Friday, March 2, 2012

#Leveson Inquiry : All in all a good and encouraging week.

With little happening above ground regarding the case this week it was time to see how Leveson was doing. It was pleasing to find that, now the inquiry has moved away from the free speech arena – where it never had any right to be – its proceedings have lost some of their musical-comedy surreality. Faced with a proper forensic task, instead of a clumsy-footed and na├»ve trespass onto ground it doesn’t understand, it provided some  valuable insights.


A clever copper

As to why the Yard bailed out of the phone hacking investigation after the prosecution of Mulcaire and Goodman there is no longer any mystery. Peter Clarke, by far the most impressive of the police officers involved, made it clear that he didn’t want to take the investigation any further: it seems the fate of weeping celebrities who’d been phone hacked was simply unimportant compared with the life-threatening matters that had to be dealt with by his division  at that time. Clarke, then in charge of anti-terrorism,  made it clear that, given the same circumstances, he would take the same decision today, without mentioning, by the way, that officers who know how to investigate phone hacking are the very same people used in anti-terrorist secret communications traffic analysis and phone interception. Leveson clearly accepted this as a reasonable decision but the inquiry then spent a great deal of time trying to answer the question, OK, not enough specialist resources available to pursue the matter at the time but what plans were made to investigate it, or keep an eye on it, or anything with it, at a later date?

Clarke passed that one up the line to his resource-allocating superiors, which is where the fun begins. It turns out the upper levels of Scotland Yard – the directorate above Clarke and his then colleagues – are something rather different from those of business, say.


Mr Getty in one of his happier moments

The calibre of directors and chief executives is largely decided by the their skill in delegation and, more particularly, by their  effectiveness in monitoring such delegated responsibility without falling into the twin pits of inadequate knowledge or over-involvement in detail. J. Paul Getty, the most miserable man in England, famously ran his international oil empire by keeping a scrap of paper in his pocket on which he would write his monitoring tasks for the day: it takes genius to condense the running of an organization to such skeletal levels.
There is no such figure at Scotland Yard and one rather suspects that there isn’t one in similar public bodies like the NHS, let alone in the UK’s back-scratching and comical local government  authorities. In this case direction worked OK up to Mr Clarke’s level but he then reported to our famous Assistant Commissioners, the suave Mr Yates, who one must say seems very pleased to be Mr Yates, and the buffoonish figure of Andy Hayman. Did they see their role as monitoring the work beneath them and then reporting it up to the Commissioner?
It appears not. Rather than directing with a Gettyish light touch they seem to have seen their executive role as the allocation of resources based on what their juniors’ recommendations were, rather than any broad evaluation – the hard bit – of their juniors’ conclusions and performance. Hayman, in particular, seemed to think that “delegation” means letting the person below you do it his way. What about the monitoring and oversight of delegated duties? The concepts seemed foreign to Hayman – either you let your subordinate get on with the job or you bog down in trying to do his job for him, with nothing in between.
Still, that didn’t cause too much of a problem because at these exalted levels much of their work seemed to consist of “strategic thinking”, PR and, inevitably, departmental politics. Time and again a baffled Leveson attempted to get straight answers to the question “what did you do about it?” Still, that’s the perk of public body direction.

yeats pic

Dishy Yates. The lady he is attempting to grab is out of shot

Yates is a smooth operator, extremely intelligent, Marlborough and Cambridge educated, suave, no doubt attractive to the ladies, but with a self-certainty –that bane of senior police officers (and politicians) —that does him no credit. There is a hint of the adventurer in him which may be why he headed for the police force rather than the family tradition of medical practice. In the rich mix of his social life, which needless to say blossomed not in police canteens but in the varied expense account restaurants of London’s Mayfair and Soho, various names intrude, including a number of News International figures.

