Monday, March 13, 2006

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The head of the Metropolitan Police in London has been caught illegally recording telephone calls:
The Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, has accepted an apology from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair for recording a private telephone conversation, the minister's office said today.

Lord Goldsmith was said last night to be "extremely angry" at the revelation that a conversation he had with Sir Ian last year - ironically about the subject of phone-tapping - was one of a number that Sir Ian had secretly recorded.


Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, went further in condemning Sir Ian’s actions. "I think that his behaviour appears to be unconstitutional, unethical, quite possibly unlawful," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"No doubt he has an explanation, perhaps he has already given his explanation to the Attorney. I think now we all want to hear it, and if it doesn’t ring true and it’s not adequate, I think it’s very hard for any of us to have trust in him as the senior law enforcer, police officer in this country.

"The bitter irony of this is that is a governnment that has has made great play of its support for the police. In my view it's given them too many unchecked powers and here it is on the receiving end of this most appalling abuse of police power."

The recorded call with the Attorney-General is believed to have taken place last September, and concerned the admissibility of wire tap evidence in court - although it did not relate to any particular case.

An IPCC spokesman said the taped conversations with three of its senior officials came to light as part of its inquiry in the aftermath of the Stockwell Tube station shooting of Mr de Menezes. One call was with its chairman, Nick Hardwick.

The calls had been recorded "without our prior consent", the spokesman said, adding: "We are surprised about the recording of calls and now have the recordings. We are dealing with this issue."

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