Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/19/pceu_tribunal/

Top cyber crime cop lied under oath, says judge

Scotland Yard skulduggery

By Christopher Williams

Posted in Law, 19th October 2010 11:45 GMT

Exclusive The head of the national police unit set up to tackle internet crime told lies under oath about her involvement in a plot to damage the career of a junior detective, a judge has said.

Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, of the Met's high-profile Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), falsely claimed that conversations she had with a whistleblower never took place, an employment tribunal heard.

"Miss McMurdie sat there and she told us lies," employment judge Sandra Pontac charged.

Charlie McMurdie

"She told us that none of it happened."

The allegation, made by Pontac during a hearing last week to set damages, attended by The Register, leaves McMurdie open to potential prosecution for perjury, according to Ministry of Justice guidance.

The employment tribunal awarded Detective Sergeant Howard Shaw £37,000 damages and £1,000 costs after earlier finding McMurdie and a close colleague colluded to force him out of the PCeU.

Shaw, 47, an anti-fraud specialist who has been in the Met for 28 years, discovered in October 2008 that Detective Inspector Kevin Williams planned to cheat to obtain a coveted role in the newly-formed PCeU. Williams obtained the questions interview candidates were due to face in advance, and scored more than 90 per cent, compared to about 30 per cent for Detective Inspector Paul Amoo, a competing candidate.

Shaw reported the wrongdoing to McMurdie, a member of the selection panel, who took no action and instead appointed Williams to the new unit, where he would be Shaw's line manager. It emerged in evidence that after Amoo also learned and complained about Williams' cheating, McMurdie created another new role for him within the PCeU.

"It was clear to me that Detective Superintendent McMurdie had swept the misconduct and dishonesty under the carpet," Shaw told the tribunal.

Following the appointment, Shaw told McMurdie he intended to take the matter further in a "row" over the telephone. It was this discussion that McMurdie denied ever happened, prompting Pontac to repeatedly insist, in an argument with the Met's lawyer over whether the defence was reasonable, last week that McMurdie had "lied".

Those "lies" were crucial to the case, because the tribunal found the complaints Shaw made against Williams should have granted him legally-protected whistleblower status.

Instead, within a week, McMurdie and Williams, who shared an office, had rushed to instigate internal disciplinary proceedings against Shaw and to remove him from his new job. Their allegations surrounded an outside business interest for which Shaw had applied for approval more than 18 months previously.

"We found they acted on the basis of allegations which they knew or ought to have known were untrue," the tribunal found.

McMurdie and Williams told the tribunal they acted out of genuine suspicion about Shaw's commercial plans.

Prior to the investigation, Shaw had an "exemplary" record, and he has since been cleared of any conflict of interest by the Home Secretary. More likely than not, the tribunal found, McMurdie and Williams instigated the disciplinary process against him because he blew the whistle on Williams' cheating.

Nevertheless, the pressure of the investigation combined with the humiliation of being escorted from police premises by Williams, who then carried out an unwarranted search of his desk in front of colleagues, took a toll. Shaw suffered nightmares and was signed off work for 18 weeks with depression.

He is now serving in a unit dealing with extradition cases, where he expects to see out the remaining two years of his police service. McMurdie and Williams, meanwhile, have prospered.

McMurdie remains in place at the head of the PCeU and has not been disciplined for her actions. Under her management the unit enjoys the vocal support of Sir Paul Stephenson, the nation's most senior police officer.

'They have won and I have lost'

Williams' career has not apparently suffered either. Last year he became the first Met officer seconded to GCHQ's new Cyber Security Operations Centre.

He was also recently appointed as staff officer to Assistant Commissioner Janet Williams, who oversees the PCeU and is one of the most powerful figures in the Met, despite his apparent dishonesty. The Met has applied its weakest sanction - "words of advice" - against him over the affair.

"Make no mistake," Shaw told the tribunal. "They have won and I have lost."

"I have had to spend thousands of pounds to try to clear my name and regain my status. Their careers will progress, mine is finished."

In response to questions about whether any action will be taken against McMurdie over false statements to the tribunal, a spokesman for the Met said "the officers are not under investigation".

"However, as with any tribunal, the Met will carefully review the findings to see if there is any wider learning for the future."

He added that it should not be assumed from that statement that no action will be taken against officers after the tribunal delivers its written remedies judgment.

A third senior officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Nigel Mawer, who was involved in setting up the PCeU, was also criticised in the judgment. He admitted adding a crucial undated note to the file on Shaw's business interests after the investigation had started, and that it could amount to "tampering with evidence".

Mawer, who retired last week and recently headed the investigation into allegations of spot-fixing against the Pakistani cricket team, was "surprisingly and exceptionally careless", the tribunal found. It stopped short of finding any intentional wrongdoing on his part.

Shaw's case also raises concerns about security standards at the PCeU, which handles material classified up to Top Secret. Mawer said it is "not an uncommon" practice for officers to take sensitive work home with them.

Concerns over separate failures by McMurdie to follow security procedures led a member of the Security Service to follow her home, the tribunal heard.

Shaw also told the tribunal he and another officer had complained to McMurdie over her appointment of a part-time volunteer outside the normal security vetting process. It later emerged that the volunteer had failed vetting for both the Met and Surrey Police, he said, because she lived with a former police constable who had been charged with importing Class A drugs.

Shaw had sought £2m in exceptional damages for his treatment at the hands of Mawer, McMurdie and Williams to "force the police to take disciplinary action against the wrong-doers". He planned to donate all the money to charity after paying his lawyer.

"I believe that a punitive award of less than £50,000 will not deter the Met in future from destroying the next whistleblower for whom justice, honesty, integrity and conscience still mean something," he told the tribunal.

The award of £38,000 does not cover his legal bill. ®