Line of Duty – or Line of Corruption?
A few days ago I watched the final episode of the BBC police thriller, ‘Line of Duty’ (series two).
The professional critics have pretty much gone into ecstasies about this very tense drama, and to a large extent I agree with the general sentiment – that it was a first class pieces of entertainment, well written and very well acted.
However, it was far from perfect, and in this amateur critic’s opinion, it simply isn’t in the same league as really great TV series, such as True Detective, (to be reviewed next week), or indeed, The Bridge, series two.
In particular, the final episode left much to be desired. It was tense enough and rattled along at a fair old pace, but as the writer of the series himself admitted, incredibly, they ‘ran out of time’ and as such, they were unable to completely tie up all the loose plot ends.
Yes folks, crazy, but true…
This was in spite of the fact that a new scene was hurriedly written at the last moment to try and explain some of what had been going on, but ultimately failed to deal adequately with all of the plot twists. In addition, they resorted to the hackneyed, much-used device, (never before used in the entire series), of ‘flash-backs’ in an effort to tell us what really happened, but even these flashbacks were rushed and still left us confused and with unanswered questions.
I am sure that I am not alone in having to read the reviews and ‘recaps’ before I completely understood all the plot twists and turns, and in particular, the precise motives and actions of the prime suspects and exactly what they were guilty of.
The critics knew exactly what was going on – well they would wouldn’t they – they had nothing better to do than watch the episode 2 or 3 times, and probably even even read spoilers and producers’ hand-outs to make sure they understood; and then try to kid us that they’re so clever that they got it all, first time round.
I do hope they will learn from this, as the dismal failure to tie everything up in the final episode ruined the whole thing for millions of viewers. Surely the BBC could have agreed to have a requested extension to the final episode? But, apparently, they said ‘No’. Unbelievable, ain’t it?
But an unsatisfactory ending isn’t the main reason I have written about Line of Duty in this segment of my blog. The main reason I am writing about this concerns a criticism I had with the story-line itself.
I find as I get older, I have this driving desire for plots in TV dramas and movies to keep within the bounds of credibility, and whenever I find a plot ‘coming off the rails’, and enter the realms of utter incredulity, then I start to get a bit worked up.
Of course I fully accept that unworldly coincidences are necessary devices in literature and drama, as without them there often wouldn’t be much story to tell, but it’s the other stuff that gets to me.
In Line of Duty, it was the fact that every member of the police anti-corruption unit was, in some way, corrupt. Everyone had something to hide which might or did affect their judgement. Every single member of the squad – including the one that was utterly corrupt – was either engaging in illegal relationships with witnesses and /or suspects or was wavering with temptation due to the parlous state of their finances, (which for members of anti-corruption squads was a no-no and should have been declared as such.)
Worst of all was the ‘whiter than white’, head of the Squad, the Northern Irishman chappie, who in series one would have committed hari-kari rather than do anything that might be the slightest bit considered ill-intentioned. Yet here he was, financially embarrassed, indecisive and sorely tempted to do less than his best to move the enquiry forward and find out who really was responsible, for fear it might affect a promised promotion.
To me it was pretty preposterous that every member of a unit charged with rooting out police corruption, should all have something to hide. Okay, I understand that it all adds to the excitement of not knowing who might be involved in the murders and so on, but it really was a bit silly.
After all not every cop is corrupt! Or are they?
I grew up in a far gone age when the vast majority of the population – even including most criminals – had a healthy respect for the long arm of the law and never, in our wildest dreams did we believe there was such a thing as a bent cop.
As kids, we looked up to cops, and if we were caught stealing apples, or some other minor crimes, (like in my case, throwing stones onto railway lines), then we would receive a severe clip round the ear and dragged back to our homes to face the wrath of our parents, who, in turn would give us another painful clip round the ear.
As a child, I was encouraged to look up to and respect these holders of the law, and my brief experiences with them as an adult served to reinforce this attitude.
