IOPC and Home Office caught out over resignation debacle

Screenshot 2022-12-09 at 19.46.45

To an investigative journalist’s instincts if something doesn’t feel, look or sound right then it more than usually isn’t. One either has that nose for ‘trouble’, or you don’t. Most people who have come across the author of this article, Neil Wilby, would definitely say he has.

So it was with the announcement a week ago of the resignation of the Director General of the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) a week ago today. A short statement, attributed to Michael Lockwood in the form of a resignation farewell and thank you, just didn’t ring true.

The timing of the statement also gave rise to suspicion: After business hours on a Friday evening. Press officers, as part of a cat and mouse ritual with reporters, regularly deploy that tactic if they are ducking the Sunday newspapers with their Friday night deadlines.

On limited evidence, it had the emerging hallmarks of yet another police watchdog ‘cover-up’ and accompanying public relations and press shambles.

An article published here on Neil Wilby Media on Monday set out why a call for an inquiry into the integrity of that statement was first made on Twitter early on Sunday morning (read here). This followed a statement put out by the Home Office on Saturday evening that revealed that Lockwood had, effectively, been sacked and the ‘personal and domestic’ reasons given by the watchdog boss do not withstand scrutiny.

The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said she had acted almost as soon as she had known about the allegation against Lockwood, following an alert from Humberside Police and gave Lockwood a ‘resign or be suspended’ ultimatum. But it now appears that she had not been kept in the loop by at least one other senior official in her Department.

Later on Monday morning, as part of other wide-ranging journalistic enquiries into the matter, a freedom of information request was made by Neil Wilby to the IOPC headed ‘Knowledge circle – Criminal investigation into Director General over ‘historic allegation” (read in full here).

It has now emerged that the Home Office and the IOPC both knew for over a month that its Director General was under criminal investigation for a historic sex offence involving an under-age complainant before he was given the ultimatum to resign.

On November 4th, a senior official at the Home Office was notified that Lockwood was facing the criminal inquiry. It is said that on 2nd November, 2022 Lockwood told the IOPC’s Deputy Director General, Tom Whiting (apppointed Interim Director General last Sunday at a special IOPC Unitary Board meeting), that he had been interviewed by Humberside Police.

Of greater concern is that an IOPC letter, seen by The Times newspaper, confirms that, in mid-October, Lockwood told David Emery, a former civil action lawyer with the Metropolitan Police and now the police watchdog’s General Counsel, that an allegation had been made against him and sought his recommendation on personal legal representation.

In early November, 2022, he further advised Emery (separately from Whiting) that he had been contacted and interviewed by the police. He gave brief details of the allegation made against him.

Both Emery and Whiting advised (again separately) that, under the IOPC’s Code of Conduct, Lockwood must disclose this information about the criminal allegation to the Home Office, his employer.

Lockwood’s account is that the required disclosure was made to the Home Office at a pre-arranged meeting on 4th November, and, of course, it is history that he continued in his role as normal for almost four weeks, thereafter.

This, of course, raises six key questions: (i) What, precisely, did Lockwood reveal? (ii) and to whom? (iii) Who else in the Home Office, apart from that official whom Lockwood met, knew of the child sex allegation? (iv) Why was the Home Secretary not informed? (v) Given the nature of the allegation, and the role of Lockwood within the police watchdog, why he was not placed on gardening leave or suspended? (vi) Is it correct, as reported elsewhere, that Lockwood was told to ‘carry on working as normal’ by the Home Office?

The IOPC has said it will not review any cases, decisions or investigations involving its former (and first) Director General, relying on the proposition that Michael Lockwood delegated most of the decision making, during investigations, to operational staff. A matter that may not, necessarily, withstand journalistic scrutiny.

This is a developing story. More to follow.

Page last updated Friday 9th December, 2022 at 1950hrs

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Picture credits: IOPC

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

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

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