Police Searches on the Parliamentary Estate - Committee on the Issue of Privilege Contents

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 940-959)


14 DECEMBER 2009

  Q940  Ms Hewitt: I gather it was 21 November that the Crown Prosecution Service said that in relation to Mr Green, there might be this offence of misconduct in public office. Did the CPS warn you or your colleagues that there appears to be a very high threshold for actually establishing such an offence? Was there any warning about the evidential requirement that would be needed to prosecute such an offence?

  Mr Quick: To the best of my recollection, there was some advice given about the threshold of damage that needs to be proven, and I think we were under no illusion, it is quite a high threshold, but, of course, until you investigate and actually establish the facts, it is quite difficult to make that judgment. So once an investigation starts, of course you have to keep it under review, but it seemed to me that we could not escape the fundamental fact that someone entrusted with secrets was leaking material and prepared to take quite drastic action to leak material, namely steal documents and take them from the safe.

  Q941  Ms Hewitt: At the same time, when the CPS was saying, well, there might be this offence of misconduct in public office, were the CPS also expressing a view on Official Secrets Act charges? Were they saying that there would not be any possibility of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act?

  Mr Quick: I never personally attended the consultations with the CPS, but was always briefed in detail about them. My understanding very clearly was the Official Secrets Act dimension of this investigation was always being kept under review as it moved forward. However, in relation to Mr Galley, the advice was that his conduct on the facts that we had established at that point may amount to an offence of misconduct in public office.

  Q942  Ann Coffey: Did you have some thoughts about the context in which this investigation was being done? You talk about on the one hand the seriousness, the concern about secret information being leaked, and this damaging national security, but in the context that this was an Opposition politician who might see it indeed as part of his job to expose aspects of government policy based on documentation he might have got, did you think about that aspect of it when you were using this catch-all of misconduct in public office, that it might be viewed in a very different way perhaps?

  Mr Quick: Of course I was very mindful of the context. The first thing I think to say is in my experience, and certainly in my own experience, the police are not particularly concerned about the activities of Opposition MPs in making the life of the serving Government difficult, that is not really of much interest to police officers. However, you made the remark that the offence is a catch-all; I am not entirely sure what you mean by that, but it is a very specific offence.

  Q943  Ann Coffey: What does it mean?

  Mr Quick: Well, the offence is that you breach the duties and trust of a public office, and in doing so, you cause damage, and part of the investigation, under misconduct in public office, of course was to try to establish how much damage has been caused.

  Q944  Chairman: Yes, from the point of view of the civil servant, the duty and trust of a public office may perhaps be clear, particularly in the context of the Civil Service Code. It is not so clear in the context of a Member of Parliament. How does that offence apply to the actions of a Member of Parliament? In what way do we breach public trust?

  Mr Quick: Well, in this case, I believe, and the CPS will speak for themselves, of course, if asked, but I believe their advice really was along the lines that the inquiry had revealed some evidence that suggested Christopher Galley may be guilty of a relatively serious criminal offence, and that further, the evidence had revealed the potential for an MP, Mr Green, to have incited, encouraged, conspired with him to leak material, and therefore potentially commit the same offence as a joint enterprise. As the inquiry progressed, of course, evidence emerged that Mr Green was not a passive recipient of leaks but was active in procuring leaks, and therefore, placing Mr Galley potentially at risk of criminal sanction and potentially himself.

  Q945  Ann Coffey: But Damian Green is not subject to the Civil Service Code, is he? I go back to my point: what you seem to be saying is if you establish that the civil servant was guilty, and that is easier to establish, then if in this relationship with Damian Green, then Damian Green also became guilty of the same offence, because he was receiving material that the civil servant was giving him, and clearly he was in breach of that. But I am sort of questioning that, because it seems to me that although you can establish that misconduct in public office easier with a civil servant, it is not that easy to establish with a Member of Parliament, who might see that their duties go to the wider public, to their constituents, to exposing things they see a government might want to keep hidden, but they see it as their duty to show us, because after all they are elected, they are not employed in the same way that civil servants are employed.

  Mr Quick: No, and I think I understand your point, but at the same time, whilst Mr Green, of course, was not subject to the Civil Service Code, he is subject to the criminal law, and the evidence revealed, I believe, quite a worrying degree of complicity on the part of Mr Green—

  Q946  Ann Coffey: Complicity in what, receiving material?

  Mr Quick: In encouraging the leaking of material.

  Q947  Ann Coffey: Do you not think politicians should encourage leaking of material?

  Mr Quick: Well, I do not think they should, no. I think it is clearly—

  Q948  Ann Coffey: That is a criminal offence, is it, encouraging leaking of material?

  Mr Quick: It can amount to a criminal offence, of that there is no doubt.

  Q949  Ann Coffey: Even though it is not an offence under the Official Secrets Act?

  Mr Quick: I think my response would be that the purpose of the investigation is to establish whether it is or is not, and that is the process that we were embarked upon.

