Page last updated at 23:52 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 00:52 UK

Bob Quick defends Damian Green leaks probe arrest

Bob Quick "I accepted I wasn't popular"

The former police chief who arrested a Tory MP in a leaks probe has defended his actions, saying documents were stolen from the home secretary's safe.

Bob Quick defended his investigation of Damian Green after he established a civil servant was leaking documents.

Neither Mr Green nor the official were charged. Mr Quick later quit after accidentally showing secret documents.

In a BBC interview, he says he may have survived that blunder had it not been for the leaks inquiry.

The former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner - then the national co-ordinator of counter-terrorism - began investigating leaks from the then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's office, amid fears that there could be a breach of national security.

His team later arrested civil servant Christopher Galley, who admitted passing documents to the Conservative's immigration spokesman Damian Green.

In turn, detectives raided Mr Green's Parliamentary office and later arrested the MP, sparking fury in the House of Commons.

I accepted I wasn't popular in those quarters... I'd read in newspapers various unattributed comments 'we're going to get Quick'
Bob Quick, on his resignation

In the interview, Mr Quick says that he had a duty to investigate the leaks because of the potential seriousness of the security breach within the Home Office.

"What we didn't know is whether more serious offences had been committed," he said.

"All we really knew was that someone or maybe more than one person was prepared to steal documents from the home secretary's private office safe and intercept her letters to the prime minister.

"Documents were stolen from a safe… in the home secretary's office where sensitive material was kept, so for these reasons we saw it as pretty serious.

"I think this point got lost in the furore about violating the sanctity of Parliament. In that noise it was very difficult to convey the facts.

"The difficulty really was that if you have someone that you can clearly demonstrate was prepared to steal documents from a safe that we know holds very sensitive material, then you're under a duty to find out exactly what has been leaked and to whom."

Criticised in reports

Mr Quick was subsequently heavily criticised for the leaks inquiry.

The Inspectorate of Constabulary said the use of police resources was "debatable" and an internal police review said Damien Green's arrest was "not proportionate" - but Mr Quick said Mr Green had been given "special facilities" while in custody.

"Ordinarily we would have chosen to invite Mr Green into the police station to be interviewed, but unfortunately information was brought to our attention that indicated that might not be an appropriate course."

The officer's career ended in April 2009 when a document he was carrying containing details of an anti-terrorist operation was photographed as he arrived for a meeting in Downing Street.

Mr Quick offered his resignation to the Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson - but he believes he might have survived his security mistake if it had not been for the leaks inquiry.

"I accepted I wasn't popular in those quarters," he said. "I'd read in newspapers various unattributed comments - 'we're going to get Quick' and all this sort of nonsense - so I guess I wasn't surprised by that."

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