Time for a change at Scotland Yard
The Metropolitan Police chief, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has officially had his contract extended by another year. He wanted to serve longer: the brevity of his reappointment suggests the Government has lost confidence in him. That is just one of many reasons why he ought to do the decent thing and resign. Someone has to take responsibility for the unholy mess over which he has presided. The Met is not doing its job. Violent crime is up. Last year, the number of murders in the capital jumped from 99 to 113. This is thought to be partly due to the activities of migrant gangs – but has probably been accentuated by bad policy. Scotland Yard’s Trident squad, which specialised in gang killings, has been disbanded. Hundreds of detective positions remain unfilled. And, most troublingly, experienced murder squad officers have been redeployed to tackle high-profile, politically sensitive cases – including phone hacking and historic sex abuse. Sir Bernard’s period in office has seen a switch in priorities away from old-fashioned police work and towards following the political agenda of the Left. How else to explain the extraordinary, melodramatic investigations into the lives of establishment figures – using tactics that one normally associates with a police state? Lord Bramall, former head of the Army and a war hero, had his house swarmed over by police officers and his life turned upside down on the basis of one allegation that has since proved untrue. The investigation of Lord Bramall indicates that the nature of this job has changed in worrying ways. Announcing a review of the manner in which historic sex abuse cases are treated, Sir Bernard revealed that since 2002 it has been policy for the Met to “accept allegations made by the victim in the first instance as being truthful”. Of course, we would all agree that such accusations should be investigated. But there is a distinction between taking a complaint against an individual seriously and automatically believing it to be accurate. Surely there is a still a role for common sense to play in British policing? Surely when an allegation as outlandish as the one against Lord Bramall is made, it would be best to check a few facts first before sending in the cavalry? Instead, Sir Bernard has sought vindication through the media – while simultaneously attacking the press. He lost his cool in a radio interview last week, lashing out at journalists who “want it both ways” by criticising the police for failing to investigate historic cases and then attacking them for being too heavy-handed. Sir Bernard fails to understand that it is the job of the press to try to establish the truth and hold public officials to account. It is not the job of the police to, as Sir Bernard has done, dash off articles in Leftwing newspapers trying to justify himself or use the BBC to spin his many mistakes. He cannot run away from the simple, terrible fact that while his force has dedicated itself to the agenda of Labour MPs, violent crime has risen. It is time for a new broom at the Met.