Damian Hinds – 2021 Speech on Captain David Mockett

The speech made by Damian Hinds, the Minister for Security and Borders, in the House of Commons on 24 November 2021.

It was with great sadness that we heard yesterday of a body being found in the search for 18-year-old Bobbi-Anne McLeod. Our thoughts and prayers, and those of the whole House, are with her family. I join my hon. Friend the Member for South West Devon (Sir Gary Streeter) in his praise and thanks of the emergency services.

I thank my hon. Friend for securing the debate on the tragic case of the late Captain David Mockett. My hon. Friend has long campaigned on the case and has shown great determination in seeking justice on behalf of his constituents, the family of Captain Mockett. I hear what my hon. Friend says about his continuing commitment in that regard. I also express my sympathies to the Mockett family for the tragic loss of their husband and father, and of a professional who was clearly highly respected in his field. Their determination and perseverance in seeking justice is entirely understandable and right, and of course we must do what we can to deliver on that.

As my hon. Friend said, the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, known as SO15, supported the Yemeni authorities and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as it was then known. That command has unique expertise in assisting with complex cases in other countries. In 2011, a senior SO15 officer conducted a scoping exercise on the circumstances around Mr Mockett’s death to assist the UK coroner, and he subsequently gave evidence at the inquest. The coroner concluded that the murder was most likely criminally motivated. I understand that SO15 has worked closely with the City of London police, which carried out a fraud investigation linked to the case, as my hon. Friend mentioned. The Metropolitan police assured us that, over the last 10 years, SO15 has sought to assist other agencies with the appropriate jurisdiction and will continue to do so.

It is the case that Yemeni authorities have overall responsibility for the homicide investigation and there are very limited circumstances where UK police can take primacy on an investigation into a murder overseas. The Metropolitan police is of the view that the circumstances in this case are such that UK police do not have legal authority.

My late predecessor, our friend James Brokenshire, wrote to my hon. Friend in 2020 in response to his correspondence, as he will recall. As noted in that letter, the police and the National Crime Agency are operationally independent, as he noted in his closing remarks. Ministers do not have the powers to make a request or direction to them to open an investigation. In our system, that would not be appropriate.

I am entirely sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s determination to seek justice for his constituents. I am also sure that he will appreciate the principle of the operational independence of the police and of how operational decisions and, ultimately, prosecution decisions are made. Indeed, the police must be able to operate free of political influence or interference, even in cases as tragic, emotive and difficult as this one. Where there is a case for further action, we would of course expect them to take appropriate action.

While I regret that I am not in a position to agree to the requests my hon. Friend set out in his speech, I will do—and want to do—what I can to help support David’s family. First, I can confirm that the case has been drawn to the attention of Her Majesty’s ambassador to Yemen, who can make representations about the matter to the Government of Yemen. I am also, of course, very happy to meet my hon. Friend away from the Floor of the House to discuss the case more fully, and we should be in touch on that immediately.

I would like to thank my hon. Friend for seeking this important debate.

Sir Gary Streeter

I appreciate all that the Minister has said, but is he satisfied, or could he make further inquiries, on the point I have raised repeatedly about looking at the Aviation and Marine Security Act to see whether some other kind of investigation might be pursued by the British authorities into the act of piracy, which could then have the right result in securing some kind of justice? Could he please go back to his office and look at that point for me? I would be most grateful.

Damian Hinds

Of course, I am not going to say no to my hon. Friend on that question. I do not know what the prospects might be, but, yes, of course I can do that, and specifically, when he and I meet, we can discuss it.

I was just coming to the end of my remarks, but I wish to finish by once again extending my own deepest sympathies and, on their behalf, those of colleagues in the Home Office and the Home Secretary to the family and friends of Captain Mockett.