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

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 1000-1011)


14 DECEMBER 2009

  Q1000  Chairman: Let me ask you the question again: what weight should we attach to the Johnston report?

  Mr Quick: Well, I think that is a matter for this Committee. I think my statement reveals where I and others take issue with the Johnston report on matters of fact, and I think I can do no more than that to help the Committee.

  Q1001  Chairman: Should we take account of the attitude of the Metropolitan Police towards the Johnston report?

  Mr Quick: In terms of the Metropolitan Police, which bit of it are you talking about?

  Q1002  Chairman: The Metropolitan Police response to the Johnston report, as I understand it, is broadly to accept it.

  Mr Quick: Well, the official Metropolitan Police response was to endorse it, the officer that commissioned it endorsed it, and that is a judgment you must make, but on facts, I think there are some serious issues that undermine the fitness for purpose of that review.

  Q1003  Ms Hewitt: I just wanted to pursue in a little more detail the issue of the two warrants that were obtained for the searches of Mr Galley's and Mr Green's homes. My understanding is that the information that was laid before the district judge who granted those warrants referred to secret materials.

  Mr Quick: Yes.

  Q1004  Ms Hewitt: As far as you are aware, is that correct, that they did refer to secret materials?

  Mr Quick: To the best of my knowledge, that is correct, yes.

  Q1005  Ms Hewitt: Do you accept that that was a mistake, that that was inaccurate?

  Mr Quick: Well, I would accept it is a debatable point. I think on balance, I would have preferred the language to be tighter. I do not know what was in the officer's mind when he or she typed that information, and I was not present when it was sworn in front of a judge, and whatever questions were asked or answers given. However, I think it would be in the circumstances not wholly unreasonable to indicate that there was a suspicion that secret material may have been leaked, but I think on balance it would have been better to be more accurate in saying, "So far, the indications are the material is of restricted or confidential classification".

  Q1006  Ms Hewitt: Do you accept Sir Ian's criticism on that point, where he referred to "pretty sloppy work" in terms of the wording of the application for the warrant?

  Mr Quick: I think on balance, probably. I think sloppy is a harsh term, because I take you back to where we start, that we have someone in a very sensitive part of the Home Office who is behaving appallingly badly and possibly criminally, and the threshold of suspicion was exceeded, I think quite substantially, that that person may have leaked secret material, so I do not think it is unreasonable for the officers to have that suspicion in all of the circumstances.

  Q1007  Ms Hewitt: At what level of seniority would the application have been prepared, and would it have been approved by a more senior officer?

  Mr Quick: Normally, the authority in law is at inspector level. However, in this case, I know the senior investigating officer, the Detective Chief Inspector, a very experienced investigator, and a Detective Chief Superintendent were very closely overseeing that part of the operation, and that in turn was under the overall supervision of Mr McDowall from whom you have heard.

  Q1008  Ms Hewitt: Thank you, because you will understand our worry, I think, that warrants were obtained in relation to a Member of Parliament's home on the basis of an assertion that secret material was involved when it was not, not the material that Mr Galley had admitted to, and that was directly connected with the raid on that same Member of Parliament's office. Now it is quite difficult, I think, for Parliament to say, "We are going to go behind a warrant", if a warrant had been produced in relation to the office, but on the other hand, it is very tempting to think that that is exactly what Parliament should do when a warrant can be obtained on the basis of, at the very least, an inadequately prepared statement of the facts, despite the fact that very senior officers were involved in preparing that statement. You understand why we would be concerned. Do you feel I have characterised the problem fairly?

  Mr Quick: Yes, I think you have been fair. I think in an applying for a warrant, the standard of proof required to issue a search warrant is not particularly high. What I would have preferred was really for the warrant to have been drafted in a different way, which would clearly have revealed the potential for secret material to have been leaked, and clearly we were not in a position to rule that out at that time. But make equally clear that at that point in the investigation, the material that had been identified for certain as being leaked was classified as restricted or confidential.

  Ms Hewitt: Yes, rather than secret. Thank you.

  Q1009  Chairman: Just one last point on that, Mr Quick: you appear to suggest that the more serious the allegation, the less the requirement to adhere to the precise details of an investigation. Am I wrong to infer that from your evidence?

  Mr Quick: Yes, I do not think—

  Q1010  Chairman: Whether the allegation is minor or major, the obligation to adhere to proper practice applies in every case.

  Mr Quick: Yes, there is a duty on officers to comply with the law and the codes as precisely as possible. The fact is that they are not always precisely complied with to the very letter. The test in a criminal case is usually under section 78 of PACE, and the test is: did the police act reasonably and fairly?

  Q1011  Chairman: Yes, but courts have been loath to excuse what some might characterise as sloppy procedure under that section.

  Mr Quick: Well, that would be a matter for the individual tribunal or court at the time, but all I can tell the Committee is I have read the officers' statements about the interactions they had with Parliamentary authorities, and on their evidence at least, it appears to be clear that they acted entirely reasonably, and that the issue of consent was clear.

  Chairman: Well, we shall never know. Mr Quick, thank you very much for your evidence, the Committee is most grateful to you.

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