The most startling of them is that of Nick Candy, a “good friend” of Yates, who, the latter said briefly, “was in property”. Readers may wish to look up Mr Candy for themselves and wonder if his description quite did justice to Mr Candy’s career. Time and again a puzzled Leveson and Jay – who since the Bureau’s description of him as holding his hand in front of his face as if to hide bad teeth is now attempting to check the habit with predictably jerky and amusing results – asked Yates to consider the reputational damage and suspicion that indiscreet friendships with their associated wining and dining could bring. No, Yates couldn’t see it.
Leveson and Jay, by the way, might have strengthened the point by mentioning this little news item from November 2011 but they appear to have missed it:

“Scotland Yard is negotiating to sell an office block in the heart of the Whitehall secure zone to the multi-millionaire property developers the Candy brothers. The block is near the Commons, overlooks the Ministry of Defence and is said to have views from some floors into Downing Street.It is being sold off by the Metropolitan Police Authority for more than £35 million, with Nick and Christian Candy heading the list of potential purchasers.”

The one thing Mr Yates, like so many others of his type, never appears to ask himself is what the fuck these friends see in him. Has it never occurred to him that friendship with a very senior police officer is simply an asset that people like property developers think might come in useful one day? Doesn’t he know that that’s how a huge number of people think and operate? There are a lot of people known to the Bureau who collect people like Mr Yates as friends “just in case” – whether the case is that of a nephew caught driving without insurance, the need for bona fides in a critical business deal or a newspaper story. Yates strikes us as an honest man but in this context incredibly unaware – unaware, in particular, that there are a lot of people in the world, many of them very sociable, who simply don’t have friends at all, only contacts. That’s one of the reasons they are so successful.

It is possible to feel sorry for Andy Hayman. His exposure as a stage bumpkin by the Commons select committee last year was hugely entertaining but in the end fell squarely into the Department of Easy Targets. Still in the interval between the two appearances someone – a friend? – had obviously said, for Christ’s sake don’t wear an expensive light coloured suit! You’re at an inquiry not taking a bit of skirt to a restaurant! And keep your glasses on, it makes you look serious. Andy listened carefully but almost spoiled the effect by slathering his kopf in hair gel.



Hayman is very much one of a type, and the type is not that of the crooked cop, despite his Essex origins and accent. Listening to him at Leveson was at times almost painful as he struggled to express himself with a vocabulary that lagged behind his brain; the damage caused to a poorly educated man by a public service career, with all its absurd circumlocutions and imported management gimmickry, was as visible as a missing limb. Every time the poor man was asked a question we braced ourselves for the answer – an unstoppable hurly-burly jet of managespeak, newspeak, targettalk, taskchat, all pouring out like a stream of vomit, but lacking the carrots.

hayman 2

and after

Most organizations, however, contain Haymen, people who have come up from the bottom, are easily mocked and apparently morons. But they nearly always have the same virtues –an apparently intuitive grasp for the essentials of a problem which they can’t express but which keeps them safe; decisiveness; a go-go, bullying, attitude to problem solving; cunning and single-mindedness. Let’s face it, with Hayman’s presentational disadvantages you have to be pretty able to get anywhere at all.

But like Mr Yates Hayman’s natural policeman’s suspicion failed him when it came to “friendships”. He made a very good point when he drew attention, briefly and badly, to the sneering disbelief of Guardian-type journalists in the face of police claims to have broken up home-grown terrorist plots a few years ago, including the claim that it was just the Met promoting itself. Only when the perpetrators were convicted and sentenced did we discover just how frighteningly serious those bungling attempts were.

But by then Mr Hayman had been leading a National Proactive Whiteboard-Based Interdisciplinary Multi-Cultural Media Intervention Strategy, otherwise known as eating out at good restaurants with journalists, for a long time – so why, if Mr Hayman had targeted the media to sweeten them up and help them understand the police, as he claimed, were they still so cynical?  Wasn’t the cynicism about police claims either an admission that Lunches Lose Lives or that they, the journalists, were using him?

Lord Blair, the disastrously incompetent ex-head of the Yard mused in his memoirs that perhaps Andy had fallen in love with the good life and was “burning the candle at both ends”. What a pity he didn’t stop him.

On a vanity scale of one to ten Yates and Hayman score in the high three millions. Did Hayman really think that the various News International minxes and coquettes who played him like a floundering sea trout over, and perhaps under, the restaurant tablecloths, were after him for his looks or his lower regions?

Did Yates think the various shared bottles of champagne would be quite forgotten under the hypnotic charm of his worldly anecdotes at Scott’s rather than being encouraged, noted and logged for later use? Yep, it seems so.

