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Exclusive: The Official Secrets Act: The conflict between the Home Secretary and Alaric Bonthron, the Head of Professional Standards, Metropolitan Police

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Can Alaric Bonthron be trusted to carry out a no-holds-barred investigation into serious Met Police corruption?

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Exclusive: The Official Secrets Act: The conflict between the Home Secretary and Alaric Bonthron, the Head of Professional Standards, Metropolitan Police

Post by Tony Bennett on 24.03.15 20:08

Exclusive: The Official Secrets Act: The conflict between the Home Secretary and Alaric Bonthron, the Head of Professional Standards, Metropolitan Police

On Monday 16 March this year, the Deputy Chairman of the IPCC, Sarah Green, announced an enquiry into ‘the most serious’ allegations of corruption against the Met Police, in relation to a series of up to 14 cover-ups of the truth. These involved, inter alia, senior Met Police Officers protecting Ministers and MPs who had been guilty of cruel sex abuse acts against children.

An issue which immediately rose to the top was whether or not whistleblowing officers, who knew about these cover-ups and were willing to blow the whistle on fellow senior officers, would be given immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act 1989, if they disclosed their information to any enquiry.

Home Secretary Theresa May was forced to comment about this issue in the House of Commons on Monday and said this (I quote directly from a BBC report):


Home Secretary Theresa May said she "hoped" no police or intelligence officer would be prosecuted under the act for giving evidence to independent or police inquiries into abuse.

She said she would "not expect them to be".

BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Tom Symonds said there "is definitely a view that the government should be clearer about saying there is absolute immunity for police officers… whistleblowing in this sort of situation".

"The question arises, for example, what if a retired police officer speaks to a journalist? Is he at risk of being prosecuted then?" he said.


Two Labour MPs, Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk, said that: “Police and intelligence officers who give evidence on an alleged Westminster paedophile ring must be protected from prosecution…David Cameron must guarantee officers would not face official secrets charges for aiding an inquiry into the Met Police”.

This major enquiry into the most shameful alleged cover-ups by top Met Police Officers is to be conducted, so it is said, by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Actually, no it isn’t. The announcement was, in fact, that the investigation into top-level misconduct by the Met is to be investigated…by the Met!


But with ‘oversight’ of the investigation by the IPCC, for what good that is.

Sarah Green, Deputy Chair of the IPCC, said: “These allegations are of historic, high level corruption of the most serious nature. We will oversee the investigations and ensure that they meet the terms of reference that we will set”.

The folly of allowing a police force to investigate itself

(In the Lee Balkwell case, in 2003 the IPCC did exactly the same - allowed Essex Professional Standards to investigate Les Balkwell’s complaints against Essex Police. The result was inevitable - a bucket of whitewash and praise for ‘a thorough investigation’. Four years later, however, after I submitted a dossier to the IPCC, the IPCC themselves investigated Les Balkwell’s complaints. This time, the verdict (in 2012) was “Essex Police’s investigations were seriously flawed”, and eight senior officers were found guilty of 26 separate instances of misconduct).   

An unreported debate

On 20 March, Exaro News reported on a debate in the House of Commons on the Official Secrets Act. This debate had gone totally unreported in the media.

Mr John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire, moved an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill calling for a specific change in the law to make it clear that any whistleblowing police officer, who had relevant evidence to give about cover-ups of historic child sexual abuse, should be exempt from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. He said: “What people need are absolute guarantees of protection from action against them under the Official Secrets Act. From what I am hearing, people’s biggest concern about whistleblowing is fear of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act”.

Home Secretary Theresa May and the Conservative government refused to back the amendment, and asked its MPs to vote against it. This is how the voting went on John Mann’s amendment:   

Against the amendment: 295
254 Conservative
40 Liberal Democrat
1 Other

For John Mann’s amendment:  233
207 Labour
8 Conservatives
Both Plaid Cymru MPs
The Greens MP
4 Scottish Nationalist
4 Democratic Unionist (N. Ireland)
2 SDLP (N. Ireland)
3 Others

The words of Alaric Bonthron on immunity from prosecution

Finally, I come to Alaric Bonthron, the Head of the 385-strong (yes!) Metropolitan Police Professional Standards Department. He is the man now put in charge of investigating the most serious charges of corruption and misconduct - 14 of them  - ever faced by the Met.

Can he be trusted to do the job?

I say ‘No’ - and that’s an emphatic ‘No’ - because of the following exchange of texts I had with him last June. Before reproducing them, a little bit of background.

