The cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, has answered queries from the Labour Party over the way the arrest of Patrick Rock was handled by 10 Downing Street.
Labour’s shadow minister Jon Ashworth had raised questions about the arrest of Mr Rock, formerly a senior advisor in Downing Street, on suspicion of an offence relating to images of child abuse.
Principal among these was the following: “Why were details of his resignation [which would have included the allegation of possessing child abuse imagery] not made public immediately?”
This is important as the Daily Mail revived ancient allegations that members of the Labour Party had been connected with a paedophile group, in the period between Mr Rock’s resignation/arrest and the revelation that this had taken place.
Sir Jeremy’s response: “Our … actions were driven by the overriding importance of not jeopardising either [the National Crime Agency’s] investigation or the possibility of a prosecution.
“We judged it was inappropriate to make an announcement while the NCA investigations were continuing.”
Do you think that’s good enough?
In any other recent situation involving allegations relating to child abuse connected to a public figure, the arrests have been publicised immediately. Look at Dave Lee Travis and William Roache (both of whom were acquitted, although the former must go back for a retrial).
Look at Freddie Starr – TV cameras were outside his home when the police went to talk to him (before any arrests were made).
These are people with a far higher public profile than some Downing Street advisor – yet he got special treatment, with a delay of publicity, and the Mail slid a ‘dead cat’ attack on Labour into the gap.
Remember when I last wrote about this, two days ago? I made it clear that Heywood needed to make his answer good, as “it would be unfortunate for his career if it became clear at a later time that he had tried to protect anybody. Closing ranks to look after your own people is a human response – but inappropriate at high levels of government.”
Isn’t that exactly what has happened?
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