UK Liberty

Best commentary on the Damian Green and Christopher Galley furore

Posted in accountability, freedom of information, law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on December 2, 2008

HeadofLegal and Peter Hargreaves in the comments section and also CharonQC’s podcast with HeadofLegal. Also Unity (except for the bit about OSA, I think) and various commenters there, particularly HeadofLegal; also Marcel Berlins.

For me, the key principle is “does this conduct amount to a criminal offence”?  

Not all disclosures are criminal and not all means of disclosure are criminal. Of course the conduct of the civil servant might amount to a disciplinary matter – indeed I’d be surprised if it didn’t.  Then of course the employee would try to engage whistleblower protection.

If the answer is in the affirmative, “yes it does amount to a criminal offence”, then “is it in the public interest to proceed with a criminal investigation or is it better handled in an alternative way?” Also, “is it in the public interest to conduct a criminal investigation in a particular fashion?”

(This of course refers to the alleged “heavy-handedness”, searches of offices, Parliament, and homes and so on.)

And of course the CPS will have to decide if there is a public interest in prosecuting anyone – they don’t simply prosecute on the basis that they believe someone has committed a criminal offence.

I do think all this is a bit rich given how many leaks there are at all levels. In terms of the civil servant leaking to a particular party, the accusation of partisanship seems fair until you have a think about which reporters (working for which media outlets) are leaked to by the Government – they are of course the outlets it is considered politically expedient to leak to.

I hope this episode prompts a wider debate regarding what public sector information should be made available, when, and and how, but I fear this will be lost in the mudslinging.

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