Racism rears its head again in West Yorkshire Police

Screenshot 2022-12-09 at 08.04.15

The spectre of alleged institutional racism, that has hung over West Yorkshire Police for decades, has returned to haunt them after a High Court judge found the force had defamed a black Royal Marine.

This is the first occasion upon which a police force has been found to have committed the highest level of defamation, referred to as a Chase Level One libel (read definition here). As a consequence, the force is facing substantial costs and damages at a remedy hearing that will be listed early next year.

In an email sent to a Royal Navy commander, a police constable accused the Marine of “threats and blatant lies” stating his behaviour was “far below the standard expected of a member of the armed forces”.

Mr Justice Johnson found that the force’s chief constable did libel the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, after the force sent the email before it had approached the marine with any allegations about his conduct or formally interviewed his wife, the complainant.

In legal claims such as this, a chief constable is named as defendant in his statutory role as ‘corporation sole’. He, or she, assumes vicarious liability for any or all actions of officers under his command.

The Royal Marine told The Times newspaper that he believed the force’s conduct had been motivated by racism:

“West Yorkshire Police sent that email not believing they were dealing with an actual Royal Marine,” he said. “They thought this was some fantasist black man harassing his white partner and they treated me with complete disdain.”

WYP arrested the Marine in August 2020, just one day after emailing his superiors, then took a further fourteen months to submit a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, whom, in turn, dropped the case due to lack of evidence.

Yair Cohen, of Cohen Davis Solicitors, a boutique law firm based in Waltham Abbey that specialises in internet law matters and who represented the marine, said:

“There is a presumption that the police should be believed and this represented a breach of that trust.

“They simply made up their minds that this man was guilty and tried to ruin his life, saying he was not fit to be a soldier or member of the armed forces.”

The case flowed out of a hearing in the Family Court which determined the conditions for the Marine’s access to his daughter following a split from the girl’s mother.

The mother breached a court order by taking the girl to Switzerland in the summer of 2020, prompting the Marine to apply to the court for the return of the child.

The child’s mother then contacted PC Cathryn Harrison alleging that an email sent to her by her former partner showed “harassment” and “controlling and coercive behaviour” and casting doubt on whether he really had joined the Marines.

PC Harrison then emailed his warrant officer. In it she described the couple as being in a “messy custody battle” and alleged that the soldier used his military background as a means to control her.

The email further stated that the WYP would be seeking a charge of controlling and coercive behaviour/harassment and asked the Royal Navy to launch an internal investigation.

Mr Justice Johnson said the email “does not merely repeat but, in effect, endorses the allegations made by the claimant’s former partner”.

A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police said it was unable to comment ‘because of ongoing legal proceedings’.

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, who has political oversight of the Region’s police force has been approached for comment.

Just two months ago, her Deputy, Alison Lowe, told BBC Radio Leeds that WYP’s diversity statistics were ‘woeful’. Just 7.4% of the force’s 5,813 officers were from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background (read more here).

The force has battled allegations of institutional racism and lack of diversity dating back to riots in Bradford in 1995. The force has always maintained that such accusations are groundless.

Page last updated Friday 23rd December, 2022 at 1120hrs

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Picture credits: WYP

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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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