Legal letter stuns Party Leaders into silence

On 27th April, 2021, an article published elsewhere on this website (read in full here), and headlined ‘A Dirty Business‘, revealed, exclusively, an acrimonious dispute between the Leader of Oldham Metropolitan District Council and a fledgling political party in his local ward, writes Neil Wilby.

Just a couple of days earlier, the sniping on the doorsteps of the two wards in Failsworth, East and West, and on social media, had reached fever pitch. The Failsworth Independent Party (FIPs) issued a Statement on their official website, and on their Party Facebook page, attacking Cllr Sean Fielding, the aforementioned Leader, and his activists, over what they considered to be a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign.

It was on much the same theme as a podcast released by the FIPs a week earlier.

A letter amplifying those claims was hand delivered to Cllr Fielding’s home on the morning of 24th April, 2021.

Cllr Fielding, who is also Labour Party Leader for the Oldham Borough, is one of three incumbents in the West ward and is up for re-election in the poll set to be decided on Thursday 6th May, 2021. He is opposed by, amongst others, Mark Wilkinson, whom not only represents the FIPs as a candidate, he is married to its Chairperson and driving force, Kathleen Wilkinson.

It is obvious to most observers, with even a passing knowledge of Failsworth’s local affairs, that there is bad blood between the Wilkinsons and Sean Fielding. Much of the criticism of the country’s youngest council leader, by a group attaching itself to the FIPs, is highly personalised and, in the cold light of day, lacks substance or an evidential foundation.

The same can be said of the FIPs Statement. Made even more surprising when one considers that Mark Wilkinson was a police officer for 32 years.

Both before, and after, the publication of ‘A Dirty Business‘ Mark and Kath Wilkinson were both, publicly and privately, asked to back up the claims made in their Statement. A lot of it simply didn’t ring true to an investigative journalist. The ensuing silence has been deafening and, since the article appeared, they have not referred to that Statement since. In public, at least.

In that same article, Cllr Fielding, as part of his right to reply, provided a brief but firm rebuttal to the allegations and, further, indicated that matter had been referred to a solicitor for a full dissemination.

This is the full text of the resultant lawyer’s letter, dated 30th April, 2021, and emailed to the FIPs on the same day.

It was provided by Cllr Sean Fielding, upon request, with no restrictions on its reproduction here. It significantly aids understanding of the matters in issue, between the warring factions, and its release very much serves the public interest.

It was addressed to Kathleen Wilkinson, Chairperson, at the Party’s registered address.

“Dear Sirs

Re: Our Client Sean Fielding

We act for the Association of Labour Councillors and have been approached by Councillor Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council, for assistance.

We have been shown a copy of your letter dated 24th April 2021.

Your letter asks that our client “treat this letter as a Cease and Desist Action”. It goes on to say that “this is in accordance with Electoral Code of Conduct for campaigners”.

The next paragraph reads: the Legislation states that during the campaign period a campaigner must not “knowingly make a false statement about the character of a candidate”. It is clear you [Cllr Fielding] have contravened this rule.

Your letter to our client is very puzzling both in its language and its intentions but we will attempt to answer the claims set out in that letter as they are presented.

You have referred to the “Electoral Code of Conduct for campaigners” and a “Cease and Desist Action”. It would appear that you have conflated two different procedures. A “cease and desist” letter would normally be sent as a precursor to warn that a claim in defamation was contemplated. However, you make no mention of such of claim in your letter of 24th April.

If you seek to rely on this letter as a Pre-Action Letter we must advise that the letter fails at all levels to comply with the protocol referred to as the Pre-Action Protocol for Media & Communication Claims. Therefore, we cannot treat this letter as a Pre Action letter in defamation nor make the required response in accordance with the protocol.

You refer to “The legislation” and we must assume that you refer to the Representation of the People Act, 1983.

We make this assumption because you use the words “make a false statement about the character of a candidate”. However, you have misquoted the legislation which you consider applies to the purported actions of our client in relation to Mark Wilkinson and the Failsworth Independent Party.

We refer you to the Representation of the People Act, 1983, Section 106: False Statements as the Candidate, paragraph 1: a person who or any director of any body or association corporates which – (a) before or during the election; (b) for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election make or publishes any false statement or facts in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he has reasonable grounds for believing and did believe that statement to be true.

You can see, from the wording of this section of the Act, that it is very limited in its relevance and, thus, very difficult to demonstrate that it is applicable. We refer you to the Phil Woolas case in 2010. In that case, the judgment set out the clear interpretation of this Section 106. Mr Justice Teare’s judgement suggested that in order to prove that a statement is in contravention of Section 106 it is vital to ask the following four questions:-

  1. Has a statement of fact about the personal character or conduct of a candidate in an election been made
  2. Is that statement false?
  3. Does the person making the statement believe it is true?
  4. Did he have reasonable grounds to believe it was true when he made it?

We would robustly defend any allegation made under Section 106 of the RPA 1983 against our client, Councillor Fielding, relying on these criteria. If the answers to questions 3 and 4 can be answered positively as we believe they can, such a case against our client would fail.

Your request is in 3 parts. You say that:
1) our client has referred to the Failsworth Independent Party as a racist party 2) our client has said your candidate Mark Wilkinson is a racist.

However, in your letter of 24th April 2021 you have provided no reliable evidence to substantiate these two claims. In addition, section 106 of the Act applies only to the personal character or conduct of a candidate, therefore statements about political parties do not fall within its remit.

For a successful prosecution under Section 106 of the 1983 Act you would have to demonstrate with evidence that our client and his “campaigners” have referred to Mark Wilkinson as racist. You have not provided such evidence and we consider that none exists. Secondly, you would have to demonstrate that such a statement was false. Thirdly, you would need to prove that our client did not believe that this was a true statement and finally that he had no reasonable grounds to believe that that was true.

Towards the end of your letter you say “as a seasoned campaigner you should be aware that your actions “do not bring into question the integrity of the electoral process”. We assume there is, in there, somewhere, a typographical error which, if corrected, would make sense of this sentence.

Further your letter states “whilst out campaigning on the doorstep of a Failsworth resident, it was falsely stated that Mark Wilkinson had assaulted your father – Mr Stuart Fielding”.

You have failed to provide details of this allegation to facilitate a proper response. However, we refer you to the count on the evening of the Failsworth by-election on the 29 November 2018. Our client’s father was in conversation with Mr Wilkinson who, apparently, became irritated and grabbed his father’s arm. Our understanding is that our client’s father approached the police present to state that Mr Wilkinson had attempted to assault him. We understand that no formal report was made.

We consider that this will be ample evidence to demonstrate that in fact our client did believe that Mr Wilkinson had assaulted his father and he had reasonable grounds to believe so.

In the interest of openness and transparency, we put you on notice that our client has been in discussions with Greater Manchester Police about pursuing a criminal harassment complaint against individuals, including Mr Wilkinson. This is in connection with [an alleged] 3 year defamatory social media smear and harassment campaign against our client.

Finally, in response to your letter of 24th April, we aver that none of our client’s actions have brought, or are likely to bring, into question the integrity of the electoral process and we insist that you cease and desist from making such scurrilous allegations against him forthwith.

Yours faithfully

Edwards Duthie Shamash

Ends”

As legal responses go, that is definitely in the ‘very robust’ category. It also highlights how seriously misconceived, and amateurish, the FIPs Statement was. Both in its construction and intent.

Regrettably, it once again highlights poor conduct from Mark Wilkinson (read more here) and aligns with feedback from two officers who worked with him during his time as a detective in nearby Chadderton and at Ashton-under-Lyne.

Underscored by a highly respected police station solicitor whom, also, encountered him in that era. All three characterised ‘Wilkie’ as an arrogant, boorish individual of, seemingly, limited ability. If a view to counterbalance those can be found, it (or they) will be published in an update to this piece.

On the very clear evidence of recent Twitter exchanges, and as set out in the ‘Barking Up The Wrong Tree’ article, Mark has a non-exclusive relationship with the truth.

As the Twitter post posits, the fitness for public office of Wilkinson is now very much open to question. His claims of openness, transparency and integrity now lying in tatters and a matter for the local electorate of Failsworth West to reflect upon.

Up to the time of publication of this article, shortly after the polls closed, no reply from the Wilkinsons had been received by Cllr Fielding’s solicitors.

The Failsworth Independent Party have again been offered right to reply to this article, via and email sent to their Chairperson and Mark Wilkinson. A number of questions were also put to them:

1. In the light of the contents of the solicitor’s letter written on behalf of Cllr Fielding will you:

a. Be withdrawing your Statement published on 24th April?

b. Or amending it?

c. Making a public apology to Cllr Fielding?

d. Publish the solicitor’s letter on your Facebook page and or on your website?

e. Be replying to the letter?

2. On your website, and elsewhere, Failsworth Independent Party make claims regarding ‘integrity, openness and transparency’. 

That is plainly and demonstrably a false claim to make. Therefore:

a. Can you please provide a date by which the relevant lozenge on the Home page will be amended and removed?

b. Will you be amending or withdrawing all such claims made by your party officials or representatives where such claims have been made?

3. Your Party appears to be irredeemably wedded to the CSE ‘cover-up’ narrative by police and council in Oldham, largely propagated by Tameside political activist, Raja Miah. In that light, the following issues arise:

a. Mr Wilkinson confirm, as a former Greater Manchester Police detective and long term Oldham resident, what he knew of child sex abuse being perpetrated in the town and the said cover-up by police and council either as a serving officer or post-retirement. Also, when he first became aware of the ‘cover-up’ and to whom he reported those concerns. It would be particularly helpful if Mr Wilkinson was able to name officers alleged to be part of said ‘cover-up’. There is no suggestion direct, or inferred, that Mr Wilkinson was part of that ‘cover-up’, most particularly as all the evidence suggests it didn’t exist.

b. As a former detective, serving locally both at Chadderton and Ashton-under-Lyne (a regional posting), has Mr Wilkinson either himself, or possibly in concert with other former GMP officers wedded to the same ‘cover-up’ narrative (Peter Jackson [who served in Oldham] and Paul Shilton spring immediately to mind) undertaken an investigation to either prove, or disprove it. Or to challenge the findings of my own extensive investigations? 

‘Get the white vote angry’ – Neil Wilby

b. Brian Hobin, your sole elected councillor (at the time of writing, of course), has been a taxi driver for a good number of years, licensed by the Council. When did he first became aware of child sex abuse being perpetrated in the town and the aforementioned cover-up by police and council and to whom did he raise concerns? The occupation of taxi-driver is linked to the CSE problem in other towns in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire either as witness or perpetrator. There is absolutely no suggestion that Cllr Hobin would be anything other than a witness or an important conduit for information on such grotesque crimes.

A written response was requested in the first instance with an offer of further discussion, in an interview to tape or camera, at the election count at the Civic Centre.

No response was received from either Kathleen or Mark Wilkinson. They have previously declined all other rights of reply and, consistently, refused to answer questions asked of them.

Apparently speaking on their behalf, their son Ryan Wilkinson made a series of offensive and defamatory posts on social media regarding this article and its author. They are not reproduced here as they will form part of legal action to be taken against him. The gist of his posts are that Neil Wilby:

(i) Has ‘made up another sensationalist, click bait headline’. It appears to be plainly and neutrally written from the body text. It did not, and, quite easily, could have picked out the ‘racist’ and ‘assault’ allegations made against Mark Wilkinson.

(ii) Is, or was, ‘clearly on the payroll’ of Sean Fielding. Palpably untrue.

(iii) Is unemployed and ‘will be reporting to the Jobcentre on Monday’. Palpably untrue.

(iv) Lies for a living (which runs counter to the unemployed assertion at paragraph (iii) above). Which is palpably untrue.

(v) Needs to ‘get a life and a proper job’. Journalism is generally regarded as a vocation or profession. It can give a rewarding life, too. For example, campaigning for the homeless, against child poverty and rehabilitation of offenders.

