Former head of the Metropolitan Police Lord Blair of Boughton has hit out at new laws aimed at cracking down on corruption in the service.
He described the legislation as a “populist reaction to the wrong target” and said a far greater number of journalists had been arrested than police officers.
The independent crossbench peer, who was commissioner of the Met from 2005 to 2008, said police corruption was “an evil” but the measures to tackle it were “entirely unnecessary”.
But he said there had never been any difficulty in framing charges against corrupt police officers.
“The difficulty was not the charge but finding the evidence in a crime where all the participants do not want to tell anyone about it,” he said.
“Where is the evidence that the existing law is inadequate?”
He said the phone hacking investigation had led to the conviction of six journalists and hackers on a News International newspaper.
An he told the House of Lords: “101 journalists, some very senior, have been arrested, as opposed to 26 police employees, all very junior. Twelve more trials beckon.”
His comments came during second reading in the Lords of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which includes the new powers creating a specific offence of police corruption.
“The oddity of this clause is what if you substituted some other professions,” he said.
“What if you put journalists in this clause? Would the House support that? Or parliamentarians? Would the House support that? Or even NHS dentists, because they can get convicted of corruption?
“The police are far from being without fault and police corruption is an evil thing, but this legislation has no rationale at all and has the feel of a populist reaction to the wrong target.”
Lord Blair also criticised proposals in the Bill to make whole life sentences the starting point for anyone convicted of killing a police officer.
He said there was “simply no evidence” of the judiciary “failing to accord the conviction of a police officer or prison officer on duty with the utmost seriousness”.
He said there had been a campaign after the abolition of capital punishment in 1965 to reinstate it in the case of killing a police officer.
But it was argued by police officers at the time that if a criminal on the run knew he faced hanging, he would “have no compunction in killing other people including other police officers in order to escape”.
“The whole life term is the contemporary version of hanging. This clause is not only unnecessary but capable of risking lives – it is just wrong,” he said.