Ex-police officers who leaked allegations that pornographic images had been found on the computer of Cabinet minister Damian Green were in “flagrant breach” of their own code of conduct, a former government law officer has said.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said the actions of the retired officers – which has left Mr Green’s political career hanging in the balance – had “the smack of the police state”, The Press Association reports.
On Friday, ex-Scotland Yard detective Neil Lewis told the BBC he was “shocked” at the volume of material found in a 2008 raid on Green’s Westminster office and had “no doubt whatsoever” that it had been amassed by the Tory MP.
The allegations echoed claims made by former Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) assistant commissioner Bob Quick, who went public last month with his account of the material discovered during an investigation into Home Office leaks.
As Conservative MPs rallied round the embattled Green – who is effectively Theresa May’s deputy prime minister – Grieve said that the decision of the officers to release information acquired in the course of a police investigation was “very worrying”.
“This can’t be right. They are in flagrant breach of their own code of conduct and practice,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight.
“Eight years later they choose to put material that an ordinary citizen would be prohibited from acquiring under data protection rules into the public domain on their own judgment.
“It has the smack of the police state about it. I find it very worrying. We give the police powers that other people do not have. They are not and must not be allowed to abuse those powers.”
However the ex-officers’ decision to go public was defended by former Gloucestershire chief constable Tim Brain.
“Let’s just think about this as a workplace computer and to think whether we are happy that people, our MPs, can have this kind of material on what is an official computer,” he told Newsnight.
“Nobody is actually doubting the fact that there is some kind of electronic trace of this material on the computer. So we need to have some answers now this information is in the public domain.”
Green, who is the subject of a Cabinet Office inquiry into alleged inappropriate behaviour towards a young female activist, has denied looking at or downloading porn on the work computer.
Meanwhile the MPS said it was launching its own inquiry about how information gathered during an investigation was made public.
Lewis said that he was involved in analysing the then-opposition immigration spokesman’s computer during the 2008 investigation into Home Office leaks.
He stressed that none of the images were “extreme”, but said analysis of the computer suggested they had been viewed “extensively” over a three-month period, sometimes for hours at a time.
Speaking to reporters at his Kent home on Friday, Green said: “I’ve said I am not commenting any further while the investigation is going on.
“I have maintained all along and I still maintain – it is the truth – that I did not download or look at pornography on my computer, but obviously while the investigation is going on I can’t say any more.”