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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 18:12 GMT
Met chief taping 'unacceptable'
Sir Ian Blair and Lord Goldsmith
Sir Ian was discussing wire tap evidence with Lord Goldsmith
Sir Ian Blair was acting in a "totally unacceptable" way when he secretly recorded calls, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority has said.

Len Duvall said he had had assurances from the Met commissioner "it would never happen again" and did not see the incident as a "resignation issue".

Calls with the attorney general, a journalist and the Independent Police Complaints Commission had been taped.

Sir Ian had "expressed regret" for the calls and has apologised.

He had earlier said he taped Lord Goldsmith's call as he had wanted a record because they were discussing a complex issue and he did not have a note taker.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said the chief inspector of constabulary is to issue guidance to police forces on the recording of telephone conversations "so there can be no ambiguity".

'Back at desk'

Mr Duvall discussed the taping with the Met's deputy commissioner Paul Stephenson and other senior officers on Monday afternoon.

Controversy appears to attach itself to Sir Ian on an almost daily basis
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg

He said it was made clear to Sir Ian that his actions were wrong.

"I'll be following that up with a written letter," Mr Duvall said. "We don't expect that to occur again."

Mr Duvall said of the six calls that were recorded, one was to Lord Goldsmith, three were with members of the IPCC, and one came after Sir Ian "accidentally" taped a call with a member of his own family.

Sir Ian also taped a conversation with Guardian journalist Ian Katz, who had been conducting a series of interviews with the Met chief.

"Due to time scales and availability this final interview took place over the telephone and was therefore also recorded, as is normal practice for interviews with journalists," said Mr Duvall.

The MPA has the power to require the commissioner to retire or resign.

But Mr Duvall said: "I want him at his desk tomorrow working to keep Londoners safe.

"Ian Blair does a very good job on behalf of London. This was a mistake that was made, it has been brought to his attention."

The recorded conversation with the attorney general - the chief legal adviser to the government - took place last September when the two men discussed the admissibility of wire tap evidence in court, but it did not concern a particular case.

'Rather cross'

An IPCC spokesman said the taped conversations - including one with chairman Nick Hardwick - came to light as part of its inquiry into the aftermath of the shooting.

A statement later confirmed Mr Hardwick had accepted a personal apology from Sir Ian.

On learning this weekend that his conversation had been recorded, Lord Goldsmith was said to be "rather cross" and "somewhat disappointed".

On Monday, his spokesman said Sir Ian's apology had been accepted and the matter was now closed.

Tony Blair's spokesman has said he has "full confidence" in Sir Ian.

Speaking after the Metropolitan Police Authority meeting, the home secretary also gave his backing to Sir Ian and said he now considered the "matter closed".

Livingstone's support

The Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said Sir Ian had been unwise to record telephone conversations but did not think he should resign.

"It was improper and I think that's been reflected by the original anger of the attorney general and by Sir Ian Blair's own apology for doing so."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said Sir Ian would "have to come up with a very good explanation for this extraordinary behaviour".

But the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has given him his full backing for "doing a first-class job".

Sir Ian, who is thought to have arrived back in Britain on Monday after a skiing holiday, has been criticised previously for his handling of the aftermath of the shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes by anti-terror police at Stockwell Tube station last July.

Remarks he made about the Soham murders also generated a furore in the media.

Sir Ian Blair at a press conference
Sir Ian will return from holiday to face questions about his actions

The recording and monitoring of telephone calls is governed by a number of different pieces of UK legislation, according to Ofcom, the telephone industry regulator.

It is not illegal for individuals to tape conversations providing the recording is for their own use, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

It is a civil, not criminal, matter if a conversation or e-mail has been recorded and shared unlawfully.

If a person intends to make the conversation available to a third party, they must first obtain the consent of the person being recorded.

Details of the controversy surrounding Sir Ian Blair

Police defend shooting strategy
08 Mar 06 |  London
Profile: Sir Ian Blair
27 Jan 06 |  UK

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