Now that the issue of secret briefings by police officers to journalists is suddenly all over the news, it is time for a "we told you so" moment.
In 2006, the Metropolitan Police Authority held a scrutiny of communication and media at the Metropolitan Police Service, with particular reference to the way the police handling these issues during the Forest Gate 'anti-terrorist' raids of that year. In a submission I wrote for Newham Monitoring Project, we said:
If the constant stream of unofficial briefings that appeared in the press following the Forest Gate raids as ‘police sources’ were not officially orchestrated, then the MPS has by allowing them condoned the actions of a small group of police officers. who have anonymously fed information to the media in return either for cash, the conducting of inter-agency feuding between the Met and the security services over apportioning blame or simply in order to undermine the accountability of a public service. In either scenario, police officers based at Scotland Yard have been responsible for misconduct and this needs to be investigated urgently.
The full submission is available here. It shows not only a further example of the cosy relationship between the Met and the press, but also how complete useless the Metropolitan Police Authority has always been at holding those responsible for secret briefings to account.
A further outcome of the selective leaking of misinformation, half truths and unrelated associations was to place further strain on the slender strands of public accountability over the MPS by the Metropolitan Police Authority. Those with a role in holding the MPS to account appear to have no effective means of rescuing a media strategy that is seemingly out of control. Moreover, after the Forest Gate raids, there does not seem to be mechanisms available to the MPA to effectively evaluate the basis of what MPS ‘thought was true’, even when the police’s presentation of information contradicted common sense and the reality of physical evidence.