Former police officers who leaked claims computer owned by Damian Green had thousands of porn images are entering ‘dangerous territory’, warns ex-chief constable
- Neil Lewis says there is ‘no doubt whatsoever’ deputy PM was watching porn
- Investigator said some days porn browsed and open on the computer for hours
- Detective said similar pornographic material was found on Mr Green’s laptop
- Mr Green said recently the claims were ‘false’ and ‘completely untrue’
- Senior figures around the Prime Minister are torn on whether to sack Mr Green
- The final say is with Mrs May, who has known Mr Green since their days at Oxford
The former police officers who leaked claims that a computer owned by Damian Green contained thousands of porn images have been accused of straying into ‘dangerous territory’.
In the latest wave of allegations yesterday, the detective who seized Mr Green’s computer nine years ago said thousands of images were found and there was ‘no doubt whatsoever’ the MP himself had been accessing them.
But Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, warned that police should stay out of politics amid a growing row over the alleged discovery.
He told the BBC‘s Today programme: ‘It is very dangerous territory for a police officer to be making judgments about whether a politician is lying or not.
Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, warned that police should stay out of politics amid a growing row over the alleged discovery
Accosted by reporters as he left his constituency HQ in Ashford yesterday (pictured), Mr Green again flatly denied viewing any pornography on his office computer
Neil Lewis (pictured left), former Scotland Yard detective who examined Damian Green’s work computer in 2008, said yesterdayit contained thousands of pornographic images and says there is ‘no doubt whatsoever’ it was his. Former Met assistant commissioner Bob Quick (right) was in charge of the leak inquiry that triggered the raid
‘That should only happen in a criminal investigation and even then ultimately it is for a court to decide.
‘Police should also be extremely careful about making judgments about other people’s morality when it is not a matter of crime.
‘It is something really central to our democracy that the police are not involved in politics.’
The chief inspector of constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor said police had an ‘enduring’ duty of confidentiality, even after they had left the service.
Mr Lewis’ notebook shows how pornography had been found on the computer – he also says there was more on the work laptop
Mr Davis was shadow home secretary until a few months before the raid on Mr Green’s Commons office in November 2008, and shared the view of many politicians that the police action flouted parliamentary privilege rules
In a statement, he said if a serving officer had breached that duty they would face disciplinary action potentially leading to dismissal and, in certain circumstances, criminal charges.
Sir Thomas said: ‘The special powers which citizens confer on police officers are inseparable from the obligations of special trust placed in police officers to enable them to do their duty.
‘That trust requires every police officer to respect and keep confidential information which they obtain in the course of their duties and which is irrelevant to their inquiries and discloses no criminal conduct.
‘The obligation of confidentiality, and the duty not to break trust, is an enduring one. It does not end when a police officer retires.’
The raid on Mr Green nine years ago was highly controversial at the time, as the then shadow immigration minister – had been embarrassing the police with a series of leaks.
Yesterday it emerged that David Davis has made clear he is ready to quit if Damian Green is sacked.
The Brexit Secretary is understood to be furious at apparent efforts by former police officers to settle long-standing scores by forcing Mr Green out.
Mr Davis was shadow home secretary until a few months before the raid in November 2008, and shared the view of many politicians that the police action flouted parliamentary privilege rules.
A source close to Mr Davis said yesterday: ‘It is right that allegations of misconduct towards individuals are properly investigated but police officers have a duty of confidentiality which should be upheld.’
A mutual friend of Mr Davis and Mr Green told the Evening Standard the Brexit Secretary had ‘put his cloak around’ his colleague and made his position clear to the PM ‘in words of one syllable’.
Meanwhile, the deputy PM is facing a second sleaze inquiry after it emerged MPs are required to sign an ‘acceptable use policy’ for computers at parliament.
The Commons standards commissioner could stage a separate investigation to the ongoing probe by the Cabinet Office, which is due to report any day. Theresa May, who has known Mr Green since their days together at Oxford University, will have the final say over whether the First Secretary stays in his job.
In the latest wave of allegations against Mr Green, former detective Neil Lewis disclosed his notes from the raid and claimed that on some days porn was browsed and open on the computer for hours.
He told the BBC: ‘The computer was in Mr Green’s office, on his desk, logged in, his account, his name.
‘In between browsing pornography, he was sending emails from his account, his personal account, reading documents… it was ridiculous to suggest anybody else could have done it’.
