|Publisher||Pen & Sword Books|
|Date Published||07 May 2016|
Crime and Corruption at the Yard
DI David Woodland’s 19 years service covers the growing pressure on the capital’s police, its major scandals, and the current problems faced by a depleted, demoralised force hamstrung by gutless bosses and the effects of PC and ‘human rights’ on the preservation of law and order.
The author’s 19 years service, partly as a Detective Inspector in the Crime Intelligence Branch at Scotland Yard, eventually forced out by an undoubtedly corrupt, but undetected, senior officer, makes him uniquely qualified to write about the turmoil of those years which changed the face of policing forever.
I take issue with both the main and sub-titles of his book: ‘Downfall of Scotland Yard’ implies spectacular revelations – and there just aren’t any! Most of the incidents he refers to were public knowledge at the time or soon after and his weak excuse for giving pseudonyms to some of those involved, including corrupt officers, does not wash with me.
The 1971 Baker Street bank robbery is a case in point. Thieves tunnelled into the vault of Lloyds bank and broke open dozens of deposit boxes, leaving huge quantities of jewellery, cash, bearer bonds and other valuables strewn across the floor. Five senior CID men – two Detective Chief Superintendents, a Superintendent and two DCIs auctioned this off to a well-known fence, a Bedfordshire antique dealer. To this day I could name all six involved! Only two criminals were ever caught – both by Woodland – and little more than £70,000 recovered, although it was rumoured the haul was probably in excess of £5 million. So many of the box holders were unwilling to come forward it was impossible to say what had actually been taken!
Press pursuit of the story was soon shut down by a D notice, a government gagging order ‘in the interests of national security’, an unusual event and one which gave rise to wild stories that the raid had been masterminded by the security services to recover compromising photos of Princess Margaret and the gangster John Bindon, acquitted of a contract killing earlier that year! Be that as it may, the case was never solved.
Using his own cases and experience, Woodland demonstrates the difficulties faced by a demoralised CID, not least from A10 ‘the enemy within’ – the specialist department set up by Mark and employing officers from outside the Met – to investigate corruption. The ‘Swedey’ as they were dubbed, did not have a clue, swallowed almost everything they were told by criminals anxious to get themselves off the hook or for revenge. As a result the careers of many fine and honest detectives came to abrupt ends.
I had personal experience of their gullibility when a complaint was registered against me by a minor pornographer from Watford who had grassed everyone in sight to save himself, that I had physically threatened him. As a result I spent an uncomfortable hour with a Superintendent from Dyfed Powys, who I still think believes a toe rag I never actually succeeded in even talking to!
Woodland had a reputation of being too clever and too straight for his bosses. His clashes with Commander Dave ‘The Kipper’ Dilley, then boss of C11, which ended with the junior man being dumped back into uniform, are the key to this story – and to the corruption which gripped the Met CID.
‘The Kipper’ – two faces and no backbone – was because of his position the holder of all secrets and the spider at the centre of the web. While his buddies Commanders Ken Drury, CO8 Flying Squad, and Wally Virgo, head of C1 Central, and his deputy Det Superintendent John Groves all went to prison, Dilley somehow managed, possibly through political influence, to survive to ‘honourable’ retirement!
This is a tragic tale. From minor crimes to big investigations; from a young ambitious officer to the disillusioned and stressed man forced quit the Job he loved, unwilling and unable to continue.
With the power of the CID now destroyed and the culture of heads below the parapet orthodoxy and the blight of political correctness as the only way to promotion, it goes some way to explaining why the average law-abiding citizen no longer has protection against criminals and terrorists.
Old-style law enforcement relied on an unspoken agreement between police and public. Often unorthodox detectives such as the incorruptible ‘Nipper’ Read and Bert ‘The Old Grey Fox’ Wickstead solved crimes in their own unique way – and no-one looked too closely.
Corrupt coppers like Drury, Dilley, Virgo and hundreds more destroyed that just as surely as the villains from whom they took their bungs such as Bernie Silver, Ernie Pyle, Frank Mifsud, the Krays, the Richardsons, Dudley, the crooked financier Judah Binstock and others.
This is a book, despite its failings, that everyone concerned with law and order should read, not only to learn from the past, but possibly to avoid another crisis in enforcement which already appears to be building to a head!
Reviewed 24 December 2016 by John Cleal