should bring it to the attention of the person who is the authorising person. That’s it.

    Key and mouse loggers are useful for civil investigations but are problematical if forensic evidence is being sought. This is because once you start logging keystrokes you can no longer use just a credential pair (userid/password) to associate activity with an individual as anyone with access to the log data now knows the passwords.

    Nadine Dorries’ assertion that credentials are routinely shared in Parliament suggests that she may have broken the law as an AUP will almost certainly require that credentials are not shared. If sharing is routine it would be hard to prove that anything found on any device belongs to that user. And it would suggest that the PDS is not following NCSC guidance.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Dec '17 - 2:17pm

    A very good reflection from Paul and friends here.

    I do not like stringing up Tories at all, a a rule, as that would be biased against the ones who are decent.

    The fact is, the governments of both main parties tie themselves up in knots and posture on these things, then get into a mess.

    If Green should go, Vaz should have.

    My hunch is they both should have, not because of the legal aspect or even moral one, but the public and drip, effect.

    Privacy and dignity not public drip effect .

    Bring back Roy Jenkins, a man who spread the love and did so without us knowing everything, without groping or grasping. making various women and his own wife, rather happy and content it seems !

  • How can we call our MPs honourable when we know it’s acceptable and legal for them to download pornography on their work computer.

    Well, firstly, as noted by Paul Walter, the pornography that was found, was legal within the bounds that apply to all under UK law.

    Secondly, the issue is what was (and is) the acceptable usage policy for parliamentary IT and the sanctions for noncompliance. Note I use the term ‘IT’ and not computers; IT covers both the use of Parliamentary issued computers and the use of using Parliament provided Internet access. Note also this policy is separate to and distinct from any acceptable usage policy that might apply to constituency office IT. It is here that differences can and do apply.

    As a society, we have decided that it is unacceptable to use work provided IT for the viewing of pornography and thus the majority of organisations will have an acceptable usage policy, which forms part of their T&Cs of employment/engagement, that prohibits the viewing of pornography etc.(*). usually with the sanction of dismissal.

    So the questions that arise are:
    1. Should Parliamentary IT have an acceptable usage policy.
    2. Should MP’s Internet access be filtered and monitored.
    3. What are the sanctions that should be applied to transgression of the acceptable usage policy.

    My answers are:
    1. Yes – Parliamentary It is provided to enable MP’s to do their job, thus personal usage such as personal business should be unacceptable.
    2. Yes – There are two parts to this: Firstly, from user safety viewpoint, this is how modern Internet Security software such as Kaspersky works. Secondly, from a policy compliance viewpoint, I think it is acceptable to initially block and gain explicit user okay and reason for wishing to visit certain websites (eg. known pornographic sites) and domains (eg. Russia, Romania, China). The only contentious part is who gets to see such records.
    3. This is going to be contentious, however, I believe we have reached a point where MPs are going to have to accept that certain behaviours, such as the willful miss use of Parliamentary IT will result in them being dismissed and thus losing the severance benefits they currently gain from resigning.

    (*) some organisations also prohibit the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter etc. – it is one of the key reasons why I don’t have a social media profile.

  • I think Paul is right – there doesn’t seem to be any suggestion that Green did anything illegal. The only question is whether he broke any HoC rules that were in force at the time the alleged porn-viewing took place (and if, after all this time, anyone can prove it was him). If so, the appropriate disciplinary procedures should be followed.

    It has been suggested elsewhere that the Police officer involved did take and keep copies of data from the computer, and that is illegal, so I can’t see any of the parties involved emerging from this with any credit.

    Now that we have the Snoopers Charter in force with it’s mandatory data retention, I wonder if we will see more instances of the “juicy but not illegal” surfing habits of public figures finding their way into the news…….

  • OnceALibDem 3rd Dec '17 - 6:28pm

    Breaking an AUP is not a criminal offence.

    “1. Yes – Parliamentary It is provided to enable MP’s to do their job, thus personal usage such as personal business should be unacceptable.”
    The thing is IIRC there are sections in the AUP for MPs allowing them a certain amount of use for personal business.

    “As a society, we have decided that it is unacceptable to use work provided IT for the viewing of pornography”
    Depends on your employment of course – there is no societal judgement in place. And it isn’t phrased that way – it is done that work IT facilities are to be used for doing your job and using them in other ways becomes a disciplinary matter. That can be gaming, gambling, social media. My work place has Lib Dem voice blocked!

    If this was a laptop it could have been used to access pornography on a private internet connection – it could even have been a privately owned computer.

    Something missing in all this is why inital reports were of ‘extreme’ pornography being found on his computer. Whereas now it is clear that this was legal (actually extreme pornography would have been legal in 2008 in any case as the relevant legislation was not in force)

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd Dec '17 - 8:29pm

    I tend to agree with Paul here. I think that the actions of the former police officers here have been reprehensible. If there was legal porn on that computer it was clearly downloaded by somebody. I would have a very low opinion of that person and in any other workplace they would have at the very least a warning.

    Cleverer tech experts than me may well rush to prove me wrong, but surely it can’t be proven that even if it was there, that he downloaded it.

    There are other enquiries going on about Mr Green and he is clearly not out of the woods yet, but I don’t think that this issue should be his undoing. You have to be fair about these things. Of course if it was one of ours, the Tories would be lining up to call for their resignation, but there can never be too much reasoned calm in the world, especially these days.

  • I think what people find reprehensible is the fact if the majority of us had been found with porn on our works Pc’s or laptop hard questions would be asked and the sack would probably follow. With MP’s this does not seem to occur, many of them seem to get away with actions that would cost the rest of us our jobs. This continual “do as I say not as I do” leads to politicians of all stripes being held in contempt.

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Dec '17 - 9:19pm

    What I want to know is why isn’t this retired detective being investigated by the police for offences under the Official Secrets Act? He has kept material that he collected while working on a police investigation even though he has since retired. That information should have been retained in the police archives for that investigation. This strongly smacks of the police considering themselves to be above the law like in Operation Midland and Operation Conifer where fantastical allegations against prominent public figures were pursued with little regard for the likelihood of them being true.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Dec '17 - 3:38pm

    I am no fan of Damien Green – except that his replacements as Immigration Ministers have been no better than him and arguably worse.

    Just remember, MPs are their own bosses and they have no boundaries whatsoever on ny day of the year (outside of when they are inside the chamber of the HoC) between their leisure time and their work time pursuits.

  • I see on the BBC News just now that former Assistant Commissioner Robert Quick is threatening to sue Damien Green.

    Well, so much for a ‘Strong and Stable Government’. Watch out for a Spring Election.

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