It’s been a pretty dreadful week for security at the Palace of Westminster. First, there was the admission that a Chinese spy suspect, Christine Lee, had donated thousands of pounds to Barry Gardiner’s office where her son, Daniel Wilkes, was employed as a member of staff. His access to the parliamentary estate was not revoked until he resigned yesterday, with Wilkes still being listed as a member of Gardiner’s Microsoft Teams group as recently as last night.
It comes four months after Met police officer Wayne Couzens was convicted for the murder of Sarah Everard, with Priti Patel announcing on Tuesday that a new inquiry will look at whether any 'red flags were missed' earlier in Couzens' career. The policeman was a member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command squad at the time of his arrest, with the Met subsequently announcing a probe into that unit.
And now Mr S has discovered figures about it which make for even worse reading. According to a Freedom of Information request to the Met, over the last five years there have been 16 officers of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command who have been either restricted or suspended from duty following a criminal allegation being made. Four of these cases related to allegations of a sexual offence.
All of these officers were ‘intermittently or less frequently deployed’ on the estate to support the permanent team. Of the aforementioned 16, two officers were convicted at court and dismissed while one officer was charged with criminal offences and is now awaiting trial. All the 13 remaining allegations resulted in no further criminal action after the investigation had concluded. Subsequent misconduct proceedings resulted in the dismissal of one officer, three others being subject to misconduct findings with one other case in which misconduct was not proven. Eight were determined to have no case to answer.
The Metropolitan Police meanwhile told Mr S that:
“We recognise we need to rebuild trust and confidence in us and last year announced an increase of 50 investigators into our Professional Standards Department, an urgent examination into current investigations of sexual and domestic abuse allegations against all employees, which includes dip sampling cases from the last 10 years of sexual misconduct and domestic abuse allegations where those accused remain in the Met, as well as an independent review into culture and standards of behaviour across the Met led by Baroness Casey of Blackstock, and a specific detailed review of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.
They added that 'extra measures' were being taken to 'ensure our process is the best it can be and address any potential weaknesses.' Let's hope they work.