Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just When You Thought the Police Couldn't Be Any More Stupid...

Douglas Carswell just emailed to alert me to the breaking story that the Police have waltzed into an MP's office with no warrant and demanded to see constituency correspondence. He writes...
This afternoon police officers raided the office of Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury. Why? They demanded to trawl through his constituency correspondence while investigating letters that have been sent by "someone in the Shrewsbury area" - apparently. They do not appear to have had a warrant. The Commons authorities - the Speaker and the Sergeant at Arms - did not know of the raid. They were not informed of the raid, nor aware of what happened until told afterwards. Once again, we see that those who run Parliament are not up to the job. Last week, they were so quick to eject John McDonnell last week for the Parliamentary estate. Today, they don't even seem to know who was on it.

The BBC has more details HERE. Daniel Kawczynski unaccountably handed over the correspondence to the Police and as you can read from his comments knows he made a big error. He did it, he says, to his "eternal shame". He later raised a point of order in the Commons...
"I am extremely shocked at what I am going to say. I received a note from my office that there was a police officer in my office demanding to see correspondence. They were already present in my office and I went down to see them after making my speech. I was extremely appalled that the officer can behave in this way, to enter a Member of Parliament's office with no warrant and to demand constituency correspondence."
The BBC report continues...
The MP said he would "have to live with" his decision to hand over the letter demanded by the police. Mr Kawczynski told deputy Commons Speaker Sir Michael Lord: "After everything that has happened to Mr Green, I find it disgraceful that this is happening and I urge you to investigate." Fellow Tory MP Tobias Ellwood demanded that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith make a statement to MPs about the matter. He said: "It is clear this is a shocking event that has taken place." Mr Ellwood said that following the search of Mr Green's Commons office "we did have assurances that no offices would be entered unless a warrant was produced and that clearly hasn't happened today and we deserve to have some sort of clarification by the home secretary".
Sir Michael said he understood the "great concern" about the incident but had "no knowledge of this matter". He told Mr Kawczynski: "If it is as you say it is, then it is obviously extremely serious and my advice would be that you should take the matter up with the House of Commons authorities as quickly as possible." Sir Michael said he would refer the matter immediately to Speaker Michael Martin.

Quite astonishing. How could the Police be so crass and stupid after the furore of the Damian Green affair. And it also shows that the guarantees the Speaker made to MPs are not worth the paper they are written on.


Bill Quango MP said...

Jacqui Says..
I had no idea. Them police tell me nuffin. Anyway, I was washin' me hair.
If we 'ad ID cards nun of this would 'av 'appened

Mr Mr said...

So it is Now obvious that if any one of us has a grievence against the police then the last person we should contact is our member of Parliament?

Van Helsing said...

If Dick is an example of the more successful police officer, why be suprised at the intelligence of lower ranks.

RonB said...

Never think the police cannot get any more stupid.

Its like expecting politicians to get more honest after the last time they were caught with their snouts in the public purse.

The Grim Reaper said...

From what I understand, without an official search warrant having been prepared and signed by the correct senior official, a search of premises cannot take place.

Why are the police themselves breaking the law by performing another illegal search?

Anonymous said...

Yes suspicious though when bad economic news is about - I wonder If PC plod is a new way of buring bad news for Labour on the economy. Think about it - the focus shifts away from economic meltdown.

Jess The Dog said...

MPs need to be on their guard. They are a target, and leaks, complaints etc made to them by whistleblowers and the public are seen as subversive. Give them zero co-operation and think of those illustrious predecessors who defended the integrity of their office in the face of far worse consequences.

Plato said...

I'm stunned. Don't these officers:

a) read the papers and so know all about the fuss re Damian Green?
b) first check with their bosses who read the papers about the fall out over Damian Green?
c) know they need a warrant rather than menaces?

Is there more to this than meets the eye???

I'm astonished - and that's saying something. *checks today's date*

Nope it's still Jan 21.

Lorenzo said...

