Earlier this year, I published an article on this website called ‘Liar, liar. Pants on fire‘. It is an account of the protracted legal battle between the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), and myself, over the right to publish articles concerning alleged incompetence and corruption within the ranks of the so-called ‘police watchdog’.
The twin thrusts of the Liar, liar piece were the decision by the IPCC’s Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone, to apply a huge sum of public funds in attempting to silence their critics, including me, and the disgraceful manner in which the litigation had been conducted.
Amongst the issues highlighted were breaches of court rules by the IPCC’s solicitors of choice, troubled Leeds law firm Cohen Cramer, and persistent lying in witness evidence by two of the IPCC’s employees (or ‘lay claimants’ as they are significantly described by their own barrister).
This is the unexpected sequel to the Liar, liar story as the case which appeared to have been brought to an end in December 2015, with a settlement very much in my favour, has now erupted into another series of legal arguments.
This time around, the battleground has changed. The harassment case against me, brought by the IPCC’s lay claimants, did not achieve either of its objectives (a harassment finding or an injuction) and now the fight is over repeated breaches, by them, of the consent order that was agreed between all sides – and sealed by the court in January, 2016.
In three applications made to the court by me since, there are details of eleven such breaches set out against the three IPCC employees, who cannot presently be named for legal reasons. The IPCC claim, on behalf of the senior manager and two casework managers, that the article is ‘critical’ of them and their names should not be published on that basis.
In a tit-for-tat response, the IPCC have made an application of their own to the court alleging minor breaches of the consent order by me and, significantly, seeking the removal of the Liar, liar article from the internet.
Before the publication of the Liar, liar article, a comment or statement was sought from both the IPCC’s press office and Lesley Longstone. An unidentified press officer replied saying the IPCC did not wish to comment. Ms Longstone did not even acknowledge the email. Comment was also sought from David Hall, an associate solicitor at Cohen Cramer Ltd., (pictured below alongside Mrs Longstone). He didn’t bother to reply, either.
The legal action by the IPCC, seeking the removal of the article, was not preceded by any correspondence from either them – or Cohen Cramer. It was filed at court, without warning, a month after publication of the Liar, liar article.
The court application made by the IPCC, and fronted by their lay claimants, does not seek injunctive relief, but they are asking me to pay the costs of them taking out these proceedings against me.
A court hearing was originally listed for 10th March, 2016 but was adjourned due to circumstances beyond the control of either the IPCC, or myself. All four applications – the three of mine and the one filed by the IPCC – were re-listed to be heard on 18th April but that date had to be vacated due to non-availability of the IPCC’s barrister, Sara Mansoori.
Representing the IPCC in a harassment claim is very different to Ms Mansoori’s recent claim to fame in the controversial ‘celebrity threesome’ injunction case in which she represented ‘PJS’, the husband in a well-known entertainment industry coupling, at the original hearing (read more here).
The matter of the four applications concerning the IPCC and myself will now be ventilated at a full day hearing in Leeds County Court on 8th July, 2016.
The IPCC are again using public funds to finance this legal action, by three of their employees that, essentially, seeks to restrict my investigations into their activities and publish the findings. Despite refusing to provide a rationale for such a decision after being specifically requested to do so.
Proceedings have now been filed by me at the High Court in Leeds to begin the process of challenging the vires (legality) of this use of public money by the IPCC. This follows a childish refusal by the IPCC to even provide the name of the solicitor who will accept service of the claim form.
The Economic Crime Unit of West Yorkshire Police are to be invited to satisfy themselves that the arrangements for payments of invoices between the IPCC, their employees and Cohen Cramer meet the requirements of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. Suspicion has arisen following the refusal by Mr Hall to appropriately answer questions on the matter.
Cohen Cramer (and David Hall’s line manager, Michael McDonnell) were the subject of an adverse finding by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority in 2013 (read in full here) over the manner in which they conduct litigation. In itself, this may look a serious and damning outcome for Cohen Cramer but complaints against predecessor firm, Howard Cohen & Co, had been persistent, and numerous, for at least five years before the sleepy lawyers’ watchdog finally delivered its findings. Some of the malpractice reported anecdotally, via the Consumers Action Group website, is troubling to say the least.
There are, presently, at least two other complaints to the SRA, including my own, concerning alleged regulatory breaches by Cohen Cramer during the conduct of litigation. Given the terms of the previous regulatory settlement against them, this is likely to cause the Leeds law firm considerable difficulty.
The other SRA complainant about whom I am specifically aware, Lincolnshire businessman Stuart Brown, has also issued civil proceedings alleging harassment against Cohen Cramer. Mr Brown’s issues with the law firm made the national press in an article highly critical of them (read in full here). I have been invited to give similar fact witness evidence in that claim.
In the circumstances, it seems reasonable to draw inference that the Daily Mirror article will not be the last time Cohen Cramer will be brought to account in the mainstream media. Such scrutiny is bound to include the question as to how a Home Office funded organisation, such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is spending the significant amounts of the public’s cash with lawyers who have brought disgrace on their profession – and seem well set in continuing to do so.
Mr Hall of Cohen Cramer, Mrs Longstone of the IPCC and her Northern area press officer, Diane Bramall, were all approached for comment on this article on 26th March, 2016.
An acknowledgement of the email to Mrs Longstone was received from the IPCC’s contact centre on 4th April but no substantive response has been received since.
The emails to Mr Hall and Ms Bramall have, to date, not produced any response from either of them.
Recent enquiries have revealed that Mrs Longstone’s brother-in-law is an officer engaged with South Yorkshire Police. A force subject to ferocious criticism by both myself and many other justice campaigners connected to the Hillsborough Disaster, the Battle of Orgreave and the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal.
Mrs Longstone left her previous employment with the Ministry of Education in New Zealand under a cloud, resigning after just one year of a five year contract. It was reported that she had a poor relationship with the Minister employing her and there were also ‘strained relationships with other sector groups outside the ministry’. Full New Zealand Herald story can be viewed here.
Page last updated Sunday 24th April, 2016 at 1835hrs
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Photo credits: LinkedIn, Mirror Online