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

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 980-999)


14 DECEMBER 2009

  Q980  Chairman: But the Serjeant at Arms is in a rather different position, because she is someone who has, as we know, responsibility for the security of the whole of the Parliamentary estate, and in the course of exercising that responsibility, she has to maintain a very high degree of confidentiality, and her judgment and her trustworthiness are absolutely central to the proper performance of her duties.

  Mr Quick: Absolutely, and perhaps it may help to explain how events came about. On 20 November, the day after Christopher Galley's arrest, I received a telephone call from DAC John McDowall, who was my deputy on the counter-terrorism side of specialist operations, and Mr McDowall briefed me on Galley's arrest—I, of course, was aware that it was going to happen—and briefed me on the extent of his admissions in interview, which of course were quite troubling. He suggested that ordinarily, in any other investigation, we would act on Mr Galley's admissions and effect an arrest almost immediately, and, of course, in this case we were talking about Mr Green. However, the conversation went along the lines that clearly, in this case, there are huge sensitivities, and possible legal complexities, and it was my judgment, I believe shared by John, that we should in this case exceptionally delay taking action, so that we could take full legal advice from the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Legal Services, and indeed consult the Parliamentary authorities at an early stage, and indeed take further advice from Crown prosecutors. My understanding is that very evening, an officer was despatched to the Palace of Westminster to start that engagement. I would accept, as the Chairman has alluded, that initially, the Serjeant at Arms was not briefed fully on the whole aspect of the investigation precisely who was involved.

  Q981  Chairman: A consequence of that was that she transmitted such information she had to the Speaker, whose reaction was that this might well involve terrorism, either international or Irish terrorism.

  Mr Quick: Yes, I did hear that evidence, and I have to say I find that difficult to appreciate, so far as I have read the statements of the officers who attended Parliament and spoke to—

  Q982  Chairman: Well, if you are told that the counter-terrorism unit is engaged, and it is highly confidential, and you are not told anything else, then it is not an unreasonable inference, is it, if you are responsible for a public building of this nature, that you might leap to that conclusion?

  Mr Quick: Possibly, but on 25 and 26 November, in good time, well before the arrest, there were further conversations, and on the 26th, of course, the senior investigating officer attended the Serjeant at Arms' office, and briefed her fully on the investigation, save the actual name of the MP involved, but as I understand it, the provisions of the powers to search under section 8 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act were explained, the fact that they were investigating a leak inquiry was explained. So I think a good 48 or at least 24 hours before, the Serjeant at Arms was in possession of the facts.

  Q983  Chairman: Do you accept that she was not properly advised of the contents of the protocol attached to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, in that she was not told expressly that she could refuse consent, and indeed that she could withdraw consent at any time?

  Mr Quick: I do agree with that. There is nothing that I know of that indicates she was specifically told that she need not consent. However, I have read the officers' statements in detail, and it does appear to me to be very clear that the officers acted very reasonably. There was no question in my mind, having read those statements, that it was not clear that they were seeking a consent that could be refused, and arguably, if it could not be refused, it would not be consent anyway.

  Q984  Chairman: They acted on a presumption, but a presumption is not enough to satisfy the requirements, is it? The individual should quite clearly and expressly be told, "You need not give your consent".

  Mr Quick: I would accept it would have been much better had the officers adopted the letter of the Codes of Practice.

  Q985  Chairman: Particularly in a case as sensitive as this.

  Mr Quick: And then we would not be having this conversation. However, I think the test for me is the legal test, and that is the test under section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which really implies that the code of practice is not a strict compliance code. The test is whether the police acted reasonably and fairly, and I do not believe my colleagues acted to deceive the Serjeant at Arms. I certainly think it was quite clear that we were seeking consent that could be refused.

  Q986  Mr Blunkett: Was there any presumption that consent lay with the Speaker rather than the Serjeant at Arms? Even after the arrest, it was some days, was it not 1 December before direct communication was made with the Speaker? It is as though the Speaker really was a bit part in this process.

  Mr Quick: The legal advice from Metropolitan Police lawyers was that the Serjeant at Arms could consent to a search, and I believe she was briefed to that effect. However, she did say that she would seek her own legal advice, and I believe spoke to the clerk. I was aware she had briefed the Speaker; my senior investigating officer on 26 November told me that he was present when she phoned the Speaker.

  Q987  Mr Blunkett: Could I just explore the extraneous activity that was taking place that you refer to in your evidence? How much influence did this, including the recruitment of a new Commissioner, and what was being briefed in the newspapers, have, in your judgment, on the procedure that was followed?

  Mr Quick: Well, it was clearly a very difficult time. The case generated a huge amount of controversy, and there was a tension between recognising the duty of the police to conduct this investigation and see it through to its natural conclusion and eliminate any possibility that national security had been compromised, or that criminal offences had been committed, serious offences, and the sort of expediency of stopping the investigation. I can sympathise with anyone involved in it. I was there, it was a painful and distressing experience for a lot of people. But I would say that in the end, the conduct of certain individuals created a chain of events that led to what I believe was a completely legitimate police investigation.