As a young man, the few times I had any dealings with the police, I found them to be strong but fair, polite and very knowledgeable on whatever aspect of the law had come into play, and I never regarded them with anything less than the utmost respect.
But was I living in a make believe world?
Sadly, even in those far off days, to a great extent, I probably was.
Now, of course the tables have completely turned. Far from a majority of the population respecting our noble, British Bobbies, it seems that these days, that most people regard them with disgust, believing that they are all on the take, and that they are racist, misogynist bullies who break the law more often that they uphold it.
The ‘rose tinted’ views of my youth, and the extreme views held by the disadvantaged youths in inner city ghettos of the 21st Century are the two extremes of what may be nearer the truth.
But as with so many things in this world of ours, as I get older, I become ever more disillusioned with my altruistic views and opinions of yesteryear.
I used to believe that most politicians told the truth…
I used to believe that America was a bastion of democracy and justice and that their system of government was the best in the world…
I used to believe that professional sportsmen had honour…
I used to believe that ‘good’ would always prevail over ‘evil’…
I used to believe that the British police were the finest in the world…
Yes, I guess I was a blinkered old fool.
There have been so many police scandals in recent years concerning cover-ups, scandals, illegal activities and downright bent cops that you begin to wonder where it will all end.
Indeed how can it all end when it is abundantly clear that the entire UK police force has been infested with endemic police corruption for decades – indeed for most, of not all, of my 67 years on this earth?
We have seen police Commissioner after police commissioner swear on all that is holy at numerous public and parliamentary enquiries, that no illegal activities have taken place, only for us to subsequently find that these arrogant bastards have all been lying through their teeth, believing that ultimately they will get away with it.
Well by and large, they have, haven’t they?
So much has come to light over the past decades concerning the less than exemplary behaviour of our ‘officers of the law’, that to make even a partial list would take me days.
How many of the Brits reading this blog recall ‘Operation Countrymen’ back in the late 70’s? Probably not very many, so I will briefly refresh your memories.
Operation Countrymen involved officers, including members of the elite ‘Flying Squad’, receiving bribes from criminals in return for warnings of imminent police raids or arrests, the fabrication of evidence against innocent men, and to have charges against guilty criminals dropped. The investigation initially targeted officers within the City of London Police but spread to include the Metropolitan Police based at Scotland Yard.
Included in a host of serious crimes in which police corruption was involved were three armed payroll robberies , one of which involved the killing of a security guard.
As the investigation proceeded, it began to emerge that the corruption was not limited to “a few bad apples” within the forces but was “historically and currently endemic” and “widespread throughout the hierarchical command rather than confined to those below the rank of sergeant”.
Operation Countryman faced massive obstruction from both senior management and the lower ranks of the police. Much of the investigation’s evidence was obtained by police officers going undercover as police officers.
Heading up Operation Countryman was the Asst. Chief Constable of Dorset, who told his investigation team not to pass any evidence it obtained against Metropolitan Police officers to the Met Commissioner. Shortly before his retirement in February 1980, the Chief Constable of Dorset made allegations that Countryman had been “wilfully obstructed by the Metropolitan Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions”.
In May 1980, responsibility for Countryman passed to the Chief Constable of Surrey. He ordered that all evidence already compiled during the investigation be passed to the Metropolitan Police to be dealt with by their own internal investigation unit!
After six years, and at a cost of over £4 million, Operation Countryman presented its findings to the Home Office and the Commissioner. Parts of the report were leaked to the public. Despite Countryman’s recommendation that some officers should face criminal charges, no officer was ever charged with a criminal offence as a result of the investigation.
Does any of this obfuscation and endemic corruption sound familiar?
The Hillsborough Tragedy
There was the tragic event at Hillsborough football stadium in 1989 when 96 fans were crushed to death.
The police tried to put the blame for this disaster onto fans rather than to accept a lion’s share of the blame themselves. This they succeeded in doing, and managed to maintain the cover -up over their role in this tragedy by lying to successive enquiries for more than two decades.
Recently, thanks to the dogged determination of victims’ relatives, the sad truth of this matter is at last starting to emerge.
