Like most of the nation, I binged-watched Line of Duty, a gripping drama about police corruption. Centred around the investigations of AC-12, an internal anti-corruption unit, Superintendent Hastings is on the lookout for ‘bent coppers.’ The show is a success because the public are intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes of a police force, but also due to the many dramatic scenes. I have not heard of a single person who did not enjoy the show and was not trying to figure out who ‘H’ was.
You do have to wonder where Jed Mercurio, the creator of the show, got his inspiration from. While some storylines are inspired by real events, I would have thought a television drama would make things seem worse than reality. However, a report was recently released which branded the Metropolitan Police “institutionally corrupt,” something they deny, of course.
So, what was this enquiry all about? Set up in 2013 by Theresa May, the independent enquiry reviewed the investigation of the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan in a South London pub car park. Morgan was a private detective who regularly worked for News of the World. It is thought that Morgan had been investigating police corruption. The BBC reported that “although he had not been stripped of his valuables, notes he was earlier seen writing in the pub had been ripped from his trouser pocket.” Not a robbery gone wrong, that’s for sure. The original case was unable to secure any convictions due to evidence and witness procedures not being followed. Scotland Yard have even admitted that “corruption on behalf of a number of officers in the early stages of the inquiry hampered the investigation.” We will probably never know exactly what Morgan was working on at the time, especially as Morgan’s inside contact, Detective Alan Holmes, “was found shot dead in what was classified as a suicide after Morgan’s killing.”
I only learned about this particular case recently but was instantly reminded of the murder of Gail Vella in series six of Line of Duty. Just like Morgan, Vella was an investigative journalist on the brink of unveiling police corruption. In the show, Vella is murdered and has her laptop and desktop computer stolen from her home along with the evidence she was collecting.
As the show is loosely inspired by real events, I would not blame you for thinking that this kind of corruption is a thing of the past. After all, it used to be said that the line between police and criminals is incredibly thin. However, the most shocking part of the enquiry were the accusations against Commissioner Cressida Dick. In her role as assistant commissioner (at the time), Dick was supposed to cooperate with the independent panel and provide them with the documents they requested. However, the report states: “The panel has never received any reasonable explanation for the refusal over seven years by [then] assistant commissioner Dick and her successors to provide access to the Holmes accounts to the Daniel Morgan independent panel.” Smells a bit like a cover up to me – one which the panel suggests was for “reputational benefit” and “constitutes a form of institutional corruption.”
In isolation, you may forgive this as a genuine error, but Dick has been involved in a few PR nightmares over the years. A few notable mentions include in 2005 when Dick was in command of an operation that “shot an innocent man dead, having mistaken Jean Charles de Menezes for a terrorist.” In fact, this inspired the very first episode of LOD when an innocent man was also killed in a counter-terror operation. Despite this, Dick was then made head of counter-terrorism in 2011. Dick also played a part in Operation Midland, an investigation into false claims of a paedophile scandal involving politicians and public figures. A review into the operation in 2016 identified “43 separate mistakes,” however, three years later, so little had been done that another review was requested by Priti Patel. This report concluded the reaction of the Metropolitan Police “was heavily weighted towards restricting access to the report, rather than learning the lessons from it.”
It does seem strange that someone caught up in multiple controversies is the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the most prominent figure in British policing. Personally, I think Commissioner Cressida Dick has some questions to answer. Two police watchdogs are reportedly considering an investigation of Dick, but until then I say call in The Gaffer. Superintendent Hastings, this seems like a case for you.
Rebecca Dawson is a second-year Geography student at the University of Leicester. She is vice-captain at UOL Tennis and is interested in mental health, popular culture and current affairs.