He added: ‘I was surprised to see that on a parliament computer. I had to take a step back because I wasn’t expecting that’.
NINE-YEAR GRUDGE MATCH BETWEEN QUICK AND GREEN
The Tories put out footage of the 2008 raid on Damian Green’s office
Damian Green and Bob Quick crossed swords in 2008 when the Met assistant commissioner took dramatic action in an inquiry into leaks from the force.
Mr Quick decided to arrest then then shadow immigration minister.
The Tory MP was held for nine hours while his Commons office, two homes and constituency office, were searched and computers removed by counter-terrorism officers.
The episode sparked a huge inquest at the Commons into whether parliamentary privilege should have protected the material held by an MP.
In the ensuing political storm, it emerged Mr Quick’s wife was running a car hire firm from their home and details of their address were published on a website.
The officer then accused the Tories of being ‘wholly corrupt’ in leaking the story to intimidate him and his investigation.
But he was forced to apologise after then party leader David Cameron said the claim ‘Tory machinery’ was mobilised against his investigation was ‘completely baseless’.
Mr Green was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Mr Quick complained bitterly that the investigation cost him his career.
He quit in April 2009 after being photographed arriving at Downing Street with documents detailing a counter-terror operation clearly visible. He later claimed he might have survived the gaffe if it had not been for the Green affair.
The police officer, who worked as a lead in digital crime after being a leading counter-terrorism officer, was working on Operation Miser in 2008.
This was an investigation into Home Office leaks that led to Mr Green’s Commons office being searched by police and his computers being analysed.
The raid sparked an outcry that targeting Mr Green – shadow immigration minister at the time – was a flagrant breach of parliamentary privilege rules.
The leak inquiry was being led by Met assistant commissioner Bob Quick, who has also raised allegations about the pornography find. The claims have dramatically widened the Cabinet Office inquiry, which was originally looking at accusations Mr Green made a clumsy pass at a Tory activist.
But a host of Conservative MPs have accused the police of pursuing an anti-Tory witch-hunt against Mr Green that was ‘straight out of the mafia playbook’.
Tory MP Crispin Blunt suggested that as a shadow minister, Mr Green would have been too busy to look at porn online while at work.
He said: ‘The account that Neil Lewis has given of the use of the computer, based simply on his notebooks from some time ago… on his own account doesn’t bear the slightest relation to the kind of life a member of parliament leads.
‘We don’t have time to sit in our offices breezing through leisure websites of whatever type — we largely move from one meeting to the next.’
Former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, an ally of Mr Green, said the ‘hounding of Mr Green over information which everyone is clear was entirely legal and which he has emphatically denied either downloading or viewing is completely wrong’.
‘Now, nine years later, after a pretty contentious raid of a senior politician’s office, entirely legal information is leaked to blacken the name of a serving Cabinet minister, and I think that is wrong,’ the Sutton Coldfield MP told the BBC.
‘I think it is highly questionable whether a retired police officer should misuse this sort of material in this way and I think the police need to explain why there was any record kept of entirely legal activity.
‘He says he’s doing it to back up his friend Bob Quick … and I don’t think that it is proper for retired police officers to behave in this way. I don’t think it’s giving Mr Green natural justice and I think it is wrong.’
Mr Mitchell said Mr Green should ‘certainly not’ consider standing down.
Accosted by reporters as he left his constituency HQ in Ashford yesterday, Mr Green again flatly denied viewing any pornography on his office computer.
‘I have said I am not commenting any further while the investigation is going on,’ he said.
‘I have maintained all along, I still maintain, it is the truth, that I didn’t download or look at pornography on my computer, but obviously while the investigation is going on I can’t say any more than that.’
Friends of the First Secretary told MailOnline he is ‘gobsmacked’ by the allegations and suggested some elements in the police had a grudge against him for exposing issues while the Tories were in opposition.
This is also the police evidence tag attached to the porn-packed computer found in Damian Green’s office nine years ago
‘He’s deeply concerned that a former police officer is putting outlandish smears on the record,’ one said.
A Met Police spokesman said confidential information should not be made public.
‘The appropriate course of action is to co-operate privately with the Cabinet Office Inquiry as the Metropolitan Police done,’ the spokesman said.
‘As is routine, for cases of this nature, the circumstances of information being made public will be looked at by the Department for Professional Standards.’
