Boss of investigation labelled a ‘national disgrace’ hauled in front of parliamentary committee chaired by local MP where he concedes MOD are ‘rarely’ kept in the loop
Today, Tuesday 15 November, Mark Warwick, the Director of the disgraced investigation known as the Iraq Historical Allegations Team, otherwise known as IHAT, was hauled before a parliamentary committee meeting chaired by the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Moor View, Johnny Mercer.
The MP, a veteran of several tours of Afghanistan, began the meeting by securing a disclosure that not one member of the investigative had first-hand experience of pressures endured in combat in Iraq at the time. Under further cross-examination by Julian Lewis MP, it transpired that some of the ‘pods’, groups that manage a number of individual investigations, did not even contain a member of the armed forces.
Mark Warwick, appearing alongside Commander Jack Hawkins, Deputy Head of IHAT, conceded that the investigation had had to take steps not to renew contracts for the self-employed contractors. Expanding, the Naval Commander explained that one of those had been let go due to falling asleep in a chair and others for not having met the standards expected by the investigative team.
Claiming a ‘good news story’ by having disposed of 700 cases on only referring onwards 3, Commander Hawkins believed there were positives to be taken away from IHAT’s work. Previously, he stated that it was their aim to be down to 60 by Summer 2017, although he could not state how many of those are likely to be referred on.
Narrowing down on IHAT’s director, the Chair of the Committee, Mr Mercer, asked why, when the Minister had come to the House in early 2016 and claimed that advance notice of investigations is given, why they had just conceded that that is not always a guarantee. Mr Warwick responded that he couldn’t comment on the IHAT investigation
In a sometimes testy encounter, the IHAT bosses would neither confirm or deny that they kept suspects under investigation, either in person or via their social media channels. Later on in the session, it was discovered that lawyers Public Interest Lawyer’s (PIL), who are currently under investigation, had submitted 2,470 of the cases and Leigh Day, another well-known human rights firm, had submitted 780. Speaking during the session, Defence Committee Chair, Julian Lewis MP, opined that it could be referred to as a ‘cottage industry’. Not only were both firms lead contributors in IHAT’s caseload, it transpired that some had been paid expenses for their work with the investigation.
Mr Warwick, conceded at the end of the session that they had picked up on errors within their investigative techniques from the committee and had subsequently gone back to try and resolve the issue raised.
Johnny Mercer MP, speaking after the committee, said:
“That was astounding, it seems like the investigative team are on another planet to the people they are investigating.
“I have heard story after story of gut wrenching nerve and worry as those under investigation are subjected to the unnecessary shock caused by seemingly untoward investigative practices. We have heard evidence of investigators impersonating police officers, contacting ex-partners and turning up at military bases with a word of warning. We need to understand, especially in the context that there have been no successful prosecutions as a result of this investigation, that placing this burden on people, who could still be struggling to a significant extent with their experiences in Iraq, is ridiculous.
“There was a lot to take away from that meeting, yet I feel my subcommittee needs to look further at the communications between IHAT and the Armed Forces Minister, prior to her statement to the House, where it was claimed that all of those under investigation would be contacted by the MOD first, clearly that after today’s session that could not be guaranteed for every occasion. Equally, prior to today, my understanding was that no individual had been let go from IHAT’s team of investigators, although today we hear someone did not have their contract reviewed because they were found asleep.
“It is evident we have a great deal more work to do to understand what is going in this instance.”
- Johnny Mercer MP is Chair of the subcommittee inquiry into MOD support for serving and former personnel subject judicial processes, set up by the overarching House of Commons Defence Select Committee.
- Mark Warwick, Director of IHAT, will be appearing in front of the committee from 1415 on Tuesday 15 November in Committee Room 8 of the House of Commons.
- You can find more details of the inquiry at the Defence Committee’s inquiry page, here.