Ian Blair

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For the Scottish actor and author, see Iain Blair.
The Lord Blair of Boughton
QPM
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
In office
1 January 2005 – 1 December 2008
Deputy Sir Paul Stephenson
Preceded by Sir John Stevens
Succeeded by Sir Paul Stephenson
Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
In office
2000–2005
Preceded by Sir John Stevens
Succeeded by Sir Paul Stephenson
Personal details
Born Ian Warwick Blair
(1953-03-19) 19 March 1953 (age 61)
Chester, Cheshire, England
Profession Speaker, writer and consultant on strategic policing, leadership and security
Police officer (1974–2008)
Religion Anglican[1]

Ian Warwick Blair, Baron Blair of Boughton, QPM (born 19 March 1953) is a retired British policeman who held the position of commissioner of police of the metropolis from 2005 to 2008 and was the highest-ranking officer within the Metropolitan Police Service.

On 2 October 2008 Blair announced that he would officially step down from the post on 1 December after disagreements with Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. He was succeeded by Sir Paul Stephenson on 28 January 2009.[2]

Early life[edit]

Blair was born in Chester to Jim and Sheila in 1953. His father spent most of his career working for Lever Brothers, eventually rising to manage the dock at Port Sunlight in Merseyside. His mother was from Sheffield and her father had made a living as a steel merchant until he suffered major losses in the Great Depression in the 1930s. Both Blair and his brother, six years his senior, were sent to independent school at the expense of one of their father's brothers, who was a successful doctor. Blair's brother, Sandy, left school early to work for a solicitors' firm.[3]

Blair was sent to Wrekin College in Wellington, Shropshire. Jim had been determined that his son would become a doctor—as his father (Ian's grandfather) had been. However, Blair rebelled against his father and refused to take O-Level biology, knowing it would disqualify him from a potential medical career. He initially had no aspiration to go to university, as neither of his parents nor his brother had had a university education. However, he was inspired by a teacher at Wrekin to apply to Christ Church, Oxford.[3]

Early police career[edit]

Blair joined the Metropolitan Police in 1974, under the High Potential Developer Scheme for Graduates. He joined as the rank of Constable, based in Soho, London. Eventually over the next 10 years serving as a sergeant and inspector in both uniform and CID in central London.[4]

In 1985 he wrote a book criticising the way police handled rape cases.[5][6] In 1985 Blair was promoted to detective chief inspector in Kentish Town, North London. He was responsible for identifying the victims of the 1987 King's Cross fire. In 1988 he reached the rank of superintendent, heading a project designed to reorganise criminal investigations. He obtained the rank of chief superintendent in 1991, as staff officer in HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.[4]

In 1994, he transferred to Thames Valley Police as assistant Chief Constable, later becoming deputy chief constable in 1997, and during the same year took charge of policing the protests over the construction of the Newbury bypass. He was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in 1999 and received a Knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 2003, for his service.[4]

Blair was formerly deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police under the then commissioner Sir John Stevens, and before that chief constable of Surrey Police.[4]

While serving as deputy commissioner, he gained a reputation for being a "thinking man's policeman". He called for more female, ethnic minority and gay recruits. In 2002 he publicly stated that "Society cannot duck the fact that most muggers are black", and in response the National Black Police Association stated that black recruits could be deterred by such comments.[7]

Commissioner[edit]

Shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes[edit]

Several months into his tenure, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot and killed by armed police who mistakenly believed he was a suicide bomber.

