Met’s Deputy Commissioner launches scathing attack on Sadiq Khan

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Deputy Commissioner

A simmering row between City Hall and Scotland Yard erupted as the Met’s Deputy Commissioner launched a scathing attack on Sadiq Khan over his handling of Cressida Dick’s resignation.

Sir Stephen House, addressing a meeting of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee, accused the Mayor of London of forcing Dame Cressida out without due process in a very public showing of the rot at the heart of the relationship.

But how have things got so bad?

Dame Cressida resigned in early February in the wake of a damning report from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) that found evidence of racism, bullying, misogyny and homophobia among officers at Charing Cross Police Station.

But a series of scandals and PR disasters over the course of the previous year had already set her on a collision course with the Mayor of London.

The murder of Sarah Everard by then-serving officer Wayne Couzens, and the subsequent heavy-handed policing of a vigil at Clapham Common, in March 2021, was the first major point of contention between City Hall and Scotland Yard.

At the time, Khan said the scenes were “unacceptable” and backed calls for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services and the IOPC to conduct independent investigations, though he stopped short of calling for Dame Cressida to step down.

Three months later, the Met were again in the national spotlight following the publication of the independent report into the death of Daniel Morgan that found evidence of “institutional corruption” within the Met.

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The report claimed the Met had concealed or denied failings over its handling of several investigations into Daniel Morgan’s 1987 murder in order to protect its reputation which, according to the report’s authors, amounted to “institutional corruption”.

Dame Cressida was personally named in the report as having “obstructed” the panel’s work by refusing to hand over key documents.

Though she apologised to Daniel Morgan’s family and admitted the Met made mistakes, the Commissioner refuted claims of “institutional corruption” and said it was “bordering on offensive” to suggest that the Met “keeps things quiet to protect our reputation”.

At the time, Khan said the findings of the Daniel Morgan report were “very serious” and “must be addressed”, but he said the Met had “come a long way in the intervening years”.

The Mayor of London was criticised by Daniel Morgan’s family for failing to hold the Met – and specifically Cressida Dick – to account.

In December, Met officers Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis were sentenced to more than two years in jail for taking and sharing pictures of the bodies of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry in June 2020.

Mina Smallman, the sisters’ mother, accused Cressida Dick of “gaslighting” her and attempting to “create a smokescreen” by suggesting that they were simply “rotten apples”.

As pressure began to mount on Dame Cressida to quit as Met chief, so too did the pressure grow on Mr Khan to take action himself.

Following criticism over the way the Met handled the “partygate” allegations last month, Khan defended his decision to support Cressida Dick’s reappointment as Met Commissioner the year prior.

He said his job as Mayor of London was “to be an advocate, a champion for the Met at the same time as holding them to account” and that it “is really important” to do both. He added that “the Met have a tough job to do” and that “they need our support”.

But just days later, the findings of the IOPC report on Charing Cross Police Station were published, with public anger towards the Met reaching boiling point.

The Mayor of London put Dame Cressida “on notice” and urged her to present a plan for restoring confidence in the Met. But, before that plan was revealed, the Commissioner resigned.

Speaking at City Hall on Wednesday, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing Sophie Linden said the plan presented to the mayor by Scotland Yard lacked “sufficient acceptance of the nature and severity of the problem”.

But Deputy Met Commissioner Sir Stephen House hit back and said that he and the Commissioner were met with a “stone wall of silence” by the mayor’s office and were given no feedback on the plan presented by Dame Cressida. He added that it is “difficult to improve if you don’t know what needs improving”.

The Deputy Commissioner said he was “deeply disappointed” with the way Mr Khan handled Dame Cressida resignation and revealed he had written to the Home Secretary to investigate the nature of her ousting.

A statement from City Hall later called Sir Stephen’s claims about a lack of due process “entirely incorrect”.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “Trust in the police among Londoners has plummeted over the last two years and is now nearly at an all-time low following a series of devastating scandals involving police officers, including evidence of misogyny, racism, sexism, homophobia and bullying.

“The Mayor is democratically elected by millions of Londoners and it is his job to hold the police to account – and he will continue to do so.”

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