The Arrest of Damian Green MP: Part 2
According to the BBC’s latest report,
The solicitor for the Home Office worker who leaked information [Christopher Galley] says he did it because it was material that was “important for the public to know”.
The problem is that Mr Galley’s ministers took a different view of what material needed to be made publicly available, and their view would have been informed by all sorts of considerations of which Mr Galley could not have been aware. There’s no suggestion that he was sending government information, without authority, to Damian Green in order to expose wrong-doing of any kind; he was not a whistle-blower of that traditional kind. He just thought he knew better than ministers what information should be released, and when. Even then he sent it to a Conservative opposition MP, not to the press.
If every unelected civil servant, senior or (like Mr Galley) junior, claimed the right to override elected ministers’ decisions about what sensitive government information should and should not be released, and on what timing, the work of government would grind to a halt. Ministers would be unable to trust their officials and would have to keep vital information from them (the reverse of what seems to have been happening in this case!). Anyway, it’s clearly an offence under both common law and statute law for an official to disclose information obtained in the course of his duties to a third person without proper prior authority. And it’s an offence for a third person to encourage an official to do so, although we don’t know whether Mr Green did encourage Mr Galley. He has denied that any financial inducement was offered or given.
The claim that Mr Galley’s motive in leaking the documents was to enable the public to know what he thought they should know, the ‘public interest defence’, is inevitably going to have to be examined against the background of Mr Galley’s position as a Conservative Party activist.
The Times report quotes Mr Galley’s solicitor:
The former Conservative council election candidate had first met Mr Green in the Houses of Parliament in 2006 and “regularly” supplied him with information for the next two years, Mr O’May said. [Emphasis added]
In the words of a report in the Daily Telegraph, no less, a pretty reliable source on matters affecting the Conservative Party, —
Relatives of Mr Galley revealed that he had held political ambitions since his school days. He has previously stood as a Conservative candidate in an election for Sunderland city council.
Christopher’s uncle Kevin Galley, Christopher’s uncle, said last night: “I just don’t understand how he could have got caught up in something like this.
“He loved politics and I think he was a member of the Conservative Youth.”
It’s also reported, and not so far denied, that Mr Galley had applied for a job in Damian Green’s parliamentary office and had met Mr Green in connection with his application (which was evidently unsuccessful).
You can see and hear the statement by Mr Galley’s solicitor, Mr O’May, of Bindmans solicitors, on the BBC website here — and on several others.
My initial reaction to the news of Mr Green’s arrest and the searches of his offices and homes was that although an investigation of the leaks was manifestly right and necessary, the manner in which the investigation was being conducted appeared to be disproportionate to the suspected offence (or offences) and unnecessarily heavy handed. Now, as more of the facts seep out, I’m not so sure. Two years!