What are we to make of the 06:30 arrest of Ruth Turner, Tony Blair’s gatekeeper, apparently, on Friday on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in connection with the sale of honours allegations? When we’ve stopped marvelling at a former Labour Home Secretary complaining about theatrical dawn police raids, of course. At least no one got shot.
Complaints that Ms Turner was unlikely to flee the country, and questions about why they couldn’t have phoned her later in the day to make an appointment — an idea of her friend Lord Puttnham, I think — seem beside the point when you consider the phrase ‘perverting the course of justice’. As The Guardian suggests, police ‘have gathered hundreds of documents and emails from Downing Street’ in the course of their inquiries so, one rather suspects, they may be concerned they didn’t get the full story and didn’t want to risk anything getting deleted or going missing. Possibly, too, there’s an element of trying to scare Ms Turner or some rather more senior people about the consequences of being less than wholly frank with detectives out of misplaced loyalty to superiors.
Whatever the background, one rather hopes that since Ms Turner has yet to be charged with anything, and still less convicted, her travails will cause Mr Blair to reflect that the distinction he and his colleagues so frequently draw — a worrying distinction for many of us — between
the traditional protections for the suspect and the rights of the law-abiding majority
is not so clear-cut as he may think. He might find it difficult to get Ms Turner to understand it at the moment, I think.
And — who knows? — such a dramatic reminder that all of us, no matter how little we have to hide and how unlikely we may think we are to fall under wrongful suspicion, are at any time under threat of the police making an honest mistake may have an effect MPs’ deliberations about the Serious Crime Bill and its provisions for sanctions against people thought to be ‘involved in’ serious crime. Neither the sale of honours nor perverting the course of public justice are specified in the bill, to be sure, but the bill does give the courts discretion to treat as a serious crime any matter
which, in the particular circumstances of the case, the court considers to be sufficiently serious to be treated for the purposes of the application or matter as if it were so specified.
Since, as we’ve seen, wrongful suspicion can clearly fall not only on senior and highly regarded aides like Ms Turner but also on people like Lord Levy, whom Mr Blair felt worthy of a peerage, then clearly none of us can feel safe.
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