Separately, former aides questioned whether he would have been able to spend ‘hours’ browsing porn in a small Commons office without being noticed.
Mr Green was arrested by Scotland Yard in November 2008 in a probe led by assistant commissioner Bob Quick into leaks from home secretary Jacqui Smith’s office.
His home and his offices in Kent and in the Palace of Westminster were searched, provoking outrage among MPs.
Theresa May’s deputy has been under investigation since November 1 following disputed claims by Tory activist Kate Maltby that he made unwanted advances towards her
And it was former officer Mr Quick who went public with his claims last month that pornography was found on the computer, prompting Mr Green to brand him ‘tainted and untrustworthy’.
In April 2009, director of public prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer, now a Labour frontbencher, said Mr Green and a junior civil servant, Christopher Galley, would not face prosecutions.
Sir Keir said the damage to the Home Office was not excessive and the material was of legitimate public interest.
In October 2009 the investigation was criticised in a Scotland Yard review led by former chief constable Sir Ian Johnston, while a separate probe by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of the Constabulary suggested senior officers allowed the inquiry to go too far.
During the controversy, then Commons speaker Michael Martin faced criticism for allowing police into the Palace of Westminster to search Mr Green’s office, but insisted officers did not have a search warrant nor his permission.
The Met said it had authority in the form of written consent from then-serjeant at arms Jill Pay, who was in charge of security.
But Mr Martin pledged police would never again be allowed access to an MP’s office or parliamentary papers without a warrant and the personal approval of the Speaker.
Mr Quick defended his actions in April 2010 in a BBC interview: ”What we didn’t know is whether more serious offences had been committed.
‘All we really knew was that someone or maybe more than one person was prepared to steal documents from the home secretary’s private office safe and intercept her letters to the prime minister…so for these reasons we saw it as pretty serious.’
He added: ‘I think this point got lost in the furore about violating the sanctity of Parliament.
‘In that noise it was very difficult to convey the facts.
‘The difficulty really was that if you have someone that you can clearly demonstrate was prepared to steal documents from a safe that we know holds very sensitive material, then you’re under a duty to find out exactly what has been leaked and to whom.’
Theresa May (pictured giving a speech in Jordan yesterday) has ordered a Cabinet Office investigation into her effective deputy, which could report within days
The House of Commons authorities told MailOnline an ‘acceptable use’ policy for computers on the estate has been in place since at least 2001.
MPs are obliged to sign on behalf of themselves and their staff, with the version thought to have been in force at the time saying they must not access materials that are ‘threatening, slanderous, abusive, indecent, obscene, racist, illegal or offensive’.
A Commons spokesman said: Parliament has had an acceptable use policy in place for MPs and their staff since at least 2001 and this has been updated on a number of occasions.
‘All users of parliamentary digital services are subject to an acceptable use policy.’
There is also a ban on use that might ‘damage’ the parliamentary network by encouraging viruses.
The policy raises the prospect that Mr Green might have breached the linked Code of Conduct for MPs, which is policed by the parliamentary standards commissioner.
Labour MP Jess Phillips said she thought the issue should be looked at by the Commons watchdog.
‘I have lost faith that politicians can mark their own homework on this stuff,’ she said.
Ms Phillips said Mr Green would have to lose his job if Mr Lewis’s allegations were shown to be true.
‘If it is found to be true, it does change things and Damian Green cannot stay in his position,’ she told the Today programme.
‘There is absolutely no illegality – I don’t think anybody is saying that – but would you be fired if you looked at pornography on your work computer?’
Last month it emerged porn watched on Damian Green’s computer was so extreme that viewing such images was made illegal just weeks later, it has been claimed.
Images of a disturbing nature were said to have been viewed in the deputy PM’s Commons office on ‘an almost daily basis’.
Some of the porn found on the system was said to be so extreme that police took advice from the CPS on whether to prosecute.
But they were told no relevant law was in place when Mr Green’s office was raided on November 27, 2008. The law was changed eight weeks later, in January 2009.
It is understood that detectives seized at least four computers during the investigation, including three desktops and a laptop. All were understood to be registered to the parliamentary network.
When allegations first emerged, the deputy PM said they were ‘false’ and ‘completely untrue’.
But he has since appeared to drop his claim that there was never any porn on his seized computers and instead reiterated that police had never told him about the discovery.