Outside Woolwich Crown Court last week Commander Simon Foy rightly apologised for the Met failing to catch Delroy Grant earlier, and promised the lessons from the case would be learnt. My knowledge of the case leads me to believe a new and independent inquiry into the failings over seventeen years must be launched.
As soon as Delroy Grant was arrested in November 2009 the bosses in SCD1, the Met’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command, which had been responsible for the investigation for the past eleven years, wanted to know if he could have been captured earlier. They acted quickly, and appointed a Detective Superintendent to oversee what they described as ‘a search for learning’.
This review began in November 2009 and very quickly uncovered what we are now calling the 1999 mistake – where false assumptions and slack work by a couple of junior officers led to the name Delroy Grant being shown as eliminated on the investigation’s database. The error was reported quickly, officers were spoken to and the matter promptly referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The IPCC mounted an investigation, and as a result recommended ‘Words of Advice’ as the appropriate disciplinary punishment for the officers. This sorry episode featured highly in Commander Foy’s apology and the media coverage of the case after Grant’s conviction.
“This action remains outside the current priority lines of enquiry as deemed by the SIO of (1) Motor-cyclists SE London, (2) Motor-cyclists Brighton, (3) Single Suggestions from media appeals and Crimewatch , and (4) Refusals.”
So rather than look at 20 or so men who were all working at the same place the team continued to try to get DNA swabs from a list of thousands. And the suggestion of a victim who had actually seen and touched the suspect was not acted upon, while the word of one - possibly unknown - person who had phoned the Crimewatch studio or the incident room would have been.
Delroy Grant of course has now been convicted, and there is still time for this and other errors to be reported and acted upon. We can be happy of course that a Detective Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police will be a man of integrity, and will do his duty diligently. But I maintain - as I did back in Novemeber 2009 - that it is daft that the Detective Superintendent in question is Simon Morgan. He is responsible for reporting the learning from the whole SCD1 investigation, for which he alone was responsible for eight of its eleven years. How difficult must it be for a person objectively and critically to review his own decisions, and for such a public and important purpose? It is not fair to him personally, and neither in the interests of the Met nor the Police Service generally, for any ‘learning’ report to have even a suggestion of bias or lack of openness. Irrespective of the thoroughness of his work, it probably means any report will always be so tainted, and it really is crucial for the Met to get it done properly – independently - if they are to start to rebuild the public trust and confidence that the Night Stalker case has so badly damaged.