Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Now that John Banks has been found guilty, attention is rightly turning to the police and why they decided not to charge him in the first place. And today we've got a partial answer: because they're a bunch of muppets:

Detectives investigating John Banks chose not to seek advice from the Government's key legal advisers over whether to charge the Act MP.

Instead, they opted to get internal advice in a move which the Police Association says could be linked to cost-cutting.


A spokeswoman for the Crown Law Office told the Herald: "Please note that Crown Law was never consulted by the police on the decision not to prosecute. Neither Crown Law nor the Solicitor-General were asked for advice by the police in relation to this matter."

This is a high-profile case which was likely to be hugely controversial regardless of what decision was made; getting an independent second opinion from Crown Law would have been the sensible thing to do. Instead it seems to have been left to some plod. And while the Police Association blames budget cuts, this case is sufficiently important that it should have received a second opinion even in a constrained fiscal environment. The only reason for not giving it one is that the investigating officer was too stupid to recognise that.

Despite that, trying to charge them with electoral fraud is a mistake, and I just can't see how the law applies to them (they weren't a party to Banks' crime, and I assume they weren't running for election themselves). Fortunately for the police, being bad at your job isn't a crime. But they should certainly be disciplined, and possibly sacked, for clearly being too stupid for the role they're in.

We clearly need more transparency over the decision not to prosecute. While the police are rightly refusing comment until after sentencing, they should release all their internal documentation on the case once sentence is passed. Its the only way to restore public confidence and ensure that this sort of thing doesn't happen in future. And if they don't, well, that's what the OIA is for. While legal advice is notoriously hard to extract, there's a decision from a similar case in the UK about the decision not to prosecute child abusing MP Cyril Smith which may influence the Ombudsman about where the public interest lies.