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31 Oct 2000 : Column 192WH

John Redgrave

12.28 pm

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): I am pleased to introduce the debate, which relates primarily to my constituent, Detective Inspector John Redgrave, whose home was raided on 3 February 1997. He was suspended from office on the following day. He was acquitted at Bow Street magistrates court by a stipendiary magistrate on 17 May 1999. The case related to charges pertaining to perverting the course of justice and the Official Secrets Act 1989. I stress that such charges were dismissed by the stipendiary magistrate and that no other charges are outstanding against Mr. Redgrave.

However, the day after the acquittal the Complaints Investigation Bureau of Scotland Yard initiated an almost unprecedented procedure of making an application to the High Court for a voluntary bill of indictment, which, had it been successful, would have reversed the stipendiary magistrate's decision to throw out the charges. My constituent was not told of that application to the High Court. Notwithstanding that, the High Court judge rejected the CIB's application and reaffirmed the stipendiary's decision.

My constituent has given 30 of his 46 years to the Metropolitan police. He has received numerous commendations for his diligent policing. He was referred to as having given outstanding devotion to duty during the complex operation that netted Kenneth Noye, John Lloyd and other major gangsters from south-east London following the gold bullion investigation in the mid-1980s, and has received countless other commendations.

We now know, as it was disclosed to my constituent's lawyers on 17 June 1997, that the CIB was aware of a £50,000 contract taken out by criminals to kill or discredit my constituent soon after a successful operation against an ecstasy factory in north London. Notwithstanding the fact that this was known to the CIB, as far as we are aware there has been no police investigation into that contract and the motives involved. Such an investigation would probably throw some light on how my constituent has been framed.

Obviously my constituent would have been heading for further promotion, but on 3 February 1997 his world crashed. The CIB broke into his house in the most traumatic circumstances, causing maximum embarrassment to his children and family. He has not recovered. I hope that the Minister can disclose--if he cannot do so today, I shall table a written parliamentary question--the information that was served on the justice of the peace to justify the grant of the search warrant. As far as I am aware, there was none, bearing in mind that we now know that the substantive allegation made by a police informant had been withdrawn by that stage, although that was not disclosed to my constituent for some years.

I could produce much evidence of the tremendous trauma that my constituent has suffered. Last year, he told the Police Complaints Authority:

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In December last year my constituent was cleared, after more than six years of CIB investigation, yet he remains suspended and is still fighting to clear his name. I join him in doing so. I have referred to the depression that he endured. Also suspended was his subordinate Michael Charman, a detective constable. They have had to endure the suspension together. On 17 July 1998, to try to cheer up my constituent, who was suffering considerable psychiatric problems, Michael Charman and his girlfriend invited him to their house in Pitsea for dinner. We now know, because it has been documented, that their house had been bugged by the Complaints Investigation Bureau.

During the dinner, Charman's girlfriend explained the extraordinary circumstances in which she, a relatively lowly executive officer of the Crown Prosecution Service, had been handed a confidential package relating to an allegedly corrupt police officer who is relevant to my constituent's plight. The circumstances were extraordinary because she was required to attend a case conference that she would not usually have expected to attend, and because she was handed that extraordinary package, which we now know was electronically bugged, by Detective Chief Superintendent John Coles, a senior officer of the CIB.

During the dinner conversation it was mentioned that that day's news had referred to the cross-examination that had taken place during the Macpherson inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. Counsel for the Lawrences, Michael Mansfield, had cross-examined the controversial senior police officer, Ray Adams, about senior Metropolitan police officer relationships with the Norris family or clan.

My constituent resolved that he should consider revealing some of the information that he had to the Lawrence inquiry and Mike Mansfield. He suggested that an incestuous relationship existed between Metropolitan police officers and the wider Norris family and community, and referred to the supposed investigation in the early 1990s into the murder of a David Norris, who I understand was the cousin of the Clifford and David Norris who were the subject of Michael Mansfield's cross-examination. That David Norris was murdered in the early 1990s. He was a paid police informant.

