Profile: Brian Paddick

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Brian Paddick: Interesting story, badly told.
Brian Paddick: Interesting story, badly told.

The puzzle of Brian Paddick is why he isn't more interesting.

He was the most senior gay officer in the Met. He implemented a 'softly-softly' approach on cannabis and revealed he had sympathies with anarchism. He resigned following a principled stand on the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. This should be a candidate colourful enough to distract the spotlight from Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. And yet, on the stump, Paddick is a curiously colourless figure who has struggled to permeate the national consciousness.

Paddick's meteoric rise up the Met started from a young age, but the political moment he cites most frequently was during the Brixton riots in 1981, when he was a sergeant. It was that event which shaped his attitudes to community policing and created an aversion to confrontational attitudes in the force.

Twenty years later he was made police commander for the London Borough of Lambeth. There he instituted his famous cannabis policy and the right-wing tabloids started to turn on him.


An officer had been arrested by internal investigators for dropping confiscated cannabis down a drain. Colleagues had taken the matter to heart and started arrested anyone they saw with the drug. "I couldn't have allowed that to happen," Paddick said. "They would have been doing nothing else."

Instead police gave on-the-spot warnings and confiscated the drug. The initial reaction was fierce. The Mail on Sunday turned on him, publishing a story in which his former partner said Paddick used cannabis himself. The newspaper also highlighted comments he made about anarchy on a website called Urban75 and made negative allusions towards his homosexuality. In actual fact, Paddick's views on anarchism were more nuanced. "The concept of anarchy has always appealed to me", he had written, but he was "not sure everyone would behave well if there were no laws and no system". Regardless, the cannabis story was false and the Mail on Sunday later retracted it. When cannabis was later declassified to class B (it has since been reclassified) the Paddick pilot was frequently cited in the debate.

Paddick made the position of deputy assistant commissioner but then came the killing of Brazilian electrician de Menezes in July 2005. The storm of claim and counter-claim which followed his death cost the Met its reputation and Paddick his career. Speaking to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Paddick said a member of the commissioner's team had admitted the wrong man had been targeted six hours after the shooting. This directly contradicted statements from Sir Ian Blair's office. Scotland Yard issued a statement saying Paddick's statement was "simply not true". On March 28th 2006 Scotland Yard retracted that allegation, saying it did not mean to imply Paddick was misleading the inquiry.

That would have been the end of that, but Paddick had upset some powerful people and he soon found himself dumped with the position of group director of information management – a "non-job", to use his own words. He was smart enough to see his police career was over and left the Met.

Just over a year later he was announced as the Liberal Democrat candidate for London mayor in the 2008 election. In a polarised contest between two strong and well-known personalities, Paddick struggled to leave a mark. The former policeman came in third place, with just 9.8% of first preference votes.

That percentage is likely to drop even further this time, as he struggles to distance himself from the Liberal Democrats' lack of support nationally. Early concerns that he may lose third place to the Greens do not look as likely as once thought, however.

In mayoral debates he has again lacked the colour and charisma one would need to provide a serious challenge to Boris and Ken. It is the strange puzzle that is Brian Paddick: interesting story, badly told.

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