The Labour Government has destroyed all respect for the Police so why should they show any respect for politicians who have completely broken this country either by intent as with Labour or by inaction standing by doing nothing as all other party's. As the population is asleep to what's going on it will most likely end up in riots when people suddenly find out this country is finished as the lights go out.

force12 said...

Good days to bury and nick stuff. Half the domestic media have fucked off stateside too. These arseholes must be stopped.

strapworld said...

was it a police officer?

everyone assumes so. Was his warrant card examined? Do they know which station/office he / she was attached to?

I find it very difficult to accept. I do believe that someone demanded the letter - but it could have been an estranged husband/partner. anything. It sounds very strange.

There must be a record of the individual 'booking in' to see the MP...Is there?

Unknown said...

It's difficult to be absolute without knowing the full facts, which may come out soon (I'm not sure the full facts of the Damian Green search have come out yet) but my reaction is to think this is a storm in a teacup, and that Daniel Kawczynski risks making a fool of himself here.

The police may well have been foolish in terms of spin; but in substance I'm far from convinced they've done anything wrong.

First, nothing in what he said suggests to me that any search has taken place. No search, no need for a search warrant. What the police did - and according to the BBC website they say they were Westminister Palace police (who obviously are allowed in... to protect MPs) did so by appointment.

What they seem to have done is arrive in his office, stand there talking to his staff, and ask for documents. Then the MP gave them to them. What's all the fuss about?

Is it suddenly wrong for the police to do thing by consent and presuming law-abiding citizens will cooperate with them? Is it suddenly wrong to cooperate with the police?

I reckon going for a warrant would have been massively disproportionate as a search wasn't needed, and it would have wasted the courts' time. Indeed, has I been the magistrate I don't think I'd have granted a warrant on the basis that the police should just ask - as they did.

Unknown said...

Daniel Kawczynski should be out. Seriously, by election for his seat please.

He KNEW the police didn't have a warrant, and he KNEW that he had the right to tell them to go self fornicate, yet he VOLUNTARILY handed over privilaged constituent communications.

That displays such ineptitude, behaviour so unbecoming of an MP that it should be game over for him.

If he stays the attacking attitude of the Tories over the Damian Green affair will be made a laughing stock.

The police may have behaved disgracefully in being there in the first place, but in voluntarily handing over privilaged constituent communications his behaviour eclipses that of the police by a million times.

OUT Daniel Kawczynski. You're not fit to be an MP, and i'm very glad you aren't mine.

James Dowden said...

Time for a PMB to transfer the City of Westminster and the Borough of Tower Hamlets from the clunking suburban Metropolitan Police to the competent City of London Police, who have shown themselves capable of dealing with sensitive areas after a competent fashion.

Hacked Off said...


I want more info.

From what's currently available the MP rolled over "by appointment" and is now trying to get some news inches?

More facts, then the outrage if justified.

Otherwise, piss off prat MP.

The Penguin

Guthrum said...

Parliamentarians are not such tough stuff these days, if they cannot protect their own Liberties what chance ours ?

Chucklenuts said...

It used to be the case that there was nowt so thick as plod, but then New Labour went for the top spot, and they're currently fighting it out between them.

Unknown said...

By the way, I don't see how any MP who argues that Kawczynski should have stood on his legal rights and insisted the police get a search warrant (or perhaps a production order in this case) can at the same time argue that the Human Rights Act needs to be balanced by a reference to responsibilities.

If "responsibilities" mean anything, they must include cooperating with a reasonable police request rather than making a hoo-ha about it or forcing them to take unnecessarily legalistic and heavy-handed action. That's the kind of thing petty criminals do.

Unknown said...

@Head of Legal
"If "responsibilities" mean anything, they must include cooperating with a reasonable police request"

Just how the hell is asking for privilaged constituent communication "a reasonable police request"?

David Boothroyd said...

It seems it is not the Police being stupid but the MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham. The police were investigating a malicious letter writer, and identified the culprit as sending letters from Shrewsbury. On an off-chance they asked the local MP if he had had something which might be from the same culprit, because it might help the investigation.

