Police must be open as well as honest

Today I ask whether the government will ensure that the police have a ‘duty of candour’.

One of the main recommendations that came out of the recent report on the murder of Daniel Morgan is that the police should have a “duty of candour”. It seems such a simple and inoffensive change to how the police conduct themselves, but it would generate a flow of fresh air and transparency through the suffocating fog of the UK’s policing culture. The Daniel Morgan case is the most documented example of institutional corruption within the police, but is only one of many going back over several decades.

For example, the current public inquiry into Undercover Policing has directly emerged from a set of officers within an obscure unit buried deep within New Scotland Yard. The Special Demonstration Squad was allowed to go rogue behind the cover of a hush hush operation lasting several decades. When women, who had committed no crime, started coming forward to complain of sexual abuse at the hands of Undercover Officers that had infiltrated their lives, the Met Police launched a huge legal battle to block those complaints. The Met’s policy of Neither Confirm Nor Deny is the epitome of the Institutional Corruption that permeates the police. It took those women years and a successful court case to get past this initial block. Even now, as the inquiry rumbles on, the police filter every scrap of information the inquiry receives and fight to conceal every officer’s name that campaigners have not already revealed. The public are not even allowed to have a complete list of the campaign groups that the police spied upon.

A duty of candour would require information relating to historical events to be shared whenever possible. This is not aimed at revealing operational secrets of current investigations, but it is essential for independent investigations of cover ups and corruption. It would be a direct challenge to the automatic desire of the police to close ranks and conceal. It would also block any further machinations of the kind that obscured the Stephan Lawrence murder investigation six years later.  

It seems unlikely that there will be justice for Daniel Morgan. If a series of inquiries and multiple police investigations worth £50m could not convict the killers, then perhaps this ‘duty of candour’ would go some way towards being a fitting epitaph to his story.