After the shooting Blair telephoned the Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and wrote a letter to the Home Office stating that "the shooting that has just occurred at Stockwell is not to be referred to the IPCC and that they will be given no access to the scene at the present time".[8]

Blair has since claimed that he made this order in an effort to prevent critical aspects of an ongoing investigation from being leaked. He said, "The IPCC has a duty to provide as much information as it can to members of the deceased's family and I felt that supplying details of tactics or sources to the family of a suspected terrorist could put further lives at risk."[9]

Blair also claimed that a warning had been issued prior to the shooting. The IPCC held an investigation into what later turned out to be a false statement, and into allegations of attempts to delay an inquiry. On 2 August 2007 the IPCC announced its findings that the allegations against Blair couldn't be substantiated, instead placing the blame for misleading the public on Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, who had failed to report his suspicions that an innocent man had been killed, and had released contradictory statements to the press.[10]

After Blair learned that the shooting of de Menezes had been a case of mistaken identity, he briefly considered resigning.[11]

During the investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into the wrongful shooting, one of his Deputy Assistant Commissioners Brian Paddick stated that a member of Blair's private office team had believed the wrong man had been targeted just six hours after the shooting.[12] This allegation was contradicted by New Scotland Yard, and Paddick said that this amounted to accusing him of lying.[12] On 28 March 2006, Paddick accepted a statement from the Metropolitan Police that it "did not intend to imply" a senior officer had misled the probe into the shooting and that "any misunderstanding is regretted".[13]

In June 2006, a leaked copy of the Independent Police Complaints Commission report sparked further criticism and calls to quit.[14]

On 1 November 2007, a jury convicted the Metropolitan Police of violating health and safety laws, highlighting 19 "catastrophic errors" but said it was an "isolated breach under quite extraordinary circumstances".[15] Blair rejected a vote of no confidence by the London Assembly a week later.[16] Blair continued to receive the support of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the head of which said that he would not have accepted any resignation offered by Blair.[16]

Operation Finnean[edit]

In 2005 and 2006 Blair was involved in Operation Finnean, a £280,000 investigation into supermodel Kate Moss's alleged possession and distribution of a Class A drug. It has been alleged that the operation was systematically sabotaged by officers eager to undermine Blair and Ghaffur's high profile stance on celebrity drug taking, and thereby erode their authority.[17]

Bonus pay[edit]

In 2007 Blair was criticised by senior colleagues at New Scotland Yard after he sought a £25,000 performance bonus during criminal proceedings over the shooting of de Menezes,[18] while on a salary of £228,000 and with rank-and-file officers facing the prospect of pay cuts.[18][19]

Terrorism[edit]

In November 2005, a controversy about detention without charge proposals led to Blair becoming involved in allegations of the police being "politicised", when he and other senior police officers were known to have lobbied MPs to support Government proposals to hold terrorist suspects for 90 days.[20]

After the failure of the Forest Gate Raid, 2006, several sources once again called on Blair to resign. Prime Minister Tony Blair confirmed his support for the Commissioner.[21]

In a BBC Radio 4 interview Blair stated that Islamic terrorism "is a far graver threat in terms of civilians than either the Cold War or the Second World War".[22] Civilians killed in World War II totalled around 47 million.

IT contract[edit]

The Metropolitan Police Authority requested on 28 July 2008 that Blair face an inquiry over a series of IT contracts with the Metropolitan Police worth £3 million won by Impact Plus, a consultancy owned by Andy Miller, who is a long-time friend of Blair.[23] The commissioner denied any wrongdoing and said that he was "open and straightforward in informing both the Metropolitan Police Service and the MPA about [his] relationship [with Miller]". He said that he had set out in writing his connection with Miller and had no part in the evaluation process. It has however been reported in the press that on one occasion another company was turned down for a contract won by Impact Plus, despite its bid being a third of the winning offer.[23]

No bid PR contract[edit]

In October 2008 it was reported that Blair had used public money to pay an estimated £15,000 to Impact Plus, owned by a skiing partner and close friend of Sir Ian for 30 years Andy Miller.[24][25]

Controversially no other company was invited to bid for the public relations contract.[24] Martin Samphire of Impact Plus became Blair's 'image consultant'.[24] Impact Plus received more than £3 million of police work from Scotland Yard over the six-year period of Ian Blair's rule.[24]

Race relations[edit]

In January 2006 he described the media as institutionally racist[26] for its allegedly unbalanced coverage of crimes against white people, such as in the murder of Tom ap Rhys Pryce as compared to that given to crimes against those from ethnic minorities.[27] As an example, he had referred to the murder of two young girls in Soham in 2002. He said "almost nobody" understood why it became such a big story. However, he was forced to issue a hurried apology to the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.[28]

