How CAN she go on? Amid devastating revelations, calls grow for Scotland Yard chief Cressida Dick to stand down
- Leading politicians joined growing calls for Dame Cressida Dick to step down
- Metropolitan Police Commissioner is set to get a two-year contract extension
- But critics accusing her tenure of damaging confidence in UK’s largest force
- In a letter to the Prime Minister, seven high-profile people called for her to quit
Leading politicians, legal figures and victims of police misconduct last night joined growing calls for Dame Cressida Dick to step down as the head of Scotland Yard.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner is poised to receive a two-year contract extension despite presiding over a string of scandals with critics accusing her tenure of damaging public confidence in Britain’s largest force.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister yesterday, exclusively revealed in the Daily Mail, seven prominent victims of police corruption and incompetence said Dame Cressida should quit and the ‘unfit for purpose’ police complaints process should be overhauled.
Signatories including Baroness Lawrence, the mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, and Lady Brittan, whose late husband, former Cabinet minister Lord Brittan, was investigated over bogus claims of a Westminster paedophile ring, accused the Met of ‘racial discrimination, systemic corruption and the reckless… harassment of innocent people’.
Dame Cressida Dick (pictured) is poised to get a two-year contract extension despite presiding over a string of scandals with critics accusing her of damaging confidence in UK’s largest force
Patsy Stevenson (pictured) – a student arrested by Scotland Yard officers during a vigil for murdered Sarah Everard – accused Dame Cressida Dick of ‘letting women down’
The letter was also signed by Alastair Morgan, whose brother, private investigator Daniel Morgan, was murdered with an axe in 1987.
In June a £20million report into the notorious unsolved murder branded the Met ‘institutionally corrupt’ and accused Dame Cressida of trying to thwart the inquiry.
She’s let women down, says student arrested at vigil for Sarah
A student arrested by Scotland Yard officers during a vigil for murdered Sarah Everard yesterday accused Dame Cressida Dick of ‘letting women down’ by failing to address ‘systemic’ issues within the force.
Patsy Stevenson, 28, was pinned to the floor by two policemen during a memorial service to Miss Everard, who was killed by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens.
An image of Miss Stevenson being held down became a defining image of criticism levelled at an allegedly heavy-handed police operation on Clapham Common, south London, in March.
Miss Stevenson spoke out after former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair leapt to the defence of Dame Cressida, alleging she was a victim of sexism.
Lord Blair, who was sacked as commissioner by then-London Mayor Boris Johnson, said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I just don’t think the criticism is fair and I do think there is a slight tinge here of the fact this is a woman and I feel there is a sense of just unpleasantness about it that I don’t think is appropriate.’
Lord Blair, commissioner between 2005 and 2008, said Dame Cressida was the victim of a ‘whispering campaign’.
But Miss Stevenson, who has initiated legal proceedings against the Yard over the nature of her arrest, said change is required, adding: ‘The Met needs to be held accountable for systemic issues – sexism, racism, deaths in custody.
‘When I was first asked [at the time of the vigil] whether she should resign I thought of the fact that she is the first woman and first gay woman to lead the force, which should be a boon for the LGBT community and women. But she has really let the side down.’
Last night, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the Met ‘desperately needs new leadership’.
He continued: ‘Met police officers who work incredibly hard and risk their lives to keep us safe deserve far better.
‘They need new leadership that will change the culture and rebuild the public trust and confidence that officers need to do their jobs and keep us all safe.’
Nazir Afzal, former chief crown prosecutor for north-west England, said Dame Cressida’s position is ‘untenable’.
He continued: ‘How disappointing that Home Secretary Priti Patel has lazily succumbed to allowing Dame Cressida Dick to remain as Met Police Commissioner for a further two years despite the catalogue of reasons she should be replaced.
‘I always thought Dame Cressida was a very good investigator, but it takes more than that to lead the largest force in Europe.
‘I believe there are better candidates for the job out there. Public confidence in policing, particularly in the Met, has taken an enormous knock.
‘By saying that not only will she see out her term but get an extra two years, I can’t begin to tell you how demoralising it must be for officers and how painful that must feel for the citizens of London.’
Yesterday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted Dame Cressida retains his support.
But he refused to respond to demands for Boris Johnson to meet the seven signatories of the open letter criticising the Met.
‘On the concerns raised, the PM is very clear that he wants to see those serious concerns looked at very carefully,’ he added.
‘The Government expects the whole of the Met leadership team to respond positively and openly to those criticisms.’
John Brown, 67, is suing the Metropolitan Police for up to £5million for alleged malicious prosecution and misfeasance in a public office.
