The speech made by Kit Malthouse, the Minister for Crime and Policing, in the House of Commons on 22 February 2022.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Allan Dorans) on securing this debate and recognise his indefatigable efforts to secure justice for PC Fletcher and her colleagues, friends and family. I thank him for the advance indication of his questions, which I will come to in a moment, and join him in celebrating the dedication and perseverance of PC Fletcher’s friend and colleague, John Murray—most recently, for bringing the case to the civil court, as well as for his continuous efforts ever since PC Fletcher’s death. They are testament to the high regard in which PC Fletcher continues to be held to this day. I also pay tribute to the hard work and commitment that the Metropolitan police has shown over a prolonged period in its efforts to bring to justice those involved in the murder of PC Fletcher. Her death was an appalling tragedy and my thoughts remain with all who loved her.
The murder of PC Fletcher was one of the most notorious crimes of the past 40 years, representing an act of state-sponsored terrorism that resulted in the fatal wounding of a serving police officer on the streets of London. The hon. Member shared in great detail the findings of the civil case of 16 November 2021, which found that Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk was jointly liable for the killing of PC Yvonne Fletcher.
Following the conclusion of that case, many, including the hon. Member, have been lobbying for a criminal case to be brought against Mabrouk. In 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service made the decision not to pursue a prosecution in this case, and I understand that that decision was disappointing and frustrating for PC Fletcher’s family, friends and colleagues. It remains, however, an operational matter for the Metropolitan police and the Crown Prosecution Service to consider any criminal prosecution.
It is important to note the differences in making a finding on liability in a civil court as opposed to in a criminal court. A civil court is required to make its findings on the balance of probabilities. That means that a court is satisfied, on the evidence available, that the occurrence of the event was more likely than not. A higher threshold is imposed in criminal cases, which requires an allegation to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. That means that the jury must be sure that the person is guilty. It is therefore not by any means automatic that Mr Murray’s success in the High Court would or could translate into a successful criminal prosecution.
Sir Mike Penning
The Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan police can make such a decision only if they have the evidence that the Government have, which they have not handed over to the CPS. Will the Minister answer the question about whether or not the information that the Government have will be passed over to the CPS so that it can make that decision?
I will come to that point in a moment, if I may.
Following the Prime Minister’s meeting with the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock in September 2020, the Home Office contacted the CPS in December of that year to ask whether it had received any more information on the case; it had not. The position remains the same as in 2017, which is that the CPS is not currently considering charges in the case. As with any case referred to the CPS by the police, a decision to prosecute is made in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors, and a case must meet the evidential and public interest stages of the code test. In accordance with the code, the CPS will consider any new information referred to it by the police in relation to the case.
On the hon. Member’s question about evidence being withheld, it has been the long-standing policy of successive Governments not to comment on the existence or otherwise of intelligence material. I am therefore unable to confirm or deny the existence of any material that may or may not relate to the case.
The hon. Member asked for confirmation of whether the Government issued a comfort letter to Saleh Mabrouk. We are not aware of any evidence to suggest that any such letter ever existed or was ever issued.
In response to the hon. Member’s question regarding the extradition of Mr Mabrouk, the House should know that whether an extradition application is sought in any case is an operational decision for law enforcement and prosecution agencies. The UK Government, as a matter of long-standing policy and practice, will neither confirm nor deny that an extradition request has been made or received until such time as an arrest has been made in relation to the request.
On the question of a public inquiry, I am aware of the strong feeling in this case and of the early-day motion that the hon. Member tabled calling for such an inquiry. While of course we recognise the strength of feeling that the case evokes, the Government are not currently considering an inquiry into the death of PC Fletcher.
In closing, I would like to state once more that my thoughts are with PC Fletcher’s family, friends and colleagues. They continue to have my deepest sympathy. I, like many, have often stopped at the memorial stone in St James’s Square to consider a moment in our history that had a huge impact on many of us who were around at the time. I would also like to recognise and pay tribute again to the efforts of John Murray and the courage and resilience that he has shown in seeking justice for PC Fletcher. Finally, I thank the hon. Member for securing this debate. The murder of PC Fletcher was a heinous act that shocked our country to its core, and she will never be forgotten.