During a passing-out ceremony of the Metropolitan Police held in December 2006, an unnamed female Muslim police officer refused to shake hands with Blair on religious grounds. She also refused to have a picture taken with him, for fear of its being used for "propaganda purposes". According to Scotland Yard, Blair questioned the validity of her refusal.[29][30]

In June 2008, Commander Shabir Hussain alleged being repeatedly rejected for promotion owing to racial discrimination, explicitly suggesting that Ian Blair was using his influence to favour a "golden circle" of white officers and to turn down applications made by black and Asian candidates, who were better qualified for the promotion.[31] In another case, the country's senior Asian police officer Tarique Ghaffur was considering commencing an employment tribunal over being sidelined by Sir Ian Blair in Olympics security planning, and being asked to keep quiet about his concerns about the new 42 days detention laws for terror suspects.[32] In a subsequent press conference, Ghaffur claimed to have been victimised in a face-to-face meeting with Blair, who threatened to remove him from his post if he went ahead with his legal action.[33]

Secretly taped telephone conversations[edit]

In March 2006, it was revealed that in late 2005 he had secretly taped several telephone conversations, most notably with the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith. Blair received an unprecedented written warning from his bosses,[34] but the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, while describing his actions as "totally unacceptable", said it was not a resigning matter.[35][36] The recording was not illegal and it was said to be simply to enable an accurate record to be taken for him in the absence of a note taker.[37]

Single police force[edit]

Blair has stated that he would prefer to see a single police force for the whole of London, an opinion shared by Ken Livingstone, with the functions of both the City of London Police and the British Transport Police absorbed by the Metropolitan Police.[38] Already, the duties and functions of one police force (the Royal Parks Constabulary) have been taken by the Met. However, both the City of London Police[39] and BTP[40] have expressed their strong objections to this proposal, while the Home Office has stated that reorganisation of policing in London is not on their agenda. The publication of reviews into the operation of the British Transport Police,[41] and the national review of fraud by the Attorney General,[42] combined with the ending of the police merger proposals for England and Wales, appear to rule out any possibility of police mergers in London for the foreseeable future.

Brian Haw[edit]

Blair was criticised when 78 police officers were involved in an operation to confiscate placards displayed by protester Brian Haw. After he initially told the Metropolitan Police Authority that the operation had cost £7,200, it later emerged that it had in fact cost £27,000.[43]

Haringey comments[edit]

In 2006 in comments to the Times newspaper, Blair claimed that the London Borough of Haringey is a safe enough place to leave doors unlocked. Metropolitan Police Authority member Damian Hockney described Sir Ian's remarks as "truly extraordinary".[44]

Unsupported claims of involvement in the Balcombe Street siege[edit]

The Guardian published on 30 March 2007 a story detailing inconsistencies between an account Blair gave of his involvement in the Balcombe Street Siege on the night of 6 December 1975, and the recollections of others involved at the time.[45] In a 2006 interview, Blair had stated: "We turned the corner, and there is the car," he recalled. "It was a very defining moment. I think I spent the next half an hour pretending to be a bush. They got out of the car and started firing at us. It is an interesting experience being fired at when you have absolutely nothing to fire back with ... I loved it. I loved the job."[45]

Steve Moysey, a U.S.-based British academic, who researched and published a highly detailed history of the IRA campaign in London, and the resulting Balcombe Street siege,[46] was puzzled by apparent inconsistencies and contacted John Purnell, who with his partner Phil McVeigh, were the first policemen to confront the Balcombe Street gang. Purnell said: "I've never for one second associated Ian Blair with Balcombe Street in any shape or form, and his account of seeing [the terrorists] get out of the car and being shot at as they got out of the car is totally impossible." Blair admitted he had not personally seen the IRA men getting out of their car and opening fire, and stated: "I didn't see it and I didn't say I saw it."[45]

