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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 10:28 GMT
Police butler action defended
Harold Brown leaving court
Harold Brown was the second royal butler cleared
The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority has defended his force's action over the royal butler cases and appealed for calm.

Lord Harris said the decision to prosecute in the cases against Harold Brown and Paul Burrell was "lengthy" and not just taken by the police alone.

It is time for people to calm down about this

Lord Harris

The Prince of Wales' household hit back on Wednesday at accusations that it failed to make it clear to police officers that "gifting" unwanted presents to servants - who may later sell them - was common practice.

Lord Harris, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said he wanted to wait to hear the results of the police and palace inquiries and warned against making "statements through the press".

Lessons to be learned

He told the programme: "It is time for people to calm down about this... stop making statements through the press and wait until the various inquiries have been completed."

Lord Harris said he was not sure why the Prince of Wales' office decided to speak out publicly on Wednesday to rebut claims about gifts to staff.

He said: "I am not sure what claims it is they feel they need to rebut.

"Presumably they need to put into the public domain their expectation that everyone would realise, would understand, that it is normal procedure to pass on official gifts... onto your servants."


He said the independent police inquiry - to be carried out by former police inspector William Taylor - would look at all aspects of the cases, to see what lessons could be learned.

"We will want to understand what he has found and where there are clear recommendations for action, then we want to follow those up very carefully," said Lord Harris.

A Commons motion, suggesting members of the Royal Family should be "invited" to log gifts they receive in a public register, was signed by a group of Labour MPs on Thursday.

The listing would be updated annually and would state where the gift is located, or how it was disposed of.

The motion was signed by MPs Gordon Prentice, Tony Banks and Paul Flynn.

On Wednesday, Sir Michael Peat, who is leading the internal St James's Palace inquiry into the alleged sale of royal gifts, said police had known all along that it was part of the culture of the palace.

Asked if the police understood this practice, Lord Harris said the inquiry would establish "what was legitimately known and whether the right questions were asked".

"You have got to remember that the decision to prosecute is not just something for the police," he told the programme, adding that there would have been a "lengthy decision-making process" before the cases were brought.

'Known all along'

On Wednesday Sir Michael Peat said it was "totally clear" that the Prince and Princess of Wales gave gifts of some value to staff.

His criticism follows the collapse of the case against butler Harold Brown, who was accused of stealing valuables from the estate of Diana, Princess of Wales, and selling them.

A month previously, the theft trial of Diana's former butler Paul Burrell collapsed when the Queen remembered he had told her he was keeping certain items.

Sir Michael said police had known all along that "vast treasures" had been given to Mr Burrell.

Tony Blair entered the row on Wednesday, telling MPs that "the Crown Prosecution Service are learning the lessons of both cases - and I hope they learn them quickly".

Sir Michael Peat
Sir Michael: "Vast treasures" were given away

In his statement, Sir Michael said any suggestion that the palace had misled police officers "came from the Police Federation".

The internal palace inquiry was set up after the Burrell trial and was cited by the prosecution in the Brown trial in its failed attempt to get a postponement.

BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said the Royal Family had obviously been "rattled" by widespread criticism in the press.

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Lord Young, Metropolitan Police Authority
"There is going to be an inquiry"

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