House of Commons adjournment debate

6th Jul 2004 : Column 230WH : Daniel Morgan

3.30 pm
Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD):

With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), who is anxious to participate in this debate, should catch your eye, he does so with my full agreement and that of the Minister.

I am grateful to have obtained this debate on an issue of crucial public interest and concern. The Minster understands that today I will criticise the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police Service, other police authorities and the whole criminal justice system, which has failed my constituent Mrs. Isobel Hulsmann and failed to root out incompetence and corruption. The Minister will also know that the criticism is not directed towards her, because she has only recently taken up her post. Today, however, she has the opportunity to make a name for herself, to right an injustice and to reinforce the Government’s reputation for standing up for the victims of crime and for prosecuting offenders.

Daniel Morgan was murdered 17 years ago. He was found with an axe embedded in his face in the car park of a south London pub shortly after his murder. Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery conducted the first four so-called “golden days” of the murder inquiry but was removed from the murder squad when his relationship with Jonathan Rees, Daniel Morgan’s partner in Southern Investigations, was revealed. Sid Fillery went on to take up joint ownership of Southern Investigations, and therefore benefited from Daniel Morgan’s death.

The circumstances surrounding Daniel Morgan’s death in March 1987 are complex and far-reaching, yet my constituent Isobel Hulsmann, the deceased’s mother, is left with not only the immeasurable grief of having lost a son in the most brutal of murders but the spectacle of the criminal justice system’s having failed again and again to bring those responsible for that murder to answer for their actions.

Why did our criminal justice system fail? The answer is unknown to my constituent, but during the past 17 years she has sought to place her confidence in four separate police investigations, only to find that each one has come to nothing. On the conclusion of the fourth and final investigation last year, the senior officers in charge expressed their strong view that the evidence that they had gathered called out for a prosecution of the primary actors in the murder. Nevertheless, the Crown Prosecution Service declined to bring any such prosecution, forcing the officers to accept that decision, while insisting that they disagreed with it.

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In the event, the officers, like the Crown Prosecution Service, have confirmed to my constituent that she has reached the end of the road as far as the criminal justice system is concerned and that she cannot look for any further progress in that direction. They also explained to her their view that the case represented “the worst mess they had ever seen” and that the real mischief in the case lay in the initial investigation of 1987–88; that the role of ex-Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery in that investigation lay at the heart of the mischief; that a number of other police officers around him had sought to protect him; and that their reinvestigation had therefore been an endeavour to build on what they had inherited from previous investigations, understandably focusing on the immediate actors in the murder, within the parameters set by the damage that had already been done. Those officers sought in vain to respond to suspicions about the mischief that had taken place in the initial investigation, particularly with regard to the roles and identities of the police officers who may have had a lot to gain from protecting Sid Fillery.

In other words, my constituent has heard from the Metropolitan Police Service confirmation of her long-held suspicion that the apparent unwillingness or inability of the criminal justice system to deal with the case may have a lot to do with Sid Fillery and other officers, serving or retired, who may have much to gain from protecting him. In that light, I am asking the Minister today to make use of her parliamentary prerogative to institute a full judicial inquiry under section 49 of the Police Act 1996, which is the only way of obtaining fresh and independent scrutiny of the murder and of the circumstances in which successive investigations into it have come to nothing.

The only form of public scrutiny that the murder has received in the past 17 years has been at an inquest in April 1988, which culminated in a verdict of unlawful killing. In the course of evidence at that inquest, allegations were made on oath of involvement by Metropolitan Police officers in the murder and in covering up that involvement. It emerged that Jonathan Rees, Daniel Morgan’s business partner in their private detective company, Southern Investigations Ltd., had talked about having Daniel killed and arranging for police officers at Catford CID to be involved in the murder and its subsequent cover-up. That was according to the company bookkeeper, Kevin Lennon.

It also emerged that not only was Sid Fillery among those officers but he played a key role in the initial murder inquiry during the so-called first four “golden days” before he was required to withdraw from the murder squad for reasons of personal involvement with the primary suspect, Jonathan Rees. During those four days, Fillery was given the opportunity to manage the first interview under caution with Rees, and to take possession of key incriminating files from the premises of Southern Investigations Ltd., including Daniel’s diary, which has never since been found. Kevin Lennon also spoke of Fillery’s intentions to retire from the Metropolitan police force on grounds of ill health and take up the vacant seat in Southern Investigations Ltd. left by Daniel’s death. That is exactly what happened, and to this day Fillery and Rees remain business partners in what was Daniel’s private detective company.

