The UK police watchdog has found “substantial weaknesses” in the approach of London’s Metropolitan Police to tackling corruption within the force.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services said it was “unacceptable” that 35 years after a botched investigation into the murder of a private detective that an inquiry last year attributed to “institutional corruption”, more had not been done.
The report, published on Tuesday, identified a series of problems at the force, including more than 2,000 unaccounted-for warrant cards, “dire” care of evidence, including cash and drugs, and a failure to monitor IT systems.
The inspection report is the latest in a series of scandals to engulf the UK’s largest police force since Wayne Couzens, then a serving officer, abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in March 2021, as she was on her way home in Clapham, south London.
Ministers commissioned the report after a public inquiry last summer branded the Met “institutionally corrupt” after investigating its failure to bring to justice the killers of Daniel Morgan, a private investigator, who was found dead in south London in 1987.
“It is unacceptable that 35 years after Daniel Morgan’s murder, the Metropolitan Police has not done enough to ensure its failings from that investigation cannot be repeated,” said Matt Parr, HM inspector of constabulary.
“We found substantial weaknesses in the Met’s approach to tackling police corruption,” said Parr. “From failing to properly supervise police officers who have previously committed offences, to inadequate vetting procedures, it is clear that the current arrangements are not fit for purpose.”
However, the watchdog found no evidence that the force was “institutionally corrupt” as last year’s report of the inquiry, chaired by Nuala O’Loan, had concluded.
Parr said that, while inspectors had seen evidence of “professional incompetence” and lack of care over counter-corruption efforts, it had not seen evidence the Met sought to frustrate O’Loan’s panel in its inquiry or that conditions in the force were so serious to justify the term “institutional corruption”.
“It looks to me, and it looked to our staff, they are just not taking the risk of corruption seriously enough,” Parr said.
Sir Stephen House, Met deputy commissioner, said he was “professionally disappointed” that elements that supported the force in countering corruption had not been working well enough. But he added this was “already being put right”.
“We accept that there is a lot of work to do in order to rebuild the trust people have in us, to show that we are changing and learning,” House said.
The report made 20 recommendations, including improving the handling of exhibits from cases. At one police station, it found that the code for a security lock was written on the outside of a door.
The inspectors also demanded the force improve its record-keeping of officers’ business interests and changes in their financial circumstances.
Parr said the recommendations should be among the “highest priorities” for Cressida Dick, the outgoing Met commissioner, if public confidence in the force was to improve.
Dick last month announced she was stepping down in the wake of a wave of scandals, including revelations of a toxic culture at London’s Charing Cross police station, where sharing of misogynistic, racist and homophobic messages was common.
Priti Patel, home secretary, said standards must be “immediately improved”.
“I expect the mayor of London and the new commissioner to reverse these deficiencies as a matter of urgency,” she noted.