Will there finally be justice for Daniel Morgan?

A judge-led inquiry may uncover extensive police and media corruption over 25 years.

The Home Secretary’s announcement today of a judge-led panel to consider the murder of Daniel Morgan in 1987 is both an end and a potential beginning.

It signals that a twenty-five year campaign by the family of Daniel Morgan has finally achieved an appropriate independent inquiry. There have been five police investigations into the vicious axe murder but no prosecution put before a jury (see the background post here). Cases have collapsed, and many excuses given; but there has been no real sign before today that any light will be shown on the darkness which surrounds this notorious case. It is a great achievement by Daniel’s quiet but determined brother Alastair Morgan that the panel was announced today. As he told Channel 4 news:

Through almost three decades of public protests, meetings with police officers at the highest ranks, lobbying of politicians and pleas to the media, we have found ourselves lied to, fobbed off, bullied, degraded and let down time and time again. What we have been required to endure has been nothing less than mental torture.

…we trust and hope that the panel, through its examination and publication of all relevant material and information, will assist the authorities to confront and acknowledge this failure for once and for all, so that we may at last be able to get on with our lives.

The announcement also may be the beginning of the truth finally coming out about this sordid matter.

The way successive police investigations and prosecutions failed to get anywhere, and the evident collusion of parts of the media and the private investigation business in this, could well be startlingly revealing about the culture of police and media corruption over the last twenty-five years. Even senior police officers admit that something very wrong – and corrupt – happened in respect of this case. It may be that what comes out in this inquiry about the failures of the police and the media will make the celebrity complaints at the Leveson Inquiry look like events at a tame garden party.

It is especially significant that the panel will address the three key and inter-related areas of concern in the case: the police involvement in the murder; the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice and the failure to confront that corruption; and the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World and other parts of the media and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them.

Whilst this is not quite a full judicial inquiry (and there seems to be little scope for oral evidence), it looks as if the panel will approach its task in the same diligent way the Hillsborough panel did over a similarly historic but contentious event and its alleged cover-up. The panel cannot impose any criminal liability – and unfortunately it appears that no one will now ever be prosecuted for the murder – but it may expose the systemic failures and corruption in this case and by doing so finally allow there to be accountability for the  wrongs done. That would be a kind of justice for Daniel Morgan, and it is perhaps the only one now still available.

From being a case which has been obscure and sometimes conveniently forgotten, the case of Daniel Morgan may soon become a byword for a culture of excess which existed for over two decadesat both Scotland Yard and Fleet Street.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman

The Justice forDaniel website is here and the campaign can be followed on Twitter at @Justice4Daniel

Daniel Morgan

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.