He also added that he had briefly joined the car chase after encountering the IRA car in Park Street near the original shooting. "We turned into Park Street and there were two or three vehicles in front of us going extremely fast." He believed one was the "bandit car" and another may have been a taxi, but Sir Ian and his sergeant were not able to keep up "because we were driving a Hillman Hunter which has a top speed of 25mph minus". The actual top speed of the least powerful Hillman Hunter in 1975 was 83 mph and the top speed of a 70s-era taxi was 60 mph. According to Purnell: "There was no chase. It was just going along at a normal speed. [The IRA men] actually said later they didn't know they were being followed."[45][47]

Resignation and peerage[edit]

In May 2008, it was reported in the press that Blair's contract as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service would not be renewed when it expired in 2010.[48] On 2 October 2008, Blair announced he would resign as Metropolitan Police Commissioner, with effect from 1 December 2008. He blamed a lack of support from London mayor Boris Johnson, saying that "without the mayor's backing I do not think I can continue". Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to Blair's service. Sir Paul Stephenson took over on 28 November 2008.[49][50] Blair is entitled to a full police pension, estimated to be worth about £160,000 per year, based on his £240,000 commissioner’s salary.[51] Blair was eligible to continue to receive his £234,000-a-year salary until his contract expired in February 2010.[52] However, he lost his chauffeur-driven car and use of a £1 million flat in south-west London.[52]

In May 2010, Blair was appointed as a crossbench life peer, and became Baron Blair of Boughton in the County of Cheshire.[53]

Commissions and enquiries[edit]

In 2010, Blair served on the Commission on Assisted Dying run by Demos, subsequently speaking in favour of changing the law.[54]

In the same year, Blair, along with Roma Hooper, Paul McDowell, Dame Anne Owers, Javed Khan[disambiguation needed], John Thornhill and Peter Oborne, formed an investigative panel which led the year-long Community or Custody National Enquiry[55] investigating the effectiveness of community sentencing over short-term prison sentences for low-level offences.[56]

Ranks and honours[edit]

The various ranks that Blair would have held between 1974 and 1985 are Police Constable, Police Sergeant and Inspector. Although briefly mentioned in his autobiography, Policing Controversy, there is no authoritative document in the public domain at the time of writing that shows when he was appointed to these ranks. A single photograph in the book shows him as a uniformed Sergeant in 1977.[4]

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Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png Queens Police Medal for Merit.png Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Police Long Service and Good Conduct ribbon.png

