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Past and present combine to raise questions for the Met’s future

16 June 2021

By Scott Harker

It is safe to say that 2021 is proving to be a difficult year for the Metropolitan Police and its Commissioner, Cressida Dick. Having earlier faced accusations of a disproportionate use of force, the organisation now finds itself accused of a ‘form of institutional corruption’ following a long-running independent review into its failure to properly investigate a 1987 murder.

The victim, Daniel Morgan, was a private investigator and father of two who was murdered in Sydenham, South London in March 1987. Over the years that have followed, five separate policy inquiries have led to nobody being convicted of his murder.

It has been claimed that prior to his death, Morgan was working on exposing corrupt practices in policing in South London and that Metropolitan Police officers conspired to obstruct the murder investigation.

The crime and subsequent investigations have raised so many questions as to the behaviour of the Metropolitan Police that in 2013 the then Home Secretary Theresa May set up an independent panel to review the police’s handling of the case.

Now, more than eight years after it was first announced, the panel has delivered its damming verdict on the behaviour of the Metropolitan Police stating that: "In failing to acknowledge its many failings over the 34 years since the murder of Daniel Morgan, the Metropolitan Police's first objective was to protect itself. In so doing it compounded the suffering and trauma of the family."

The panel has also revealed that the Met repeatedly delayed the release of information that it requested. This was to such a point that an inquiry that was envisaged as needing one year to come to a conclusion ended up running for more than eight.

The findings of the panel come after the Met was heavily criticised back in March for its handling of a vigil at Clapham Common held in response to the murder of Sarah Everard. Several hundred people who had gathered peacefully to mourn Ms Everard were dispersed by the police who claimed to be enforcing COVID-19 regulations preventing large gatherings. A serving Metropolitan Police Officer has accepted responsibility for causing Ms Everard’s death and admitted her kidnap and rape and continues to await trial.

The Met now must face up to the fact that it is not only its historic behaviour and lack of transparency that is being scrutinised, but how that behaviour has manifested itself through to the present day. The Daniel Morgan panel reported that its efforts to obtain access to documents were hampered and delayed.

For its part, the Met has apologised to the family of Daniel Morgan but has resisted the panel’s labelling of the organisation as demonstrating a ‘form of institutional corruption’. For her part, Cressida Dick continues to have the support of the Government and will now oversee the Met’s task of carrying forward the findings of the report.

The force has committed to considering the report and its associated recommendations in their entirety. For its own sake and the future standard of our public life, this report must be a catalyst to do things differently.