The brother of Ireland’s 1970 Eurovision winner Dana, he was cleared of historical sex offences in 2014 and has accused officers of deliberately choosing not to pursue basic lines of inquiry to secure a prosecution in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
He said: ‘The Met has failed genuine victims of sexual abuse as well as those wrongly accused.
‘It’s bad enough [Dame Cressida] got through this term, but getting an extra two years at the head of a force which has just gone through the Daniel Morgan report, Operation Midland [the Met’s disastrous inquiry into bogus claims of a VIP paedophile ring], and the Sarah Everard [murder] case.
‘It shows there is no accountability. It is all about protecting those at the top.’
HARRIET SERGEANT: It’s so nauseating that a failed ex-Met chief can blithely dismiss criticism of Dick as ‘sexist’… especially as Stephen Lawrence’s mother and Leon Brittan’s widow signed bombshell letter demanding she step aside
Commentary by Harriet Sergeant
By any measure it was an extraordinary reaction to a bombshell letter to the Prime Minister.
Published in the Daily Mail and signed by seven high-profile and respected victims of police corruption, incompetence and malpractice, the letter detailed allegations of serious failures by the Met Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, and demanded she leave her post when her current contract expires.
Even as the fallout was dominating the news agenda on national TV and radio and newspaper websites yesterday morning, Lord Ian Blair, a long-time supporter of Dick, was telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the calls for her to go were sexist. He spoke of ‘a sort of whispering campaign against Cressida for some time’.
‘I do think there’s a slight tinge here of the fact this is a woman and I feel there’s a sense of unpleasantness about it that I don’t think is appropriate,’ Lord Blair said primly, adding: ‘I think she is a very, very fine officer.’
This was a breathtaking assumption and deeply offensive to the signatories – and particularly to the two women among them. Baroness Lawrence is the mother of teenager Stephen who was murdered by racist thugs.
Lady Brittan is the widow of former Home Secretary Leon who was hounded by the police over rape and murder allegations made by serial fantasists even as he lay dying.
Signed by seven victims of police corruption, a letter to the Prime Minister detailed allegations of serious failures by the Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick (pictured)
So how did it come to this – that the very real grievances of Baroness Lawrence, Lady Brittan and their co-signatories – Alastair Morgan, Paul Gambaccini, Nicolas Bramall, Michael McManus and Harvey Proctor – over their treatment and that of their loved ones by the Met, was reduced to a row about gender?
Of course, it was a trailblazing moment when Cressida Dick was appointed as the first female Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in 2017. But it does not mean that because she is a woman we should ignore her gross failings.
Lord Blair – and it has to be said the BBC’s ‘flagship’ Today programme too – blithely ignored this major intervention into the scrutiny of long-standing police corruption and incompetence, while seemingly accusing two courageous women of sexism.
Incidentally when presenter Nick Robinson listed the signatories of the letter he omitted Baroness Lawrence altogether.
And he also failed to disclose that Lord Blair had been let go as commissioner by the then-London Mayor, Boris Johnson.
During the interview, Lord Blair even laughed as he pointed out that every Met Commissioner has been the target of critical headlines like those in the Mail.
Well it is a pity Lord Blair, who along with Dame Cressida was involved in the operation that led to the mistaken police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station in 2005, does not know his police history better.
For he entirely misses the grave importance of the Mail’s campaigning on this issue of staggering injustice.
While researching my report, The Public and the Police, for the think-tank Civitas in 2008, I interviewed five police forces.
The experience taught me that in the UK we enjoy a unique style of policing that we should not take for granted.
Initiated by the Met’s first two joint commissioners, Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, in the first half of the nineteenth century, their concept was a police force that relied not on fear but on co-operation with the public.
This co-operation continues to rely on good and honest police behaviour, which, as the renowned historian of British policing, Charles Reith points out, ‘secures and maintains’, for the police, ‘the approval, respect and affection of the public’. It is vital for the health of our democracy that this is maintained.
Signatories included (L-R) Baroness Lawrence, Nick Bramall, Alastair Morgan, Harvey Proctor, Michael McManus, Paul Gambaccini and Lady Brittan
Today that important relationship between the police and the public is, by any standards, badly frayed. I would argue that, in recent years, a large part of that is down to Dame Cressida.
Lord Blair claims that she is being unjustly criticised over a number of historic cases.
He has a point – but she also had a golden opportunity to show abject remorse over past mistakes of the Met, to come clean on them, restore its reputation and to demonstrate the force has turned over a new leaf.
A leader with integrity and courage would have grabbed that opportunity. But Dick is not that leader. Instead she has presided over cover-ups, displayed incompetence and entrenched public despair and distrust.
Take just one example: in June a government-appointed panel reviewing the investigation into the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan – a private eye found dead in a London car park with an axe embedded in his head – accused the Met of placing the protection of its reputation above uncovering the truth.