Yes, says Kawczynski, I might have. Pop round and I'll show you. Policeman from Palace of Westminster pops round while Kawczynski is out of the office (MPs are out of their offices most of the time), and lets himself in. Kawczynski gets back and finds the right letter, gives it to the policeman.

Then he toddles off to the Chamber to complain. At the most, the policeman has been slightly rude in letting himself in instead of waiting, but as anyone who has worked in Parliament will know there are hundreds of people who have keys for all rooms.

Unknown said...

The police stupidity award for the week, has to go to Inspector Gadget with his blog on PCSO's having to check to see if they can break into parked cars and then leaving stickers on said cars explaining how to break into them

Shaun said...

This is the London filth showing that post Ian Blair, they are still the big swinging dick in town and Boris hasn't neutered them. No mere duly elected politician dare stand up or challenge a duly appointed, unelected, law officer! Now bow before your uniformed master!

Bring on the next tory government and PACE 2 to bring the new dogs of law enforcement to heel!

Oldrightie said...

This is all well planned and smoothly incorporated into The Labour machine.

A theme becoming more and more a reality in Brown's blighted Britain!

Weygand said...

The police are indeed 'institutionally stupid', but not that stupid.

This will backfire against an MP who suddenly got brave after the event.

The BBC are reporting that the police arrived by appointment and that the letter was 'handed over' rather than 'seized', which seems likely to be true.

The time to make a stand was when asked to hand the letter over not later.

Now he is in a lose/lose situation. On the one hand he has to explain why he betrayed the trust of a constituent, on the other he has to explain why he wanted to withhold evidence of a crime.

Cannot see senior Tories rushing to the barricades. Seems more like an own goal to me.

Stillian said...

Fair enough, the Met are known for being ridiculously stupid at times.

But (and I have no doubt that the spin is in on this one) if the officer did indeed make no search, and was simply in the office area, to wait for the MP - then they are within their rights.

Alright, it might be a bit rude to be in the office area while someone is out, but this appears to be an MP looking for a few inches, rather than anything else. If (again with the if's) the officer waited there to ask for permission to take the letter, then nothing has gone wrong here.

I'll admit the conservatives have been hit by the Police in a bad way, over the Damien Green affair. But that's no excuse for an MP to cry wolf when he made the appointment, and then handed over supposedly confidential information.

In this particular case, bit more focus on self-centered MP and a bit less focus on some PC who, by the BBC account, seems to have done his or her job, please.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

The used to be a thing called deference, but nevermind.

MPs have to face the fact that public respect for them is at an all time low. The Plod have moved with the zeitgeist, nothing more.

Jabba the Cat said...

@ redmist

"From what I understand, without an official search warrant having been prepared and signed by the correct senior official, a search of premises cannot take place."

You will probably find that ZaNuLab have tucked away a little clause in some piece of other legislation that allows plod to carry out warrant less searches of premises and people, said clause in turn obliquely linked to some terror legislation masquerading as children's rights or similar.

What people in this country need to seriously consider is where this kind of ongoing behaviour by the state and it's lackey's will evolve to in, say, ten or twenty years hence under the stewardship of ZaNuLab or the EU unelected central government committee. It is truly ironic that we won the cold war only to find ourselves increasingly enslaved by the state and it's bureaucrats.

Unknown said...

Weasel, deference is asking nicely for something rather than getting a warrant from a judge so you can then turn an office upside down looking for it.

I bet if the police had done that, Kawczynski would have complained about their heavy-handedness, saying "if they'd only asked..."

John, a lot of nonsense has already been talked about Parliamentary privilege in connection with Damian Green. But even if the letter were privileged, I don't see what's wrong with asking for it. If it were subject to privilege, then Kawczynski has voluntarily waived it.

Stasi said...

Surely the time has come to force out both the Speaker and Sergeant-at-Arms

not an economist said...

Is this person a Labour MP? If so Brown's govt may actually make a proper response this time.

not an economist said...

Nope. Sorry. Dnaiel is another Tory MP. Brown won't give a sh!t then. Probably throw away the key in fact.

Matthew Cain said...