The circumstances of that investigation were wholly unsatisfactory. The CIB demonstrably knew of my constituent's concern about the incestuous relationship, because of the bugging. It was also mentioned in subsequent correspondence and documents. Despite the fact that it was germane to the Lawrence inquiry and subsequent inquiries, the investigators and the Metropolitan police have never asked my constituent to amplify on his information.

The CIB is riddled with people who want to stop further light being shed on those relationships. However, I understand that journalists from The Guardian are on the brink of revealing more about them, and I look forward to that. I hope that, like me, my hon. Friend the Minister and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police will study what is written.

My purpose in securing this debate is to seek an end to the agony and unfairness of the inordinate suspension of my constituent. I asked my right hon. Friend the

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Home Secretary about the cost to the public of suspensions of Metropolitan police officers, but he was unable to give the total sum. It is a side issue, but it is wholly unsatisfactory and must be addressed.

There has been widespread misfeasance at the highest level in the Metropolitan police. I again demand a full judicial inquiry into Operation Nightshade, with which my constituent was involved, and the consequent malevolence and corrupt practice of those who served and serve in the CIB against my constituent and other officers.

I want to halt Commander Hayman's dilatory and partial handling of my constituent's serious complaints of wrongdoing by John Coles and others in the CIB. I want responsibility for the investigation to be removed from the Police Complaints Authority. Commander Hayman should have investigated my constituent's complaints, but is now demonstrably disqualified from doing so. Incidentally, he invited me to have a security briefing, but I declined, because I thought that such an approach was wholly improper. I want someone else appointed who will conduct an investigation impartially and vigorously. It should be completed before any disciplinary hearing against my constituent takes place, although any such hearing would be a charade, because he has nothing to answer.

The inquiry that I seek would complement the KPMG study commissioned by the Home Secretary following recommendation 58 of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report, which states:

The CIB has recently fallen foul of several High Court judges as a result of its techniques. Judge Harvey Crush of Maidstone Crown court gave a damning 42-page judgment on the botched Operation Nectarine by the CIB and Kent police. I understand that the Director of Public Prosecutions is conducting an internal inquiry in light of that judgment. I hope that the Minister will say that the DPP's report will be published.

As I said, my constituent, Redgrave, was suspended on the basis of an allegation by a police informant that he had corruptly bunged my constituent stolen money from Operation Nightshade. My constituent was not advised that the allegation, made in June 1994, had been withdrawn. In fact, the informant withdrew it on 27 January 1997. On 11 February 1998, my constituent's lawyers wrote to the Police Complaints Authority. On 19 February, John Cartwright--the vice-chairman of the PCA--wrote back to the lawyers saying that he was not aware of the allegation's withdrawal. He is supposed to be overseeing my constituent's complaints. It was not until the committal hearings on 17 May 1999 that the withdrawal on 27 January 1997 became clear from the bundle of papers disclosed to the defence.

We now know that there are no grounds for the continued suspension of my constituent or for the bugging probe at Michael Charman's dinner. I believe that the warrants obtained for access during the raids were probably unlawful. Police procedures were

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certainly not followed. I hope that the Minister will investigate further. Despite all that, Detective Chief Superintendent John Coles, unprofessionally and with maximum spite and deceit, continues to traduce my constituent by making baseless accusations that he shared a £50,000 bung with another officer. When will it stop?

There is a serious political dimension to Operation Nightshade--an anglo-American police sting across three continents, costing millions of pounds. It started in June 1993 and a central figure was a registered police informant to whom I have already referred. He was handled by Detective Constable Michael Charman and my constituent was the senior investigating officer.

Operation Nightshade incorporated three elements--a planned cocaine shipment from Venezuela to the UK; a money laundering scam; and, most importantly, an illegal arms deal using Sierra Leone as a trans-shipment point. The British side included Customs and Excise; the south-east regional crime squad; SO10, the undercover outfit in Scotland Yard; and SO13, the anti-terrorism branch. The British worked closely with the Houston branch of United States Customs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Branch of the US Treasury Department. All were in the loop.