(vi) Needs to stop trying to discredit and harass people. As with his parents, the allegation is absent of specification or evidence.

(vii) Is a ‘charlatan’. No further details tendered.

These allegations are remarkably similar to those regularly posted by a seemingly endless series of anonymous Twitter accounts that seek to defend the FIPs on social media.

Wilkinson, 31 years old, and his business partner, Holly Cuthbert, 32, have a short, but chequered, business history. One of their company ventures was compulsorily struck off in 2016 and a second company went into liquidation owing creditors £169,000. Lloyds Bank were owed £85,000.

He has no entry on LinkedIn that suggests he is in employment and his Twitter bio is absent of similar details.

Right of reply was offered to Ryan Wilkinson. The correspondence address given for him at Companies House is the headquarters of the Failsworth Independent Party at 282, Lord Lane, Failsworth, M35 0PG.

On a night of shocks for the Labour Party across the country, Sean Fielding lost his seat on the Council by 191 votes. In a short statement, in the early hours of Friday 7th May, he said:

“Whilst tonight is obviously disappointing the voters of Failsworth West have spoken.

“It is no secret that I have been saddened by the campaign both politically and personally.

“I have served Failsworth as a Councillor for nine years, ensuring local green belt is protected, reinstating local youth services and saving vital local bus routes.

“I have also been privileged to serve the Borough as Council Leader for the past three years, steering Oldham through the unprecedented challenge presented by CoVID and developing a new vision for the town centre.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have been able to achieve as a Labour Council during my time as Leader. All at a time of savage austerity cuts to vital public services.

“And I’m also proud that I’ve been ambitious for Oldham, the town where I was born and brought up, and where I still call home. That ambition is unwavering, although I’m no longer serving as Leader. The people of Failsworth and of Oldham deserve the very best”

Page last updated at 1845hrs on Friday 7th May, 2021.

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Line of Duty – review of episode 6

Last week’s review of episode 5 proved a big hit and sets the bar high (read here). There were some good calls, spectacular misses and a couple of shots hit the woodwork. I’m grateful to every one of the tens of thousands who read and shared the piece. This is all a welcome, if challenging, relief from my usual roles as investigative journalist and court reporter.

At the top of that piece was a note about audience ratings and a posit as to whether they will be enough, on their own, to persuade the BBC to commission another series, or maybe two.

Episode 6 was watched by a staggering, and record-breaking, eleven million viewers, but “no news” yet from the broadcaster about the show’s future.

Will Series 6 be the last we see of Line of Duty? With the body count increasing by the week, numerous loose ends being drawn together and so many of the characters from previous seasons back under the spotlight, it gives episode seven, more and more, the look and feel of a grand finale. As such, my confidence in a continuum is ebbing away.

Keeping up with the storyline

PC Ryan Pilkington’s long and extremely violent reign of terror has, mercifully, ended. Inserted into Central Police by a local, but big-hitting, Organised Crime Group (OCG), he was responsible, wholly, or in part, for the murders of at least six police officers.

As forecast in last weeks review/preview, a double-tap from a service issue Glock 17, wielded by Detective Inspector Kate Fleming, an authorised firearms officer (AFO), scored two hits in the upper left chest of the young, rogue cop. Kate, a former anti-corruption officer, is now attached to the force’s Murder Investigation Team (MIT), probing the assassination of investigative journalist, Gail Vella.

Ryan had been recently drafted in to the operation, codenamed Lighthouse, by Superintendent Ian Buckells, who gives the appearance of being under the coercive control of the OCG. He is currently being held on remand at HMP Blackthorn on conspiracy to pervert the course of justice charges.

Pilkington had been groomed, from a very young age, by the former, and now-deceased, OCG leader, Tommy Hunter. Ryan’s prone body was found in a deserted lorry park by Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael, Superintendent Ted Hastings, Temporary Detective Inspector Steve Arnott and Detective Constable Chloe Bishop as they arrived at the scene at which episode 5 had dramatically concluded, with a lethal face-off between bad cop Ryan and good cop, we very much hope, Kate.

By the time the three anti-corruption officers, all members of a unit codenamed AC-12 and accompanied by an AFO detachment, reached the deceased officer, Kate Fleming had fled, along with Temporary Detective Superintendent Joanne Davidson, another officer under the coercive control of the OCG. Kate had been lured to the lorry park by her prospective lover, Jo, on a false pretext. Jo had been instructed by the crime syndicate’s top man to ‘get rid of her’.

C/Supt Carmichael coolly assessed the situation of an, apparently, murdered young police officer, concluded that the other police officer known to be present, and the other suspected of being there, did not have reasonable, or any, cause to flee the scene and were ‘armed and dangerous’. She immediately instructed her junior colleagues to issue an all points alert for their arrest.

The fugitive cops, whose flight is as yet unexplained, had, in fact, driven to DI Arnott’s apartment block, unaware that their service vehicles had been covertly, and very recently, fitted with tracking devices on the orders of Chief Constable Philip Osborne, another proven liar and bent cop. The proof of which dates back almost twenty years to a corrupted investigation in which he was a detective inspector and leading light.

The increasingly obvious, and important, link between Patricia Carmichael and Osborne is underscored when she informs Ted Hastings, without rancour: “The chief and I don’t trust you”.

Kate Fleming, it transpired, has a key to both Steve’s apartment and his smart, and almost new, Mazda sports car. An expensive piece of kit to have lying around on a detective sergeant’s salary, most of which goes on natty, totty-magnet waistcoats (matching jackets and trousers are available).

It later emerged that the Arnott, Fleming house and car key arrangement is reciprocated.

Arnott told a doubting C/Supt Carmichael, later in the episode, it was “for emergencies”. Pressed further by poker faced Patricia, Steve volunteered an even more enigmatic explanation: “in case of an unexplained interruption in the chain of command”.

Friends with benefits (FWB in police jargon) was not mentioned.

As they retrieved a burner phone from a locker at the apartment block, Jo said she wanted to show Kate that she wasn’t bent and asked, in a touching show of trust, for the Glock to be handed to her. She then gripped the gun, ensuring her fingerprints were correctly positioned on the pistol with which DI Fleming had shot Ryan Pilkington.

The two officers then embarked on a short sports car tour of the city, with D/Supt Davidson guiding Kate first to Gail Vella’s home, then on to a site familiar to regular Line of Duty fans: The notorious Kingsgate Printing Services, an OCG front for a hugely lucrative counterfeiting and people trafficking business. Occupied in Series 5 by rogue, and now deceased, undercover cop, Detective Sergeant John Corbett and the now incarcerated Lisa McQueen. Corbett was one of Pilkington’s murder victims, slicing open his throat as almost his last act as an OCG enforcer and just before he went off to train to be a police officer.

Overlooking the print shop is Terry Boyle’s flat. Still in safe house custody after being released from the Gail Vella murder investigation and enquiries into another historic OCG murder; that of their own enabler, Jackie Laverty, in 2012.

During the car journey, Kate told Jo that AC-12 were now aware of her blood relationship to Tommy Hunter. In turn, Jo Davidson confirms that Hunter was her uncle, and had been controlling her since she was 16 years old, but added a surprise twist: ‘My mum was Tommy’s sister. My dad was bent. A police officer’. Kate then suggests to Jo that witness protection would be available if she co-operated with AC-12 and gave up what she knows about the OCG and the key figure(s) running it.

Jo is, understandably, sceptical at AC-9’s ability to keep her safe from the tentacles of the OCG and their coterie of bent cops, adding wistfully: “No matter who it is, how powerful, when they turn they get killed”. Recent history, and the trail of dead bodies, cops and robbers, shows that D/Supt Davidson did not float up the River Clyde on a down boat.

As they reached the print shop, an armed police vehicle arrived at the same time. Instead of surrendering, the two re-connected love birds decide to flee, once again. After a handbrake turn, and ‘doughnut’, that would grace any night-time B&Q car park near you, and a short ‘evade and escape’ chase (more cop jargon), Arnott’s sports car is completely boxed in by the police posse.

The spiked strips known as ‘Stingers’, last seen in action in episode 5 when they brought the prison van containing bent lawyer Jimmy Lakewell to an unscheduled stop, almost ripped the tyres off the Arnott boy racer. But Action Girl Kate, a cop for all seasons, performed a textbook emergency stop.

DC/Supt Carmichael is holding the megaphone and, after a short stand-off, Steve Arnott walks Kate and Jo towards the waiting police vehicles and custody. But not before DI Fleming had told her partner in crime, and romance, that Steve had, confidentially, shared with her “some pretty bad things about the gaffer [Ted Hastings]”.

At first, under the helicopter searchlight and surrounded by carbine-wielding AFO’s, and, particularly, as he was stood with Carmichael, Kate thought that DI Arnott had ratted on them. No way – and with the mystery of how they came to be caught resolved – Steve learned from her that Pilkington had killed Corbett and AC-12’s PC Maneet Bindra. Kate also tipped him off about the print shop link which, shortly afterwards, proved very fruitful.

Arnott, strangely, did not share the information about Ryan’s murderous past with his new boss, but acted immediately on the lead to Kingsgate Printing Services.

As the action switched back to Kingsgate House, AC-12’s plush, glass-lifted HQ, Chloe Bishop was ordered by Carmichael to remove Chief Constable Osborne’s picture from the mug shots adorning the incident room whiteboard. With a theatrical insistence that Chloe uses a shredder on a photocopy of a widely used photograph of a highly public figure, the new boss signals to the rest of the AC-12 unit that, as far as Passive Aggressive Patricia is concerned, Big Phil will not be a subject of investigation into police involvement with organised crime.

The alternative propositions that either she is also bent, and covering for him, or she’s blinded by the mutual loyalty that will earn her further elevation through the higher echelons of Central or East Midlands Police, are well rehearsed elsewhere.

A signal moment in Series 6, or another Jed Mercurio giant red herring? Before this weekend is over we will all know.

So began the longest AC-12 glass box interview in Line of Duty history. A few seconds over 29 minutes and a BAFTA-winning, acting master-class from the magnificent Kelly MacDonald, whose presence, throughout all six episodes, has contributed significantly to this season being the best ever for the show.

Will Jo Davidson survive the finale? A BBC trailer suggests that she is the bait in an AC-12 trap laid for the OCG and its leader(s) – and may have to survive another prison van ambush by murderous villains to do so.

So, what did we learn in that tense, frequently terse, half hour:

(i) First and foremost Joanne Davidson is plainly of the belief that, in the interview room, is an OCG plant. On her side of the table is Police Federation representative, Chief Inspector John Rix, and their appointed solicitor. On the other side of the table is Arnott, Carmichael and Hastings. Take your pick.

(ii) She answered ‘no comment’ on 33 occasions. Plus, when Ted insisted she tell him who ultimately gives the OCG orders, she said something along those lines, but altogether more startling: ‘I can’t. I’m sorry’. But with each of those 34 reserved responses we learned a little more. Another tribute to the formidable writing skills of creator, Jed Mercurio.

(iii) She was unaware that that Tommy Hunter is her father as well as her uncle and that a sample of her DNA taken from Farida Jatri’s flat (that they shared as lovers) revealed evidence of homozygosity, meaning that biometrics linked her both to her mother and her father. ‘No, no. He was my uncle. That…that… that’s not true’, she convincingly sobbed.

(iv) Hunter also forced his sister to go the full term of her pregnancy, and Samantha Hunter left the Central Police area and returned to Glasgow, taking on her mother’s maiden name. It appears that it was a long-term plan to breed corrupt cops and it may yet emerge that Hunter also fathered Ryan Pilkington (a point covered in more detail in last week’s review).

(v) She revealed that Tommy Hunter was a forceful character involved in criminal enterprise from a very young age and his sister Samantha, Jo’s mother, hated the association. She killed herself in 1996 when Hunter found out at that, at aged 16, Jo was doing well in school, had not been in trouble with the law, and he wanted her to join the police as his stooge. He, and the OCG, including its bent coppers controlled her life, thereafter. Maybe, even before.

