Watchdog chief faces ‘under-age relationship’ allegation

On 3rd December, 2022, Neil Wilby Media was amongst the first to break the news that the Director General of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), Michael Lockwood, had been forced to resign.

It was, most certainly, the first to call for an inquiry into how that resignation was handled by both Lockwood and his police watchdog employer (read article in full here):

Screenshot 2022-12-05 at 05.35.09

A statement on the IOPC website claimed that he had resigned for ‘personal and domestic’ reasons. It is now trite that the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, told him, via her Departmental colleagues, that he must resign or face immediate suspension over ‘a criminal investigation into a historic allegation’.

It has now emerged that 63 year old Lockwood has been under investigation by Humberside Police ‘for a lengthy period’ regarding an alleged relationship, that was extant in the 1980s, with a girl who is said to have been between 14 and 15 years old. The relationship has been described as consensual, but it is, potentially, a criminal offence if the alleged victim was under the age of legal consent.

It is understood that the transfer of the file from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service triggered a referral to the Home Office.

He has not been charged with any offence and the presumption of innocence must apply. The complainant has, of course, lifetime anonymity.  Police forces do not usually, under College of Policing Guidance, name suspects, or release brief details of the alleged offence, unless they are charged.

On what is known to date, the alleged offence is likely to be the subject of an investigation under section 6 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956 (read here).

Under section 6 (3) of the same Act there is a statutory defence: If the alleged perpetrator was under the age of twenty four, had a genuine reason to believe the victim was over sixteen and has not been charged with a like offence then he is not guilty.

The 1956 Act was replaced by the Sexual Offences Act, 2003. It came into force on 1st May, 2004 and applies to all offences committed on or after that date.

It is understood that Lockwood, during his tenure as head of the police watchdog, had no legal obligation to inform the IOPC that he was under investigation, irrespective of the nature of the allegation. A loophole that is likely to come under intense scrutiny in the coming weeks and months.

His five-year contract, worth £190,000 a year, was due to end on 31st December, 2022. It is not known whether a contract extension had been requested or whether the Home Office would have granted it.

The IOPC press office has declined to elaborate on the statement, posted after the end of the working week last Friday night, regarding Michael Lockwood’s resignation. It still features prominently on the front page of their website. There is no mention of a historic allegation – or the ultimatum given to him by the Home Secretary.

It is believed to have been posted hastily, and in response to an enquiry from a leading Sunday newspaper who had contacted the IOPC regarding their intention to run a story about the police investigation into their Director General.

Humberside Police did not respond to requests for comment, whilst a CPS spokesperson said: “We are neither confirming nor denying whether the CPS has received a file on this case.”

Michael Lockwood cannot be reached for comment or right of reply.

Page last updated Monday 5th December, 2022 at 1755hrs

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Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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