The informant had been approached in 1993 by a Texan-based gang with an offer to sell arms. The Americans were in the car business and boasted high political connections in Texas, where they lived in opulent homes. Roger Crooks was one of the group and it transpires from my questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that he met Peter Penfold, our high commissioner in Sierra Leone in recent times. It was Crooks who supplied the helicopter in the Sandline affair and he also runs the Mama Yoko hotel, the headquarters of the United Nations in Freetown.

The informant was asked whether he could find a buyer for a large quantity of arms worth millions of dollars. The weapons on offer included M16 assault rifles, grenade and rocket launchers, plastic explosives, mines and ammunition. Redgrave was notified and obtained further authorisation from several senior Scotland Yard commanders and their US counterparts to mount a well planned sting operation. The informant then helped to introduce the Texans to a British undercover officer from SO10, posing as a buyer for Northern Ireland Protestant terrorists. The weapons were to be stolen in part from an army base in the United States and shipped to Britain via Sierra Leone. Officers were particularly interested in finding out how Barratt sniper rifles were getting into Northern Ireland--at the cost of many British soldiers' lives.

The sting operation was going well and undercover officers were gathering evidence against the American gang. After successfully bugging meetings in London and Houston, Redgrave's team and US customs were poised to make arrests. Then something strange happened during the arms negotiations, which ultimately scuppered the operation. The informant was charged with theft of £400,000, which had been deposited in his account by the Texan gang as part of the laundering scam.

To keep Operation Nightshade on track, a financial investigator was appointed by the Metropolitan police to examine the informant's business accounts.

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Meanwhile my constituent redoubled his and his colleagues' efforts to complete the sting and make the arrest. By autumn 1994, the American gang had backed off. Operation Nightshade, which cost millions of pounds, faded with no arrests on either side of the Atlantic. I would really like to know exactly how much it cost.

The informant disappeared and the theft charges against him were mysteriously dropped. Three years later, in February 1997, as anti-corruption officers raided my constituent's home, it became clear that he and Charman had not escaped the shadow of Operation Nightshade. Subsequently, the CIB told Redgrave and Charman that the informant had been re-arrested for the alleged theft of money during Operation Nightshade. The anti-corruption squad also accused both detectives of turning a blind eye to the theft in return for £50,000. My constituents were not told that that allegation was subsequently withdrawn, which is disgraceful.

The CIB further claimed that in order to disguise the corrupt payment, Redgrave had duped his senior commanders and simply invented the arms deal. That is clearly untrue, as I have ascertained through parliamentary questions and other parliamentary activities. The protection or non-prosecution of people whom Redgrave and Charman tried to investigate through Operation Nightshade is important to understanding what happened to those two officers. That is especially the case when examining the targets connected with the plan to sell arms to two Met undercover officers posing as buyers for Northern Ireland terrorists. I greatly regret that the SO10 officers were not brought before the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, but Members are well aware of our uphill struggle for transparency in that matter.

Confidential Met and United States police documents on the progress of their joint operation against the United States-based gang clearly showed that all the law enforcement officers involved believed that they were dealing with real gangsters offering an arms deal in return for millions of pounds.

In Redgrave's report to his superior on 26 May 1994, he said that the current position was that Crooks had placed an order for arms, faxed exportation documents and received the undercover officers' dummy end-user certificate. The report stated that the targets had also seen proof of purchase funds and Crooks had said on tape that the shipment was ready in a container for export within 30 days. Redgrave noted that the next stage would be to return to Houston to arrest the principals. In a memo from United States Customs dated 9 May 1994, special agent Leon Guinn said that the targets in Houston had repeatedly made incriminating statements over the arms deal in numerous telecommunications and in three meetings with undercover officers in London. Guinn continued:

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In a summary of meetings between one undercover officer and Crooks at the Britannia hotel in London on 20 December 1993, the undercover officer said:

Crooks later claimed that throughout the arms deal he was acting as an informant. Crooks appeared later in history at the heart of the United States navy's plan to rescue American and British citizens stranded in Sierra Leone, and he is still involved in the Mama Yoko hotel.

