This morning’s Western Mail reports that South Wales Police have confirmed they are reviewing evidence in a case where they decided not even to interview Stephen Doughty MP – who subsequently admitted complicity in a criminal offence by asking a constituent to supply him with Diazepam, a prescription-only drug.
The Cardiff South and Penarth Labour MP Stephen Doughty claimed in a press statement that he had only asked Byron Long for Diazepam tablets in advance of a flight he intended to take in order to help him with his mental health difficulties. He told the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner this was a one-time occurrence, and that in any event, he had not taken the tablet. Guido has reason to believe this is not the full truth.
Guido has obtained the extraordinary report which resulted in Byron Long, a long-standing friend of Doughty who was also a constituent, receiving a caution. Written last June, the police report signed off by Michael Healey – and reviewed by other senior officers – claims Stephen Doughty had made an apology in the House of Commons in the presence of barristers and the Speaker, none of whom expressed the view that he should be dealt with criminally. The officer concluded that, as a result, Doughty should not be interviewed by the police about the matter. None of this actually happened, nor would there have been any bearing on a charging decision for a criminal offence.
Byron Long was given a police caution for supplying the Diazepam, something Stephen Doughty admits he initiated, and despite being complicit in the criminal offence of procuring a prescription drug he has not even questioned. This is extraordinary given the police received an allegation that over a 2 year period Doughty had obtained, in the same manner, 140 Diazepam pills. The police didn’t even ask Doughty to deny the allegation. Incredulous Welsh Labour Party sources point out that Alun Michael is the serving South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner. The former First Secretary of Wales and Leader of the Welsh Labour Party is a close friend of Doughty’s father, and Stephen Doughty is himself a protege of Alun Michael, who assisted Doughty in getting his seat. Senior police officers would not be unaware of the Commissioner’s political relationship.
Yesterday Guido asked Starmer’s office if he still had full confidence in his frontbencher – they declined to respond. Doughty himself is being evasive, citing mental health issues.
The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has ruled that Labour MP Stephen Doughty showed a “severe error of judgement” in asking a vulnerable constituent to supply him diazepam – a prescription-only Class C drug – yet nonetheless ruled that he did not break the Parliamentary Code of Conduct in doing so. Apparently he was “complicit in a criminal offence”, though too “naive” to even realise it. Stephen Doughty is a lawmaker.
In a response issued on Wednesday, Commissioner Kathryn Stone said that while Doughty had invited the constituent to “meet his pet cat” and subsequently asked him for “any spare diazepam” for an upcoming flight (which he received the next day), he “did not demonstrate an appreciation that […] he was asking him to commit a criminal offence.” Ironically, Doughty ended up cancelling the flight and claims he never even took the diazepam anyway.
Stone concluded her ruling that Doughty had “learned a very difficult lesson“:
However damaging these events have been for Mr Doughty personally, I am not persuaded that his actions have caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House as a whole, or of its Members generally. Mr Doughty has learned a very difficult lesson, but his naivety and ill advised behaviour does not reflect more widely on other Members. I do not therefore uphold the allegation that he acted in breach of paragraph 17 of the Code of Conduct.
The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner seems to have overlooked that Doughty did however blatantly breach paragraph 5 of the duty of the Code of Conduct:
“Members have a duty to uphold the law”
The claim that his “ill-advised behaviour does not reflect more widely on other Members” is arguable. If the public thinks MPs are legislating whilst hallucinating on diazepam it might explain a few things, it will however hardly enhance the reputation of MPs. Whilst Guido thinks it should be legal to buy happy pills like diazepam over the counter, it isn’t legal now. If being complicit in a criminal offence isn’t a breach of the MPs’ Code of Conduct it means lawmakers can be law breakers as far as the Standards Commissioner is concerned. Ten years after the expenses scandal we are seeing the neutralising of the checks on MPs’ misbehaviour. IPSA and the Standards Commissioner are slowly yet surely undergoing regulatory recapture by MPs. It will end badly…
Labour MP Claudia Webbe has her hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court this morning at 10.00, in Court 10, on a charge related to two years-worth of harassing a young woman. Keith Vaz has his fingers crossed…
Standing in the pouring rain at Surrey Police headquarters this afternoon, a dripping wet Boris revealed that – as part of his new Beating Crime Plan – he now wants to see the return of ‘fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs’ to deter would-be offenders:
“Somebody’s anti-social behaviour may be treated as a minor crime but it could be deeply distressing to those who are victims.
If you are guilty of anti-social behaviour and you are sentenced to unpaid work, as many people are, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be out there in one of those fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs, visibly paying your debt to society.”
Whether or not these yobs will actually be chained at the hip is another matter: a government source tells Guido that ‘chain gangs’ was just a “turn of phrase”, and they won’t really be locked together. Talk about raining on Boris’s parade…
Priti Patel has unveiled new plans to crack down on crime and antisocial behaviour on Britain’s streets, by forcing criminals – including drug offenders – to pick litter and carry out charity work as part of a renewed push to make “yobs pay back the communities they’ve blighted“. The scheme forms part of Boris’s Beating Crime Plan – announced today – which also aims to tag more burglars released from jail, relaxes restrictions on stop-and-search, and promises to provide a named police officer to every local community in the country.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Patel said:
“The public want to see justice done and criminals pay the price for their crimes. They want to see yobs pay back to the communities they’ve blighted by their thoughtless actions.
That’s why we are relaunching unpaid work so it is more visible, to ensure offenders are publicly making reparations for their crimes by undertaking work that is valuable to their local areas, such as cleaning the streets, estates, alleyways and open spaces of litter and other visible signs of disorder in local neighbourhoods.”
Today Sadiq Khan released a typically-polished video promoting London ahead of the Euros. While Sadiq continues focusing on his image, and participating in Twitter trends, Guido thought it’d be useful to remind the mayor of real-life under his city. He’s welcome.