“His duty was to contact the Attorney General immediately..”

Over at CommentisFree Geoffrey Robertson QC gives his legal opinion on the House of Commons Speaker’s statement today. From the Guardian post.

The Speaker admits that he was told the night before of the impending arrest of an MP. His duty was to contact the Attorney General immediately and to take legal advice from the Clerk of the House, and in the meantime to instruct his Serjeant at Arms to refer all police inquiries to himself. Today he used parliamentary privilege to defame the police, who may have a very different version of events (they usually do). The real criticism of the police is that they barged in without taking the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who would have been aware, amongst other authorities, of the decision in 1986 of the High Court. It refused police demands to stop the screening in parliamentary precincts of Duncan Campbell’s “Zircon” (pdf) film, allegedly containing official secrets, on the basis that this was a matter for parliament and specifically for the speaker.

The parliamentary committee should now seek and publish the DPP’s opinion. If the police acted as Michael Martin alleges, then Green, like John Wilkes MP famously before him, should sue for unlawful search and seizure and receive heavy damages. But most importantly, the DPP should disclaim any attempt in future to use this dragnet conspiracy charge against MPs – or journalists or editors – who receive leaked documents from civil servants.