There is a thought that I can’t get out of my head, not helped by a lively conversation on Facebook on the subject.
During the week two Met PCs were sacked for Gross Misconduct, relating to offensive texts on their mobile phones.
I have seen the texts referred to in the press and let me say that in no way do I condone the tone or contents of the texts or the actions of the officers. I’m not pleading their case at all, they did something, they got caught, they got sacked, End Of.
Or is it?
Nobody ever complained about these texts.
They went between two officers and never entered the public domain.
They came to light during a completely unrelated enquiry, #Plebgate.
An officer being investigated under the #Plebgate umbrella apparently voluntarily offered up his personal computer to be examined. As I understand it the data was copied and he requested that when DPS had finished with it they destroyed the data.
In some way this led DPS to the mobile phone(s) of one or both of our heroes and the offending texts were discovered. The rest is history, as they say.
Forgetting the contents and tone of the texts for a moment, the things that have vexed me over this are these;
Two Police Officers (and others) have lost their jobs over a totally unrelated matter spinning off from the #Plebgate enquiry. The #Plebgate enquiry was brought about by a senior politician, Andrew Mitchell, lying about his encounter with the Police in Downing Street. He was forced to pay a large amount of money to one of the officers as a result of his lies.
Was he sacked? No.
I have seen several references on Twitter over the past few days that if you supply your own personal mobile phone number to the Met, for contact purposes for example, this in some way makes it the equivalent of an official phone and gives the Met Carte Blanche rights to examine that phone for naughty texts or pictures etc. This does not seem to have been the case in this instance, but as a matter of principle, can this possibly be right?
If I have interpreted it correctly I for one would delete my mobile phone from all official records and they could contact me by landline or not at all.
Do they assume the right to examine your landline call records to see who you’ve been calling? I doubt it, so why should they assume the right for your personal mobile.
Official phone? No problem, it’s their phone, they can do what they want.
Nobody has yet told me I’m wrong and a few people have alluded to advice from the Federation on the matter, but surely it must be simply wrong/unlawful without your consent. I’m of the opinion that it’s a bluff, knowing full well they would seldom qualify for an authority to take a gander at your phone, so they try to hoodwink you into believing that they have the right because you gave them your number.
If your local drug dealer gave you his mobile phone number in order that you could contact him re bail arrangements for example, would that give you the right to go trawling through his phone, just because he volunteered the number? I think not.
If I’m wrong, and this does not happen, then please tell me and I will reassure those officers who believe it to be the case.
Finally, just because I can, I would like to get the Home Secretary off my chest. If, as a serving officer, I had acquired a conviction for Contempt of Court I wouldn’t have kept my job for very much longer, but much like Andrew Mitchell she sails imperious through all the crap, errors and mistakes that have dogged her career. A law-maker with a serious conviction, no problem at all obviously.