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Wed, 5 August 2020

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Gavin Williamson dodges criminal probe as police chief says ministers would need to refer leak case

Gavin Williamson dodges criminal probe as police chief says ministers would need to refer leak case
3 min read

Gavin Williamson will avoid a criminal investigation into his alleged role in leaking top-secret information after the head of the Metropolitan Police said the case would need to be referred to them by ministers.


The former Defence Secretary was dramatically fired by Theresa May last night after being accused of passing on details of plans to give Chinese firm Huawei a role in the development of the UK's 5G network.

The Prime Minister asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill to launch an investigation after her plans, which she revealed at a meeting of the National Security Council (NCS), were reported in the Daily Telegraph.

The claim by the Met's commissioner, Cressida Dick, came as Downing Street confirmed that top officials did not believe the issue needed to be pursued.

The police chief said: “If the Cabinet Office were to send us a referral at any point that related to apparent official secrets or an associated leak we would assess that.

“We would scope it and we would go through a very formal gateway process before taking on any criminal investigation."

Meanwhile the Prime Minister's spokesperson said: “This was not about what was leaked, it is about where it was leaked from and the importance of maintaining trust and the integrity of the NSC."

“The Cabinet Secretary does not judge it necessary to refer to the police. The Prime Minister considers the matter to be closed.”

In a furious letter to Mr Williamson following his sacking, Mrs May said: "In our meeting this evening, I put to you the latest information from the investigation, which provides compelling evidence suggesting your responsibility for the unauthorised disclosure. No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified."

The South Staffordshire MP - who has been replaced iin the post by Penny Mordaunt - has denied being the source of the leak, and claimed he is the victim of a "kangaroo court" and a political stitch-up.

CASE 'CANNOT BE CLOSED'

Opposition parties had ramped up calls for the authorities to pursue Mr Williamson’s role in the leak amid claims that he may have broken the Official Secrets Act.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson told the Commons: "In response to receiving the most brutal sacking I can think of, the member for South Staffordshire has protested his innocence therefore this matter cannot be, as the Prime Minister says, closed.

"The essential point here is that the Prime Minister has sacked the Secretary of State for Defence because she believes compelling evidence he has committed a crime, but despite that she doesn’t believe he should face criminal investigation.

"Where is the justice in that? In what world is it acceptable that the Prime Minister should be the arbiter of whether a politician she believes is guilty of criminal conduct in office should face a criminal investigation?" 

Meanwhile Tory MP Bob Blackman said: “If the Secretary Of State is not responsible for the leak which he says he’s not, then someone within the NSC is.

“Therefore it is absolutely vital in most people’s view there is an independent police investigation to demonstrate whether he is guilty or not.”

His colleague Bob Stewart, who served as a colonel in the British Army, told the BBC: "This should not be a political decision, this is a criminal decision...

"When you sign the Official Secrets Act you realise if you breach security, if you tell something you shouldn't do, you will be charged and brought before the court, maybe a court-martial or civilian court.

Conservative backbencher Peter Bone defended Mr Williamson however, adding: “The former Secretary of State has said on the lives of his children that he did not leak the information.

"This seems to have been a kangaroo court reaching a decision in secret which we have no evidence to base any decision on."

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