The dirty truth about the MET: From the failures over the murders of Stephen Lawrence and Daniel Morgan to spending taxpayers’ money on lavish holidays
- The never-ending scandals that have blighted London’s police force in recent times make Line Of Duty look less like a TV drama and more like a documentary
- That thesis is set out in devastating detail in Tom Harper’s Broken Yard
- The crime reporter relays an a warts-and-all history of the MET’s corruption
BROKEN YARD: THE FALL OF THE METROPOLITAN POLICE
by Tom Harper (Biteback £20, 480pp)
Dame Cressida Dick never much liked Line Of Duty. Scrub that: she absolutely hated it. So during her ill-fated reign at the Met, she decided to lambast the hit BBC show for daring to suggest Britain has a problem with so-called ‘bent coppers’.
‘I was absolutely outraged by the level of casual and extreme corruption that was being portrayed as the way the police is in 2018–19,’ an interviewer was told.
Real life is nothing like the hit BBC drama, Dick insisted: ‘It’s so far from that. The standards and professionalism are so high.’
Crime reporter Tom Harper’s Broken Yard relays an a warts-and-all history of the MET’s corruption
The remarks, made via a 2019 edition of Radio Times, prompted a salty riposte from Jed Mercurio, creator of the TV series. He thought Britain’s most senior Plod protested too much.
‘My inspiration for creating Line Of Duty was the Metropolitan Police shooting an innocent man and their dishonesty in the aftermath,’ Mercurio Tweeted, referencing the 2005 shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes, in a botched operation overseen by Dick. ‘So thanks to Dame Cressida for reminding me of our connection.’
Mercurio’s point, of course, was that the never-ending scandals that have blighted London’s police force in recent times make Line Of Duty look less like an exotic TV drama and more like some sort of grisly documentary. ,
That thesis (not to mention Dick and Mercurio’s wee disagreement) is set out in devastating detail in Broken Yard, a warts-and-all history of Met corruption by Tom Harper, one of the most highly-regarded crime reporters on Fleet Street.
The book uses the Metropolitan Police and its scandals as a foundation and inspiration for its drama
It’s a forensic and at times rather tragic account of the force’s descent, over the past 30 years, from the sort of respected public institution that inspired Dixon Of Dock Green into a national embarrassment that recently suffered the indignity of being placed into ‘special measures’ by the Government.
We begin at the Chislehurst home of Bethany and Paul Eaton, who run a vegan yogurt business. Not long ago, burglars smashed their front door in. But when the police were telephoned and told the culprit might still be on the scene, they refused to send officers along because ‘you don’t have an appointment’.
A phone operator then decided to record the incident as ‘no crime’, a move that improperly boosted police statistics. The Eatons were furious. And when a scene-of-crime officer did eventually pay them a cursory visit, some 48 hours later, he refused to review clear CCTV footage identifying the offender — he refused to take it. How did we reach this squalid malais? Who is to blame? And can it be fixed? Harper, who has a forensic eye for detail, explores scandals large and small, from the way investigations into the murders of Daniel Morgan and Stephen Lawrence in the early 1990s were hobbled by police links to organised crime and dodgy detective agencies, to the squalid culture that led to the force telling a series of porkies about the dreadful failings that led to the shooting of De Menezes.
More recent chapters are devoted to unpicking the shambles of ‘Plebgate’, and the PR disaster of this February when revelations about endemic racism, sexism and misogyny at Charing Cross police station led to Dame Cressida’s departure.
Like all good yarns, the best bits revolve around people. Among the heroes is Peter Tickner, the Met’s chief auditor from the mid 1990s, who to the dismay of his superiors sought to crack down on endemic fraud and financial mismanagement.
The never-ending scandals that have blighted London’s police force in recent times make Line Of Duty look less like a TV drama and more like a documentary
Shortly after taking the job, he decided to audit the Met’s ‘works department’, which spent £70m a year maintaining London’s police properties. It emerged that one of the main contractors taking this loot was a gentleman nicknamed ‘Bad Frank’, on account of the fact he had a lucrative second career as an armed robber.
Later, in 2006, Tickner realised that Met cops were spending an astonishing £8.5m a year on their taxpayer-funded credit cards. His inquiries led to Richard de Cadenet, an anti-terror detective, being jailed for spending more than £73,000 on everything from a lavish holiday in Thailand to a box at a Premiership football club.
They also prompted the resignation of Andy Hayman, the Met’s third most senior officer, who was known as ‘Asbo Andy’ for his abrasive behaviour. He was revealed to be spending £19,000 a year on his corporate card, at one point guzzling £300 worth of alcohol during a working lunch with a chief constable.
The meatiest stuff revolves around links between corrupt officers and organised crime, a truly frightening phenomenon which, Harper explains, has become significantly more pervasive since the late 80s, when gangs began making huge fortunes from the cash-soaked world of drugs.
Among those to have benefited was a gangster named Curtis ‘Cocky’ Warren who, having been acquitted of importing cocaine from Venezuela, marched up to shell-shocked Customs officers at Newcastle Crown Court and declared ‘I’m off to spend my £87million from the first shipment and you can’t f***ing touch me.’
The meatiest stuff revolves around links between corrupt officers and organised crime, a truly frightening phenomenon which, Harper explains
Then there was David Hunt, a mythical underworld figure nicknamed ‘The Long Fella’ who, according to intelligence reports, has stayed out of prison thanks to a large network of corrupt Met officers.
So convinced was he of his own impunity that in 2013 he decided to sue the Sunday Times for libel for referring to him as a ‘crime lord’.
Hunt eventually lost, but not before the Met had attempted to prevent leaked police documents that supported the newspaper being aired in court, claiming they were too sensitive. As the ST’s QC rightly argued, Scotland Yard was therefore effectively assisting a crime boss to bring a ‘corrupt claim’.
As with so many of the shabby affairs highlighted by this excellent and very timely book, not a single head ended up rolling over the whole thing. Perhaps, as Line Of Duty’s creator so memorably put it, the truth about the Metropolitan Police really is even muckier than fiction.
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