(vi) She confirmed AC-12 suspicion that Hunter had threatened to rat out the OCG-linked corrupt officers, whom he felt had betrayed him, which is what led to his murder. An ambush organised, in the event, by former AC-12 leading light, Detective Inspector Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan. Also known as The Caddy. Not arranged and executed, as widely thought, by the OCG. Dot was, of course, shot by the OCG whilst shielding Kate Fleming at the conclusion of Series 3.

(vii) She also revealed that the OCG had splintered off into smaller groups, after Hunter’s death, but one bent officer was still at large as ‘H’ or ‘the fourth man (or woman?).

(viii) She was informed by Patricia Carmichael that there was ‘no institutional corruption’ in Central Police.

(ix) She admitted planting the incriminating burner phones in Farida’s flat.

(x) She says she didn’t know why Gail Vella was murdered.

(xi) She also admitted that documents relating to Operation Lighthouse were found at her apartment confirming that detectives were, at one point, pursuing a line of inquiry that Gail’s execution was carried out by a contract killer hired by the OCG (a newspaper clipping to that effect was highlighted in the first few seconds of last week’s episode).

(xii) She had planted documents in the boot of the service vehicle belonging to Ian Buckells. There was also her insistence that Buckells’ zealous pursuit of Terry Boyle as the Vella murderer was ‘an innocent mistake’.

(xiii) She halted enquiries into Terry Boyle because she ‘wasn’t prepared to see an innocent man go to jail for life for something he didn’t do’.

(xiv) She was hand-picked by Buckells to replace the previous SIO on Op Lighthouse, DCI McTulloch, after just one month.

(xv) She leaked the raid on Beechwood House, allowing prime suspect for the Gail Vella murder, Carl Banks, to escape. She also knew in advance about the raid on Hickey’s Bookmakers that was organised, by the OCG, as a distraction to the armed convoy en route to that address.

(xvi) She admitted to manipulating Buckells: ‘It wasn’t hard’, she revealed to a nation not even remotely shocked at this announcement.

(xvii) She learned that her tip-off to Kate, and onward to Steve Arnott, had borne fruit. Gail Vella’s computer had, very conveniently one might say, turned up in a raid on the print shop she identified to them as a location of interest. It contains full details all the Vella investigations linking the police officers involved in suppressing the child sex abuse scandal at Sands View Boys Home and the Lawrence Christopher murder. Marcus Thurwell and Philip Osborne being common to both.

(xviii) She heard C/Supt Carmichael deftly move the interview along when it was brought up that Gail had interviewed both Buckells and Osborne. Poker Pat also informed her fellow card players in the room that the case against Buckells was to be discontinued.

(xix) She further heard, but didn’t appear to notice, four taps of the pen on the desk by the crusty chief super. Fans seizing on this as a Morse Code signal for ‘H’.

(xx) She also learned that her cousin (and half-brother) Darren Hunter is one of five prime suspects in murder of Lawrence Christopher.

(xxi) She gallantly took responsibility for Ryan Pilkington’s murder, citing her first duty as a police officer in the face of threat to life, and, further, revealed that his insertion into Operation Lighthouse was no higher than a method by which to intimidate her. Thus clearing Kate and ensuring her release from custody. A move likely to be of great significance in Sunday’s finale.

(xxii) She refused to identify Detective Chief Inspector Marcus Thurwell as the bent cop and OCG controlling mind. But she looked uneasy, even fearful, when his image was shown on the AC-12 screen.

(xxiii) She was getting her OCG instructions from the messaging service at what appears, at its face, an internet protocol (IP) address in Spain, from where Thurwell was last seen. However, as many fans have pointed out, the OCG could simply be using readily available technology, such as a virtual private network (VPN) to disguise the true location of the ‘Unknown User’.

(xxiv) She said she couldn’t answer Ted Hastings’ question over whether it is Thurwell is the man giving orders from Spain. At that point Patricia Carmichael brings the session to a close with a curt ‘Let’s leave it there’ and instructs that Jo is charged and further detained.

(xxv) Jo is, according to her own account, a subservient and heavily coerced bit-part player in the OCG, and not the police officer, serving or retired at its head.

Altogether, an astonishing passage, and television drama at its finest.

But the show ain’t over until The Fat Lady sings. Or in the present case, the willowy, wistful one with an enchanting, lilting Scottish accent. Whom, in just under a half an hour turned herself around from the nation’s pantomime villain to potential heroine.

At the end of the interview, outsmarted or outranked by his new boss at every turn, a fraught Supt Hastings realises his time is running out to catch ‘H’, also known as (AKA) ‘The Fourth Man’. After a heated, and mostly losing, bout in the office formerly known as Ted’s Corner Retreat, he marches out of the confrontation with Patricia Carmichael. Pausing only at Steve Arnott’s desk: “Sometimes you don’t lose, son, you just run out of time”. Or friends, Ted?

DI Arnott has, however, his own past and present demons to deal with: Central Police’s Occupational Health Unit (OHU) informing him, via email, that he faces suspension from duty if he does not attend a medical interview within seven days of that notice of intention to serve a Regulation 15 notice. Will those crippling back injuries, or a painkiller addiction, achieve what the OCG has tried, and failed, to do for the past nine years: End his police career?

As a result of Jo Davidson taking the blame for the Pilkington shooting, Kate is released from police custody and the grey sweatshirt (the wearing of which follows an AC-12 garment of shame tradition started by Steve Arnott and continued by Ted Hastings), with a Carmichael caveat that Patricia is not to be seen as ‘gullible’ in accepting Jo’s unlikely account of the shooting of the rogue cop, but more in the line of ‘pragmatic’.

Undeterred by the OHU warning, Steve Arnott is almost immediately friends re-united with Kate and they head for the OCG gun workshop at Whiterock Park. Although the detectives and forensic scientists, already at the scene, are getting ready to pack up – Chris Lomax says ‘we’ll be in the Red Lion by eight o’clock’ – another more intensive, specialist search is ordered by the MIT/AC-12 hybrid team, this time taking up the concrete floor which shows signs of recent disturbance.

Lomax was also disturbed when Kate resurrected a variation of one of her best ever lines: ‘Don’t make a tit of yourself, Sarge, we are all in this together’.

Is this a clue that signals the brief return of the clanger-prone East Midlands AC-3 detective inspector, Michelle Brandyce, for the finale? Patricia Carmichael’s bag-carrier in chief and in receipt of a similar Fleming put-down at the end of Series 5.

Whilst at Whiterock, Steve receives a call from Chloe Bishop: AC-12 has tracked down ‘H’ suspect, Marcus Thurlwell to a location near Sevilla, in Spain. But, as forecast in last week’s review, it was too late. The grisly discovery of what appeared to be both his, and his wife’s, rotting bodies awaited the entry of the night-sighted Guardia Civil officers. They had been dead for quite some time, a clue of itself.

In the penultimate scene Jo Davidson is, ominously, seen being guided to her remand cell in HMP Brentiss, when the two OCG controlled prison officers, Jenny Leland and Alison Merchant, who has previously visited mayhem on Lindsay Denton and Farida Jatri, appear, checking out the range of the CCTV which has been specially commissioned by AC-12 to protect their star witness. Has the OCG and/or “H” given orders to get rid of her? Or hand down another violent, maiming attack as a warning?

The show ends with Ted Hastings, swiftly recovered from his mini-breakdown in the glass lift, ominously reviewing an extended version of a speech, previously seen in episode 5, where Chief Constable Philip Osborne, now Ted’s only living suspect, re-iterates his views on what he says are ‘false allegations of police corruption’ and says ominously, and ambiguously, that those found damaging Central Police reputation, from outside or within the force will be dealt with severely: “I will personally see to it that those enemies within are made to suffer the consequences”.

The questions still hanging from previous reviews

Ted Hastings, past present and future?

Quite apart from Kate Fleming sharing, briefly, with Jo Davidson that Steve Arnott knows some bad things about him – his part in the John Corbett murder and the £50,000 cash, obtained criminally, that he gave to Stephanie Corbett – the future looks bleak for Ted. Told to retire, or face disciplinary proceedings, by Deputy Chief Constable Andrea Wise; his job, and office, now taken by the wily Patricia Carmichael; and not trusted by either her or the chief constable. As he says, he is ‘running out of time’.

Not to mention running short of allies. Kate left AC-12 because of her doubts over Ted’s integrity – and now Steve and Jo both know he is bent.

There is also, still, the spectre of his friendship with retired and jailed ex-Chief Superintendent Patrick Fairbank – now a convicted paedophile – and their mutual Freemasonry connection. Plus the unjoined dots over his close relationship with John Corbett’s mother, Anne Marie Gillis, who was kidnapped, tortured and executed by an Irish paramilitary group, who suspected her of being a police informant.

Being close to Ted Hastings should clearly come with a health warning.

Will he survive the finale? My guess – and it is no higher than that – is that there is an ending that will enable his death, in a blaze of glory, and maybe, heroically, in a hail of gunfire, to be classified as ‘in the line of duty’ and his corrupt past and present smoothed over. Thus saving the reputation of Central Police and the honour of AC-12.

Who and what is Marcus Thurwell?

Last week’s review, on this website, covered the topic in some detail. Now it appears he is dead, and has been for some time, if the peremptory Guardia Civil identification is taken at face value. That would rule him out as the ‘Unknown User’ and sender of the encrypted message to get rid of Kate Fleming. As rehearsed previously (and below), Thurwell was a seriously bent cop with strong links to other OCG controlled officers. But is, or was, he the fourth man, ‘H’. I don’t think so. Is he closely connected to ‘H’ and knows his identity? Much more likely. Did his entry into AC-12’s enquiries present a risk to the OCG and ‘H’. Most definately.

How bent is Ian Buckells?

A previous review posited to what extent the errant superintendent was corrupt or inept. We now know it is at least some of the former and more than a little of the latter.

Since we last saw him, in Jimmy Lakewell’s cell at HMP Blackthorn, being forced to watch OCG leading light, Lee Banks, strangle the bent lawyer, it has emerged, from Jo Davidson’s interview with Ac-12, that Buckells was the officer who removed the original Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) from Operation Lighthouse, DCI Billy McTulloch, after just one month, and she was his chosen replacement. It was also Buckells who brought PC Pilkington into the Gail Vella murder investigation. As noted in the episode 4 review, a rookie cop on the highest profile Central Police case on its books, just didn’t make sense.

So who controls Buckells, as it appears not be Jo, herself controlled and intimidated by Ryan? Maybe, one of the splinter OCG’s mentioned by Jo in interview? Is he the fourth man, ‘H’? I would not rule it out completely, he may have inherited the mantle as others such as C/Supt Fairbank, Assistant Chief Constable Hilton, Deputy Chief Constable Dryden (and his predilection for young girls), and now DCI Thurwell fell away through death or incarceration. But he remains an unlikely leader, as he wouldn’t have the rank or authority to organise some of the more resource intensive police capers but, more particularly, with the even more bent Philip Osborne still very much on the scene.

Whatever the outcome, take a bow Nigel Boyle for an utterly convincing, and suitably confusing, portrayal of this key character, all the way back to Series 1.

Is DCS Patricia Carmichael another bent Central Police cop?

Their is plenty of evidence that points that way. Alternatively, is she a super-efficient, career orientated, box-ticking sycophant so favoured by the police service’s current crop of chief constables. I’m going with the latter: Her principal function as a Professional Standards or Anti-Corruption officer is to protect the reputation of the police force by whom she is engaged and the wider police service. Not a search for the truth. Expediency, and her own self-admitted ‘pragmatic’ nature, particularly over the death of Ryan Pilkington are significant clues in that direction. Why have a ‘blue on blue’ murder trial when a convenient scapegoat presents herself?

‘Noble cause corruption’ is practiced, routinely and assiduously, in all the six police forces I scrutinise as a journalist. On that basis, Patricia Carmichael – so brilliantly played by Anna Maxwell Martin – will survive the finale carnage.

Is Chris Lomax another OCG stooge?