My constituent has been cleared of corruption, but he remains suspended. He believes that his plight is connected to the targeting of Roger Crooks and British policy, official and deniable, on Sierra Leone. He hoped that a judicial inquiry would uncover whether he and others were the victims of a plot by the intelligence services to undermine Operation Nightshade and to protect its targets.

I remind the House that I received some interesting answers from Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and from the Ministry of Defence. Despite extensive evidence of arms deals involving Crooks in Sierra Leone, the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), said:

Answers from the Foreign Office were equally revealing. I was told that Crooks had been known

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Only recently, the CIB wrote to inform Mr. Redgrave's lawyers that a disciplinary hearing had been set for February 2001, but that has been aborted following a complaint about a breach of procedure for setting the date. The CIB apologised and cancelled the hearing, and no further date has been set. Indeed, I believe that no hearing should be held. The disciplinary charges are a nonsense, and it is time for a line to be drawn. I believe that the police have a duty to pursue the investigation of my constituent's complaints independently, but that Mr. Hayman is disqualified from conducting it. In my view, he is partial. He refuses to take the counter-complaint seriously, and I remind the House that it includes a reference to the Lawrence inquiry and allegations of corruption about which my constituent has never been interviewed.

I remind the House of the recent employment tribunal ruling in the case of sacked Asian officer Gurpal Virdi. It is clear that that disciplinary hearing was a sham, a kangaroo court working to a predetermined conclusion. The Metropolitan police have agreed to refer that case to the Metropolitan Police Authority. Will they do the same for my constituent? Mr. Deputy Speaker, I apologise for having detained the House, but I think that you will realise that, prima facie, the case stinks.

12.51 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Charles Clarke) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) on securing this debate. I emphasise that it is entirely legitimate for my hon. Friend to raise the interests of his constituent but, for reasons that he will understand, I can say little that is specific to the John Redgrave case. However, I shall talk about the questions of discipline and corruption that arise in such cases, and about the role the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Metropolitan police. I shall not respond in detail, but I shall consider carefully what my hon. Friend has said.

At the start of an investigation into alleged corruption, Detective Inspector John Redgrave was suspended from duty on 6 February 1997 and Detective Constable Michael Charman was suspended from duty on 4 February 1997. They immediately reported sick. No criminal charges were brought. In 1998, a second investigation was mounted which led to arrests and charges. The case was dismissed in the magistrates court on the ground of insufficient evidence. However, both officers were then charged with a disciplinary offence under the 1985 police disciplinary regulations.

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A police discipline board was to have considered those charges in February 2001, but, because counsel for Mr. Redgrave and Mr. Charman will not be available on that date, the hearing is likely to be put back until April next year. In the event that the charge is proved, the officers will have a right of appeal to the Commissioner and, subject to the Commissioner's decision, to the Home Secretary. My hon. Friend will appreciate that, because the Home Secretary is the final appellate authority for disciplinary matters under the 1985 police discipline regulations, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on Mr. Redgrave's case today. I shall, of course, respond to further written parliamentary questions, to assist my hon. Friend in dealing with the matter.

I wish to make a preliminary point. I share my hon. Friend's concern about the immense time that it has taken to resolve this and other similar cases. Unfortunately, this is not the only case in which disciplinary matters have gone on for so long. Delays may happen at various stages of the process, sometimes for understandable reasons, which result in it taking a long time to resolve matters satisfactorily. That is why we wish to change the complaints system. A KPMG report and a Liberty report have been completed, and we are now consulting on a series of changes that we hope will make things more transparent and enable cases to be dealt with much more quickly. We are moving rapidly in that direction, and I hope that the House will be able to consider changes to the process when the consultation is complete.

It was for the same reason that we introduced new police discipline procedures, which came into effect on 1 April 1999 after having been in the process of revision for some years. Their main purpose was to establish formal procedures for dealing with unsatisfactory performance by police officers with the availability of a requirement to resign when an officer's efficiency cannot be brought up to standard.

