"Operation Rubicon mothballed?" I wondered last month, after the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police appeared before the Leveson Inquiry. This wasn't a piece of wild speculation on my part. Lord Leveson himself implied (or at least seemed to me to imply) that the force's investigation into phone hacking, unlawful access to data and police corruption in Scotland had shrunk to encompass only the first point of the Crown Office's four-point term of reference for the operation:
1. Allegations that witnesses gave perjured evidence in the trial of Tommy Sheridan.Leveson said the following to the Chief Constable at an early stage of his evidence:
2. Allegations that, in respect of persons resident in Scotland, there are breaches of data protection legislation or other offences in relation to unlawful access to personal data.
3. Alleged offences determined from material held by the Metropolitan Police in respect of 'phone hacking' (Contraventions of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) and breaches of data protection legislation in Scotland.
4. Alleged instances of police corruption linked to items 2 and 3 above, in respect of the unlawful provision of information or other personal data to journalists or persons acting on their behalf.
“Your operation, I understand it is very specific, and covers one particular incident. I have no intention whatsoever to – of – impeding or affecting any criminal investigation or inquiry.”
As I pointed out, no reading of the Crown Office remit for Strathclyde could support this proposition. So what was going on? Had the Operation been quietly scaled back, focussing solely - or "very specifically" on aspects of H.M. Advocate v. Sheridan? There have been a couple of interesting developments on this score I wanted to flag up, in case you missed them.
Last week, Steven Raeburn published a piece headlined "Exclusive: Sources claim police corruption and phone hacking investigation in Scotland scaled back". The nub of the piece was that sources "close to the investigation" had confirmed those suspicions "that the operation has been restricted to probing a single item on its remit, the Tommy Sheridan perjury case." A day later (Thursday April 5th), the Firm published a second story on point: "No arrests, but police say Operation Rubicon not scaled back". Confuting those anonymous sources, and the impression made by Lord Justice Leveson in his remarks to House, Christine Allison of Strathclyde Police told the magazine that "Operation Rubicon has not been scaled back nor has its original intention been changed" and confirmed that "The enquiry is not solely restricted to matters arising from the Tommy Sheridan case." The police source also confirmed that no arrests had yet been made.
But what do you know? Uncannily coincidental though it may seem, this morning investigative journalist Charles Lavery reveals that a Glasgow-based police officer was apparently arrested last Friday (6th of April) as part of the Rubicon operation. Writes Lavery:
"The officer was based at Govan police office in Glasgow and is believed to work in an intelligence capacity. His home was raided and searched on Friday morning and he was arrested over alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act. He was held in custody over the weekend. It is unclear at this stage whether he appeared at court on Monday, either on petition or from custody."
Read his full story here.
Curiouser and curiouser. According to the Firm, they've been told that the police officer referred to in Lavery's story "was not arrested as part of Operation Rubicon."