Confidential Guardian letter leads to MPA inquiry

The Metropolitan Police Authority this month starts an inquiry into an affair involving a confidential letter sent to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and alleged police corruption.

Backed by the NUJ, former Guardian journalists Laurie Flynn and Michael Gillard had to go to the High Court and seek judicial review to persuade the MPA to take action.

The authority had previously refused to investigate the actions of Met Commander Andy Hayman because it said the matter related to the “direction and control” of the police and was outside their remit. But threatened with judicial review, in July, it changed its mind.

In 2000, Gillard and Flynn were working on freelance contracts for The Guardian investigating alleged police corruption. On 2 August, Hayman sent a “strictly confidential” letter to Rusbridger claiming that the actions of the pair could undermine an important case the Met was working on.

Gillard and Flynn were not shown the letter, taken off the police corruption story and subsequently did not have their Guardian contracts renewed.

The Guardian has always maintained that there was no connection between the letter and the dropping of the investigations, which it felt were going nowhere. It also claims that the letter was received while Rusbridger had been holiday and was forgotten about and placed in a file.

Gillard told Press Gazette this week: “Had the MPA’s decision not to investigate been allowed to stand, police officers could say what they liked about journalists and not have to answer for their actions.

“It’s a qualified success because 17 months is too long for a member of the public, let alone a journalist, to wait to get a complaint looked into by the Metropolitan Police Authority, which is supposed to be a watchdog on the most powerful police force in the country.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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