The Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, could face a new disciplinary investigation after the official inquiry into Daniel Morgan’s murder and corruption in the force found she had hampered its efforts to get to the truth, the Guardian has learned.
The police watchdog believes the issues raised could be sufficiently serious to merit using its special powers to order a referral, and warned public confidence may be damaged by the bombshell findings of the panel.
Initial discussions have been held and more are planned. Meanwhile, other policing bodies in England and Wales distanced themselves from Scotland Yard and declared that the label of “institutional corruption” applied only to Britain’s biggest force.
Dick appeared before the cameras on Wednesday evening, more than 24 hours after the Morgan report lambasted her and the culture of the Met, to declare she would not resign.
The report into the 1987 murder of Morgan, who was found dead in a south London pub car park, accused the Met of placing the protection of its reputation above finding the truth.
It personally criticised Dick for obstructing access to documents the panel thought vital and blamed the force for it taking eight years to reach its conclusions.
The findings about the Met and Dick set off a chain of discussions in government and those charged with holding the police to account about how to handle the fallout.
Any potential disciplinary complaint against the commissioner has to be referred to the police watchdog by the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC). Complaints against other ranks can be referred by the Met.
Claire Bassett, the deputy director general of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), told the Guardian that the report raised “serious questions about the conduct of the Metropolitan police service not just in the immediate aftermath of the murder, but also in the 34 years that have passed since”.
Bassett added: “We take allegations of corruption extremely seriously and are thoroughly reviewing the 1200-page report and panel’s comments to assess our next steps. It is mandatory for the Metropolitan police service to refer any allegations of corruption to us.
“If allegations are not referred, the impact on public confidence may warrant us considering whether to use our call-in powers.
“[The IOPC] director general, Michael Lockwood, is writing to the panel offering to meet them to discuss the report and experience … We are also meeting with MOPAC to discuss any role they may have.”
The former Met police deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick said the findings were so serious that Dick had to face a new investigation. “We need an investigation into whether the commissioner has case to answer for deliberately obstructing an independent panel appointed by the home secretary.”
Paddick, now a Liberal Democrat peer, said the report’s claims of institutional corruption and whistleblowers being punished matched his experience in the Met: “My experience of the Met is if you speak out you will be ostracised.”
He spoke out about the Met’s shooting dead of an innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes, in 2005, who was mistaken for a terrorist. Paddick said: “I was moved out of my job in charge of 20,000 officers and put in charge of a project with 20 officers.”
Dick said she had no intention of resigning and dismissed the independent report’s main finding: “I don’t believe we are institutionally corrupt. No, I don’t accept that.”
She denied hampering the panel’s work by blocking or delaying access to sensitive documents. “I didn’t obstruct their work. I set out with my team, who were well resourced, to ensure that we gave the panel maximum cooperation, and that we did full disclosure, as quickly as we could.
“I look back and know that I acted with integrity, and that I was at all times trying to fulfil my duty there to the family and to the panel.”
The National Police Chiefs Council made clear it believed the damning finding applied only to the Met: “This is a review of the Metropolitan police with terms of reference that relates solely to the MPS and the circumstances around the handling of the Daniel Morgan murder investigation, so that term cannot be applied to other police forces as there would be no evidence in that report to support to it.”
The National Police Chiefs Council lead for counter-corruption, Chief Constable Stephen Watson, said: “This is a very serious accusation that the Metropolitan police will need to consider carefully and respond to fully, which they have said they will do.
“The public inquiry, and the pain and suffering experienced by the Morgan family, show the terrible consequences of police corruption and demonstrates the vital importance of constant vigilance and action to root it out of policing.”
Watson said every assessment showed the “vast majority of police officers are honest and professional”.
• This article was amended on 17 June 2021. In the editing process, Brian Paddick’s Metropolitan police rank was given as deputy commissioner, rather than deputy assistant commissioner.