27 Jul 2012

Met corruption inquiry ends with nine guilty, no dismissals

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

A four-year corruption inquiry into the actions of a crime squad ends with nine police officers found guilty of discreditable conduct but no dismissals and no senior officers held to account.

The last in a series of Metropolitan Police disciplinary hearings was held behind closed doors on Thursday and four detective constables were found guilty of mishandling property seized during searches by the Enfield crime squad, which has since been disbanded. DVD players, iPods and flat-screen TVs were distributed among some of the staff at Edmonton police station in north London.

One officer received a written warning. There were no sanctions for the other three.

John Feavyour, deputy chief constable of Cambridgeshire and the chair of the misconduct board, said the officers had fully illustrated that they now understood the appropriate processes for handling property.

Anti-corruption investigation

Known as Operation Sumaq, it became one of the biggest investigations carried out by the Met’s anti-corruption unit. It included covert surveillance of the squad with listening devices and secret cameras installed at Edmonton police station.

Files on 15 officers, from constable to superintendent, were sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS decided there was insufficient evidence to charge.

Last October, the first disciplinary hearing found six officers from the squad guilty of discreditable conduct for arming themselves with baseball bats and pickaxe handles to smash up a car and arrest a 19-year-old man with no criminal history.

Channel 4 News has learnt that the victim Jonathan Billinghurst is now planning to sue the Met Police.

‘Waterboarding’

The next stage was to be a disciplinary hearing involving another three officers from the same crime squad. They were alleged, during the search of a house, to have smashed a suspect over the head with a bible, forced another’s head into a bucket of water and threatened to use Guantanamo-inspired “waterboarding” torture methods.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission proposed to hold the hearing in public but had to abandon proceedings because a witness, a convicted criminal, refused to cooperate

Another disciplinary hearing followed in May in which an officer was reprimanded for seizing an uninsured Mercedes from a suspect, driving it the wrong way up a one-way street, then crashing it.

Commander Peter Spindler, who is in charge of the Met’s directorate of professional standards, said: “This has been a thorough and robust DPS investigation into a variety of allegations.

“The actions of some of the former Enfield Crime Squad officers fell below the high standards we expect and the public deserve.”

Metropolitan Police Federation Chairman John Tully fed said: “The latest findings were for minor offences when you consider the original allegations involved waterboarding and torture. This has been a long and protracted process. The officers have been honest throughout.”