The police watchdog has upheld a complaint against South Wales Police from a former friend of Welsh Labour MP Stephen Doughty who was cautioned for supplying the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister with a Class C prescription drug.
Last year Mr Doughty, the MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, admitted asking Byron Long to give him a diazepam tablet on a single occasion after the Mail on Sunday was shown text messages between the two men. Mr Long, who like the politician has mental health issues, claims he supplied Mr Doughty with such tablets multiple times, but the politician has denied that.
The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner concluded in a report published in October 2021 that “[by] obtaining diazepam from the complainant, Mr Doughty was complicit in a criminal offence.” However the Commissioner did not uphold Mr Long’s complaint against the MP.
Now the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has concluded that South Wales Police appeared to have shown preferential treatment towards Mr Doughty in handling the case. It has ordered the police to reinvestigate the case.
In a letter to Mr Long, an IOPC casework manager states: “Following your attendance at Cardiff Bay police station on May 27, 2021, in relation to the supply of a controlled drug to Stephen Doughty MP, you received a police caution. You asserted that Mr Doughty’s actions should be criminally investigated. You alleged that:
- Mr Doughty’s status as an MP meant the police did not wish to take action because he is a powerful and influential person, despite evidence in the form of a text from Mr Doughty asking for class C drugs.
- You stated that you are a vulnerable adult, and you believe that Mr Doughty used his position of influence to take advantage of you. You believe this should have triggered serious safeguarding concerns about the nature of your relationship with Mr Doughty.
- You questioned whether Mr Doughty’s relationship with Alun Michael, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, was a factor in the decision not to take action against Mr Doughty.”
The complaint handler at South Wales Police concluded that the service provided to Mr Long was acceptable. However the IOPC has ruled otherwise.
The body’s casework manager states in the letter to Mr Long: “Section 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 makes it a criminal offence for a person to have a controlled drug in their possession. I have taken into consideration the complaint handler’s findings regarding the evidential threshold for the possession of a controlled drug not being met in this case.
“However, it is my opinion that it may have been beneficial to the complaint handler’s enquiries to have made reference to the appropriate legislation governing the possession of a controlled drug, and how the legislation applied to the alleged conduct of both parties.
“The evidence that I have considered leads me to conclude that there appears to be an inconsistency in the manner in which you were dealt with by South Wales Police, following your admission of being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug, and Mr Doughty’s apparent acknowledgement regarding obtaining a controlled drug, which did not result in further investigative lines of enquiry.
“I am not satisfied that the disparity in the treatment between you and Mr Doughty was adequately addressed in the complaint handler’s outcome letter. To this end, it is my view that the complaint handler’s outcome letter did not provide sufficient information to fully explain the complaint handler’s findings, and for you to be able to understand how the conclusion was reached that the service level in respect of this allegation was acceptable in the circumstances.
“Therefore … I am not satisfied that you have been provided with a reasonable and proportionate outcome to this complaint. As a result, your review in respect of this aspect of your complaint is upheld. I have determined that it is necessary for this allegation to be investigated by South Wales Police.”
The IOPC casework manager goes on to outline steps to be taken by the force. He wrote: “I suggest the investigation should address the points of discussion I have highlighted within this review, and with reference to:
- The investigation should address the apparent difference in the outcomes experienced by Mr Long and Mr Doughty, as discussed within this review.
- The rationale provided by the officer in the case regarding the differing decisions should be re-visited, with specific reference to the legislation governing the possession of a controlled drug. The complaint investigation should review the decision-making process, but cannot, nor is it expected to, conduct a criminal investigation.
- The investigation may wish to consider what Mr Long would like to see happen as a result of his complaint, with respect to the caution that was issued to him.
- The investigation may wish to take into consideration Mr Long’s belief that Mr Doughty was treated differently due to his status as an MP, and also due to a personal relationship with Alun Michael, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, and whether these factors had any impact or influence on the decision by South Wales Police to take no further action against Mr Doughty.”
A spokesman for South Wales Police said the case had been referred back to the force “and while it is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time”.
Mr Michael said he had had “no involvement whatsoever in the police handling of the case”.