As someone who has certainly conspired with Damian Green (and LibDem MPs too) to embarrass the Government and the Home Office. I spent some time Thursday and Friday making provision in case I were to be arrested and my property searched. The reaction from the media and parliamentarians in the Green affair has been so strong that I don’t now think it likely. But it does seem possible. Before Thursday night I would have laughed at someone who suggested things had got so bad.
I was misinformed. Nick Cohen in the Observer picks up a case I should have known about:
Admittedly, when anti-terrorist officers arrested him, it was the first time they had held a suspect for trying to protect national security. But their motive was clear. Green had embarrassed the Home Secretary and made Home Office civil servants look idle fools. He and his source had to pay.
The accusations against Sally Murrer, on the other hand, were incomprehensibly trivial. The state said that Mark Kearney, a police officer and Murrer’s co-defendant, had given her the story that Thames Valley Police did not intend to prosecute the star striker of the MK Dons after a fight in a hotel. It also alleged he had passed on a tip that a man who had been murdered in the town had a conviction for drug dealing.
Journalists in free countries receive similar steers every day. Yet the police bugged her phones, ransacked her home and office, confiscated her computers, interrogated her, humiliated her with a strip search, separated her from her daughters and handicapped son and left her with the threat of a prison sentence hanging over her for 18 months.
As I noted for US readers over on another thread, none of this of course required a judicial warrant. Though the charges were thrown out when a trial finally came, the process is the punishment. And someone searched under these conditions might easily end up being prosecuted for something else, if police find evidence of any other offence in the course of it. After all, a lot of very common conduct is now illegal.