Current Affairs

Policeman ‘pressured’ to bug MP

LONDON: An ex-police officer who allegedly bugged an MP’s visit to a jailed constituent said the Met Police put him under “significant pressure” to do so. Former Thames Valley Police officer Mark Kearney, who faces charges over leaking stories, said he had felt it was not justified to bug MP Sadiq Khan. Shadow home secretary David Davis said it was an “extraordinary allegation”.

And it has emerged that officials in the Home Office and Ministry of Justice were told in December of the incident. But BBC political editor Nick Robinson said ministers in charge had not been aware until the Sunday Times reports emerged this weekend. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said it showed that Justice Secretary Jack Straw was out of control of his department.

He said it was “beyond belief that the department would not flag up to a minister” that long-standing guidelines had been broken within the department. “It now appears that Mr. Straw is in as little control of his department as the home secretary is of hers,” he said.

Former sergeant Mr Kearney was an intelligence officer working at Woodhill Prison where Babar Ahmad was being held, facing extradition to the US. Mr Ahmad faces no charges in the UK but the US suspects him of running websites supporting the Taleban and Chechen rebels, hence the extradition request.

Mr Kearney faces charges – unrelated to the bugging claims – of leaking information to a local newspaper and in a statement prepared by his solicitors he said there was “significant pressure from the Metropolitan Police requesting that we covertly record a social visit between a terrorist detainee and a member of Parliament”.

“The MP concerned was Sadiq Khan … I did record the visit but have never felt it was justified in these circumstances.” Shadow home secretary David Davis told the BBC: “If true this is an extraordinary allegation. It suggests that the decision to bug Sadiq Khan was much wider than just some junior or middle ranking officers in one police force.”

Mr Khan, who made his name as a human rights lawyer before becoming an MP in 2005, is Mr Ahmad’s local MP and a childhood friend. Nick Robinson said the development raised questions about whether Mr Khan’s visit “just happened” to be bugged or whether police were particularly interested in him, given that visits by some other people to Mr Ahmad had not come under similar surveillance.

The BBC has also learnt that officials in the Home Office and Ministry of Justice were told in December that a Labour MP had been bugged – but the justice secretary and home secretary had not been told. On Sunday Mr Khan – now a government whip – said he had no idea he might have been bugged and was pleased Mr Straw had announced a swift inquiry.
On Monday, Justice Secretary Jack Straw was called to the Commons to explain the apparent breach of the 40-year-old rule that MPs are not bugged and he insisted it still stood.In a statement, Mr Straw said the Chief Surveillance Commissioner Sir Christopher Rose would head an inquiry to establish under whose authority any alleged bugging was carried out.

He is due to report back in two weeks. Mr Straw added that a chief police officer had to authorise eavesdropping operations, adding that “ministers play no part in these authorisations”.Police are entitled to monitor prisoners’ communications but such operations must first be approved by the surveillance commissioner who considers them on a case-by-case basis.However, a code known as the Wilson Doctrine forbids the covert recording of conversations between MPs and their constituents.-SANA

About the author

Rubab Saleem

Rubab Saleem is Editor of Pakistan Times

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