  Q988  Mr Howard: Who did you inform of the progress of the investigation as it evolved?

  Mr Quick: Well, it was a very short investigation, in fact, but the Deputy Commissioner was briefed to my knowledge while I was away throughout October, and when I returned, at the end of October, he was briefed on the scoping report, which I think was completed on or about 31 October, I think it is dated that date. He was briefed on the findings of that report, and approved the terms of reference for the investigation. Unfortunately, just the nature of events, I returned from overseas at the end of October, but then had to go to Scotland for a few days, because my role in the counter-terrorism side of the Met meant I often had to be outside London, so my deputy had some involvement in the case.

  Q989  Mr Howard: Was there any contact between you or your deputy, so far as you know, with the Cabinet Office as the investigation—

  Mr Quick: Yes.

  Q990  Mr Howard: Were the Cabinet Office told that a Member of Parliament was about to be arrested?

  Mr Quick: No, they were not.

  Q991  Mr Howard: Was anyone in Government told that?

  Mr Quick: No.

  Q992  Mr Howard: I think in view of some questions that I have put to other witnesses, I should give you the opportunity to comment, Mr Quick. As you know, there are a number of specific criticisms of the investigation which are contained in the Johnston report.

  Mr Quick: Yes.

  Q993  Mr Howard: When I put to Assistant Commissioner Yates that the investigation was slapdash, he did not demur.

  Mr Quick: No.

  Q994  Mr Howard: Mr Johnston himself used the phrase "pretty sloppy work", although to be fair, I think that was in terms of the wording of the application for the warrant, but you will be aware that there are a whole list of criticisms made in the Johnston report, I hope not to have to go through them in detail, they are on pages 51 and 53 of the report. Do you accept them?

  Mr Quick: No, I do not accept them all.

  Q995  Mr Howard: Do you accept many of them, most of them?

  Mr Quick: I have read the Johnston report very, very carefully, and I had huge sympathy with Sir Ian, he was given an unenviable task.

  Q996  Chairman: Unenviable?

  Mr Quick: Unenviable task of reviewing an investigation, amidst a controversy, against very pressing timescales, but my honest conclusion is that the Johnston review does not accurately reflect the nature of the investigation. Yes, it does quite legitimately draw attention to some administrative issues that could have been better and cleaner and tidier, but ultimately, my concern with the Johnston report really is around the area of disproportionality of arrest. In my view, probably as a result of being conducted so early in the investigation, before the facts were properly established, and amidst this public controversy, the report has a number of inaccuracies, upon which it appears to draw conclusions; and secondly, it has a number of quite important omissions, some of which are dealt with in my document that I have submitted, which I think hopefully bring more balance into what was going on in that inquiry, and therefore I do not feel I personally could rely on that document, on a matter of fact.

  Q997  Mr Howard: But quite apart from the proportionality question, there are a significant number of very specific criticisms made about things like keeping of documents, the relationship between various documents, whether tape recordings should have been used, the wording of the warrant and so on, very serious, but very specific criticisms; do you accept them?

  Mr Quick: I am not sure they are all very serious. This was a complex inquiry, and yes, in every investigation, including this one, under scrutiny, some administrative shortcomings were identified on the part of the officers, but I believe the officers' work was generally of a high standard. These are officers who have led some of the most complex investigations the Metropolitan Police has ever seen, and been involved in some of the most successful prosecutions. So they are professional people, they are not perfect, and they made a few administrative errors, I do not think any of them were fatal. Had there been revealed damage that would have warranted prosecution, I do not believe any of these errors would have stopped prosecution, and that is my honest belief.

  Q998  Mr Howard: I think finally, from me anyway, in your statement, you go into in some detail the relationships between yourself and other senior members of the Metropolitan Police Service, and you have described the controversy which attended the reporting of the investigation. You say at one point, in apparent surprise, "Many people commented that the Home Secretary was more supportive of the investigation than the Metropolitan Police Service". Did that really surprise you?

  Mr Quick: Well, I guess it did in a way, yes.

  Q999  Chairman: Your position on the Johnston report is pretty clear. What weight should we attach to the Johnston report then, in your judgment?

  Mr Quick: Well, in my judgment, the Johnston review was convened very early in the investigation, uncharacteristically early. It did not adopt the procedures and protocols of investigative reviews, because it was convened in such exceptional circumstances. I think regrettably, it was convened in an air of panic, and unfortunately, we were left with a document that did not reveal the extent of this investigation, and its full characteristics, and the grounds upon which the police took the action that they did, and that was disappointing in a sense, but perhaps understandable amid the chaos.

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