Daniel Morgan murder: Met anti-corruption measures ‘dire’, damning report finds

<span>Photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA</span>
Photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA

Official watchdog says force’s ability to tackle corruption is ‘fundamentally flawed’

Measures taken by the Metropolitan police to tackle corruption are “fundamentally flawed” and “dire”, with continued failings down to arrogance, secrecy and lethargy, a devastating independent report has said.

The report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services was ordered after an independent panel criticised the Met for failings over the Daniel Morgan murder, where corruption hampered the hunt for the killers of the private detective.

Morgan was found dead in 1987 in a pub car park in south London with an axe in his head. No one has been convicted of his murder.

The inspectorate said many of the failings it identified in its latest report had been highlighted before, and Met promises to fix them had not been kept.

Related: Police corruption and the unsolved murder of Daniel Morgan – podcast

Thirty-five years on from the killing, the Met had still not learned all the lessons, the inspectorate found, adding it was “inexcusable” and showed “indifference”.

The inspectorate said: “In too many respects, the findings from our inspection paint a depressing picture. The force has sometimes behaved in ways that make it appear arrogant, secretive and lethargic. Its apparent tolerance of the shortcomings we describe in this report suggests a degree of indifference to the risk of corruption.”

The Morgan family said its 35-year ordeal fighting the Met for justice amounted to “torture” and said so ingrained were Met failings its top team needed radical reform.

The inspectors found the Met:

  • Failed to properly supervise more than 100 recruits with criminal convictions or criminal connections, to lessen the risk they may pose. Those convictions include handling stolen goods, possession of drugs, assault and theft.

  • The Met does not know if staff in highly sensitive posts, such as child protection, major crime investigation, and informant handling, are vetted to the right level.

  • More than 2,000 warrant cards issued to former officers who are now not entitled to hold them are unaccounted for.

  • Monitoring of IT systems, which helps identify potentially corrupt staff, remains weaker than it should be.

  • Hundreds of items such as drugs, cash and exhibits are missing, with the arrangements and policies for keeping them safe branded as “dire”. The security code for a store was written on its door at one police station.

Matt Parr, HM inspector of constabulary, said: “Corruption is almost certainly higher than the Met understands.”

Parr added: “It is unacceptable that 35 years after Daniel Morgan’s murder, the Metropolitan police has not done enough to ensure its failings from that investigation cannot be repeated.”

The findings from the inspectorate were so serious that several weeks ago the headlines were briefed to the home secretary, the Met commissioner and London mayor.

The Morgan family, after decades in the wilderness, have found broad recognition in two official inquiries. They said: “Our experiences have taught us that the lack of will to address the sickness of police corruption is too deeply institutionalised within the Met to allow it to respond in any meaningful or constructive way to the inspectorate’s report.

“We expect its leadership to retreat once more into its defensive shell, in denial of the evidence presented by the inspectorate’s report this year, just as it remained in denial of the findings of in the panel’s report last year. Unless and until we see root-and-branch changes in that leadership team, we consider we are unlikely to see any meaningful progress within the Met in relation to police corruption.”

The panel that looked into Morgan’s murder, set up by the government, reported last year and found the Met to be institutionally corrupt. In part, that was because the force was slow to hand over documents requested, and was accused of trying to cover up to protect its reputation instead of doing the right thing.

The inspectorate concluded the Met was not institutionally corrupt and any hampering of the inquiry was not deliberate – but it was critical. It said: “We concluded that, at least until recently, the MPS [Metropolitan police service] has often shown a reluctance to examine, admit and learn from past mistakes and failures.

“We concluded that the adverse matters … bore the hallmarks of limited resources allocated to the maintenance of professional standards, professional incompetence, a lack of understanding of important concepts, poor management or genuine error, rather than dishonesty.”

The Morgan family said they believed “institutional corruption” perfectly described the Met and demanded that those who oversee Britain’s largest force, namely the home secretary and London mayor, stop glossing over its failings: “We call on them to stop turning a blind eye to those within the Met who – at best – deliberately turned away from the stench of police corruption; those who sought to manage the fallout from that corruption instead of confronting it.”

After reports into racist and misogynistic messages swapped by officers at Charing Cross, and a string of other scandals, the inspectorate’s report is one of the final acts of Cressida Dick’s commissionership. She has announced her resignation, with public confidence plummeting during her five years in charge.

The Met said it was improving, and added some criticisms it disagreed with: “We are determined that this report will serve as a further opportunity for us to learn and improve. In the past we have missed chances to reform more quickly, but in many other cases we have undertaken substantial changes to create a service unrecognisable to three decades ago.”

The deputy commissioner, Sir Stephen House, said: “I take counter-corruption work very seriously. It is well resourced and we have been praised for our work in this area. This will continue. There are some areas where our judgment is different from the police inspectorate.”

Both the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, have demanded the Met do better.

Reports into potential failings that allowed Wayne Couzens to join the Met are expected later this year. While a serving Met officer, he used police powers to kidnap and murder Sarah Everard in March 2021.