More than 17 years after the murder, my constituent, Mrs. Hulsmann, is confronted with the plain fact that she, like her son, has been failed by the system. Despite her best efforts, those who committed this gruesome act have never been brought to justice and she has had to accept that they may never be brought to justice. She should not be burdened with the responsibility of ascertaining the reasons behind the criminal justice system’s failure to bring her son’s murderers to book. That is the responsibility of the Government on behalf of us all. That is why she now seeks a full judicial inquiry into the murder and the subsequent police investigations.

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Like many other Members of this House and the other place, I strongly support her case, together with that of Alastair Morgan, the brother of the deceased, who has devoted his life to this campaign.

It seems to me and my constituent that the Government have a particular duty to bring public scrutiny to bear on the case. The refusal with which we have been met is not becoming of a Government who pride themselves in looking after the interests of victims of crime. This is not a case of the Government being unable to help, but of their being unwilling to accept their responsibility, and we are compelled to seek answers for this apparent lack of will. Is it because they have something to hide, or is it because the implications of bringing the matter to a head are so far-reaching that they may make life uncomfortable for many in the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office? The Government’s attitude towards the murder of Daniel Morgan so far has been one not of openness, collaboration and firm fair action, but of sustained damage limitation.

Public inquiries serve the cause of public accountability. They also serve to eliminate in the public’s mind any doubt about the possible involvement of the person or Department that institutes them. Unfortunately, the Home Office does not have an entirely innocent record. The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 commanded several structural changes to the constitutional arrangements of our police forces, not least with respect to the independent police authorities to which forces are accountable.

For the record, the Metropolitan Police Service was directly accountable to the Home Office at the time of the murder and of all police investigations into the case except the fourth and final one. Similarly, the Home Office was also responsible for the Police Complaints Authority, which supervised a 1988 - 89 investigation into the case by Hampshire police, which is said to have looked into and eliminated the possibility of police involvement in the murder or its aftermath. Therefore, it was on the watch of the Home Office that the terms of reference of that Hampshire investigation were changed, secretly and without the knowledge of the family, midway through the inquiry. Having started out “to investigate allegations that the police were involved in the murder of Daniel Morgan and matters arising there from”, the inquiry was required after the change to proceed “in the furtherance of prosecuting the suspects Rees, Goodridge (an associate of Rees), Wisden (Goodridge’s girlfriend) and anyone else for the murder of Daniel Morgan”, without any reference to police involvement.

The very fact that the terms of reference of a so-called independent inquiry carried out by an outside police force were changed during the course of that inquiry is cause for great concern, and almost of itself warrants a judicial inquiry. However, it is also inconceivable that those changes would have been allowed without the consent of the Home Office at a senior level, to which the all concerned were answerable at the time. It therefore lies particularly ill in the mouth of the Home Office to seek to rely on that very investigation in order to refute the continuing suspicions of police involvement in the murder.

We have called for a public judicial inquiry under section 49 of the Police Act 1996, and we point to the moral and legal obligations of the Government to hold such an inquiry.

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It is not open to the Government to hide behind some obscure case law in their attempt to evade those obligations, as they appear to do in the letter of 10 June from the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety. It is unbecoming of the Government to suggest that they have no obligations because of a mere accident of timing—the fact that the murder took place before the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the incorporation of the European convention on human rights into domestic law.

It is significant that support for that dishonourable proposition is sought from the recent judgment in the House of Lords in the case of McKerr, which arose out of the shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland. Apart from any legal considerations, that is clearly a unique political situation. Instead, we invite the Government to look at other decisions of the House of Lords in cases where the political context has been less inhibiting, which serve to establish the obligations of the Government to ensure an effective official inquiry with the benefit of public scrutiny and participation.

As for the purpose of such an inquiry, we can do no better than to point to the words of Lord Bingham of Cornhill in the case of Amin last year: “The purposes . . . are clear: to ensure so far as possible that the full facts are brought to light; that culpable and discreditable conduct is exposed and brought to public notice; that suspicion of deliberate wrongdoing (if unjustified) is allayed; that dangerous practices and procedures are rectified; and that those who have lost their relative may at least have the satisfaction of knowing that lessons learned from his death may save the lives of others.” On behalf of my constituent and her family, I am calling for a full public judicial inquiry.

3.42 pm

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury - Lab):

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) for enabling me to contribute to this debate. The case is one that I have pursued for well over 10 years on behalf of my constituent, who is Daniel Morgan's brother, Alastair.

The facts of the case are indisputable. Daniel Morgan was murdered more than 17 years ago. It was a particularly hideous and brutal murder, for which no one has yet been convicted. There have been four police inquiries into what happened, into the murder and the issues surrounding it, and those inquiries have yielded no prosecutions. The Morgan family have lived through more than 17 years of anguish, distress and considerable frustration in their attempts to get the case properly investigated, and to secure information and sight of the investigations that have taken place.

