Examination of Witness (Question Numbers
14 DECEMBER 2009
Q920 Chairman: Mr Quick, good afternoon,
you have been very patient, thank you very much for coming to
give evidence. Would you be good enough just to identify yourself
for the record?
Mr Quick: Yes, Robert Quick.
Q921 Chairman: And you were previously?
Mr Quick: Previously an Assistant
Commissioner with the Metropolitan Police Service, Assistant Commissioner
(Specialist Operations) at New Scotland Yard.
Q922 Chairman: And you had had how
many years of police service?
Mr Quick: 31 years.
Q923 Chairman: You have been good
enough to provide us with a very comprehensive statement, and
I do not think it is necessary for us to burden you by inviting
you to read all of the terms of it, but perhaps I could offer
you the opportunity of making a short opening statement, if you
are so advised, or are you content to rely on the terms of what
you provided in writing, which will, of course, be published as
part of the evidence submitted to the Committee?
Mr Quick: Perhaps I could make
a very quick observation, having heard the previous witnesses,
with regard to this dilemma, in a sense, about whether this investigation
involved Official Secrets Act offences, or indeed other criminal
offences, namely misconduct in public office. I think in order
to be helpful, I would just make the observation that we received
a complaint from the Civil Service regarding a series of leaks,
I had an initial meeting with civil servants from the Cabinet
Office, and as a result of that, agreed in principle that the
police would look at this matter, and actually asked that the
matter was scoped. That took a number of weeks to occur, and the
scoping exercise did reveal two things: one, that a series of
more recent leaks appeared to offer investigative opportunities,
if you like, a foothold on the investigation, with regard to a
particular suspect; and secondly, that the scoping exercise revealed
the existence of at least one serial leaker, possibly more, who
had access to secret material, who were prepared to steal material
from a private office safe in the Home Office, which I believe
was used to store secret material, and that this person was apparently
prepared to intercept letters without authority from a Minister
or Secretary of State with responsibility for national security
to the Prime Minister. So those matters were seen as quite serious,
and it was on that basis that the investigation was launched.
Q924 Ann Coffey: Serious in terms
ofyou understood you were investigating a breach of the
Official Secrets Act; what did you think you were investigating?
Mr Quick: Well, it was quite clear,
although you can separate the law, the facts of the case are less
clear, because, of course, we could have been investigating both.
I believe a duty was created for the police to investigate on
the facts as the scoping report revealed them to be, that we had
the existence of someone prepared to enter a safe and remove,
take, steal documents, call it what you like
Q925 Ann Coffey: Yes, but when you
applied for a warrant, what were you investigating? What was the
basis of your investigation?
Mr Quick: Well, the basis for
the investigation was we were looking at Official Secrets Act
and subsequently offences or an offence of misconduct in public
Q926 Ann Coffey: When did you stop
investigating an offence under the Official Secrets Act and start
investigating an offence of misconduct in public office?
Mr Quick: Well, I do not think
we ever stopped investigating an offence or the potential for
offences under the Official Secrets Act to have been committed,
the fact is
Q927 Ann Coffey: When you applied
for a warrant, did you say that you believed there had been offences
committed under the Official Secrets Act?
Mr Quick: I did not apply for
Q928 Ann Coffey: Whoever applied
for the warrant, sorry.
Mr Quick: I cannot tell you precisely
the words used on the warrant, but I do believe they made reference
to the potential for secret material, but I believe the warrants
detailed that the investigation was under an offence of misconduct
in public office. That is my understanding, yes.
Q929 Chairman: When did you personally
reach the conclusion that there was no scope for prosecution in
relation to the Official Secrets Act, but only in relation to
the public office offence?
Mr Quick: Well I guess ultimately,
at the time when we were able to examine all of the material that
had been recovered during the course of the investigation, and
that was not until the end of March/early April of this year,
following some issues that needed to be resolved in relation to
the status of that material, as it was claimed to be the subject
of Parliamentary privilege.
Q930 Ann Coffey: Did you tell the
Speaker or Jill Pay at the point at which you were no longer investigating
a breach of the Official Secrets Act?
Mr Quick: I think it is a slightly
academic point in a sense, because I do not think we ever stopped
investigating the potential for official secrets to have been
leaked, because of the facts that were presented to us.
Q931 Ann Coffey: You can always investigate
the potential for something, that gives you infinite opportunities
to investigate anything. Anything has a potential.
Mr Quick: Well, I am not sure
I would agree with that. I think that the thing that governs the
investigation is our powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence
Act, which give the police powers if there is a reasonable suspicion
to suspect an offence has been committed.
Q932 Ann Coffey: Why were you investigating
misconduct in public office? It is a very odd offence. Why were
you investigating that?
Mr Quick: Because my colleagues,
the senior investigating officer and members of his team, had
liaised with the Crown Prosecution Service at different stages
of the investigation.
Q933 Ann Coffey: So it was a Crown
Prosecution Service idea that you should investigate this under
misconduct in public office, was it?
Mr Quick: Well again, I think
it may be confusing to put it in those terms. We started an investigation
which clearly embraced a suspicion that Official Secrets Act offences
may have been committed. As the police progressed the inquiries
first through a scoping exercise, let us just establish the facts
as we know them to be, and take some legal advice from Crown prosecutors
Q934 Ann Coffey: It is one thing
getting a warrant and arresting a Member of Parliament on a suggestion
of breach of the Official Secrets Act, and an entirely different
thing doing that because of an offence which is called misconduct
in public office.
Mr Quick: Well, both are quite
serious offences, they are offences that are used from time to
time to prosecute people.
Q935 Ann Coffey: When was the last
time somebody was prosecuted under the offence
Mr Quick: I should think there
have been several this year, I know of cases awaiting trial at
the moment for those offences.
Q936 Sir Alan Beith: One case collapsed
during the course of these proceedings, did it not?
Mr Quick: I am sure that may well
be the case, but it is not an uncommon offence, and I have encountered
it several times in my career. Not in relation to leaks, in relation
to breaches of public office duty.
Q937 Mr Howard: But not in relation
Mr Quick: Not to my knowledge.
Q938 Chairman: Mr Quick, you are
an experienced officer, 31 years in the force, you have a nose
for a case. Surely your nose told you at a much earlier stage
perhaps than you have acknowledged to us that there never was
any question of an Official Secrets Act prosecution here, and
that something else would have to be found. That is a matter of
instinct, is it not, built up over 31 years in the profession?
Mr Quick: I think we were simply
confronted by facts that were very serious and very worrying:
there was a leaker, at least one, in the Home Office prepared
to steal documents from a safe in the Secretary of State's private
office, and intercept letters to the Prime Minister. I was not
in a position to say, "This is a responsible leaker who is
only leaking non-secret material", I think that would have
been quite reckless. I think the duty of the police was to recognise
a level of suspicion had clearly been reached and exceeded which
created a duty on us to investigate the facts of these leaks,
namely what has been leaked, and to whom.
Q939 Chairman: But you knew what
was reaching the public domain, questions about immigration, questions
about statistics on immigration. Presumably you were aware of
Mr Quick: Certainly in relation
to a narrower group of leaks that were prioritised early in the
investigation, which were subsequently linked to Mr Christopher
Galley, you are absolutely right, but the wider series of leaks,
as we know, did involve secret material. Indeed, I also was struck
by a comment of an Opposition MP just a few days into the inquiry
who suggested that secret material was being leaked.