Cressida Dick ‘felt intimidated’ into resigning as Met chief, review says

Sadiq Khan says Winsor report ‘clearly biased and ignores the facts’ after it says due process not followed

Cressida Dick “felt intimidated” into stepping down as head of the Metropolitan police after an ultimatum from Sadiq Khan, according to a report the mayor of London has labelled “clearly biased”.

Khan responded angrily to the findings – revealed last week by the Guardian – which said due process was not followed, claiming the review into the circumstances of Dick’s resignation “ignores the facts”.

The report, written by the former chief inspector of constabulary Sir Tom Winsor, said: “In my view, in this case, the commissioner faced political pressure from the mayor to resign, that pressure being of a character and intensity which was effectively his calling on her to leave office, outside the established statutory procedure and contrary to the wider legislative scheme.”

Winsor said Khan, through his chief of staff, gave Dick an “ultimatum” on 10 February, adding: “If the commissioner did not attend a meeting and convince the mayor that her plan of 4 February 2022 would be improved, he would make a statement to the media.

“That statement would make clear that he no longer had trust and confidence in the commissioner, and that he intended to start the statutory process for her removal.

“When the commissioner did not attend that meeting, the mayor’s chief of staff reiterated the mayor’s position and gave her less than one hour to decide what to do. She felt intimidated by this process into stepping aside, and I can understand that.”

Responding to the report, Khan said: “Londoners will be able to see that this review is clearly biased and ignores the facts.

“On the former commissioner’s watch, trust in the police fell to record lows after a litany of terrible scandals. What happened was simple – I lost confidence in the former commissioner’s ability to make the changes needed and she then chose to stand aside.

“Londoners elected me to hold the Met commissioner to account and that’s exactly what I have done. I make absolutely no apology for demanding better for London and for putting the interests of the city I love first. I will continue working with the new commissioner to reduce crime and to rebuild trust and confidence in the police.”

The home secretary, Priti Patel, commissioned Winsor, who had previously championed Dick, to establish the facts around the Met commissioner’s resignation in February.

The report revealed that in the last formal conversation between Patel, Khan and Dick, the mayor said the Met “was in the strongest position it had been in since the start of his mayoralty”.

The trio had their final meeting on 19 January, just under a month before Dick stepped down as commissioner.

Describing the meeting, Winsor said: “At the 19 January 2022 meeting, the mayor praised the positive work that the Metropolitan police had been doing, particularly to address areas of public concern. He said that the Metropolitan police was in the strongest position it had been in since the start of his mayoralty and that he had never had more confidence in the foundations for a positive year for the force.

“The home secretary also emphasised the importance of collective action between the three offices. In particular, she discussed with the mayor and the commissioner what they could do collectively to improve public confidence.”

Winsor added: “The mayor’s recollection of this conversation when he was interviewed in August 2022 was that he had been expressing confidence in relation to the Metropolitan police’s action on tackling violent crime and similar matters.”

Khan’s confidence in Dick is said to have reached breaking point when a scandal emerged at Charing Cross police station, in which officers were found to have shared racist, sexist, misogynist and Islamophobic messages. Two of the officers investigated were promoted, while nine were left to continue serving.

The Met leadership’s handling of the murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 by a serving officer also caused consternation in City Hall and government.

After Everard’s killer was sentenced to a whole-life term in September 2021, the Met leadership was expected to show it understood those concerns. It was instead mocked after saying women who were worried about an officer approaching them could wave down a bus.

Since Dick’s departure was announced, judges have ruled the Met breached the rights of the organisers of a vigil for Everard in the way the force handled the planned event.

The commissioner stepped aside before any statutory process began, City Hall sources said, adding that that was what happened when the then mayor, Boris Johnson, lost confidence in the former Met commissioner Sir Ian Blair.

The mayor of London, who is effectively the police and crime commissioner for London, is required to ensure the Met is “efficient and effective” and to hold the commissioner to account.

On Friday night City Hall released a part of their note of the 19 January meeting, attended by Dick, Khan and Patel. Winsor said it showed Khan showering praise on the Met as a whole, and thus making his turning against the commissioner three weeks later all the more unreasonable.

City Hall said the praise from the mayor only concerned efforts against serious violence. The Guardian understands Winsor was not given the note by City Hall, whose cooperation with his inquiry he criticised. Its version has extensive references to serious violence and the partners involved in bringing it down.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Sir Tom has had a long and distinguished career as a public servant, demonstrating his impartiality. He has never been afraid to speak truth to power and he upholds the highest standards of integrity when it comes to reporting the facts.

“He was hired to deliver a report on the facts surrounding the departure of the commissioner and he has done just that.”

The chair of the Chief Police Officers Staff Association, John Robins, said the report made for “shocking reading” and it was “time for a reset in the way mayors and PCCs approach their relationship with chief constables”.

“It is clear in legislation that chief constables are not the employee of a mayor or PCC. Mayors and PCCs should not think they ‘employ’ the chief constable, they do not,” he said.

“The misconception that a PCC or mayor can ‘dismiss’ a chief constable at their will is a profound mistake … CPOSA has and continues to stand by Dame Cressida in the way she was treated and will not shy away from tackling injustice in any form. It is right that this report lays out the injustice for all to see.”


Jamie Grierson

The GuardianTramp

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