First of all, apologies for the lack of posts this week. I have been burning the midnight oil and work and haven't had time to blog.
Moving on to the Damian Green story, I'd like to look at something the press hasn't really covered. There are many things about this story that just don't seem right; 9 anti-terrorism officers arresting a middle-aged MP at his home in Kent; the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister claiming to know nothing about it; the Speaker of the House of Commons letting police search an MP's private office. There are so many things about the story that stink it's a wonder that people haven't started gagging when reading about it. But something that seems to have been missed is the alleged offence Green was arrested for; that of Misconduct in Public Office and a Conspiracy variable of it. Here are some highlights of the CPS guidance on this offence:
"It should always be remembered that it is a very serious, indictable only offence carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. A charge of misconduct in public office should be reserved for cases of serious misconduct or deliberate failure to perform a duty which is likely to injure the public interest." I don't think anyone could question whether these requirements have been met. In fact, they look so far removed from this case one has to wonder why on earth this offence was used as cause for arrest. Admittedly charges have not been brought, and the CPS guidance technically refers to factors to be considered when preparing a charge, but the fact that the case looks so weak to begin with is relevant. Could you really say that this was a case of 'serious misconduct', or that public interest was at risk? Not a chance in my book - if anything, Green was acting in the public interest by leaking documents the government wanted to keep secret.
"The threshold is a high one requiring conduct so far below acceptable standards as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder." If anything, wouldn't Green's actions see him gain public trust? The government has kept information quiet because it was politically embarrasing, but which also related to issues of great public concern. Does leaking information that is awkward for the Labour Party but of obvious public interest really qualify under this requirement?
"There must be a breach of duty by the officer, [which is wilful and which is such that the conduct is] an affront to the standing of the public office held." In other words, the conduct must be the opposite of what is expected from the person in question. But leaks in politics are like grains of sand in the desert. During the mid-90s it was often joked that Robin Cook had an army of moles inside government departments; they are very much par for the course. And what about the BBC's Robert Peston leaking potentially harmful economic information, or the government leaking they were considering a £1,000 Christmas windfall in the PBR? These things are leaks, but it seems that leaks are only not allowed if they are propagated by Conservative MPs, rather than journalists or the government.
If Damian Green has done something seriously wrong without a reasonable excuse, then of course the law should apply in the correct fashion. But at the moment it looks as though he has been arrested for doing something that is simply part of politics, and for making the government look bad. He seems to have been arrested for doing his job.
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