Still, let’s say it again: Clarke took the decisions that mattered and on the whole convinced us of his reasoning, his honesty and transparency. There is no evidence of any corporate cover-up and the logging systems have worked, while Hayman and Yates have walked.

If only one could say the same for the maggot-ridden criminal conspiracy that is News International. Clarke again was on the ball when he highlighted the real culprits in this affair. It was, he said, something quite outside the experience of him and his fellow officers when they attempted to investigate wrongdoing at Murdoch’s baby.

Big companies always co-operated, said Clarke, they were terrified of reputational damage and bent over backwards to provide all the information requested. For a major group like NI to act like a miserable little time-sharing scam team was simply unheard of. Let’s hope the bastards – all of them – pay a viciously high price for their “solidarity”.

And them

Now, turning to our limited-view perspective and looking at these matters from the Madeleine McCann angle, did we learn anything?

Yes, a little.

An apparently rather esoteric debate in Leveson as to the role of “evidence” led to some interesting insights into police operations that came as a surprise not only to the audience but to all the lawyers at the inquiry, from Leveson down.

It has particular relevance to those followers of the case who have expressed repeated mystification at the police willingness to accept the innocence of the McCanns despite suggestive circumstantial evidence regarding their veracity.

To Clarke, Hayman and Yates, reflecting orthodox police operational doctrine, “evidence”, when evaluating a possible criminal investigation, means evidence that will definitely stand up in court and excludes circumstantial evidence.

And unless such evidence is available or likely before a formal investigation begins the police are simply not interested in proceeding.

The inquiry found this difficult to accept because, apart from anything else, it raises the question of how the hell any inquiry ever gets started.

The police witnesses however were clear:

First of all it was a resource question – we need “evidence” in advance to justify committing limited resources. Secondly the police want bags of the stuff before they will consider interviewing suspects. Clarke said, “we don’t like to question people unless we hold the cards”, that is a mass of solid evidence already in reserve to ensure that in interrogations the police will always hold the initiative.

So any question of hauling people in for questioning as an exploratory move is out: the police don’t work that way.

Implicit in this “holding all the cards” view is that potential suspects should have no warning of any kind that they are to be questioned until the last possible moment. Readers will note that this doctrine, which seems to apply to CID investigations across all forces, is different to that of Portuguese criminal police.

So there we are, one possible reason why UK police have never questioned the Nine as part of their inquiries. How it pans out in the context of the Yard inquiry – which has no resource constraints – remains to be seen.

This operational information also throws a little light on the rogatory interviews, which fall into a rather special category.

They were being undertaken at the request of the Portuguese authorities and not because the UK police had enough evidence to interrogate them from a position of strength.

The transcripts of the interviews, however, reek of knowledge that the police do have – the details of the surveillance van operation, for example, or a certain interest in tennis bags – but this knowledge is deliberately kept under wraps and manifestly not used to trip them up or catch them out.

The Bureau has always believed that this was because of limitations laid down when the interviews were authorised and this probably remains a factor.

From the operational insights we have gathered this week, however, it seems clear we have an answer to the baffled “why didn’t they explore this bit further”, “why did they go so easy on them” questions heard so frequently on the internet:

Leicester police were clearly determined not to let any of the Tapas group know just what information they do have.

Not at that stage.

That would imply that they see at least some of them as potential suspects, not, as they told the group time after time, as mere “significant witnesses”.

Confronting Jane Tanner with certain statements of officer Bob Small, for example, about the surveillance van episode would have let her –and two friends of hers – know exactly how extensive their knowledge was and, obviously assist them in their defence.

Instead they let Tanner fumble around trying to gear her answers to what she thought they might know, and saying a great deal about herself in the process – while discovering almost nothing.

Such nice, helpful policemen! 

It fits in exactly with what the Yard officers have been letting slip this week about their modus operandi.

And the latter makes complete sense of the persistent Leicester police refusal to let the McCanns anywhere near their case files.

Forget the “Dear Stu” and “Dear Jane” charade and watch what they do not what they say. 

If ever we’re ready you won’t have to come looking for us...

All in all a good and encouraging week.