In September 2012, the Hillsborough Independent Panel concluded that no Liverpool fans were responsible for the deaths, and that attempts had been made by the authorities to conceal what happened, including the alteration, by police, of 116 statements relating to the disaster.
The facts in the report prompted immediate apologies from the Prime Minister, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, the Football Association Chairman, and then-editor of The Sun, for their organisations’ respective roles.
Currently, 13 still-serving or retired police suspects are at the centre of the latest police probe and 11 have so far been interviewed ‘under caution’.
Not of particular importance in the grand scheme of things, but the fact remains that a senior of Minister of State was unjustly disgraced and pilloried and obliged to resign from his high office after he was accused by corrupt police officers of calling them effing ‘Plebs’. Even members of the police union corroborated these disgraceful and untrue accusations.
Some may say that the Minister’s high minded attitude deserved such treatment, and believe me, I am no fan of him or his party.
The stark truth is that the police who were involved in this unpleasant little episode, thought absolutely of nothing of lying through their teeth and distorting evidence to promote their own socialist ideals and get one over on the privileged ‘ruling classes’.
They thought nothing of deceiving and lying to not only their peers who tried to investigate exactly what had transpired, but even to our ‘mother of parliament’ itself. The parliamentary enquiry was there on television for all to see; the brazen, ‘couldn’t care a less’ lies, from men we are supposed to look up to to uphold the law of the land and tell the truth.
They were so sure they could get away with it and escape punishment – because this is what always happened. They knew there was a wide and hitherto reliable system of police cover-ups to ‘protect their own’.
They put in their time, caught a few wrong-uns, took a back-hander or two, lied and falsified evidence when the occasion demanded, and would retire when still relatively young on a very generous, final salary pension. It was their God-given rights as serving police officers and woe betide any politician or government-appointed judge or lawyer who tried to take it away from them.
Sure there was always the chance that they may be hurt or even killed in the performance of their duty – but such events are an extreme rarity. I would venture to suggest that statistics on work related deaths and injuries would show that being a cop is no more dangerous than a host of other professions, from factory workers to farmers, to shop assistants, and even circus performers… sorry, we’re back to the cops again!
The Stephen Lawrence Murder
Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993 in south-east London and we now know that the police lied and lied and lied again in order to cover up their failure to act and arrest the perpetrators, and to cover up their endemic racism.
This is to say nothing of their deplorable acts of ‘spying’ on Stephen’s bereaved parents.
The Steven Lawrence affair is still not yet over, 21 years after the event, and the aftermath has lain to bare an astounding and blatant record of police corruption that goes back decades.
In the final analysis, we may well find that this single murder will become instrumental in bringing about a wholesale re-structure of the entire British police force, which has now been shown to be so corrupt that nothing short of re-building from the ground up will satisfy us – the long suffering tax-payers.
As a result of the latest review of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation by an eminent QC, it has been revealed that an undercover Met officer had spied on the Lawrence family, and it did not rule out that corruption may well have compromised the investigation.
Even worse than this – if that were possible – we are now told that two employees at Scotland Yard were ordered to shred a “lorry-load” of police corruption intelligence. Top-secret material gathered during a four-year investigation, codenamed Operation Othona, was inexplicably destroyed in 2003, according to a report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence commissioned by Home Secretary, according to evidence submitted to this damning review of the Metropolitan Police.
The review also found evidence that a detective involved in the original murder investigation was corrupt, and that the Met had withheld full details of his criminality from the subsequent judicial inquiry into the notorious case.
In one of the most explosive findings in the report, the QC stated he needed to see the Othona files to properly investigate the Lawrence case, but he was unable to do so due to the “mass-shredding” of the intelligence in 2003, under a former Commissioner who has now retired.
It now emerges that the Met is conducting its own investigation into these claims, and have been told by a former employee that “two members of staff were tasked to shred a quantity of documents that related to corruption enquiries”.
