Here’s the full statement released today by Bindmans solicitors about their client, Christopher Galley – the Home Office civil servant who (the statement admits) passed on information to Damian Green MP. The statement makes clear that Mr. Galley believes he was acting in the public interest. I note he was held for questioning for seventeen hours: I’ve not seen much complaint about this from commentators who are all too ready to condemn the police for holding Damian Green for nine.

Let me be clear about my views on leaks: I don’t approve of them, or think civil servants should indulge in them except in extreme circumstances. By that, I mean that a civil servant should consider leaking only non-security-related information, and only where he or she feels that leaking is necessary in the public interest. When I was a civil servant I thought it was important to think about this issue, and that’s the position I reached. Of course the official position is that one should never leak, in any circumstances – but I think a civil servant who can’t readily imagine circumstances that show the inadequacy of the official approach is a civil servant without imagination, and possibly unfit for the job. If you knew ministers and permanent secretaries were conspiring to murder the Queen and MPs in a modern gunpowder plot, you’d have a duty to leak. Unlikely, I know, but that’s not the point.

But the important question in this case is not “should a civil servant leak?” – Christopher Galley obviously believes he was right to, and if charged he may be able to put his argument to a jury. The question is, what should happen to a civil servant who does leak? I think losing his or her job, and finding it difficult to get a new one because of the hidebound disapproval of potential employers for anyone who’s displeased a previous one is a sufficient sanction – unless the leak risked real harm to the country.

The fact that our law treats leaks which cause the mere embarrassment of government as arrestable is a national scandal.