Would Hugh Orde have saved the Met from a possible re-run of the de Menezes affair?

I’m leaving myself open to deliberate misunderstanding here, but am I alone in my unease at the tone as distinct from the substance of some of the coverage of the death of Ian Tomlinson in the G20 demos? Comment (from Ken Livingstone for example) was overconfident about declaring it as “clearly” a case of police assault when they couldn’t possibly know what happened seconds before the apparently damning video clips. Channel 4 News’s two items on the story last night amounted to almost 15 minutes and began to seem like a campaign. We may be seeing the results of trial by media of the police, in the slowness of the officer concerned to come forward, and in the terrible PR from the beginning, as if nobody in the Met had learned anything from the de Menezes affair, other than to suffer trauma themselves.Yes, I know the story may be going even further in the other direction, with reports that Mr Tomlinson may have been struck several times earlier. The line of defence emerging in the Daily Mail for example is that he was “ a drifter and alcoholic” ( and therefore by implication obstreperous and in fragile health), but as even the Mail insists, that’s of course no excuse for police brutality. Still, we have come along way from the death of Sammy Devenney which took 32 years to reach a still unsatisfactory conclusion by the modern machinery of the Police Ombudsman in NI, then Nuala O’Loan, whose equivalent in England and Wales is the far more tentative Independent Police Complaints Commission. Two final thoughts. Police walls of silence are probably stiffened by hue and cry which may make even the most rigorous inquiry more difficult. Yet without the media storm, the police might have stuck to their initial complacent and evasive line indefinitely. Police accountability in England has some way to go before it matches the system and culture in Northern Ireland. How would Hugh Orde have handled the Tomlinson affair if he had got the top job?

  • Brian, of course we’ll never know how Sir Hugh would have handled the possible police role in the death of Ian Tomlinson, because he didn’t get the Met job.

    However his response, for instance, to the Police Ombudsman’s findings on Omagh (he accepted them)versus the somehwhat conflicting findings of Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner (he accepted them), suggests that the spin would be good, but the substance might be found lacking.

    You’re right to point out that police accountability in England and Wales isn’t up to scratch compared to NI. Indeed, as recently as last week, the Common Public Accounts Committee criticised the effectiveness of the IPCC.

    Of course, the intelligence services – now responsible for national security in NI, as well as the rest of the UK – lack even this basic degree of oversight. That aspect of police oversight in NI (it used to be the responsibility of the Police Ombudsman) is now lost. The lessons from the Omagh investigation debacle would suggest that this is not a good thing.

    I have blogged much more extensively on this, at Belfast and Beyond, where you can also find all the requisite links that would take too much time to replicate here.

  • Reader

    Patrick Corrigan: Brian, of course we’ll never know how Sir Hugh would have handled the possible police role in the death of Ian Tomlinson, because he didn’t get the Met job.
    Orde is an exceptionally politically aware policeman (not really a good thing), but without the inflexible nu-labour arrogance of the previous Met-Chief. It’s hard to see him making the same kind of mistakes