Suspicions have been there from an early stage: The likeness to Dot Cottan, both in physical appearance and deed; the even more concerning similarity to one of the five suspects in the Lawrence Christopher murder and another image that could be mistaken for him on the AC-12 incident room whiteboard. Add to that his failure to notice, or report, key files go missing that were crucial to solving the murder of Gail Vella, his loud objection to having to hand over his phone prior to the raid on the OCG’s weapons workshop, or the weak handling of the forensics team there, particularly his apparent failure to look closer at the concrete floor.

An intriguing call, with so much else going on. Will Detective Sergeant Lomax slip under the radar or die at the hands of the remnants of the much depleted OCG?

But whichever way it falls, Perry Fitzpatrick has been another top class addition to the cast throughout this sixth in the Line of Duty series.

Will they, won’t they?

It very much looks like they will. Jo Davidson has proved that her romantic overtures to Kate Fleming were not faked and that she demonstrated the depth of her feelings, unconditionally, by taking the rap for the shooting of Ryan Pilkington.

Can Kate return the favour by saving Jo’s life during the ambush of the prison van as she is being transferred from HMP Brentiss to an, as yet, unknown location?

Will Kate sail into the sunset of witness protection with Jo? For their safety’s sake, yes. The cards of both are well and truly marked by serious criminals, whether or not they survive the Series 6 finale.

The remaining questions

Why did Fleming and Davidson flee the lorry park?

One of the biggest mysteries in the entire Line of Duty season. Or any other from 1 to 5 for that matter.

Firstly, there was no apparent necessity for Kate, in particular, to flee the scene. She was fully authorised to carry the Glock 9mm pistol that fired the fatal rounds, and, plainly and lawfully, shot Ryan Pilkington using lethal force to preserve life. Her own, in this particular case. Both Kate, and AC-12, already knew that he was an OCG plant in Central Police.

There would have been the usual irritating Post Incident Procedure (PIP), but, surely, Kate’s only sensible course of action was arresting and detaining Jo, then staying put until Steve Arnott, and the AC-12 cavalry, arrived a few minutes later. All the known facts, evidence and forensics would back up what actually happened.

Instead Kate and Jo made a sharp exit in her Audi service vehicle, which even without the recently attached tracking device would be readily traceable through conventional police systems.

So what had Jo said to Kate to prevent her arrest, encourage flight from the lorry park and then, even more astonishingly, think more than once about resisting the blockade and more than a large handful of armed officers and the entire AC-12 hierarchy?

Other than if she and Jo had more time before the police located them, they may have been able to get first dibs at Gail Vella’s computers at the print shop – and furthered a satellite investigation into who, or what, was behind the OCG.

But surely, Jo knows most of that already? Or did she convince Kate that, apart from the depths of personal feeling she has for her, one of her former AC-12 colleagues is one of Jo’s suspects as H and the best chance of unmasking him (or her) is by them working together, alone?

Whom did Samantha Hunter think Jo’s father was?

A sub-set to that question is, of course, to whom was Jo referring to when she talked to Kate Fleming about “my dad”?

There are two obvious hypotheses:

(i) Was she referring to a man whom she believes was her biological father? Jo told Kate that she was ‘never told the details’ of her mother’s rape by whom Samantha believed, or at the very least told Jo, was a police officer. That is, maybe, what she has regarded as the truth ever since.

(ii) Was Jo referring to an adoptive father, who brought her up as his own child? This seems more likely, particularly as Jo now refuses to give AC-12 any further insight into her father, or identify him: ‘This person, did he control you the same way Tommy Hunter did?’, Steve Arnott asked her during the glass box interview. A terse, and fearful, ‘no comment’ was the reply.

The only officer that has featured in Line of Duty that appears old enough, and with a sufficient length of police service, to have been considered as an adoptive parent is Patrick Fairbank. Whose sexual predilection in later life, at least, appears too have been young boys.

Overlaying all that, is the fact that Samantha had sex with her own younger brother, an illicit, but possibly unforced, union that, unexpectedly, produced Joanne. Was Tommy, already at 14 years old a hardened criminal, pimping out his sister to at least one paedophile police officer? The man thought to be Jo’s father.

Marcus Thurwell is ruled out as he was born in 1966 and, as such, only 13 years old at the material time. Curiously, there is no Thurwell father listed on the Central Police records. Could, therefore, Jo and Marcus have had the same adoptive father?

Who was the author of this report?

This is a publicity pic released by the BBC. The mis-spelling of ‘definate’ or ‘definately’ has always been put forward as a big clue to discovering the identity of ‘H’ or the fourth man (or woman). It has been seen at least twice in messages from the OCG’s Mr Big – and used by Ted Hastings once.

My guess is that this is part of a ‘wash-up’ report, authored by C/Supt Patricia Carmichael, near the conclusion of the finale. Revealed after ‘H’ is, purportedly, unmasked. If there is to be another season of Line of Duty this is what would provide a link.

An alternative, or possibly collateral, explanation is that if, as predicted, Ted dies ‘in the line of duty’, this is part of damage limitation exercise by Central Police to divert attention away from institutionalised corruption within the force and links with the now heavily disrupted OCG.

Well done if you have followed all that. I almost lost myself writing it!

How bent was the Central Vice Squad

Even a cursory look back is very revealing and may yet unlock the mystery of the fourth man, or ‘H’. Is the dementia of Patrick Fairbank an act and does he still wield influence from the relaxed regime of the open prison, HMP Queen’s Chase. To a sufficient extent that he is able to instruct a proxy. Perhaps his old friend and fellow Freemason, Ted ‘I hate bent coppers’ Hastings? Thurwell was also believed to be a Mason.

With the murders of John Corbett at the end of Series five and that of Marcus Thurwell last week, Fairbank is now the only survivor. Like Ted Hastings, he is not a good man to be around if you were planning a long and happy retirement.

What is in the West Yorks Police folder on Steve Arnott’s PC desktop?

This, of course, is mostly irrelevant to the vast majority of viewers residing out of the force’s operational area. But to one who has spent over 10 years exposing corruption, and cover-up after cover-up involving this police force (‘a mountain’s worth’ to borrow the phrase of Ted Hastings’), its incompetent, inefficient ‘there is no corruption in West Yorkshire’ Police and Crime Commissioner and his shifty, shady chief executive (think of a supercharged male version of Gill Biggeloe), it is highly intriguing to me.

A recent case (read in full here) involved a stone cold conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by a Professional Standards detective inspector in 2012, hung by his own petard, whom regardless, travelled up the ranks to become a chief superintendent and the Head of Crime in West Yorkshire Police. He retired soon after that article was published and readers, and Line of Duty fans, are invited to draw their own inferences from that.

Every conceivable effort to have the matter re-investigated by another police force has been rebuffed, all the way up to the Home Office. Reputation is everything, especially under Priti ‘I’ve got the police’s back’ Patel.

What’s next?

So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to in this season’s cliff hanging finale. ‘Buckell’ in at 9pm on Sunday, BBC One. Or catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Page last updated: Sunday 2nd May, 2021 at 1715 hours

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Picture credits: BBC, World Productions.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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.

A dirty business

The virus epidemic that has changed so many lives appears to be on the wane, the sun is shining, Spring is in the air and the nation’s long held traditions are gradually being restored after the cancellation, or postponement, of so many key events over the past year.

Near the top of that list being the local and regional elections that were scheduled for May, 2020. It was decided by the Government, unsurprisingly, and during the country’s first of three ‘lockdowns’, that those in political power would remain so for an extra year, with the rotation process resuming its regular pattern, thereafter.

In just over one week, voters in England return to the polling stations. They will elect their ward councillors and, in some regions, Mayors. In others, they will either put in place new Police and Crime Commissioners, or return the incumbents.

One of Mayors seeking re-election is media darling, Andy Burnham, who has occupied the post since he swept to power in Greater Manchester in May 2017.

That he is a controversial figure is not in doubt. The region’s police force has been placed in ‘Special Measures’ by the Home Office and is recognised as, by far, the worst performing in the country, with negligible political oversight being a significant factor in that sleepwalk to ignominy.

Much about those troubles is written elsewhere on this website, most notably a very widely read and shared piece, first published in August, 2019 (read here), that, some argue, contributed significantly to the ‘retirement’ of disgraced chief constable, Ian Hopkins.

Set against that are the high profile Burnham campaigns, much admired by Manchester’s media luvvies, featuring trains, trams, buses and cycling. Along with the altogether more laudable enterprises, including a sizeable donation from his own monthly salary, that seek to alleviate the desperate plight of homelessness.

But it is the high-visibility response to the CO-VID19 crisis that, very likely, will see Burnham first past the post. Charming, personable, PR savvy and, with well-practiced facial expressions to suit every situation, he was almost ever-present on television screens, and on national newspaper front pages, at its height, battling the Government over financial concessions to the region’s furloughed employees and their cash-strapped employers. That is, very likely, what a sufficient majority of voters will recall most readily, and in a positive way, before marking their X on the ballot paper.

One of Greater Manchester’s ten Boroughs is the ancient mill town of Oldham, lying at its eastern extremity, nudging the Pennine hills, and it is in this political hotbed that some of the keenest battles for local power will be witnessed. Ninety-five candidates are chasing votes in twenty wards (see full details here), seven less than in 2019.

Arguably, the most bitterly fought contests in Oldham will actually take place in the Manchester postcodes of the ancient township of Failsworth, where one seat in each of the East and West wards is in issue, including the latter, occupied by incumbent Leader of the Council, Sean Fielding. He also heads up the local Labour Party, who comfortably hold political power in Oldham.

His sitting Labour colleague, Liz Jacques, is seeking re-election in Failsworth East. Her opposition is drawn from the Conservatives, Failsworth Independent Party (FIPs) and the Liberal Democrats. Cllr Fielding faces the same party opposition, plus an unaffiliated independent, Warren Bates. Formerly a councillor representing the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP).

An article on this website, published at the end of last month, signalled just how fierce the campaigning was likely to be, in both Failsworth wards, as a statement published by Cllr Fielding, following almost eighteen months of non-stop abuse against himself and, latterly and most regrettably, his partner and his family, stridently called out ‘dog whistle racists and false accusers’ amongst his political opponents (read in full here).

Many of those ‘false accusers’ are attached to the FIPs, either as leading lights, or supporters, or part of an unpleasant social media mob who organise ‘pile-ons’ when faced with what they regard as dissenting voices.

No public statement, or recognisable response, was made to that declaration by those at whom it was directed. Most notably, the FIPs.

The Failsworth Independent Party was founded and is run by local residents, Mark and Kathleen Wilkinson. The former is standing against Sean Fielding, local working class boy made good, whom they have known for many years, and before he became a councillor in 2012.

The FIPs candidate in Failsworth East is Neil Hindle, another local man, as one might expect. They have one elected Councillor, Brian Hobin, who was responsible for the biggest shock in the 2019 local elections, across the entire Borough, when he dramatically unseated Cllr Paul Jacques, husband of Liz.

The FIP’s are aligned with the Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth Party (POOS) whose candidates, counter-intuitively, claim to be ‘independent’ but, in reality, all is not quite as it seems with that alliance (read more here).

Both the FIPs and the POOS are immovably wedded to disgraced Tameside-based political activist, Raja Miah, and his emotive, but demonstrably false narrative of a long-running, wide-scale, multi-agency ‘cover-up’ of child sexual exploitation that, if it were true, would, by necessity, involve a collaborating collective of hundreds of MPs, councillors, council officials, social workers, police officers and safeguarding partners.

Raja offers no published view on the two towns nearest to where he has lived since 2004, Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne, in respect of either grooming or a suspected cover-up or any other council/police misdemeanours in his home Borough.

But, it has happened in other towns, says Miah, so it must be true of Oldham. Utterly impervious to facts and evidence, meticulously gathered over months, and supported by interviews with credible and relevant witnesses that produce a reported outcome that is far removed from a ‘cover-up’ (read more here).