The shredded material – which dates from around the time Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death by a racist gang – is said to include a “lorry load” of documents, photographs, videos, surveillance logs, listening device records and informant contact sheets.
When the QC’s review team spoke to the head of anti-corruption at the time of Operation Othona, and advised him that his work had been shredded, he was stunned.
“I’d be shocked if it doesn’t exist,” the report quotes him as saying. “It was gold-dust stuff… How can you go to those lengths and spend all that money and it is not there? I am just amazed.”
In response to questions by a parliamentary committee, the now head of the Metropolitan Police has admitted that rogue and corrupt officers may evade justice because of the “mass-shredding” of sensitive corruption files held by Scotland Yard.
He suggested the decision to destroy a “lorry-load” of intelligence from an investigation into criminality inside the Met was wrong, and said such a decision could only be taken at a very senior level, throwing the spotlight on his two predecessors.
During a fractious appearance in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Britain’s most senior police officer professed ignorance across a wide range of embarrassing issues involving the Met – including which of his current top team wrongly gave Scotland Yard a clean bill of health regarding corruption in the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry two years ago.
The Daniel Morgan murder
At the same parliamentary enquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder, the Met Police Commissioner also revealed that the force was attempting to open a new investigation into the notorious unsolved murder of Daniel Morgan, a private investigator who is said to have been killed just as he was about to blow the whistle on police corruption back in 1987.
His brother, Alastair, who has campaigned for 27 years to bring Mr Morgan’s killers to justice, looked on as the Commissioner was questioned repeatedly about the destruction of intelligence from Operation Othona – a four-year investigation into police corruption, going into the Nineties, which may have contained clues about Mr Morgan’s murder.
MPs described the current situation as “terrible”, “shocking” and an “out-and-out disgrace” as they ridiculed reports, purportedly emanating from Scotland Yard sources, that suggested the “mass-shredding” of some of the Met’s most sensitive files was due to the force’s attempt to comply with data protection law.
One M.P. asked: “Do you think the loss of this material will affect the prosecutions of police officers?”
The Commissioner replied: “It is difficult to say … it may have an impact, I can’t be sure.” Asked if he would authorise the “mass shredding” of such files, he said bluntly: “I would expect to keep it.” He also said that such a decision would have to be taken at deputy commissioner level or above, raising pressure on his two predecessors, who were in charge at the time.
There is even now talk of yet another, super-secret enquiry into police corruption that pre-dates Operation Othona, and which has been withheld from the current Stephen Lawrence murder review team.
This is Operation Zloty, which has found ‘dozens’ of Met detectives in the pay of organised crime. This investigation could fill gaps left by mass shredding of evidence from Operation Othona; a wide-ranging inquiry spanning at least nine years, found that dozens of rogue detectives were in the employ of organised crime and operating with “virtual immunity”.
This “long-term intelligence development operation” included information on police corruption originally gathered by 17 other investigations – including Operation Othona – the contents of which, were inexplicably shredded sometime around 2003.
Crucially, Zloty included bombshell evidence from Othona about a “persistent network” of corrupt officers that could have been beneficial to a landmark review commissioned by the Home Secretary into how the Stephen Lawrence murder was handled by the Metropolitan Police.
The QC was forced to inform the Home Secretary earlier this month that he could not finalise conclusions on whether police corruption tainted the Lawrence case because a “lorry-load” of Othona material was mysteriously shredded by the Met more than 10 years ago.
However, the emergence of Zloty means some of the Othona material may still exist – and the network of corrupt officers could still be brought to book.
The QC’s report names dozens of sensitive investigations into police corruption in his report. But Zloty is not among them. The lawyer’s office was asked whether or not Scotland Yard had disclosed Zloty to his team, but a spokesman said he was “not able to comment”.
Honestly… it goes on… and on… and on…..
You couldn’t make it up, could you?
And it is for this reason that I will now withdraw my assertion that it was preposterous of the Line of Duty writer to ask viewers to accept that every member of the police anti-corruption team was in some way tainted.
Upon reflection, it now appears eminently feasible….or even a raving certainty….