Sunday 13 February 2022

Putting it in writing


One of the issues at the heart of the Downing Street gatherings affair is the idea that the people who made the rules didn’t stick to them; that they behaved as though they were allowed to follow a different process to everyone else. In that context, the approach adopted by the police of sending questionnaires to 50 suspects (and that is indeed what they are – suspects, rather than witnesses) asking for their responses is a curious one. Maybe there are some lawyers out there who know better than I, but I’ve never previously heard of a case where the police wrote to suspects asking for their confessions on a pre-printed questionnaire rather than interviewing them. It looks very much like a unique process designed specifically as a means of investigating people who already believe that normal processes don’t apply to them. They claim that the questionnaire is equivalent to a police interview and that the responses “will be treated as written statements made under caution”. I wonder how the police will react in future if any suspected criminal demands the right to answer a questionnaire in his own home and to be allowed a week to prepare his responses and talk to his fellow suspects rather than have a face to face interview with a police officer down at the station. Actually, I don’t wonder at all – I’m pretty sure that I know what the reaction would be. It looks like another case of ‘one rule for us…’.

The Met also claim that the questionnaires “have formal legal status and must be answered truthfully”. Yeah, right. We’re talking about Boris Johnson here; the assumption that he will see those words and decide to give honest answers looks like rather a significant flaw in the approach. He has a simple choice: he can either tell the truth and therefore admit that he’s been lying all along, to parliament as well as the media, or he can simply repeat his previous lies. And there cannot be many people – outside the Metropolitan Police Force, of course – who aren’t reasonably certain about which he will choose. Lying is his default option, even when he doesn’t need to because honesty would serve his cause better.

The question is surely not whether he will return a pack of lies to the Met, but what will they do with it when they get it. Based on their performance to date, it would hardly be surprising if they said something along the lines of, “OK, sir. Sorry to have troubled you”, no matter how much hard evidence they have proving his guilt. It’s unlikely that they’ll have the guts to add ‘intending to pervert the course of justice’ to the charge sheet. Whether he's fined, or let off because of his lies, the issue doesn’t end, no matter how much the PM wants it to and thinks it should; it merely returns from the criminal to the political sphere. And, again based on the Met’s record, the probability that his responses will be leaked is not insignificant. Perhaps there is an advantage to this unique written procedure after all.


dafis said...

Now several weeks after this fiasco kicked off I am convinced that no one of any significance will get thrown under the proverbial bus. Cressida Dick may be going but that's as much due to her flaky relationship with Khan. I suspect that had she stayed in post she would have contrived some means of not nailing any big players. And that continues to be my prediction. There may be millions of words, statements etc written but, most likely, it will be the poor sap who nipped down to the Coop to top up the booze that will be shoved out probably to another part of the Civil Service and certainly not heavily penalised as you or I might be.

Reminds me of the waitress down the Bay when a gathering of our petty elite decided to sink a few when the rest of us were curfewed. Fortunately the hint of her getting set up as scapegoat aroused an appropriate row but the case of the Boozy 4 A.S's,or more,was allowed to die a death.Why ?

Alan Morrison said...

It is amusing that most seem to take it for granted that just because the MET have sent Johnson a questionnaire that he will fill it out. It will have already been delegated to some flunky to complete it on his behalf. I seriously doubt he will even have seen it.