An article, extending to almost 4,500 words, that stands completely unchallenged on a single line or paragraph within it.

Instead, it provoked the standard ad hominen attacks from those associated with Miah, the FIPs and the POOS. Many of them with far-right political leanings or more direct associations with such as Combat18, EDL, Britain First, UKIP and, of course, the person calling himself Tommy Robinson. All afraid, it seems, that the very foundation of their rabidly anti-Labour edifice has now crumbled.

More crucially, no consideration at all is given to any of those groups of people accused of the alleged ‘cover-up’ – and the seriously adverse impact it has on their physical and mental health. It is also lost on those perpetuating these grotesque and hugely damaging allegations that Mark Wilkinson was a police officer for over 30 years with the Greater Manchester force, whose present HQ is a very short distance from Failsworth.

The obvious question is, therefore: If what Raja Miah, the FIPs and the POOs relentlessly propagate has even a grain of truth to it, what did Mark Wilkinson know of it, as an experienced detective in an elite squad (along with police whistleblower, Peter Jackson), and was he part of, or have knowledge, of the alleged GMP strand of the ‘cover-up’? For the avoidance of doubt, absolutely no imputation their integrity, or standing as a long-serving police officers is intended by the hypothesis presented here. ‘Jacko’ also served as a sergeant based in Oldham earlier in his career.

Likewise, Miah: Deeply embedded in Oldham’s multi-cultural communities for several decades spanning the turn of the century, driving flashy cars and owning shares in restaurants and fast food outlets, often seen as focal points for the grooming of vulnerable or impressionable young girls. Why did it take him until 2019 to raise concerns about an issue that had, as the ‘Get the White Vote Angry‘ article points out, been very widely reported in the local and regional media, since at least 2006, and a huge and well-documented concern for the police and the council since that time?

In the face of such hypotheses and the overwhelming evidence against it, the FIPs have, surprisingly, continued to raise the alleged grooming ‘cover-up’, routinely asserting it as fact, and it appears to be central to their campaigning, media output and a topic their small, but disproportionately vocal, group of supporters return to time and again.

One such recent occasion was a short podcast featuring Cllr Brian Hobin, reading from what appeared to be a prepared statement. It comprised a series of attacks on un-named Labour campaigners and making serious, but unspecified and unevidenced allegations against them.

It was posted on social media and the broadcast signed off with a renewed emphasis on the FIPs stated commitment to ‘openness and transparency’. A core value set out on the home page of their website (see above image). Such a pronouncement came as a surprise to this journalist as they have never answered a single enquiry, on a wide range of matters, over a number of months. A remark that also applies to Raja Miah and the POOS.

A matter emphasised, a very short time afterwards, on 15th April, 2021, when questions were, again, put to the FIPs. This time directly to Cllr Hobin. These concerned:

(i) The self-confessed harvesting of email addresses ‘in order to make complaints’ which, taken at its face, appears to breach the Data Protection Act, 2018 and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

(ii) Negative doorstep feedback on the CSE ‘cover-up’ allegations

(iii) The board and poster count in both Failsworth wards running against the FIPs.

Those questions were met by the usual wall of silence:

Outspoken and frequently controversial independent councillor, Warren Bates, has also said publicly that the FIPs have been reported to the local police and the Electoral Commission over alleged breaches of protocol. This is understood to be related to campaign leaflets that have had to be withdrawn from circulation.

Warren also claims that the FIPs have marginalised him and are blaming him for, potentially, splitting the independent vote. An allegation that he is in cohoots with Labour, or Cllr Fielding, or both, to ensure that the latter is re-elected, and frustrate the local ambitions of the FIPs, appears to lack the necessary substance. Running, as it does, counter to the fact that Sean Fielding holds a large majority and is an active, visible, hard-working ward councillor with a powerful Party machine to call upon.

Having gained little or no traction with the Hobin broaddcast, on 26th April, 2021 the FIPs issued a Statement on their Facebook page. It is broadly in line with the podcast, although, on this occasion, it singles out Cllr Fielding and un-named ‘activists’ as alleged perpetrators of what is best characterised as ‘a dirty tricks campaign’.

It was, almost immediately and unsurprisingly, re-published on Raja Miah’s discredited Recusant Nine platform. The Statement also bore his familiar broad brush, scurrilous, smearing style and it is not at all difficult to envisage that he had a hand in the attempted ambush of Cllr Fielding.

This is the text of the FIPs Statement.

“Following further reports from residents disgusted at the behaviour of certain councillors/candidates and activists, today the Failsworth Independent Party has served Councillor Sean Fielding with a ‘Cease and Desist’ Order.

This serves as a last chance or final warning that the Councillor and his activists refrain from telling lies about FIP and their candidates whilst communicating with residents in their campaign. Failure to cease could lead to further legal actions being taken.

It is a sad state of affairs when a party that has held power for so long and somebody that has been a Councillor for 9 years, as Mr Fielding has, bases their election campaign on besmirching the good name and character of other candidates with falsehoods to try to gain votes.

Unfortunately, once again we are shown the measure of this councillor and the depths he and his team will go to. It’s time for change“.

Shortly afterwards, contact was made with both the FIP’s, via the same Facebook page upon which they had posted their ‘Statement’, and Cllr Fielding via his published Oldham Council email address, with broadly similar enquiries and a request for either clarification or a statement for publication.

This is the text of the post on the FIPs Facebook page:

Good evening, Mrs Wilkinson.

I’m writing an article about your statement. To be published around lunchtime tomorrow.

Could you please tell me how many reports you received from ‘disgusted residents’ and are any prepared to talk to me, on or off the record?

Could you please also state what the lies are that Cllr Fielding and ‘his activists’ has told and about whom. Happy to name those activists in the article, if you are and there is substantive evidence to support what is being said.

Also, how are the characters of the other candidates being besmirched? What is being said about whom and by whom.

Finally, have you taken legal advice about the letter sent to Cllr Fielding because, in the terms you have written your statement, it has no effect in law.

Thank you in anticipation of an open and transparent response in accordance with the core values set out on your website.

By way of balance, I have written to Cllr Fielding requesting either a statement, or answers to specific questions put to him, in much the same way I have put them to you here.

“PS I’ve screenshot this comment in the event that you decide to remove it“.

Their response was not what was expected.

Please direct any press enquiries to The Failsworth Independent Party by email. Thank you.”

Following that reply post from the FIPs, the author of this piece, an accredited journalist, has been banned from making any further posts on their page.

A short review of the other public comments on that same page reveals that this class of censorship appears to happen frequently. Dissenting, or neutral, voices are silenced.

A local man, David Jones, posted this below the FIPs statement:

His opinion is as valid as anyone else’s. Tends to be a theme here [on the FIPs Facebook page], if they speak out against you [the FIPs], you get blocked/muted or shouted down by party members. If it’s that much of an issue get an injunction or court order on him [Cllr Fielding]. You only have to prove that on the balance of probabilities“.

This was the reply from the FIPs moderator, believed to be Kath Wilkinson, to Mr Jones:

Just to assure you, this action wasn’t taken lightly and was done following advice and direction from the appropriate authority“.

A mixing of metaphors here, as the only ‘appropriate authority’ would be the civil courts and/or the police. Neither provide an advice or direction service. The nature and content of the FIPs statement would suggest, to the informed observer, that it did not have the benefit of lawyer input.

Mrs Wilkinson ducks the issue, raised by Mr Jones, of silencing those not agreeing with her Party line.

More crucially, and what is now plain to see, is that the FIPs have no intention to address, in public, the questions and requests for clarifications about, and evidence behind, that Statement.

A conclusion heavily underscored by having sent the same questions, via the contact form on the FIPs website, with exactly the same response: Stoney silence.

Similarly, earlier today, questions on related themes were put to Mark Wilkinson on Twitter. Again, those simple enquiries, all of significant public interest, were totally ignored:

Can you assist here, please:

1. Why have you not answered these questions [those posted on the FIPs Facebook page] in open forum, in same place as you posted the ‘Statement’?

2. Why have you now blocked me from posting on @indypartyfw page?

3. Is FIP pledge of ‘transparency and integrity’ one you still stand by?

4. Cllr Hobin, in a recent podcast, claims FIPs harvest email addresses inorder ‘to make complaints’. Are you aware that this is a breach of DPA and GDPR?

5. Has FIPs self-reported above to @ICOnews?

6. Do you stand by Cllr Hobin’s @OldhamCouncil #CSE ‘cover-up’ narrative?

It is, of course, entirely a matter for the FIPs, the Wilkinsons and Cllr Hobin whether they answer questions from a journalist, or otherwise. It is also their own business whom they allow to post on their Facebook page. But it is the electorate’s and the wider public’s business that the FIPs should falsely, and blatantly, lay claims to transparency and integrity on their website, in podcasts and on social media, in the face of what appears to be a cavalier approach to the law of the land, the truth, issuing menacing and unevidenced threats, and ducking and diving faster than an East End pickpocket when asked a straight question.

A statement in response to the Failsworth Independent Party allegations was provided by Cllr Fielding overnight. It, interestingly, reveals the method of service of the ‘legal letter’ mentioned in the FIPs statement and, also, confirms that the letter was not authored by a lawyer.

This is the full text:

It’s been great to be able to speak to lots of residents in recent weeks about my plans for a cleaner, safer and greener Failsworth. As a Labour Councillor in Failsworth I can get things done for our community by being part of a larger team of Labour Councillors, MPs and a Labour Mayor.

Unfortunately, while I’m focused on how we improve our neighbourhood, my opponents continue with political stunts and negativity. A letter purporting to be a cease and desist notice was hand delivered to my home by Councillor Hobin on the morning of 26th April. It was signed by Kathleen Wilkinson, the Leader of the Failsworth Independent Party. It makes some specific allegations against myself and my activists for which no evidence is provided.

The letter has no legal standing and, typically, would not warrant a response. However, I have asked that one be prepared by solicitors acting on my behalf.

This letter, and the associated social media activity, appears to be just the latest diversionary tactic from the Failsworth Independent Party to conceal that their party has no policies, has said little about the backgrounds of their candidates, or their suitability for public office, and has been reported to the Police and Electoral Commission for breaches of electoral law during the campaign thus far.

I will continue my positive campaign for re-election in Failsworth West, promoting the policy platform of the Oldham Borough Labour Party and my specific pledges to the people of Failsworth. My conversations with local people suggest that these are the kind of messages they want to hear from their prospective Councillors, not the negativity, smears and personal attacks of the type employed by the Failsworth Independents“.

It is, on any view, a robust response and puts the ball firmly back in the court of the Wilkinsons, and Cllr Hobin, in terms of backing up the accusations they make against Cllr Fielding, and others, with evidence. A task that should not be beyond the ability of a prospective FIPs councillor who served for 32 years as a police officer, latterly a detective sergeant.

The hopeful note drawn from the Council Leader’s words is that doorstep feedback suggests that a focus on policy and pledges is welcomed by the citizens of Failsworth, not a resort to the darker side of politics.

It is, however, the role of the journalist to gather the facts, procure relevant answers and obtain statements where appropriate. Then present them in a fair and orderly way, so that the independent minded voter, or, indeed, those with a wider interest in Oldham and beyond, can make up their mind about the rights or wrongs of the accusations and counter-accusations on the streets of Failsworth.

It should be an interesting night, and morning, at Oldham Civic Centre on Thursday 6th and Friday 7th May, 2021 as vote counting takes place. There will be more eyes than usual looking at the table at which the ballot papers from Failsworth East and West are counted.

Page last updated at 1020hrs on Thursday 29th April, 2020 at 1010hrs

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Does Court of Appeal Horizon judgment scupper convicted murderer’s innocence claim?

An absorbing and, at times, testing four days was spent last month looking into the beautifully ornate Court 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, writes Neil Wilby.

