Discussions: Baroness Nuala O’Loan, inquiry chief, clashes with Priti Patel
By Mark Watts
Members of an inquiry panel thought that they would finish four years ago their report on police failures over private investigator Daniel Morgan’s murder.
Sources close to the panel revealed that it was on “a real drive” to complete the report in the summer of 2017 but blame obstacles by the Metropolitan Police Service for wrecking the timetable.
One source said: “It has proven to be a monster.”
Priti Patel, home secretary, threw into disarray the panel’s plan finally to publish its 1,200-page report by writing a week before publication day last Monday to say that she would review it to ensure that it did not breach anyone’s privacy or compromise “national security”. She would arrange publication after seeing the report, according to the Home Office.
The panel, chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, former police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, slammed Patel in a statement. “The panel believes that this last-minute requirement is unnecessary and is not consistent with the panel’s independence,” it said.
Amid the clash with Patel, one source close to the panel told me: “We trust we will be allowed to publish, we hope in June, but everything is so uncertain.”
The source added: “Nuala is strong and will not be bullied.”
Daniel Morgan’s family said in a statement that Patel’s threats to vet the report “serve only to betray and undermine the very purpose of the panel.”
The panel’s report is expected to condemn the Met for obstructing the inquiry into the failed police attempts to investigate the gruesome killing in 1987 by blocking access to all available evidence.
All five members of the panel have experience of seeking to hold various police forces to account.
The source close to the panel said: “The Met is just bigger and better at being corrupt than the rest.”
The Met denies obstructing the inquiry.
I revealed in March that masons in British policing face new scrutiny in the inquiry’s draft report. It raises fresh concerns about freemasonry’s impact on the Met’s investigation of Daniel Morgan’s murder and its influence in policing more generally.
The draft is understood to criticise a lot of Met officers, including many of those on the first investigation.
Sources close to the inquiry revealed to me previously that the report was largely drafted two years ago, but could not be completed because of obstacles in accessing all available evidence.
However, I understand that this under-stated the position because the panel had expected to finish the report in 2017.
Despite obstructions, the panel managed to draft all but two chapters of the report by the spring of 2018, and expected to complete it that autumn ready for a “fairness process” of seeking responses from parties criticised in the draft.
Theresa May, as home secretary, set up the ‘Daniel Morgan Independent Panel’ in 2013 to investigate the handling of the case, including possible police involvement in the murder and the role of corruption in protecting the murderers.
The panel would “seek to complete its work within a year of the documentation being made available,” she said.
I revealed in March that the draft confirms that corruption was widespread among police in the area of south-east London where Morgan’s body was found in a pool of blood, with an axe embedded in his head.
On Monday, Patel sent a junior Home Office minister, Victoria Atkins, to the House of Commons to face an urgent question on the latest delay to the panel’s report.
Atkins told MPs that the Home Office had not yet received the report.
She said: “The Home Office has asked the chair of the panel to agree a process for sharing the report with the department in order to proceed with its publication.”
A spokesman for panel told me on Thursday: “Discussions are ongoing. It is not a stand-off.” He added that legal action was not being contemplated.
The day after saying this, the panel issued a statement that it will publish the report on June 15, “subject to final confirmation by the home secretary”.
It added: “A small team from the Home Office will be permitted to read the report in advance of publication, under strict viewing conditions, at the premises of the panel.”
Daniel Morgan inquiry panel expected to finish report on police failures four years ago
• Panel source: Met ‘bigger and better at being corrupt than the rest’
• ‘It has proven to be a monster,’ panel insider on completing report
• Inquiry chairwoman ‘strong and will not be bullied’ by Priti Patel