Tory war with Met police over ‘thousands of pornographic images on computer of Damian Green
The allegation heaped further pressure on Theresa May’s embattled deputy. However, it also left Scotland Yard in the spotlight about its handling of personal data obtained in investigations.
Lord Carlile, the former watchdog over anti-terror laws, called on Met chief Cressida Dick to exert her “authority” and take control of the force’s handling of the controversy.
The new allegations came from Neil Lewis, who was a Met expert in analysing computers, attached to counter-terrorism investigations. He was part of the team that raided Mr Green’s House of Commons office in 2008.
The operation was mounted to catch a Whitehall official leaking secrets to the Tory MP but officers made the chance discovery that Mr Green’s parliamentary computer appeared to have been used to view porn.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Lewis said he was “shocked” at the volume of pornographic images and had “no doubt whatsoever” in his mind that these were accessed by Mr Green.
His study of the machine suggested someone spent “hours” browsing porn at Mr Green’s desk in the Commons over many weeks. However, he said the images were “legal” and not violent or extreme.
“The computer was in Mr Green’s office, on his desk, logged in, his account, his name,” said Mr Lewis. “In between browsing pornography, he was sending emails from his account, his personal account, reading documents … it was ridiculous to suggest anybody else could have done it.”
He said that although “you can’t put fingers on a keyboard”, the evidence made him sure it was Mr Green who was accessing the “thumbnail” images. Similar material had also been accessed on Mr Green’s laptop, he claimed.
Mr Green, 61, the MP for Ashford in Kent, became First Secretary of State earlier this year. Experts in civil liberties were shocked by an apparent admission by Mr Lewis that the data copied from Mr Green’s computer was not permanently “deleted” but could have been recovered if needed.
Lord Carlile, a former Lib Dem MP who later served as the independent Government adviser on counter-terror laws, said he was alarmed that retired police officers appeared to be briefing against a Cabinet minister. He said there appeared to be “a complete loss of authority” at Scotland Yard.
“I would expect the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to take charge given that we are dealing with the effective deputy prime minister,” he said.
“I think the whole conduct of the police in this case is quite extraordinary.”
Two senior Tory ex-ministers also criticised the police leaks. Tim Loughton, who sits on the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: “This whole matter stinks. The Met urgently need to investigate this leak.
“This raises questions of trust in the police if material that was fully investigated nine years ago and did not merit any action mysteriously reappears.”
Mr Mitchell told the Today programme: “Mr Green has been absolutely emphatic in what he said. He has said repeatedly that he never downloaded or viewed this material.
“I think Mr Green is entitled to be believed. I think the hounding of Mr Green over information which everyone is clear was entirely legal and which he has emphatically denied either downloading or viewing is completely wrong.”
“I think it is highly questionable whether a retired police officer should misuse this sort of material in this way and I think the police need to explain why there was any record kept of entirely legal activity.
A Labour legal figure added: “The police can’t just seize your computer for one reason and then blacken your name with what they found on it later, where no charges are brought.
“Trust in the police depends on them keeping confidential material they obtain through using their powers as police officers.”