Held remotely, of course, in this virus epidemic era, it was a Court of Appeal Criminal Division hearing of forty-two cases remitted by the Criminal Case Review Commission, following the outcome of what became widely termed as ‘The Post Office Group Litigation’: A class action brought in the High Court, by over 500 claimants, against the organisation owned by UK Government Investments and run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Formerly part of the Royal Mail Group, Post Office Ltd (“POL”) became independent in 2012. They repeatedly claimed that their Fujitsu-developed Horizon software system was not faulty and the ‘institutional obstinacy or refusal to consider’ that it might be flawed was highlighted by the trial judge, Mr Justice Fraser.

Characterising this stance as ‘the 21st-century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat’.

The criminal prosecutions by Post Office Ltd, against its sub-postmasters, were described as ‘aggressive and, literally, dismissive’. No recognisable investigations by the specialist POL fraud team took place and crucial disclosure of documents was routinely withheld from those accused of fraud or theft.

During the High Court hearings POL attempted, in desperation, to remove the judge by way of an application to recuse himself. It was, unsurprisingly, dismissed.

At the conclusion of the final hearing of the claims, more formally known as Alan Bates and Others v Post Office Ltd (read in full here), sixty-one applications were made to the criminal justice watchdog by former sub-postmasters, or managers or counter staff in Post Office branches, who had been convicted of, or who had pleaded guilty to, theft, fraud or false accounting in cases where the Post Office was the claimed victim.

The CCRC submitted that there was new evidence concerning (i) failings in the Post Office’s Horizon computer system and (ii) the response of Post Office Ltd to those failings which was relevant to the safety of their convictions.

Those post-trial applications took the total up to seventy-five since March 2015.

As of 22nd January 2021, the CCRC had referred the convictions of 51 of the Post
Office applicants to the appropriate appeal court on the basis that the
prosecutions amounted to an abuse of process. The convictions in six of these
cases had previously been quashed and another thirty-nine of the appeals were upheld and the convictions quashed earlier today (23rd April, 2021).

The CCRC decided to refer the cases of the Post Office applicants because, in
light of the findings of the High Court in what are termed as the “Common Issues” and “Horizon Issues” judgments, it was satisfied that there was a real possibility that the Court of Appeal would conclude that it was an abuse of process to prosecute these cases and that the convictions are, accordingly, unsafe.

In the CCRC’s view, the key points were (and still are):

  1. That there were significant problems with the Horizon system and with the
    accuracy of the branch accounts which it produced. There was a material risk that apparent branch shortfalls were caused by bugs, errors and defects in Horizon.
  2. That the Post Office had failed to disclose the full and accurate position regarding the reliability of Horizon.
  3. That the level of investigation by them into the causes of apparent
    shortfalls was poor, and that the Post Office applicants were at a
    significant disadvantage in seeking to undertake their own enquiries into
    such shortfalls.

The criminal justice watchdog concluded that the reliability of Horizon data was essential to the prosecution and conviction of those applicants and that, in the light of the High Court’s findings, it was not possible for the trial process to either be fair and/or was an affront to the public conscience.

The ‘real possibility’ test that the relevant appeal court would overturn the convictions was, therefore, met.

The Court of Appeal, very largely, agreed with the watchdog and commended them for their work on the applications to them. Dismissing only three of the cases, all of which the Post Office had opposed, almost from the moment the CCRC referred them back to the appeal court.

This is an extract from the judgment of Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mr Justice Picken and Mrs Justice Farbey.

“The failures of investigation and disclosure were in our judgment so egregious as to make the prosecution of any of the ‘Horizon cases’ an affront to the conscience of the court.

“By representing Horizon as reliable, and refusing to countenance any suggestion to the contrary, Post Office Limited effectively sought to reverse the burden of proof: it treated what was no more than a shortfall shown by an unreliable accounting system as an incontrovertible loss, and proceeded as if it were for the accused to prove that no such loss had occurred.

“Denied any disclosure of material capable of undermining the prosecution case, defendants were inevitably unable to discharge that improper burden. As each prosecution proceeded to its successful conclusion the asserted reliability of Horizon was, on the face of it, reinforced. Defendants were prosecuted, convicted and sentenced on the basis that the Horizon data must be correct, and cash must therefore be missing, when in fact there could be no confidence as to that foundation.”

The CCRC say that they continue to receive applications from new Post Office applicants and currently has 20 cases under consideration.

In December, 2019, Robin Garbutt made his third application to the CCRC in a bid to overturn the jury verdict that he bludgeoned his wife, Diana, to death, in what is known as The Melsonby Post Office Murder. It took place in the living quarters above the village store in March 2010 where Robin struck three blows to his wife’s head, with a rusty iron bar, whilst she lay sleeping.

Following the trial at Teesside Crown Court that spanned March and April, 2011, an appeal by Garbutt to the Court of Appeal Criminal Division was dismissed in May, 2012. As were the first and second applications to the CCRC, made in 2015 and 2017.

There is nothing unusual or sinister about this pattern; convictions are overturned, with troubling frequency, where such persistence has been necessary to persuade the CCRC to refer a case back to the Court of Appeal. Robin Garbutt has steadfastly maintained his innocence since the day his wife was murdered. Even though he fell under suspicion shortly after the first two police officers arrived on the scene.

In July, 2020, Garbutt’s legal team made what is described elsewhere as an addendum to the third CCRC application, concerning the Horizon software faults and their alleged impact on the safety of his murder conviction. An issue never raised previously either before, during or after the trial. Or, at the Court of Appeal, where the single permitted ground of challenge was another matter concerning availability at trial of Post Office Ltd records of cash transfers to and from the Melsonby shop (read more here).

On all information available in the public domain, including scrutiny of the regular outpourings of Robin’s active and vociferous campaign team, and their supporters, it appears that Horizon software failings did not form part of any previous challenge.

To the author of this piece, having spent approaching 600 hours investigating the Garbutt innocence claim, a Horizon ground of appeal certainly came as a surprise. Particularly, having read the numerous and lengthy judgments handed down by Mr Justice Fraser in the consolidated civil claims against the Post Office. Now even more so, having sat through the recent Court of Appeal hearings and read the consequent judgment of the three law lords.

The facts of those sub-postmaster (or sub-postmistress) claims differ markedly from the circumstances at the heart of the killing of Diana Garbutt. Not least, because the reason given to police for the missing money, amounting to over £16,000, is that it was taken at gunpoint by armed robbers. Software glitches were not in issue then and it is very difficult to see how they can be now.

The Court of Appeal’s hearing of the cases flowing from Mr Justice Fraser’s findings heard repeatedly that the abuse of those convicted arose from Post Office Limited’s dual role as investigator and, in effect, prosecutor in its own cause as victim. In so doing, withholding time and time again, crucial evidence about the known failures of the Horizon accounting software, first introduced at the turn of the century (the Legacy version) and whose architecture was substantially revised in 2010, a few months after the murder of Diana Garbutt.

A recent freedom of information request (read more here) revealed that the contemporaneous records of Post Office Ltd do not show any complaints made by Melsonby Post Office, regarding Horizon software, or cash shortfalls attributed to any other reason, in the year or so before the murder.

Indeed, the position of the defence at trial was the books balanced with the amount taken from the Post Office safe and shop till. An alleged robbery at the same Post Office, almost exactly a year earlier, had netted over £11,000 for those responsible. That crime remains unsolved.

Conversely, and perversely, in the words of the judge in his summing up, Robin Garbutt had ‘scant explanation’ for the extravagant, cash-fuelled, millionaire lifestyle that he and Diana had enjoyed over the previous twelve months. On one weekend alone, at picturesque Bolton Abbey, they blew £1,200. In total, they spent well in excess of £20,000.

The belated attachment of the Horizon software failings had, and still has, all the appearance of opportunistic bandwagon-jumping: The facts of the Melsonby case are so very different, as are, plainly, the findings of Mr Justice Fraser, the CCRC and now the Court of Appeal in terms of the legal test and the hurdles to be overcome, using this particular device as a ground to overturn the conviction.

The expectation, from this quarter, that the CCRC will roundly reject this ground of application remains high. If, of course, they have not already done so.

A significant clue being a very recent post on Robin Garbutt’s own Facebook page (maintained by his family and friends) from campaign leader, Jane Metcalfe. It signals a significant change of tack, insofar as Horizon is no longer blamed, but it is the evidence of the Post Office fraud specialist, Andrew Keighley, who gave expert evidence at the murder trial about movements of cash to and from the branch, that is now challenged, according to her.

Jane has previously invented two other armed robberies that she says took place before 2003, the year in which the Garbutts took over the business. That was proved, conclusively, to be yet another gratuitous embellishment to the campaign by way of disclosure to the author of this piece from both POL and NYP (read more here).

Those media outlets, and freelance journalists, that have enthusiastically accepted, and supported, whatever variation of the innocence claim that Jane, and the Garbutt family, have put forward must now be dreading the CCRC’s decision on the case. Notably, the iconic Private Eye magazine, The Justice Gap and The Metro newspaper all of whom have been repeatedly exhorted to correct their flawed reporting (read more here).

Such as the York Press, Northern Echo and Yorkshire Post have steadfastly declined to run with any news adverse to the campaign, however solidly grounded it has been (there are few firmer foundations than freedom of information requests) and regardless of its high public interest.

Readers of this website are respectfully invited to draw their own conclusions from those omissions.

Jane Metcalfe was offered right of reply. The email received no response.

Page last updated: Saturday 1st May, 2021 at 0605 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Picture credits: Yahoo News India

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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.

Line of Duty – review of episode 5

Unsurprisingly, viewing figures are rocketing as this season builds to a climax with another dramatic, twists and turns renewal last week.

Series six, episode one was watched by 9.6 million BBC One viewers, a record audience for Line of Duty, surpassing the series five finale, watched by 9.1 million people. By episode five this had grown to 9.92 million.

This is very good news for aficionados, as it now seems likely that another one and possibly two series will be commissioned. The BBC practice has been to order them in pairs so, hopefully, two.

Keeping up with the storyline

Increasingly difficult as Line of Duty creator and writer, Jed Mercurio, tests memories, investigative skills and powers of deduction to the limit. As with last week’s review (read here), we start at the end, rather than the beginning, of this week’s action.

In an ultra- tense closing scene, Detective Inspector Kate Fleming faces down Central Police colleague, PC Ryan Pilkington, in a Mexican stand-off at a deserted lorry park. She had been lured there by her prospective lover, Temporary Superintendent Joanne Davidson on the pretext of discussing their faltering personal relationship.

At the behest of Pilkington, the venue had been switched at the last minute from Federico’s Biergarten, their usual cosy wine bar venue in town. The rogue cops had travelled together in Jo’s upmarket 4×4 with the junior officer in the rear seats, carrying a workshop modified handgun. Last seen held to the back of Jo’s head during episode four as she entered what is surmised to be a heavily fortified dwelling owned by a local Organised Crime Group (OCG).

Kate had, shortly before, been authorised by the SFC (Specialist Firearms Commander) to carry a concealed weapon, a service issue Glock 17 9mm pistol, at the insistence of her former boss, Superintendent Ted Hastings, the Head of Central’s Anti-Corruption Unit, codenamed AC-12. When the venue change was texted to her by Jo, she copied the address and forwarded it on to Temporary Detective Inspector, Steve Arnott, a long-serving officer in AC-12. He was last seen rushing to the lorry park, along with other members of the anti-corruption unit, after he had showed the phone message to ‘the gaffer’.

The show closed with Kate, a trained AFO (authorised firearms officer), adopting the conventional legs astride, two-handed stance and barking orders to Pilkington to “drop the f*****g gun”, as they faced each other down at short range.

Jo had retreated screaming to a position near her car, a short distance away. It is not known if she, too, was armed. Pilkington fired a shot at her, but missed, after the rogue cop assumed he had been set up, and trapped, by AC-12 using covert surveillance teams to monitor the two of them.

Arnott, who took down a sniper with a well aimed single shot in episode four, is also a trained AFO and former counter-terrorism officer. Viewers were left on a knife edge as the TV screen was blacked out and two shots were fired in quick succession.

