Elusive until the very end, the state of institutional police corruption was laid bare on Tuesday. With a reputation throughout the world as the rarefied quintessentially British ‘bobbies on the beat’, modern policing is often seen as an unimpeachable force for good. A report published in Parliament confirmed that police corruption played a part in the notorious and still unsolved murder of private detective Daniel Morgan who was found dead in 1987 with an axe in his neck.

Policing is innately political by nature. Surely the time to act on corruption has come? 


The problem of ‘institutionalised corruption’

Allegations of police corruption dogged the case from day one. Morgan’s death prompted five failed murder investigations, one inquest, and a collapsed criminal trial in 2011. Theresa May ordered an independent panel of inquiry to address questions related to police involvement in the murder, the role of corruption in protecting those responsible, and the connection between private investigators, police officers, and journalists. Recently, National attention was drawn to the murder following a Line Of Duty episode and Priti Patel faced backlash over allegations that the Home Office tried to block or redact the report.

Published in Parliament after almost a decade spent analysing over 1 million documents, The Report of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel finally saw the light of day this week. At just over 1,200 pages, key takeaways include extensive criticism of at least one police force and Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick — now facing calls to resign.

The panel certainly didn’t mince words. It was noted that ‘institutionalised corruption’ was used throughout and the introduction called for an apology.

The Morgan family has since released a statement:

‘Through those decades, we had to engage in public protests, meetings with police officers at the highest ranks, lobbying of politicians and pleas to the media. At almost every step, we found ourselves lied to, fobbed off, bullied, degraded and let down time and time again. What we were required to endure was nothing less than torture, and that has changed our relationship with this country forever.

‘… We witnessed the repeated refusal of those in charge of the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office to address the problem that stared them in the face: the serious police corruption and criminality that surrounded the murder and its aftermath’.

Some may argue that this is an isolated case. Why spend so much public money on a murder that is over three decades old? But as cliched as it may sound, the Daniel Morgan case is likely just the very tip of a large floating iceberg that has shown us modern-day policing is not fit for purpose.

The ‘one rotten apple’ approach to corruption has been heavily criticised for promoting an enabling culture that lacks accountability. Panel Chair Baroness Nuala O’Loan commented that: ‘… police officers who have sought to report wrongdoing by other police officers have been ostracised, transferred to a different unit, encouraged to resign, or have faced disciplinary proceedings’.

This is why statements — as formerly given by Commissionaire Cressida Dick when asked to comment on the kidnapping of Sarah Everard — that there is always an ‘occasional bad ‘un’, simply won’t do following the report’s findings.

‘Marking your own homework’

Three decades after multiple failures should not have led to the need for an independent report ordered via the Home Office. The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel has made recommendations to the reformed and restructured Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), advising that it should be fully and adequately resourced. This differs from the police’s preferred ‘mark your own homework’ approach that has been in operation for decades.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has since made a statement to Parliament pledging to bring forward a review of the police watchdog. The Met now faces an official probe because of the report, with changes expected to be implemented following its recommendations.

In all this, the Conservative party’s silence is telling. Former promises to recruit 20,000 more officers with increased powers bring back memories — especially given the shortfall owing to previous cuts. Meanwhile, Labour’s website details the party’s proposals as regards policing, with words like ‘fairness’ and ‘rebuilding’ making a promising appearance, but there is nothing directly about corruption or how to address it.

Bottom line; costs to the public purse need justification. Sixteen million is a large sum for just one report. To ignore the recommendations would make a mockery of its work and be nothing short of theft when it comes to taxpayers’ money. Lessons must be learnt from this, but it’s not clear whether they will be.

This article has been updated following two corrections: The IOPC did not aid the panel’s report and Sarah Everard’s case is an ongoing investigation into her kidnapping.