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Lord Blair says religion is regarded as 'irrelevant, old-fashioned and violent'". The Daily Telegraph. 16 November 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson's Biography". Metropolitan Police Service. 
  3. ^ a b Blair, p.51.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Sir Ian Blair QPM, MA, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 18 April 2008. 
  5. ^ Ian Blair (1 January 1985). Investigating Rape: A New Approach for Police. Croom Helm. ISBN 978-0-7099-2098-4. 
  6. ^ Temkin, Jennifer (October 1985). "Book review: Investigating Rape: A New Approach for Police". The British Journal of Criminology (Oxford University Press) 5 (4): 394–397. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "Next Met police chief announced". BBC News. 28 October 2004. 
  8. ^ "Commissioner's letter to The Home Office". Metropolitan Police Service. 
  9. ^ [1], Daily Mail, 18 October 2009
  10. ^ "Anti-terror chief 'misled' public". BBC News. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2007. 
  11. ^ "Police head 'considered quitting'". BBC News. 22 September 2005. 
  12. ^ a b "Menezes claim sparks libel talks". BBC News. 17 March 2006. 
  13. ^ "Met Police 'regret' Menezes claim". BBC News. 28 March 2006. 
  14. ^ "Met police chief under pressure". BBC News. 12 June 2006. 
  15. ^ "De Menezes shooting: Police guilty of 'catastrophic errors". The Independent. 2 November 2007. 
  16. ^ a b "Sir Ian Blair defies no confidence motion". The Times. 7 November 2007. 
  17. ^ Vermorel, Fred (2007). Addicted to Love: the Kate Moss Story (2nd ed.). Omnibus Press. pp. 198–206. ISBN 978-1-84609-755-3. 
  18. ^ a b Leppard, David (21 October 2007). "Police top brass revolt over bonus for Met chief". The Times (News International). Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  19. ^ Townsend, Mark (4 November 2007). "The 15 fatal failures that could sink Blair". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  20. ^ "'Political police' prompts questions". BBC News. 11 November 2005. 
  21. ^ "Met chief defended amid raid row". BBC News. 12 June 2006. 
  22. ^ "Met chief warns of Christmas terror threat". The Independent. 23 December 2006. 
  23. ^ a b "Sir Ian Blair to be investigated over £3m contracts to friend". The Times. 29 June 2008. 
  24. ^ a b c d "Met chief Sir Ian Blair 'paid friend five-figure sum to help him sharpen his image'". Daily Mail (Daily Mail and General Trust). 3 October 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  25. ^ BBC News 2 October 2008
  26. ^ "Met chief accuses media of racism". BBC News. 26 January 2006. 
  27. ^ "The story of two murder victims". BBC News. 27 January 2006. 
  28. ^ "Blair apologises to Soham parents". BBC News. 27 January 2006. 
  29. ^ "Police respond to handshake snub". BBC News. 21 January 2007. 
  30. ^ "Muslim Pc refused to shake hands". BBC News. 21 January 2007. 
  31. ^ "Ian Blair wouldn’t promote me because I am not white, says top Asian policeman". The Times. 24 June 2008. 
  32. ^ "Top Asian officer in race claim". BBC News. 25 June 2008. 
  33. ^ "Top Asian officer sets out race case and directly blames Met police chief". The Guardian. 29 August 2008. 
  34. ^ Stewart Tendler; Sean O'Neill (14 March 2006). "Sir Ian Blair gets written warning over taped calls". The Times. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  35. ^ "Met chief in phone recording row". BBC News. 13 March 2006. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  36. ^ "Met chief taping unacceptable". BBC News. 13 March 2006. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  37. ^ "Media humbug over phone recording". The Guardian. 14 March 2006. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  38. ^ "Met Chief outlines merger talks of London police". Association of London Government. 20 October 2005. 
  39. ^ "For City of London, police merger is a crime". International Herald Tribune. 20 March 2006. 
  40. ^ House of Commons Transport Committee (16 May 2006). "Future of the British Transport Police" (PDF). Parliament of the United Kingdom. 
  41. ^ "Review of the British Transport Police" (PDF). Department for Transport. 20 July 2006. 
  42. ^ "National Fraud Review Final Report" (DOC). Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers. 24 July 2006. 
  43. ^ "Farce as peace campaigner has another day in court", The Guardian, 31 May 2006
  44. ^ "It's safe to leave the door unlocked, says Met chief". The Times. 21 August 2006. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  45. ^ a b c d Guardian story; The strange case of the Met chief and the IRA siege. Retrieved 30 March 2007
  46. ^ The Road To Balcombe Street, Steven Moysey, Haworth (2007), ISBN 0789029138
  47. ^ So long, Sir Ian, The Guardian, 10 November 2007
  48. ^ "Met police chief Sir Ian Blair on way out". The Telegraph. 18 May 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  49. ^ BBC News "Britain's top policeman resigns". BBC News. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  50. ^ "Sir Ian Blair resigns as Met police commissioner". The Guardian. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  51. ^ "Boris Johnson forces Sir Ian Blair to quit as police chief". The Times (News International). 3 October 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  52. ^ a b "Sir Ian Blair's £350,000 send off". Metro (Daily Mail and General Trust). Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  53. ^ "Ex-Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair given life peerage". BBC News. 28 May 2010. 
  54. ^ Blair, Ian (1 January 2012). "Ian Blair: Assisted dying needs a change of heart". The Independent. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  55. ^ "Make Justice Work Previous Projects". makejusticework.org.uk. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  56. ^ "Community service 'more effective'". Northern Sunday Sun. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Police appointments
Preceded by
Sir John Stevens
Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
2000–2005
Succeeded by
Sir Paul Stephenson
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
2005–2008