I support the call that has been made by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire. Two things are required, and I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to consider them carefully. First, in the letter from the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety to myself and others on 10 June, she stated that she would be willing to consider meeting the family, myself, the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire and Lord Livsey - who has also been pursuing the case - once the family had seen the conclusions of the fourth inquiry. The family have now seen those conclusions.

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They are as distressing as the conclusions of the three previous inquiries. The family would welcome the opportunity to meet the Minister of State, and I hope that the Minister will, on her behalf, agree in principle to such a meeting.

The second thing that is required is a proper judicial inquiry. When the Minister of State wrote to me on 10 June, she explained that judicial inquiries are established only in the most exceptional circumstances. She explained that, where there has been a public disorder or general issues need to be considered, a public inquiry is, on rare occasions, contemplated as a way to resolve that issue.

Partly because of the case’s longevity, partly because of the number of failed investigations that have led nowhere, and particularly because there have been serious question marks right from the word go about the possible involvement of police officers in either the murder or the frustration of subsequent investigations - those serious question marks reflect not just on the particularities of the case but on the good name and standing of the Metropolitan Police Service as a whole - I argue that a public inquiry is the right way to try to resolve the issues surrounding the murder once and for all.

Notwithstanding the Minister of State’s suggestion in her letter to me and to others that she was not prepared to contemplate holding an inquiry at this stage, I hope that she will listen carefully to the points that have been made by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire. The central point about the remaining questions that hang in the air over the murder, and that will continue to hang in the air over the murder if it remains unresolved, is that an inquiry is the right way to proceed.

The brutal murder has remained unresolved for far too long. The police investigation route appears to have been thoroughly exhausted. It is important to find new ways of ensuring that the case can be resolved, because simply to wash our hands of it and say that nothing more can be done is not an adequate response.

3.48 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint) :

I commend the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) and, in support, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) for bringing the issue to our attention. As they both rightly said, Mr. Morgan’s death was particularly horrific and it remains troubling to them, as Members of Parliament, and to the family of Daniel Morgan. To be honest, I cannot imagine the trauma and frustration of not having an answer about who killed Mr. Morgan 17 years ago.

As my right hon. Friend said, my hon. Friend the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety has written to him and to others about the case. She said in her letter of response to him that if, after receiving the information from the Metropolitan Police Service, people felt it was appropriate to seek a meeting, she was open to that. I will pass that back to her today, and I apologise that she cannot be here to respond to the debate herself.

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I think that it will be helpful for me to set out the role of the Home Office in cases such as this. The Secretary of State is rightly accountable to Parliament for questions relating to the police. However, it is often not appropriate to offer comment or make a judgment on the professional decisions taken by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service or the Police Complaints Authority.

As in the past, the issue of a judicial inquiry has been raised. I want to be clear that the Government’s reason for not holding an inquiry is not a legal technicality. There is no legal obligation to hold an inquiry, but that is not the reason for the decision. The primary considerations, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety said, were whether an inquiry would be useful, proportionate or in the wider public interest. In coming to our decision, we had to consider the investigations that have taken place over the past 17 years and the level of independent scrutiny.

I would like to set out the reasons for not pursuing an inquiry. First, inquiries have been used when there has been serious public disorder or similar circumstances in which wide-ranging and serious disquiet is felt about an event or issue affecting a large proportion of a police force. Successive Home Secretaries have reserved that power for such matters, and at this stage it is not appropriate to go beyond that. I appreciate that Daniel Morgan’s family are frustrated, disappointed and angry that no one has been prosecuted for his murder, and that there are lingering concerns about police officer involvement in the killing. Nevertheless, the Government do not consider that that in itself is sufficient to warrant an inquiry.

The second reason for the decision is that, after four investigations and a coroner’s inquest, the Government do not consider there to be a realistic prospect of uncovering new evidence. I believe that the efforts of the Metropolitan Police to pursue the case to a successful conclusion, despite not having done so, have been extraordinary, and to their credit they have been prepared to look again and again at what happened 17 years ago. As my right hon. and hon. Friends know, following the initial investigation to find the perpetrator of the terrible crime against Daniel Morgan and the coroner’s inquest into his killing, the Metropolitan Police set up an independent investigation into their handling of the initial investigation. That second investigation was carried out by Hampshire Police and supervised by the Police Complaints Authority. Although I recognise that there were concerns about the first Metropolitan police investigation, they have undertaken subsequent investigations in an effort to conclude the case.

