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Daniel Morgan murder: police watchdog to take no action against any officers

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-08-03
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The former Metropolitan police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, left, and the private detective Daniel Morgan, who was killed in 1987. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Every officer involved in the Daniel Morgan scandal will escape punishment, the police watchdog has announced, despite an independent inquiry finding that corruption in the Metropolitan police shielded the private detective’s killers with the force ignoring information.

Those escaping any action include the former Met commissioner Cressida Dick, who the inquiry accused of hampering its work.

Morgan was found dead in a south London car park in 1987 with an axe in his head. No one has been convicted of his murder.

The Morgan family reacted with anger and disappointment at the announcement by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), having spent 35 years fighting what they see as a cover-up and failure to confront corruption.

Last year an independent review ordered by the government personally censured Dick for obstructing its work.

On Wednesday, the IOPC announced that after 14 months it believed no new criminal or disciplinary charges could be bought over the case, which is one of the biggest scandals to blight British policing.

On Dick, the commissioner of the Met until February this year, the IOPC accepted she may have broken the rules, but the watchdog said it still could not take any action because the alleged breaches were not serious enough, and would have to amount to gross misconduct.

The IOPC said: “We assessed that she may have breached police standards of professional behaviour by not providing full and exceptional disclosure to the [panel] sooner, although not to the extent that would justify disciplinary proceedings. On this basis we have no grounds to exercise our power of initiative.

“We found that she acted with a genuine belief to protect the information but may have got the balance wrong and should have given greater priority to her duty to provide full and exceptional disclosure to the panel.”

Dick maintained her defiance, and said: “I disagree with their analysis that my actions ‘may give an indication of a breach of standards of professional behaviour’ and that ‘I may have got the balance wrong’.”

The Morgan family accused the police watchdog of sharing the same “sickness” as the Met, adding: “What we find here is a rather shabby exercise by the IOPC to avoid the implications of the police corruption and criminality which the panel’s report compelled them to acknowledge.

“In the same vein, we see the IOPC forced to find that ex-commissioner Cressida Dick ‘may have breached police standards of professional behaviour’ in the obstructive stance she chose to adopt towards the work of the panel, but they then go to look for reasons not to use their powers to act on that finding.

“In doing so, the IOPC shows that it suffers the very sickness within its own ranks that it purports to diagnose within the Met.”

Morgan, 37, was found murdered on 10 March 1987 in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham.

With his business partner, Jonathan Rees, Morgan ran an agency called Southern Investigations. It would go on to carry out extensive work for the News of the World.

The panel said the Met was “institutionally corrupt” and placed protecting its reputation over the truth, all charges the force under Dick denied.

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Five investigations by the Met into Morgan’s murder have failed to yield a conviction. Concerns about police wrongdoing, and links between corrupt officers and sections of the tabloid media, led the government to order the Leveson inquiry in 2013 after The Guardian’s revelations about phone hacking.

Dick, an assistant commissioner when the Morgan panel started its inquiry, was supposed to make good on the Met promise to fully cooperate with the panel, which was given no statutory powers to investigate and was thus reliant on those they were investigating agreeing to hand over evidence.

The panel accused the force of placing concerns about its reputation above properly confronting corruption. It said the Met misled the public and Morgan’s grieving family, exacerbating their pain.

The panel criticised police delays in giving access to a database with relevant documents, called “Holmes”, and Dick is named as one of those responsible. “The panel has never received any reasonable explanation for the refusal over seven years by [then] assistant commissioner Dick and her successors to provide access to the Holmes accounts to the Daniel Morgan independent panel,” they said.

Sal Naseem, the regional director for London at the IOPC, said: “We are acutely aware that not one single officer was ever successfully prosecuted or received significant disciplinary action as a result of corruption directly connected to the murder investigations.

“The wrongs that occurred can never be put right, but it may have served as some small comfort to Mr Morgan’s family and loved ones if the officers involved had been held to account and suffered the consequences of their actions at the time.”

The Morgan family are suing the Met for damages.

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