Friday, April 17, 2009

Damian Green cleared

Last year, UK shadow Immigration minister Damian Green was arrested for passing on leaked information embarrassing to the government. His Parliamentary office was searched, and he was told he faced life imprisonment for the archaic offence of "conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office". Now, the charges have been thrown out after prosecutors decided that the information leaked was not secret, did not affect national security, and did not put lives at risk. It was not even considered "highly confidential".

This is all good news - the idea that people, let alone MPs, might be arrested for publicising leaked information is as chilling as it is absurd. Leaks are the lifeblood of democracy, a vital means of holding the government to account. Arresting people for that is more redolent of Stalin's Russia or Mugabe's Zimbabwe than the supposedly free and democratic UK.

Now that Green has been cleared, attention must focus on those responsible: the Speaker of the House, who allowed police to search a Parliamentary office without a warrant, the Home Secretary, whose complaints led to the raid, and the Cabinet Office, which inflated the importance and sensitivity of the information in order to force a police response. These people have all either deliberately attempted to undermine the UK's democracy, or (in the Speaker's case) failed to do their duty to defend it. And they should be held accountable.