In late 2013, Les Balkwell was notified that a Simon Bromley would be prosecuted for alleged ‘negligence’ which caused his son Lee Balkwell to die. He vigorously opposed this, because he was sure that his son being found dead in a concrete mixer at 1.03am, i.e. in the dead of night - was no accident. In response to strong opposition from Les Balkwell to these proceedings, the Head of East of England CPS, Grace Ononiwu, and the Chief Constable of Essex, Steve Kavanagh, referred the case to Alaric Bonthron, the Met Police’s Head of Professional Standards. It was claimed that he would investigate any alleged corruption in the Balkwell case. But after two interviews with him, it soon became clear that the only thing he was interested in was the names and addresses of the two whistleblowing intelligence officers who, back in 2003, had told Les Balkwell that his son had been murdered and that some of the most senior officers in Essex Police were covering this up because of their corrupt relations with major drug dealers in the area. I have set out some of the details of their evidence is set out in this thread:    

It was against this background that on 19 June last year (2014) I texted Alaric Bonthron to clarify his position on the Official Secrets Act and the question of immunity from prosecution for the two whistleblowers. I have retained the texts on my mobile for reference:

Tony to Alaric Bonthron, sent 17.56 min 47 secs, 19 June 2014:

Mr Bonthron,  So there is absolutely no misunderstanding, this appears to be the position:

1.   Grace Ononiwu and Stephen Kavanagh only ever called you in to get the names of the two officers and talk to them

2.   There was nothing else you were able to do for Mr Balkwell

3.   Mr Balkwell wanted you to guarantee them immunity from prosecution if they disclosed internal police intelligence matters

4.   You told Mr Balkwell you could not agree

5.   Mr Balkwell remains willing to talk to you or anyone else who can help him get nearer the truth about the killing of his sun, but you have nothing further to offer him. There is no need to reply if the above is correct, Tony Bennett

Eleven minutes later: Alaric Bonthron to Tony, 18.07 min 28 secs, 19 June 2014:

Mr Bennett I can confirm that I advised Mr Balkwell that I am not in a position to offer any immunity in this or any other case.

Regards, Alaric


To sum up: The Home Secretary for the U.K. says that she ‘hopes and expects’  that whistleblowing police officers will be given immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, if they inform on dishonest and corrupt officers.

But the Head of Britain’s top police force’s Professional Standards Department, Alaric Bonthron, says “I am not in a position to offer immunity from prosecution in any case”.

Who is in charge?

And on top of that, Theresa May ensured that Parliament voted down John Mann MP’s attempt to give whistleblowers immunity from prosecution.   

What hope, then, is there of this Met-led enquiry - into 14 serious cases of the cover-up of child sexual abuse - ever getting anywhere?


Appendix: The 14 referrals being investigated by the IPCC

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it is investigating allegations of “historic, high level corruption of the most serious nature” within the Metropolitan Police force.

The Met is being probed over 14 referrals made to the IPCC detailing alleged corruption in the force relating to child sexual offences from the 1970s to the 2005, as follows.

1. An allegation of a potential cover up around failures to properly investigate child sex abuse offences in south London and further information about criminal allegations against a politician being dropped;

2. An allegation that an investigation involving a proactive operation targeting young men in Dolphin Square was stopped because officers were too near prominent people;

3. An allegation that a document was found at an address of a paedophile that originated from the Houses of Parliament listing a number of highly prominent individuals (MPs and senior police officers) as being involved in a paedophile ring and no further action was taken;

4. An allegation that an account provided by an abuse victim had been altered to omit the name of a senior politician;

5. An allegation that an investigation into a paedophile ring, in which a number of people were convicted, did not take action in relation to other more prominent individuals;

6. Allegations that a politician had spoken with a senior Met Police officer and demanded no action was taken regarding a paedophile ring and boys being procured and supplied to prominent persons in Westminster in the 1970s;

7. An allegation that in the late 1970s a surveillance operation that gathered intelligence on a politician being involved in paedophile activities was closed down by a senior Met Police officer;

8. An allegation that a dossier of allegations against senior figures and politicians involved in child abuse were taken by Special Branch officers;

9. Allegations that a surveillance operation of a child abuse ring was subsequently shut down due to high profile people being involved;

10.  Allegations of child sex abuse against a senior politician and a subsequent cover-up of his crimes;

11. Allegations that during a sexual abuse investigation a senior officer instructed the investigation be halted and that that order had come from 'up high' in the Met;

12. An allegation of a conspiracy within the Met to prevent the prosecution of a politician suspected of offences;

13. Allegations against a former senior Met Police officer regarding child sex abuse and that further members of the establishment including judges were involved. It is claimed that no further action was taken;

14. An allegation that police officers sexually abused a boy and carried out surveillance on him. There are further allegations of financial corruption in a London borough police force.


The amazing symbiosis between bees and flowers:  

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Re: Exclusive: The Official Secrets Act: The conflict between the Home Secretary and Alaric Bonthron, the Head of Professional Standards, Metropolitan Police

Post by BlueBag on 24.03.15 21:55

The Official Secrets Act is just one of the many tools used by the establishment to protect themselves.

Time for change.

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Exaro News 25 March 2015

Post by Tony Bennett on 25.03.15 7:32

Exaro News covering the continuing saga of the Official Secrets Act and immunity from prosecution this morning:



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Re: Exclusive: The Official Secrets Act: The conflict between the Home Secretary and Alaric Bonthron, the Head of Professional Standards, Metropolitan Police

Post by Doug D on 25.03.15 8:15

Not sure about your link TB, but these are the two Exaro articles relating to MP’s blocking an attempted change to the OSA.
Quite how Theresa May & David Cameron can say what they have said & yet get it voted against remains a mystery, but no doubt they can spin it that the vote wasn’t about what it seemed to be about.

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