The rest of the episode, if not so dramatic was equally compelling, with the familiar mix of dots joined and more loose ends left dangling. Not least with Jo engaged with the on-line messaging service favoured for communication with the OCG boss or ‘H’ (or one and the same). The ‘Unknown User’ tells her to get rid of Kate Fleming. Pleading that this should be her last last job, the answer to Jo was: ‘Definately’.

As predicted in my review last week, bent lawyer, Jimmy Lakewell, was found hanging in his cell at HMP Blackthorn, to disguise the fact that he had been choked to death by OCG enforcer, Lee Banks.

The equally unsurprising revelation that Jo Davidson was blood-related to an OCG member was also flagged up in that same review.

However, the nature of that relationship is profoundly shocking and would defy almost every attempt at prediction. Former OCG boss, Tommy Hunter, had an incestuous relationship with his own sister, Samantha, and Jo was the product. Making the evil criminal both her father and her uncle. Samantha Davidson, listed as Jo’s next of kin on her police personnel record, is discovered to be, like Hunter, deceased.

“Homozygosity”, which describes a genetic condition where an individual has the same DNA sequence for a particular gene from both sets of biological parents, was present in the sample attributed to Jo.

Meanwhile back at The Hill (Hillside Lane Police Station), the probe into the murder of investigative journalist, Gail Vella, took on renewed life after the apparent hiatus last week, as the Operation Lighthouse team developed the intelligence worked upon by Detective Sergeant Chris Lomax and DI Fleming regarding workshopped weapons and ammunition.

Unknown to either her boss, DCI Davidson, or the rest of her Murder Investigation Team (MIT) colleagues, Kate tipped off Steve Arnott about armed police raids on three possible light industrial locations. She took them (deliberately, it seems) to a dud location first, Lochside Park, from whence AC-12 newcomer, Detective Constable Chloe Bishop, observed Ryan Pilkington tipping off the OCG about the imminent raids on the two other premises. Steve Arnott was at the second identified location, Ted Hastings was at the third. All bases covered by the corruption busters.

Two suspicious looking IC-1’s were shot dead at location two, Whiterock Park, including ‘Beardy Blue Van’ from the closing scene of episode 2, where he delivered a burner phone to a distraught Jo Davidson. Now identified as Lewis Polkard, Jo didn’t look quite so unhappy about the death of one of her OCG tormentors as she otherwise might.

The other man in receipt of at least one fatal AFO bullet was Darren Morgan. Polkard had a lengthy criminal records, involving serious and violent offences, and, of course, identified links to the OCG. Morgan had only minor offences on his record but may have been the engineer operating the specialist machinery converting guns and producing ammunition.

A burner phone recovered from Polkard had received a call from an unidentified number at exactly the same time as Pilkington had made the call from his own trouser-legged ‘burner’, observed by DC Bishop. All other phones belonging to the MIT team had been ordered to be left in the incident room, to avoid the possibility of leaks to the OCG.

Ammunition linking the Gail Vella murder to the failed OCG raid on Hickey’s Bookmakers (opening scene of episode one) was found at Whiterock Park, along with the tools and machinery used in the conversion of ‘workshopped weapons’ and ‘untraceable custom ammunition’. A huge step forward for the Op Lighthouse team.

In a scene memorable for a good helping of Ted’s culinary adages, sprat and mackerel was the gaffer’s rationale for leaving the permanently dangerous Pilks in situ. “He’s the new Caddy, he will lead us to the big fish”.

Washed down, inevitably, with: “Now we’re sucking diesel”. Red or white, asked no-one, in particular. But OCG’s usually prefer the former at half the price.

TV pictures of Chief Constable of Central Police, Philip Osborne, giving an impromptu press conference on the steps outside the force headquarters, articulating his views on politicians and bent cops, were viewed with dismay by the entire AC-12 team. Not least, Supt Hastings who sought, and was granted, an audience with the politician to whom the crooked chief had obliquely referred. PCC Rohan Sindwhani is resigning, we learned. Osborne had “thrown him under a bus”. But did he jump or was he pushed?

Forensic reports on banknotes drawn from a large stash found in Stephanie Corbett’s loft were returned to Steve Arnott in some secrecy. They were linked to the £50,000 recovered from Ted Hastings’ room at Edge Park Hotel in Series five. The crooked ex-cop turned Investment Manager, Mark Moffatt, centrally involved in the attempted bribe on Ted, had said in police interview that £100,000 was given to him. Hastings said there was only £50,000, and he was believed, as a police officer of good standing. He passed the ‘missing’ money to Steph, of course, to assuage the loss of her late husband, Sergeant John Corbett.

Whilst he was travelling in the armed convoy between HMP Blackthorn and AC-12 HQ, Jimmy Lakewell had, confidentially, revealed to DI Arnott that Gail Vella had been investigating Lawrence Christopher’s death in police custody in 2003. The young architect had been stabbed by a gang of five white youths near Edge Park Railway Station, but almost immediately labelled, by police, as a black gang member. Officers mocked him whilst he lay unresponsive in cell, making monkey noises, and the post-mortem examination found an undiagnosed skull fracture.

There were missed, and glaring, opportunities to arrest those responsible, forensic opportunities lost. Detective Chief Inspector Marcus Thurwell was the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO). The subsequent Inquiry into police failures in 2005 was a ‘whitewash’.

Darren Hunter, son of Tommy, was one of the five suspects. Assiduous detective work by Chloe Bishop revealed that Ian Buckells (as a young DC) and Philip Osborne (as a DI) were both involved in the initial Lawrence Christopher murder enquiry.

Apropos of not a great deal, Janet Alder has been a good friend of mine for a number of years, and the association of the names and the circumstances of the deaths of her paratrooper brother, Christopher, in 1998, and Stephen Lawrence, five years earlier, are obvious. I remain unconvinced that such leverage is entirely appropriate, particularly without contacting the Alder (or the Lawrence?) family. Notwithstanding, deaths of black males in police custody, or following police contact, State-led cover-ups and institutionalised racism in the police service, are all topics fully worth their place in a mass audience production. Janet has kindly approved the reference to her and Chris in this piece.

Line Of Duty viewers and fans may have recognised Thurwell’s name from Series three: He was the SIO in the enquiry into the 1998 murder of Oliver Stephens-Lloyd, the care worker who reported allegations of child sex abuse at Sands View Boys Home.  Where OCG members procured vulnerable victims for themselves, politicians and bent police officers.

Shades of Blenheim Vale that featured centrally in ‘Neverland’, the Series two finale of my all-time favourite TV programme, Endeavour. The episode opens with the apparent suicide of a journalist looking into alleged police and councillor corruption. One of the boys abused at the Vale was DC Morse’s skipper, D/Sgt Peter Jacques. He married and left for a new life in America in a bid to erase the bad memories.

An Inspector George Gently episode in 2009 also covered broadly the same topic where children were abused in an orphanage, over a long period, and the local police force failed them. Yet again, an abused boy became a scarred police officer in much the same way, and at the same rank, as Peter Jacques and Line of Duty‘s now deceased AFO Sergeant, Danny Waldron.

At the material time, the death of Stephens-Lloyd was written off as a suicide. But it was later discovered that he was murdered by the OCG, again strongly suggesting that the original investigation involved a cover-up. PC Maneet Bindra and one of the corrupt police “big four”, ACC Derek Hilton, also prematurely met their Maker at the same location. PC Bindra’s throat was gruesomely cut by Lee Banks, whilst being restrained by no less than Ryan Pilkington. She was being blackmailed by Hilton to leak sensitive information from AC-12. Hilton’s death was also written off as a suicide, from an apparent self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. He was assumed at the time, by AC-12, to be ‘H’.

Thurwell was also SIO on the Sands View investigation. He took early retirement in 2005, and now believed to be living in Spain. The subsequent AC-12 investigation convicted Patrick Fairbank, whom Gail Vella had asked to interview in prison, but she was killed the night before that was scheduled to take place. Gail had also requested interviews with Gill Biggeloe, Lisa McQueen, Roz Huntley, Jane Cafferty, Tina Tranter, Manish Prasad and Harinder Baines. A lengthy list, but all officers linked to organised crime and associated police corruption. Only convicted OCG criminal, Lee Banks (now casually revealed on screen that Carl was, in fact, his brother), agreed to an interview with the journalist, two weeks before Ms Vella was murdered. He was adamant that his brother was not Gail’s killer.

Jimmy Lakewell had been interviewed over the phone. The audio file of which the OCG were very anxious to discover, and its recovery may have led to her murder.

It was subsequently revealed that Hastings tipped off Lee Banks about ‘a rat’ in the OCG midst, during a clandestine visit to HMP Blackthorn in Series five. That informant turned out, of course, to be undercover officer D/Sgt Corbett whose throat was sliced open by Ryan Pilkington, as a consequence of that discovery. Revenge for Corbett beating and torturing his wife is mooted as a motive for Ted’s actions.

His oft-expressed obsession with rooting out bent cops, plainly, does not extend to himself. The catalogue of rule bending, disciplinary and criminal offences grows longer by the episode. Those who believe that Ted is a crooked cop will argue that the removal of Corbett from the land of the living was more nefariously grounded, and indeed essential, as he was convinced that Hastings was ‘H’.

Which may be one explanation for cold fish, Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael (played by the utterly sublime Anna Maxwell Martin), making her Line of Duty re-appearance to take over Central Police’s merged, and now diminished, anti-corruption units. But she immediately arouses the suspicion of viewers and fans by pulling Ac-12 surveillance off Jo Davidson, Pilkington and Terry Boyle. She also informed a disturbed Hastings of the recommendation to the Crown Prosecution Service that they drop the criminal case against Ian Buckells. “To avoid the humiliation of a cracked trial”, she says (in this particular case, where the prosecutor would offer no evidence at a listed plea and case management hearing).

The big questions:

How did the lorry park shoot-out end?

Two shots rang out, in quick succession, following the Fleming/Pilkington showdown, which suggests a number of outcomes. The two most obvious being that they either shot one another, or a ‘double-tap’ was delivered by Kate, as she is trained to do in a life threatening situation.

A third and fourth, less obvious posit, is that a shot was fired by either Jo Davidson or an arriving AFO, despatched by AC-12.

A fifth is that the canny DI, sensing danger or a trap, had persuaded one of the surveillance team to remain in-situ and he or she fired at least one of the shots.

Of course, either or both of Kate and Ryan could have been injured and still alive; if so, will they die and be written out of the drama, thereafter?

However implausible it may seem to write out one of the three central AC-12 detectives, Line Of Duty fans will know that Jed Mercurio has ‘previous’ for killing off major players. ‘The Caddy’, Dot Cottan; the aforementioned Danny Waldron and Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton (brilliantly played by Keeley Hawes), to name but three.  

But if Fleming does survive, and I think that she does, it means the game is well and truly up for Joanne Davidson, with too many links to organised crime now out in the open. A return visit to the ‘glass box’ at AC-12 HQ now guaranteed.

Why was Ryan Pilkington left at large?

Previously, Ted Hastings pressed the case for AC-12 bringing in PC Pilkington, but he was dissuaded by Kate at a meeting in the notorious underpass, a regular covert meeting place over the years for Ac-12 detectives.

This week, those roles were reversed and DI Fleming urged the team to arrest and interview him, only for Hastings to persuade (ok, steamroller) her and Steve Arnott to keep him under surveillance, in the hope he would lead them to ‘the fourth man’. 

But is there more to the Hastings U-turn? One theory, which fuels the fire that Hastings is that fourth man, ‘H’, and, with the Banks brothers out of service and Polkard, Morley recently deceased, he needs Pilkington at large to take out Fleming, due to shortage of available manpower willing and able to kill a police officer. Ryan has murdered more than he has fingers on one hand.

Ted Hastings, past present and future?

As alluded to earlier in this piece, Ted Hastings is actually one of the bent cops he professes, so often, to despise. A case of ‘he doth protest too much’.

