Neil Basu to demand answers over failed bid to lead National Crime Agency

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Ian West/PA</span>
Photograph: Ian West/PA

Neil Basu has said he will be demanding an explanation from the government about why he was overlooked to be the next leader of the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The Met assistant commissioner, 53, said he would not be reapplying to be director-general after the application process was reopened.

Related: Neil Basu’s bid for crime agency top job ends after alleged No 10 intervention

Basu, the former head of UK counter-terrorism policing, told the Sunday Times: “I am disappointed in the way the process has concluded and will not be applying again. I will be seeking an explanation from the Home Office.”

The Guardian reported on Thursday that an expert panel assessed that Basu, the favourite for the job, and Graeme Biggar, the NCA’s acting director-general, were sufficiently qualified to be appointed to the role.

Both were told by Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, they would not be picked. Instead, the process to find a candidate would be restarted and they could reapply.

Neither applicant is understood to have been given a reason.

One Whitehall source confirmed claims that the selection process was stopped because Downing Street intervened and favoured Bernard Hogan-Howe, the former commissioner of the Met and a vocal supporter of Boris Johnson, for the NCA role.

Basu’s demand for an explanation came as Hogan-Howe, 64, issued a statement defending his tenure as Met commissioner from 2011 to 2017.

He told the Sunday Times: “I took the helm at the Met at a time of turmoil for the organisation after the London riots and a high-profile public inquiry and criminal investigation into phone hacking. I am proud of what I achieved in the post.

“Under my tenure, leading an organisation of 50,000 people, the 2012 Olympics were delivered safely, and crime in London fell by almost 20% by 2016 as the Met investigated 1m crimes a year.”

Hogan-Howe was widely condemned over the disastrous investigation into an alleged establishment paedophile ring launched on the word of Carl Beech, who was later jailed in 2019 for perverting the course of justice.

Earlier this week, the widow of the late former home secretary Leon Brittan, the family of the late Lord Bramall, and the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor demanded that the prime minister reconsider whether Hogan-Howe was suitable to be the head of the NCA after presiding over Operation Midland.

The former Met commander told the Sunday Times: “Operation Midland had some significant failings, for which I have apologised personally to all those who were so badly affected. Our failure to see through the deception of the alleged victim Carl Beech caused deep hurt and suffering.

“But it was my own concerns that prompted an internal review of this investigation, and it was I who took the decision to appoint Sir Richard Henriques QC to get to the facts of the case.

“Despite his criticism of Midland, he found no systemic failings in the Metropolitan police in investigating historic sexual crimes.”

The Home Office said: “A fair and open recruitment campaign is under way to make the best possible appointment to this vital role.”

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