Peers describe David Cameron's intervention in case ' after Kate
McCann's open letter to Sun ' as PR exercise
The PM has been accused
of bowing to the Murdoch empire over his decision to
intervene in the Madeleine McCann case. Photograph: Carl
Two peers who are members
of police watchdogs warned that the independence of the
Metropolitan police was under threat after the prime minister
brought in Scotland Yard to review the disappearance of Madeleine
Insiders at the Yard played
down any suggestions that their role could quickly lead to any
breakthrough in the case, saying that the review, which will cost
millions of pounds, could take months or even years.
Labour's Lord Harris, a
member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, accused David Cameron
of bowing to Rupert Murdoch's empire, referring to Cameron's decision to
call in Scotland Yard after Kate McCann wrote an open letter in the
Sun asking for his help.
Lord Bradshaw, the Liberal
Democrat peer and vice-chairman of Thames Valley Police Authority, added
his voice to the criticism, describing the prime minister's intervention
as a PR exercise. "I am mightily worried about the politicisation of the
police force. What appears on the face of it to be fairly innocuous
orders ' it's a fairly short step from there to telling the police they
have got to investigate this rather than that," Bradshaw said.
Harris said: "This ... is
entirely predictable in terms of the 'pulling power' of News
International on Government policy ... However, his [Cameron's]
intervention drives a coach and horses through the draft protocol issued
by the Home Office designed to preserve the operational independence of
Writing on his blog,
the peer added: "I can imagine that the senior leadership of the
Metropolitan police are not exactly happy about this. It again embroils
their officers in a high-profile investigation, where the chances of
success are unclear, and which will divert limited investigative
resources away from other matters."
In a statement Scotland
Yard denied it had been ordered to review the abduction. It said that
the commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, received a request which he
considered and decided on balance that it was the best course to take.
Kerry Needham, the mother
of Ben Needham, the British toddler who was abducted on Crete 20 years
ago, said: "I am pleased for the McCann family and look forward to the
government offering the same support to all the families with children
If the Yard is given access
to all the Portuguese documentation the first task will be to have it
translated. As part of the review the Met's team ' likely to be led by a
detective chief inspector within the homicide command ' will also
examine files held by Leicestershire police, the McCanns' home force,
who gave some help to the Portuguese officers. There is also
documentation from a number of private investigators hired by the
McCanns over the last four years.
Although there was
irritation among senior figures at Scotland Yard at being bounced into
an inquiry, one source predicted that it would be quickly overtaken by a
desire to do the best job possible. "It was political. But at the end of
the day a child is missing."
The Met has a copy of a
review into Madeleine's disappearance completed by Jim Gamble, when he
was head of Ceop, the child exploitation and online protection centre.
It is understood to recommend that Scotland Yard be brought in to work
with the Portuguese police on a review, but his report has been sitting
on the home secretary's desk for more than a year until this week with
no action taken.
Scotland Yard released the
letter to Sir Paul from Theresa May on Thursday. In it the home
secretary says diplomatic contact has been made with the Portuguese
police, who have indicated they would co-operate with Scotland Yard. But
she made clear it would be down to the Yard to negotiate the details.
The McCanns repeated their
thanks to Cameron, saying the Met's involvement was a positive step.