He did so notwithstanding the legal requirements set out in Section 17 of the Police Reform Act which, as he well understood, clearly required him to afford such access to the IPCC. The instruction was given almost immediately after the incident had taken place, one officer recording that he was notified of this within 42 minutes of the incident.
This was an extraordinary decision, taken before he can have known any facts with any certainty. He gives as his reason the desire to conceal from the IPCC (and therefore from the victim’s next of kin, who he perceived as being entitled to information from the IPCC) details of tactics in such incidents.
Whilst that motive may well now be seen as being, in theory, rational, the problem for Sir Ian is that in so doing he was setting aside the law which he had no right to do, putting himself, his officers and the Metropolitan Police effectively above and beyond the law.
Interestingly the one officer recording the instruction was told that it came with the imprimatur not just of the Commissioner but that of the Prime Minister as well.
So we are left with a situation where the nation’s most senior Police officer has deliberately obstructed the course of public justice, treating the law as something to be obeyed only when it suits. Such an attitude cannot be thought to be acceptable. He may have disliked the law (we all have candidates for such dislike) but he had no power to put the law aside. This on top of all the other matters makes his position even more untenable than before. It was also a breach of his oath which he took on becoming a constable to discharge his duties “faithfully according to law.”
He now recognizes that such was not appropriate. Yet he is unable to see how, added to the conviction of his force of a serious offence which led to the death of an innocent man, that makes his position impossible, not least because he has now become the story.
His letter is also interesting for another feature: Blair spoke to the Chairman of the IPCC telling him of this decision and when he did so he discovered that Sir John Gieve’s office had already spoken to the IPCC. The Home Office too was therefore part of the attempt to prevent the proper operation of the law. What an extraordinary state of affairs that the top cop and the Home office should treat the law so casually.
One wonders to what extent this readiness to thwart the law underlies the Home Office’s support of Sir Ian.
One also suspects that Labour think they are never going to find another Policeman who is so in tune with their New Labour view of the world in a month of wet Sundays, so they are desperate to hang on to this most political of policemen. Sadly, like so many of their awful ministers, he has now fouled up and ought to go. That he will not is simply an echo of the clinging to office with which we are so familiar under Labour.