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For any non-MPs reading

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.

8 comments to For any non-MPs reading

  • Gareth


    Would I be right in thinking some of the anti-terror legislation brings with it the power for a Senior Police Officer to authorise arrest warrants and search warrants without judicial permission.(The brief bits of legislation I have seen required said Senior to notify the Home Office of his behaviour but I cannot now find which Act it was.)

    The RIPA act allows for communications interception and surveillance of persons by the permission of a Senior figure of authority. Not even a Police Officer is needed, but the RIPA would apply to them too I guess.

    I find it strange Green was, according to David Davis, arrested in a car park. I can’t imagine this had to be done in a hurry as the civil servant still being not-quite-detained by the Home Office was arrested and not-quite-released something like 3 weeks ago. Ample time for a Magistrate or Judge to sign off on an arrest warrant or search warrant if they wanted it to be completely above board.

  • “… A lot of very common conduct is now illegal”.

    How true. In Spain, the Criminal Code is now thick with what amounts to little more than glorified administrative sanctions. Outside of it, bodies of government legislation allows staggering fines for even the very trifling minutiae.

    There is worse: What is left of legal conduct is seen a suspicious, unregulated loopholes. It makes me think at times that the Montana militias have a point or two…

  • guy herbert

    … power for a Senior Police Officer to authorise arrest warrants and search warrants without judicial permission….

    As I point out in a comment on Brian’s post below, quite aside from “terrorism legislation”, warrants are no longer issued for most arrests and searches.

    The RIPA act allows for communications interception and surveillance of persons …

    Not quite. RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) permits the police of their own motion to authorise a demand for communications data of a suspect, likewise “intrusive surveillance” which includes bugging. But interception of the content of communications themselves requires the Home Secretary’s (not a judge’s) warrant.

    Information obtained under RIPA can be used in evidence, intercepted communications cannot. A QC of my acquaintence who does terrorism cases takes the charitable view that this is an attempt to avoid the costs of disclosure (transcription costs and someone paying people like him to read the transcripts) and the lengthening of trials. I am a bit more suspicious and I think that the prosecution in such cases would rather rely on inuendo from comms data, which cannot often be contradicted by disclosure, and the relative controllability of bugging. I think my view is the better one, given communications intercepts may neither be mentioned nor implied in court, nor the fact or legitimacy of any decision or request to use it questioned in court.

  • GF

    The Sally Murrer case was (and still is) covered in Private Eye, a magazine I can highly recommend if you ignore the socialist parts. The daily newspapers have little value left compared to the weeklies and fortnightlies, let alone blogs!

  • Gareth

    I stand corrected. Thanks Guy.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes “encouraging misconduct in public office” – can mean just about anything, and there are plenty of other ways the state can hit people.

    As has been pointed out by others on this blog – as Ayn Rand (among other writers) explained the statists like people to be criminals (because they have power of criminals) so they make so many “laws” that we are all criminals.

    But there is another matter to be attended to.

    I have said (several times) that it is a silly waste of time to read the left press.

    By citing the Nick Cohen article in the Observer, Guy Herbert has proved me wrong.

    I therefore apologize for my past statements.

  • Dale

    The Green case reminds me that Duncan Sandys, while MP in 1938, was threatened with prosecution for asking inconvenient questions in Parliament. His father-in-law, you see, had asked even more inconvenient questions. Both Sandys and his father-in-law had excellent sources inside the Air and War ministries.

    I believe William Manchester’s book The Last Lion details the case.

    How is the Sandys case different from that of Green? Sandys and his father-in-law possessed actual state secrets. Green merely knew information embarrassing to the government.

  • Be careful what you wish for, she’s a dangerous woman!