Page last updated at 14:21 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Green bail extended by two months

Damian Green
Mr Green's arrest caused widespread anger among MPs

Damian Green must wait a further two months to learn if he will be prosecuted as a result of the Home Office leaks inquiry.

Scotland Yard said it needed more time to consider the impact of Parliamentary privilege on the evidence.

The Tory frontbencher's bail has been extended to April.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the overtime and expenses bill for the team of police officers working on the case is so far running at 60,000.

Home Office official Christopher Galley, who is accused of passing the shadow immigration minister sensitive documents, must also wait a further two months.

In a joint statement, the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "The bail date for Christopher Galley and Damian Green has today (Friday) been extended from February 17 to April 20 because issues of Parliamentary privilege raised by Damian Green have yet to be resolved.

"The CPS has considered all the material already submitted and intends to make a decision on whether to charge Christopher Galley and Damian Green as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving any further available evidence."

Ancient rights

MPs are guaranteed freedom of speech under the ancient right of Parliamentary privilege, which means they cannot be sued for defamation for what they say in the chamber.

It also gives MPs the right not to be arrested in the Palace of Westminster on civil matters, although they can still be arrested on criminal matters.

The Damian Green affair has raised questions about the extent of privilege, which was developed at a time when MPs needed to assert their rights against the power of the sovereign.

Meanwhile, it appears the final bill for the police inquiry could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Details of the overtime costs emerged after a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association.

'Opportunity costs'

Scotland Yard had meant to reject the request on the grounds that disclosure could disrupt the high-profile inquiry - but accidentally included a partial figure in its response.

Between the probe being launched last October and 16 January, the force laid out 56,599 on "additional costs" - mainly overtime, subsistence and equipment.

The figure does not include basic pay for staff and other resources that could have been deployed elsewhere - so-called "opportunity costs".

Nine officers are believed to have taken part in the operation to arrest Mr Green in November.

The shadow immigration minister's home and offices in Kent and Parliament were raided after he received a series of embarrassing leaks from a Home Office "mole".

The action also led to criticism of Commons Speaker Michael Martin for permitting a search on the parliamentary estate without a warrant.

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