Plebgate officer arrest: Met needs to understand that sunlight is the best disinfectant

The phone-hacking scandal which prompted the Leveson inquiry was largely blown open thanks to off-the-record tip-offs from police officers.

So it is bizarre that one of the by-products of the affair looks set to be police forces in the UK which are more secretive than ever.

The latest sinister turn in all this is the arrest of a police officer for leaking to The Sun the police log in which it was alleged then Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell called a policeman a "fucking pleb". 

The arrest of the individual for the catch-all crime of "misconduct in a public office" underlines the fact that the Met Police is determined to ruthlessly control the flow of information.

No money changed hands. This individual simply wanted to expose an injustice. Their reward is for them to be drummed out of the force.

The Freedom of Information Act follows the simple principle that where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in secrecy, diclosure should triumph. Surely the same general dictum should be followed with all public-sector whistleblowers?

This police officer did a huge public good by revealing what one of our elected members of Parliament did in a public place.

His disclosure has not undermined justice or compromised any investigations, it has simply led to the electorate being a little better informed and a cabinet minister resigning his post out of shame.

The press is currently taking its Leveson medicine with the creation of a much tougher regulation regime which we are assured will be independent – with powers to fine up to £1m, to investigate and to compel publication of prominent corrections and apologies.

If a more curtailed press is accompanied by a public sector clampdown on all unauthorised disclosures we risk ending up in a future were no genuine whisteblower will dare speak out on matters of public interest? 

The Met Police has had more than its fair share of corruption scandals in recent years. It it really wants to clean up its act it needs to remember that sunlight is, as they say, the best disinfectant.

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