This is absolutely ridiculous. Surely Daniel Kawczynski has to take full responsibility? You can't invite someone to a meeting, give them what they ask for and then complain that a) they came and b) you gave it to them.

That is absurd behaviour by the MP.

JuliaM said...

"This is absolutely ridiculous. Surely Daniel Kawczynski has to take full responsibility? "

You'd think so, wouldn't you?

But it seems 'responsibility' isn't just a dirty word for NuLab politicians...

And they wonder why voting is declining!

JuliaM said...

Actually, I think the Sky guy said it best: "At six feet eight and a half inches, Mr Kawczynski is the tallest MP.

His comments diminish him."

Matthew said...

Iain - You're a reasonable man. On reflection, do you really think the police should have sought a warrant for documentation that a Member of Parliament provided voluntarily when asked? As a matter of law, is a warrant justified if the information can be obtained voluntarily?

Andrew said...

Agree that it sounds very much like it's the MP that's in the wrong here and is making a fuss after the fact. Stupid boy.

As was said of the Serjeant at Arms before, anyone who's ever watched TV knows that the first thing you say when Plod comes-a-knockin' is "Have you got a warrant?", not, "Do come in and here's what you want". Doh!

Letters From A Tory said...

No doubt the police have been set a new target by the government for arresting a certain number of MPs each month.

Anonymous said...

The police didn't carry out a search, or so it seems.
They asked to see letters, and this plonker just handed them over!

Not only that, but he then went to the chamber to tell everyone that he was ashamed he had done so.

Not fit to be an MP!!

Unknown said...

Andrew, is that really the attitude you think MPs should have to the police? If a member of the public said that, most MPs, certainly most Tories, would deplore it. Dalesman, do you really think he was a "plonker" to hand it over? Why?

Matthew, there must be some doubt about whether the police could have obtained a warrant (in fact I don't think it's a warrant they'd need here, but an order for production of special procedure material). I won't quote complicated chapter and verse unless you want it, but it looks to me as though the relevant conditions in PACE may not have been satisfied, perhaps because the offence being investigated wasn't serious enough, or perhaps because a judge wouldn't think an order appropriate as they hadn't tried simply asking (although a judge might now think an order appropriate I suppose just because of the Speaker's protocol).

I don't want to descend into legalism: the real point is that there's nothing wrong with the police asking for something. The question for MPs is whether they want to adopt an attitude of "I know my rights" truculence towards the police (if need be frustrating the police's attempts to protect them), or whether they want to practice what they preach to the public.

I really wish people would focus on the scandalous arrest of Damian Green and Chris Galley, rather than on this search and warrant nonsense.

Anonymous said...

If he wanted to hand it over, that's fine.
But he then returned to the chamber to complain, and say that he was ashamed that he had handed it over.
So if he felt ashamed one has to assume he didn't really want to.
So yes, that makes him a plonker.

Unknown said...

Oh, I certainly agree he's a plonker to be complaining about it after the fact, making out the police did something wrong.

Of course we could all know exactly how the police behaved and whether Kawczynski is exaggerating if all this were videotaped, but for some reason people like Kawczynski would squeal if the police had brought a camera.

Anonymous said...

There's a post by Garbo on the Wardman Wire.

Doesn't agree with you either, Ian. Also call him a plonker!

Unknown said...

@Head of Legal
"John, a lot of nonsense has already been talked about Parliamentary privilege in connection with Damian Green. But even if the letter were privileged, I don't see what's wrong with asking for it. If it were subject to privilege, then Kawczynski has voluntarily waived it."

You're confusing "parliamentary privilage" with "privilaged communications". This has nothing to do with parliamentary privilage, this is to do with the fact that any communication between you and your MP is a private matter and privilaged.

As such, the privilage is the constituents, not the MP's, so only the constituent is able to wave privilage, an MP can't.

You seem to be quite muddled here.

JuliaM said...

Head of Legal: "Andrew, is that really the attitude you think MPs should have to the police? If a member of the public said that, most MPs, certainly most Tories, would deplore it. "

It may suit you to roll over with your tail between your legs whenever you feel the lash of authority, but I can tell you most people are made of far sterner stuff.