A third police investigation was carried out as an intelligence-led, covert investigation for the purpose of gathering evidence about the murder of Daniel Morgan as well as allegations of police corruption. However, no charges were brought against any person for an offence in connection with the murder, although charges were brought against individuals for unrelated matters. That was not the end, however. Nine months later, the Metropolitan Police murder review group considered afresh whether all reasonable investigative leads had been exhausted, and considered the possibility of uncovering new evidence because of the existence of new investigative techniques. The review identified a number of overt and covert investigative opportunities that were available, and the fourth investigation was launched.

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At the end of the fourth investigation, the Metropolitan Police made recommendations about a number of individuals in respect of offences relating to the murder. However, after reviewing the available evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring any charges against those individuals for the murder of Daniel Morgan. I am afraid that it is not for me to offer a judgment on the decisions taken by the Metropolitan Police or the CPS in this case. Because of the four investigations and the coroner’s inquest, we remain of the opinion that a further inquiry would be highly unlikely to uncover any further evidence that would lead to a different outcome.

The third reason for the decision is that, although we understand the lingering suspicion of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire and the family about the involvement of a police officer or police officers in the killing, that cannot of itself warrant an inquiry. There have been two independent scrutinies of the incident, and in coming to our decision we could not ignore the fact that there was nothing to suggest police involvement in the murder. The first instance of scrutiny was the coroner’s inquest. When delivering his verdict of unlawful killing, he remarked that there was “no evidence whatsoever in this inquest to point to any police involvement in this killing”.

The second instance followed the Hampshire investigation on behalf of the Metropolitan police into the allegations of police involvement in the killing. The independent Police Complaints Authority supervised that investigation. The PCA said that it was satisfied with how the investigation was conducted and it concluded that there was no evidence of any involvement by a police officer in the murder, or evidence to suggest that a member of the murder investigation team had taken deliberate action to prevent the murder from being properly detected.

I know that the family are not happy with the PCA’s conclusion, but the PCA has confirmed to the Home Office that it considered the case rigorously and was satisfied with the conduct of the investigation and the findings. The family believes that the call for an inquiry is strengthened by the views, which have been mentioned today, that were expressed to them by the police officers who led the fourth investigation. I cannot comment on the circumstances in which those views were expressed, but I am aware that the Metropolitan Police do not view the account of the conversation in the same way as the family and their solicitors. I am informed that the Metropolitan Police accept that the original investigation falls below current investigative standards, but that it was consistent with the standards of the day. However, I am also informed that the Metropolitan Police’s official view is that its fourth investigation found no evidence to support the assertion that any police officer had been protected, or that any corruption existed.

I understand that the Crown Prosecution Service has offered a meeting, but that it unfortunately had to be postponed. I would encourage the family to take up the opportunity if possible to discuss further the outstanding questions that they have with the CPS, and in particular its refusal to pursue charges and take the matter to court.

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Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD):

I thank the Minister for the fullness of her replies, which we shall obviously consider. However, would she consider why the terms of reference of the first inquiry were changed? Presumably, that prejudiced the decision as to whether police were involved, as its terms were changed from the consideration of the police’s involvement to that of other people who were accused of the murder.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Caroline Flint) :

My understanding is that the terms of reference of the second investigation were to investigate allegations that police were involved in the murder of Daniel Morgan, and matters arising. That investigation was carried out under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority. I understood that that was the point of the second investigation, and that the PCA considered the matter and came to conclusions. I cannot comment any more on changes to the terms of reference; those were the terms of reference and that was the basis on which Hampshire Police and the PCA carried out their investigation.

In terms of the Home Office’s specific responsibility, the Met was accountable to the Home Secretary and Parliament. However, the force’s operational decisions, and those of the PCA, are independent of Government, and it is not for Ministers or the Home Office to interfere with them. Parliament has not given such powers to Ministers.

Finally, for what it is worth, I should like to offer my sincere sympathy to Daniel Morgan’s family. It is clear that Daniel was tragically murdered, and the family’s searches for answers over the years have been, I am sure, traumatic, and continue to be frustrating. I know that my response today may be a disappointment to the family; I am sure that it will be, based on the representations of my two colleagues who are here on their behalf today. Of course, the case is still considered by the Met to be open. There seem to be many instances where Members of Parliament and the family have views that are opposed to those of the Metropolitan Police, the Police Complaints Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service.

As I said at the outset, I shall tell my hon. Friend, the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety that a meeting would be beneficial to the family and colleagues here, and I hope that they will take up the opportunity to meet the Crown Prosecution Service as well. I hope that the recent openness shown by the Metropolitan Police and the CPS in seeking to provide an open explanation to the family has helped in some way. If it is felt that that provides the basis for a meeting with the Minister, I shall relay that to her, and I am sure that she will listen sympathetically.

Adjournment Debate
House of Commons

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