The Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner responsible for our anti-terrorism programme, Bob Quick, has been in every newspaper with the photograph of the secret document which he helpfully held in full view of photographers in Downing Street, very nearly blowing a major anti-terrorist operation. His resignation has also generated one of the most remarkable Sun headlines for some time: “You can’t quit quicker than a thick Quick quitter”. Hmmmm.
In fact Quick has had not a bad press. It was a silly mistake, but to be fair, isn’t it the sort of unforced error we all make from time to time? Can’t we find it in our hearts to forgive and forget? Indeed a number of papers are commending Quick for his Quick resignation (there, I’m doing it now), and commenting favourably on his taking his responsibility on the chin, unlike (for example) Jacqui Smith. They seem to be ignoring the fact that he had been told in terms that his position was untenable and he could not go on. If he had not resigned, he would have been fired. And his chagrin must be comforted by the idea of coming into a six-figure pension at the age of 49. Nice work if you can get it.
Fortunately the police operation, rapidly brought forward in response to Quick’s gaffe, seems to have been successful. Nevertheless Quick’s error put at risk a long, tedious and expensive police investigation, and arguably increased the risk to the public which Quick was there to protect. Yes, anyone can make a mistake, but this man, for heaven’s sake, was a professional anti-terrorism officer. Secrecy and security should have been in his blood.
Recall that last October a civil servant, 37-year old Richard Jackson, was fined £2500 after pleading guilty to leaving secret terrorist-related documents on a train. No doubt it was an accident. No doubt Mr. Jackson was as mortified over his lapse as Bob Quick over his. It seems to me (and I’m not lawyer) that if Richard Jackson breached the Official Secrets Act (however inadvertently) and ended up in court, the same should apply in spades to Mr. Quick. He too appears to have broken the law, and he did so much more conspicuously than Mr. Jackson.
Instead of taking comfort from the warm words in the media about his honourably taking responsibility for his error, Bob Quick should perhaps be thanking his lucky stars that he did not end up in court.
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