Damian Green’s arrest yesterday has predictably sparked controversy. However, let’s get the facts in proportion.
Fact One: Why were the police officers concerned from the Counter-Terrorist Command? The Metropolitan Police Special Branch was set up in 1883 and amongst its many other duties it had responsibility for investigating security breaches in Government departments, including leaks of confidential material (they also investigate allegations of breaches of electoral law). Two years ago, the Metropolitan Police merged Special Branch with the Anti-Terrorist Branch to form a new Counter-Terrorist Command and, although the majority of the new Command’s work relates to terrorism, it still retains the wider remit of the former Special Branch. So if there was an allegation about a leak from a Whitehall Department to be investigated by the police, it would fall to the Counter-Terrorist Command to do the work.
Fact Two: In any investigation, the police have got to follow the evidence. Even if the evidence leads into sensitive areas. I backed the police in pursuing the so-called “cash for honours” inquiry, as did many in the Conservative Party who are now saying that the police action in this particular case is inappropriate. In such highly sensitive cases, it would be unthinkable for the police not to consult the Crown Prosecution Service about whether each significiant step was proportionate in the context of the alleged offence and the material already gathered. I cannot believe that this did not happen in this particular case.
Fact Three: Why were so many police officers involved? In any operation involving a search and, in particular, examination and possible removal of computer equipment a number of police officers would necessarily have to attend. The nine described in this particular instance sounds about right.
Fact Four: Why was an “arrest” necessary? If a search is to take place and if someone is to be interviewed at a police station, an arrest (which also gives the person arrested specific rights) is normally required.
I hope the controversy and fuss is not an attempt to prevent the police properly concluding their investigations. Those who attempted to do so in “cash for honours” case were wrong and it would be equally wrong to try and derail the process in this case. To do so, would be inappropriate political interference in policing.
And just for the record: I was not informed about the arrest until several hours after it happened.