The new discipline procedures have some new features. First, a fast-track procedure has been established to deal swiftly with officers against whom there is very strong evidence of serious misconduct of a criminal nature and against whom it is in the public interest to act swiftly in advance of criminal proceedings. There are full rights of appeal in that process. Secondly, disciplinary hearings are conducted by an assistant chief constable with two superintendents or, if the accused is a superintendent, two more assistant chief constables. Thirdly, the civil as opposed to the criminal standard of proof now applies.

Fourthly, greater powers now exist to hold a hearing in the absence of an accused officer. The hearing can now proceed in his or her absence. Fifthly, a two-stage appeal system has been established. A review by the chief constable is available to all officers, after which there is an appeal to a police appeals tribunal, set up by the relevant police authority, for those officers punished with dismissal, requirement to resign or reduction in rank. There is no involvement by the Home Secretary, who was the former appellate authority. I hope that the proposals concerning complaints that we are currently considering and the new police disciplinary procedures that I have described and which came into effect on 1 April 1999 will help to deal with processing problems. I know that my hon. Friend will welcome several of the changes that we have made.

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In general, I should like to think that hard-core corruption is still relatively rare, but that must not make us complacent. By its nature, it is difficult to detect and evidence can be very hard to gather. We must do everything possible to guard against it in the first place. However, when it does occur, corruption creeps almost imperceptibly through an organisation. It can take many forms, which is why it is necessary to deal with it quickly and firmly and why the changes that my hon. Friend advocates in general are ones to which the Government are sympathetic.

The majority of police officers are honest, dedicated and hard working and they deserve public trust and respect for the difficult and dangerous tasks that are demanded of them. We have the job, however, of dealing with the small minority of officers whose behaviour taints the reputation of the police service as a whole. Some areas of policing are more prone to corruption than others. For example, vice, drugs, licensing and other matters where the police exercise regulatory powers associated with extraordinarily large sums of money and high levels of financial temptation are particular areas of concern. It remains fundamentally the case that all officers have a choice to decide how to conduct themselves in such circumstances, and I am pleased that the overall majority of officers faced with that choice behave in the best traditions of the force and the British justice system.

Two reports published in June 1999 by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary and the Home Office were regarded as important contributions to the continuing debate on integrity and corruption. They have given us a better understanding of how to prevent and detect corruption. The Association of Chief Police Officers has been particularly active in that area. In 1998, it established a presidential task force to tackle corruption. It issued guidance covering policy for professional standards reporting, a corruption prevention strategy, a toolkit to assess the vulnerability of forces to corruption and guidance for investigations. That is being carried through extremely energetically.

We recognise and support the action in general taken by the Metropolitan police and, for the reasons that I have outlined, I believe that we can have confidence in the force. Like his predecessor, the Commissioner is determined to tackle corruption in the Metropolitan police. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock said, corruption in the Metropolitan police is dealt with by its Complaints Investigation Bureau, CIB3, whose role is to investigate allegations of serious corruption. It is now firmly established.

In December 1998, the then Commissioner launched the Metropolitan police's corruption and dishonesty prevention strategy with six strands: prevention and detection; inclusion; focus and accountability; supervision and leadership; security, screening and vetting; and corruption and dishonesty proofing. I welcome the Commissioner's commitment to rid the Metropolitan police of corruption. I fully support his efforts to prevent corruption, to seek it out and to eradicate it. I commit myself to considering carefully my hon. Friend's points and believe that the measures that we have already taken on discipline and those that we

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shall take with regard to the complaints procedure will help to establish a process in which we can be truly confident.

Mr. Mackinlay : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not want to mislead the Chamber. I said that Mr. Hayman had invited me to a security briefing

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but, I want to make it clear that it was the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police who invited me to a security briefing with Hayman. However, that was still wrong in my view.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Nicholas Winterton): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that matter on a point of order.

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