Although not this particular MP, obviously...

Unknown said...

John, I think you're the one who's muddled - perhaps you mean it's special procedure material in terms of PACE, which I've already said. It's not the subject of any relevant privilege, so there's nothing unwaivable. There might be privilege in the law of libel, but obviously that's not what we're talking about. I'm glad you agree with me that there's no Parliamentary privilege attaching to it, though!

Julia, it's not about rolling over, and if you knew me you'd know you're quite wrong about my attitude to authority. We're talking about two types of authority here, and perhaps it's my experience as a civil servant that makes me instinctively distrust and disbelieve authority figures with ready access to the media (ministers, MPs) when they so readily accuse lesser authority figures with less ability to answer back (civil servants, policemen) of wrongdoing.

And seriously, I think Conservatives in particular need to work out where their heads are on this. You may think when asked to help the police our instincts should be to think "Do I have to? How can I avoid it? What are my rights?" but I don't think that's the attitude the Conservative Party recommends, is it?

I accept there is an argument that MPs should respect confidentiality by asking the police to get an order before handing over a letter like this. Fair enough. But it's quite another matter to suggest it's wrong of the police to ask. As in the Greensearch affair, it seems to me that any failure here is at the Westminster end (the Speaker, Daniel Kawczynski) not the police's.

JuliaM said...

"seriously, I think Conservatives in particular need to work out where their heads are on this. You may think when asked to help the police our instincts should be to think "Do I have to? How can I avoid it? What are my rights?" but I don't think that's the attitude the Conservative Party recommends, is it?"

I could care less what the Conservative Party recommends, on this or any other subject, frankly.

a) I'm not a member, and
b) I don't need a political party, of all things, to instruct me as to when to exercise my rights.

I guess it's your 'experience as a civil servant' that make you think people need such guidance, is it...?

Unsworth said...

@ Head of Legal

The police have "less ability to answer back". You quite sure about that?

Would that it were so.

Let's just remind ourselves of how many time the cops have got their retaliation in first, eh? Where do we start with that? Off-record briefing, anyone? Bungs for stories?

That said I do feel that this was a piece of arse-covering - by all parties.

Unknown said...

Hey, Julia, I think I like you: please do rage at me for patronising you. And sorry if you thought I was accusing you of being a Conservative - I didn't mean to! My point stands about Conservatives needing to be clear whether they're for cooperation with the police or not.

And I didn't mention guidance, or anyone needing any.

Unsworth, I am sure, yes. It's not so much that the police can't answer back (they can to some extent, unlike civil servants who can't answer back at all even when ministers falsely blame things on them to protect themselves; and I'm sure you're right that they sometimes give improper briefings) as that no one really listens. For instance, most people still assume the search of Damian Green's office was somehow unlawful, because that's the impression they've been given by MPs. The police's version hasn't really got across.

Curbishly said...

Commons Speaker Michael Martin has rebuked a Conservative MP amid a fresh row over police entry to MPs' offices.

Daniel Kawczynski alleged that police had entered his Commons office without a search warrant demanding to see constituency correspondence.

But the Speaker said the officer had acted in "good faith" and said the MP should have checked his facts before "rushing to judgement" over the matter.

I think the MP Kawczynski should publically apologise for his false accusations.

Chris Paul said...

Interesting that Chris Grayling on R5L distanced this from Damian Green affair and would not comment. Which is not like Chris Grayling if he perceives this as a winner for the Tories.

They seemed to be after some green inker corroboration and were not accusing the MP of the Tory Party or any civil servant or any such of any wrong doing.

Spinning it any other way is childish. Is Oily Johnson percahnce involved?

Anonymous said...

Any updates on this, Iain?

Iain Dale said...

No, have you?

Weygand said...

The Damien Green case was a scandal which raised serious issues.

Kawczynski's circumstances are quite different and raise no important questions, save perhaps for that of "How do so many useless tossers get to become MPs".

It is otherwise an irrelevant distraction.

Re Green, there can be little doubt that the police have learned their lesson and the CPS will soon announce that no charges will be brought against him.