It branded the Met ‘institutionally corrupt’ and personally criticised Dick for obstructing access to documents the inquiry panel thought vital, and for prolonging the investigation by years.
The panel’s report lambasted her and the culture of the Met, and warned that public confidence may be damaged by its findings. Her response? To dismiss its conclusions.
So what has gone wrong? A member of Special Branch who worked under Cressida Dick admitted doing ‘a little dance of delight’ when he heard she’d been appointed to lead the Met.
‘She cares passionately about her officers,’ he told me recently. ‘But things have not turned out as well as I had hoped.’
As she has moved higher up the ladder, the approachable and kindly boss grew more out of touch and distant, surrounding herself with the ‘wrong’ sort of people.
When he sought to approach her on a vital matter ‘as was my right,’ her staff officers blocked him. Others found the same.
When he remarked on her lack of success to two fellow officers ‘they jumped down my throat’, claiming that Dick put loyalty to her officers first and that loyalty was ‘the number one requirement of a commissioner’.
Their view sums up much of what is wrong with the Met and its current chief. Dame Cressida’s loyalty has come at a price.
Of course, it was a trailblazing moment when Cressida Dick (pictured) was appointed as the first female Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in 2017
She knew that the revelations around Daniel Morgan’s murder, even at this distance, were damaging and dangerous to the Met.
Her first reaction was to block when her first concern should have been her duty to the community she is meant to serve – and to events surrounding Daniel Morgan’s family who have yet to see justice.
The sad reality is that, as the letter published in yesterday’s Mail made clear, Dame Cressida’s actions over many years – from events surrounding the Daniel Morgan and Stephen Lawrence murders to the fiasco of the sex abuse allegations of Operations Midland and Yewtree – have irretrievably damaged the reputation of the force she sought to protect.
Her brief when she was appointed was to modernise the Met and avoid headlines. She has conspicuously failed to do either. She could perhaps have succeeded if she had shown more openness to criticism backed with a new system of governance.
She is hardly likely to do that in the next two years if, as is believed, her contract is extended.
The truth is that we cannot afford more of this inertia. If we are to continue to police by consent, we must avoid the steady drift towards alienation of police and people.
That is why the Mail’s campaigning stance is to be welcomed and must be heard.
Otherwise we face an uncertain future where policing lurches between the ineffective and the authoritarian, where good officers resign and the public react with discontent and lawlessness.
Cressida Dick has accelerated that drift and that is why she has to go.
Harriet Sergeant is an investigative journalist and author of The Public and the Police
Gambaccini: I’m coming for the BBC next
By Glen Keogh
Paul Gambaccini said yesterday he is ‘coming for the BBC’ over its alleged complicity in the child sex abuse ‘witch hunt’.
In an explosive interview with the corporation’s Victoria Derbyshire, Mr Gambaccini, who presents BBC Radio 2’s Pick of the Pops, accused his employer of being ‘on the side of the wrongdoers’ in its reporting of alleged VIP abuse cases.
He even offered to go ‘head-to-head’ with the BBC’s outgoing news chief Fran Unsworth in a public debate, in which he said he would ‘dissect her like a frog’.
Mr Gambaccini, 72, interviewed on BBC News yesterday, was arrested over false sex abuse allegations in 2013 and spent a year on bail before the case was dropped by Operation Yewtree detectives working under Miss Dick, then a Scotland Yard assistant commissioner.
Paul Gambaccini (pictured) said yesterday he is ‘coming for the BBC’ over its alleged complicity in the child sex abuse ‘witch hunt’
He later received a £250,000 out-of-court settlement from the Metropolitan Police for privacy breaches.
Speaking to Miss Derbyshire, Mr Gambaccini criticised the BBC for its interviews with the fantasist ‘Nick’, who accused a string of VIPs of involvement in a murderous paedophile ring.
He said ‘Nick’ – aka Carl Beech – had been given ‘free reign’ on the BBC’s Six O’Clock News, and also hit out at the corporation’s coverage of a police raid on Sir Cliff Richard’s home in 2014.
Of the alleged targeting of celebrities in Yewtree and other operations, he said: ‘All throughout the witch-hunt the BBC was on the side of the wrongdoers.
‘We haven’t come for the BBC yet… but don’t think we are going to go away. In the years to come, boy, the truth about the BBC’s complicity in the witch-hunt will be known.’
On BBC director of news Miss Unsworth, who has announced she was leaving the corporation, he added: ‘Fran Unsworth has taken life’s last leap and a good thing too because she was on the wrong side with the Cliff Richard thing.
‘I will go head to head with Fran Unsworth in any public forum and I will dissect her like a frog, without ether.’
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