Tuesday 8 May 2012

Revisiting Operation Reproof and Other Police Operations

Following on from their earlier Milly Dowler related contribution one of my readers has contributed another piece, this time relating to the various police Operations surrounding various hacking accusations.  Well worth a read in light of tomorrow's appearances at the Leveson Inquiry:

Two police officers were scheduled to have their written witness statements 'read in' (though not to appear) at the Leveson Inquiry on April 2nd, 2012. In his opening housekeeping remarks that morning, Lord Leveson made a brief reference to these two officers:
"I am giving further considerations to the status of those witnesses, therefore they will not be put into the record of the Inquiry this afternoon."
No explanation was given as to who might have raised objections to their status, or evidence, or why.

Whatever considerations he gave to the 'status' of the two police officers - and to their written submissions, they seem to have galvanised Leveson into thinking their submissions should not simply be 'read in' - they have now both been required to give evidence in person. The two police officers concerned are Temporary Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Russell Middleton (OPERATION REPROOF) and Detective Chief Constable, Metropolitan Police Service, Brendan Gilmour (OPERATION GLADE). They are both called to give evidence on 9th May 2012.

The number and complexity of named 'Operations' in the evolution of press 'dark arts' is often confusing. The following is an attempt to consider that there may be one continuous narrative that can be discerned from several, spuriously separate, 'Operations'. That narrative contains a strikingly repetitive cast of characters too.

OPERATION REPROOF was a two year Devon and Cornwall Police investigation into corruption of police and public officials, started in 2002.  It seemed that 'private investigators' may have been using bribery to obtain information illegally.
"In all, Devon and Cornwall detectives investigated 37 people, with the final evidential file focused on 100 alleged breaches of data related to 93 individual "victims", including then chancellor Gordon Brown and Labour MPs Martin Salter and Nick Brown." "...But the case collapsed after nearly two years in the courts, with Judge Paul Darlow commenting it was "not a proportionate use of valuable resources to prosecute these matters".
One of the 5 defendants was a private investigator called Christopher DEWSE.

Among the 32 suspects investigated but not charged was Paul "Taff" JONES, he was a highly skilled blagger, ex-soldier and biker.
Another, investigated but not prosecuted, was John BOYALL. Devon and Cornwall Police organised a raid on Boyall's business, Data Research Ltd, accompanied by Alex Owens of the Information Commissioner's Office. This was the genesis of the ICO investigation, OPERATION MOTORMAN, with DEWSE, JONES and BOYALL directly linked with Operation REPROOF.

The illegally obtained data found by Alex Owens led to a subsequent raid on JJ Services, the business of Steve Whittamore. The ICO pursued evidence on breaches of data protection and 'harvesting' of mobile numbers, whilst a simultaneous investigation into police corruption was launched by the Metropolitan Police - OPERATION GLADE. The Motorman Files 'blue book' (controversially released and partially redacted by Guido Fawkes) reveal the names of other information 'getters' in addition to Whittamore himself -
Christopher DEWSE, 'Taff' JONES and a John GUNNING. One of those commissioning information gathering from Whittamore was the News of the World's Greg Miskiw. OPERATION GLADE led to the convictions of four men, including Whittamore and BOYALL.

John GUNNING and John BOYALL were names already known to Scotland Yard.  Both were implicated in the earlier OPERATION NIGERIA, the covert bugging of Jonathan REES  and Sid FILLERY 's Southern Investigations in connection with the Daniel Morgan murder.  BOYALL's assistant at the time was Glenn MULCAIRE.

News of the World's Alex Marunchak and Greg Miskiw had close links to Jonathan REES. When David Cook of the Met was re-investigating Daniel Morgan's murder, Marunchak and Miskiw apparently organised surveillance of Cook and his family. " It is now known that at that time, the News of the World's investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, succeeded in obtaining Cook's home address, his internal payroll number at the Metropolitan police, his date of birth and figures for the amount that he and his wife were paying for their mortgage. All of this appears to have been blagged by Mulcaire from confidential databases, apparently including the Met's own records."

It's worth summarising that
Operation NIGERIA - resulted in no specifically 'dark arts' prosecutions
Operation REPROOF - the judge stopped the trial
Operation MOTORMAN - all prosecutions were dropped
Operation GLADE - four convictions all resulted in conditional discharge

This begs the question - did Scotland Yard fail to notice the recurring same names cropping up again and again in OPERATION NIGERIA, OPERATION REPROOF, OPERATION GLADE and the Information Commissioner's OPERATION MOTORMAN?  And all this prior to the Goodman/ Mulcaire scandal which led to the Met investigation OPERATION CARYATID?

When OPERATION CARYATID led to the arrests of Goodman and Mulcaire, Alex Owens later made the connection with OPERATION MOTORMAN. The reason for the sheer quantity of mobile phone numbers 'harvested' by Whittamore et al became apparent to him:
"...my personal feeling was that Steve Whittamore was gathering the numbers - he wasn't hacking... we found no evidence of that.  But he was then passing them to the papers and possibly those numbers were being passed to people who hacked. I mean the names of people like Milly Dowler, the numbers,... of the names that have now come out in the hacking Inquiry."
In 2008, the Serious Organised Crime Agency produced a confidential report, submitted to the Home Office, entitled "Private Investigators: The Rogue Element of the Private Investigation Industry and Others Unlawfully Trading in Personal Data".  It reviewed ('Project Riverside') five un-named 'dark arts' investigative operations, up to September 2007. They included evidence of corrupt police officers deleting criminal intelligence reports from the Police National Computer and "rogue private investigators "providing organised crime groups with counter-surveillance techniques" and attempting to discover the identities of informants and witnesses under police protection."

This SOCA report has been given to Lord Leveson, and may shed some light on the peculiar prevarication around the appearances of Russell Middleton and Brendan Gilmour as witnesses.

Is it possible 'Project Riverside' - in reviewing 5 operations - might have noticed investigative failures in not connecting the same names and usual suspects in OPERATION NIGERIA, OPERATION REPROOF, OPERATION MOTORMAN, OPERATION GLADE, and OPERATION CARYATID?

Somebody, somewhere needs a Reproof.

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

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