  Q950  Mr Henderson: Can I ask you, Mr Quick, did you consider prosecution of a lesser offence than misconduct in public office? I think you may have heard the questions I asked Sir Gus. Was that considered?

  Mr Quick: Not to my knowledge. The original offences that were under consideration or questions, were offences under the Official Secrets Act committed, and were offences of misconduct in public office; I am not aware of any lesser offences at that stage being considered.

  Q951  Mr Henderson: Whether it was worthwhile considering a lesser offence is something one would need to make a judgment about, but were there lesser offences—theft, or entering the safe without permission?

  Mr Quick: In fact, thank you for reminding me, in fact the theft and handling dimensions, receiving, I believe were considered, because one of my colleagues, a Detective Chief Superintendent who was overseeing parts of the investigation, briefed me to that effect, that there had been a discussion.

  Q952  Mr Henderson: Conspiracy?

  Mr Quick: Conspiracy to commit an offence of misconduct in public office, I believe was discussed. Indeed, I think the advice clearly was that that was an offence that may be capable of proof.

  Q953  Mr Henderson: So the Member of Parliament could have also been charged with conspiracy?

  Mr Quick: Yes.

  Q954  Mr Henderson: Can I ask you exactly the same question, just to finish on this point, as Sir Gus: do you think the law is adequate in this regard, or do you think there is need for modification?

  Mr Quick: Clearly, as has been said, the application of this offence to leaks is very controversial, and I think that was understood very early on in this inquiry. I would want to really underline that the Metropolitan Police did not go forward with these acts without consideration at the highest levels in a great deal of depth, a lot of soul-searching and searching of one's conscience, but I think the law is pretty clear as it stands. It has been suggested that perhaps there should be no criminal sanction for leaking material that is of a restricted or confidential classification, but I do think that introduces some really practical problems and risks, which may be a matter for others to consider.

  Q955  Mr Blunkett: The present Director of Public Prosecutions in his decisions relating to Christopher Galley has actually narrowed the definition, has he not?

  Mr Quick: Yes, I think he has helped, I think this case has further defined the parameters, and his judgment, as Sir Gus O'Donnell made clear, was that in the circumstances, it was inevitable, indeed I would say pretty obvious that this was going to be investigated by the police, because there clearly was a very serious risk created by Mr Galley's behaviour, and indeed I might venture to suggest Mr Green's behaviour. However, he made clear that the threshold for damage is quite high, he said there was damage that was created by these leaks, and that that damage should not be underestimated. However, how far away from the threshold that would have led to a prosecution perhaps only the Director of Public Prosecutions knows.

  Q956  Chairman: So some good may have come out of these events after all?

  Mr Quick: Quite possibly.

  Q957  Sir Alan Beith: I am just slightly worried by loose reference to "these leaks". When the phrase "these leaks" was used by the Cabinet Office, it was referring to leaks which went back to 2005, and included leaks which there was no evidence around to suggest were linked in any way to Mr Galley or Mr Green. Were you using it in the same way?

  Mr Quick: No, I think my reference was to the commentary by the Director of Public Prosecutions on 16 April of this year which was solely on those leaks that the investigation had revealed were connected to Mr Galley and Mr Green.

  Q958  Sir Alan Beith: Notwithstanding your answers to earlier questions, I am still puzzled as to why you or somebody in the Metropolitan Police did not go back to the Cabinet Office at the point when it became clear that the one offence you could go after was misconduct in public office, and say, "We have not found evidence of an Official Secrets Act offence, it is not even that we have established that these various people may be involved, but we cannot pin it on them—you actually had not found evidence of that—but we are proceeding on this other matter", because what you were doing at that point was making a judgment, as you are entitled to do as a police officer, that in this respect, the criminal law should be tested or perhaps enforced against two individuals, but you were not pursuing to its conclusion a charge about an Official Secrets Act offence. It seems odd to me that you did not say to the Cabinet Office—you could have said, of course, "It is entirely up to us, we are entitled to proceed in this matter, or you may prefer yourselves to carry out an investigation", but you did not have that discussion with them.

  Mr Quick: I think that is a fair point. However, my recollection of events is simply this, that at that point, when decisions were taken to effect the arrest of Mr Green, the fact is we did not know and could not possibly know whether offences under the Official Secrets Act had or had not been committed, because the material that we had recovered indicated a relationship over two years where clearly a number of pieces of information were leaked. I do not believe to this day we have recovered all of that material. I do not believe to this day we are entirely and conclusively sure about everything that was leaked in that period, in that relationship. And we had very compelling information from a member of Opposition that secret material was being leaked, so surely there is a logic—

  Q959  Sir Alan Beith: This was the same quotation as was used in the earlier evidence by Gus O'Donnell, the so-far unnamed Opposition spokesman said, "We only use half the material", or words to that effect.

  Mr Quick: That allied to the facts that were pretty indisputable that we had someone prepared to enter a safe which we believed to hold secret material.

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