The wistful look at a photograph of a younger self, and other uniformed colleagues, on the office window sill is, possibly, a nod to his service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. A weakness, or pressure point, yet to be revealed, having joined that force in 1982 and served for 7 years during ‘The Troubles’?

The Hastings, Ann Marie McGillis, John Corbett (mother and son) axis may yet have a part to play. As the relationship with Corbett’s wife, Stephanie, most certainly will. The forensics on the recovered banknotes guarantee that.

How long into episode six will it take before Steve Arnott escalates what he knows about the banknotes, Steph Corbett, Lee Banks and Ted, beyond sharing with Kate Fleming. Or will she do it for him? Or has he done so, already?

Ted’s police service of 38 years is not unprecedented, but extraordinarily long. As is the time he has spent at the rank of superintendent and overall in Professional Standards or AC-12. Fifteen years in total. That strongly implies a ‘glass ceiling’ and past misdemeanours.

But will he get to retirement before the anti-corruption tables are turned on him? He survived the full Patricia Carmichael treatment at the conclusion of Series five, but the wily and well connected chief superintendent looks very much up for a second bout.

Viewers have previously spotted, in Ted’s hotel room, a laptop belonging to Hastings complete with the same encrypted messaging service that the OCG are known to use. That now comes into sharp focus again with the mis-spelt word, ‘Definately’. A form of spelling previously used by Ted. Deliberately, or otherwise. He claimed the former when he made the same ‘mistake’ in front of a group of surprised AC-12 colleagues.

It’s a big call, but, one way or another, I think that Series six is Adrian Dunbar’s last as Ted Hastings, beyond the occasional cameo appearance.

Who and what is Marcus Thurwell?

Marcus Thurwell is a retired detective chief inspector and was Senior Investigating Officer in three crucial cases in recent Central Police history:

(i) The Stephens-Lloyd murder. (ii) The failed investigation into child sexual abuse at Sands View (iii) The Lawrence Christopher death in custody.

He was, in fact, mentioned several times during Series three, and was briefly pursued as a suspect in the Sands View cover-up; so, last week’s episode was not the first viewers had heard of him. But the first time we had seen his face (that of iconic actor, James Nesbitt, of course).

A curiosity is that Thurwell was allocated the Stephens-Lloyd investigation whilst an inspector in the Vice Squad, an unusual appointment. The Head of that squad, of course, was the now disgraced Patrick Fairbank. Amongst other connections, the convicted paedophile was a Freemason alongside Ted Hastings.

During a visit to HMP Queen’s Chase by Steve Arnott and Chloe Bishop, Fairbank claimed he didn’t recognise Thurwell from a large photograph shown to him.

The Thurwell connection to these cases is crucial, as they appear to be the focus of journalist Gail Vella’s investigations. She was looking to add flesh to the bones of her hunch that senior police officers were in cohoots with serious and organised criminals. Gail was murdered, to all intents and purposes, to put a permanent stop on her work..

His strong links to Ian Buckells, on whom the corruption, unwitting, compliant or just plain stupid, jury is still out; bent chief constable, Philip Osborne; and the convicted and now, apparently, senile Patrick Fairbank, mark him as a person of very serious interest to AC-12.

The Belfast and Northern Ireland links to ex-DCI Thurwell may well, also, be of interest to Ted Hastings, in particular. They may have served together in the RUC in the mid to late 1980’s.

So, does Marcus Thurwell hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the OCG, and the elusive and enigmatic ‘H’? Or will the crime bosses, or ‘H’ (or both), get to him first and rub him out? As a retired officer he is beyond disciplinary sanction and it will need suspicion of a criminal offence, and a necessity test, in order to detain him for questioning. It seems unlikely that he would attend a voluntary interview.

He was last photographed in Spain in 2015, through the telescopic lens of what appears to be a police surveillance camera. This might indicate that he is, or was, on the radar of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera, a specialist law enforcement and surveillance agency likened to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) in the United States).

Thurwell could, also, be already dead.

Is DCS Patricia Carmichael another bent Central Police cop?

The Head of AC-3, the East Midlands Police anti-corruption unit, swept into AC-12 HQ and made sure that the incumbents are keenly aware, if they did not know already, that she will not be entering Central Police’s ‘Most Popular Cop Awards’. This year, or any other year.

Her first actions, and the animated exchange with the officer she is set to replace, Ted Hastings, immediately cast suspicion on Patricia Carmichael.  

Is she a stooge of Chief Constable Philip Osborne, put in place to make sure any enquiries into police corruption, and its links with organised crime, are stifled?

She claimed this was down to budget constraints, but is there something more sinister to her promotion and consequent decision making?

The motive for Gail Vella’s murder?

As alluded to earlier in the piece, Gail had begun to fill in the blanks in the police corruption, organised crime matrix and was plainly on a roll. The list of potential prisoner interviewees strongly suggests that she was about to blow open at least part, if not all, of the high profile Central Police cover-ups. It also opens up the possibility that her crusade was motivated, and more directly linked, to one or both of those investigations, beyond a journalist’s enquiring mind, and she was, perhaps, also receiving assistance from inside AC-12 in identifying potential leads.

Steve Arnott believes that the reporter was murdered in order to protect another officer in the original enquiries into both Sands View and Lawrence Christopher, putting forward that the same officer wields a high level of influence over the OCG, with his suspicion now falling firmly on Marcus Thurwell. My own instinct is that, if still alive, he is a player, but not the captain.

Why has PCC Rohan Sindwhani resigned?

Having appeared to obstruct Ted Hastings at every turn, and enthusiastically endorsed the ‘whitewash’, no police corruption, Operation Pear Tree outcome (which Gail Vella was also challenging), the PCC has now turned turtle and is, seemingly, encouraging Hastings to pursue his own chief constable.

But front of mind of the author of this piece, also an investigative journalist who probes alleged police misconduct and corruption, is that sly-looking Sindwhani, took off his microphone and earpiece and walked out of an interview with Gail Vella, as she questioned him over the Sands View scandal. PCC’s blanking questions over police force misdemeanours is routine on my beat, most notably in North and West Yorkshire, but also in Cleveland, Durham and Greater Manchester. The PCC in South Yorkshire does not, however, fall into that category. You may not always get the response you were looking for, but Dr Alan Billings and his team will always engage.

Why was Billy McTulloch removed from the Gail Vella enquiry

DCO Jo Davidson was the second SIO to lead the Operation Lighthouse investigation, taking over from DCI Billy McTulloch in October, 2019. No explanation has yet been offered for the switch, or details of which senior officer made the decision and why. In the ordinary course of events that would fall to Superintendent Ian Buckells, in conjunction with Central Police’s Head of Crime or the assistant chief constable holding that portfolio.

Two of the Line of Duty Twitter fraternity, @CapitalG5000 and @DCottan (both must-follows on that social media platform) have identified two other McTullochs of interest. One is a training officer at the police college at Ryton in Warwickshire, who trained Ryan Pilkington, and the other, Thomas, is one of the five suspects in the Lawrence Christopher murder, along with Tommy Hunter’s son.

Will they, won’t they?

Even before the confrontation at the lorry park, Jo had asked Kate to transfer out of The Hill, following a disagreement of Ryan Pilkington, and it seemed that their relationship is over. Now, even if both survive the shoot-out, it is surely doomed? Unless they both resign from the police service and elope to consummate their affair. A step too far, surely, even for a Mercurio-written drama?

One national newspaper, not exactly renowned for its truthful reporting has speculated, quite grandly and with a photograph, that Kate and Chris Lomax have an affair in the not too distant future. Kate has ‘previous’ on the affairs front, having conducted one with Richard Akers in Series two. He was the husband of D/Sgt Jayne Akers who died in the ambush of the armed convoy accompanying Tommy Hunter. DI Fleming and Mrs Akers had trained together before joining the police service.

In other news, Mrs Corbett and DI Arnott’s fledgling love life appears to be faltering. “Shall we leave it, leave it” asks Steph. “I’m still at work and can’t talk” says Steve. You may be a heartthrob, with gorgeous women falling at your feet, mate. But you are a lousy liar!

How good is DC Chloe Bishop?

Steve Arnott and Chloe have begun to really gel as a team and the bright young detective, convincingly played by Shalom Brune-Franklin, has carried the AC-12 investigation into OCG links with the Vella murder, and connected links to the ‘fourth man or woman’, almost single-handedly.

Is she bent? Hopefully not, as a distinct preference would be for her to be promoted to detective sergeant in a forthcoming Line of Duty series, in an anti-corruption unit headed by DCS Carmichael.

Is she the daughter of bent cop Tony Gates from Series one? Pure guesswork, and I’d rather waste one on a link to the family of Lawrence Christopher, or their justice campaign, and a further professional, or personal, link to Gail Vella.

What’s next?

So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to over the closing two episodes, including a 29 minute AC-12 interview scene. Buckle in at 9pm on Sunday, BBC One. Or catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Page last updated: Sunday 25th April, 2021 at 1405 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Picture credits: BBC, World Productions.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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.

Has Horizon claim disappeared into the sunset?

In the week that marked the tenth anniversary of the conviction of Robin Garbutt, there have been three noteworthy developments, with a fourth to follow on shortly with the handing down of a Court of Appeal judgment, in a connected matter, on Friday 23rd April, 2021 at the Royal Courts of Justice: The Post Office Horizon software scandal that has led to a large number of former postmasters and postmistresses having convictions quashed.

I was present at all four days of the hearing of those appeals in March, 2021 writes Neil Wilby. Principally to observe what effect, if any, the outcome would have on the murderer’s long standing claim of innocence.

Garbutt was convicted on 19th April, 2021, at Teesside Crown Court, of murdering his postmistress wife, Diana. She was bludgeoned to death as she lay, apparently, sleeping in her bed in the living quarters above Melsonby Village Shop and Post Office in North Yorkshire (read more here).

A depressingly poor investigation by North Yorkshire Police had followed the murder (read more here) but there was still enough probative evidence presented for a jury to return a 10-2 majority verdict.

A miscarriage of justice campaign was formed soon afterwards by two relatives of Garbutt’s, his sister Sallie Wood and brother-in-law, Mark Stilborn, and an unsuccessful appeal was made to the Court of Appeal. Three law lords were emphatic that the conviction was safe.

Three applications have subsequently made to the Criminal Case Review Commission by Garbutt’s legal team. The ones made in 2015 and 2017 were unsuccessful. A third was made in December, 2019 amid a blaze of publicity (read more here). Much of it due to the efforts a later addition to the campaign team, Jane Metcalfe, a close friend of one of Garbutt’s life partners before he met, and later married, Diana.

Regrettably, Jane has been exposed regularly for what might be charitably termed as ‘decorating the truth’, her enthusiasm for winning Robin’s freedom blinding her, seemingly, to the stark reasons why the village shopkeeper remains a guest on the Category A wing of HMP Frankland (read more here).

Earlier this week, the press office at the CCRC confirmed that the third Garbutt application remains ‘under review’ and no decision, provisional or otherwise, has been communicated to the legal team representing Garbutt. They are solicitor, Martin Rackstraw, and Jim Sturman QC. Responsible for all three CCRC applications.

The reason for that enquiry was a post on the ‘Robin Garbutt Official’ website dated 8th April, 2021. It appeared to indicate that there has been some movement in terms of the CCRC making findings on that third application.

The post is attributed to Mark Stilborn, but easily recognised, in any event, by its muddled style and familiar syntax errors.

As is the the apparent failure to take on board the size and nature of both the evidential and legal hurdles that a CCRC applicant faces by way of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1995. A comment that could also safely be applied to Jane Metcalfe and Sallie Wood.

None of them have grasped that, for Garbutt’s conviction to be deemed unsafe, there has to be a reversal of the jury’s verdict, amplified forcefully by the trial judge; the ruling of the Court of Appeal; and the two previous decisions by the CCRC. All of whom found that the story of an armed robber (or robbers) who murdered Diana with a rusty iron bar, some hours before venturing downstairs armed with a gun (but not the piece of rusty metal), emptying the safe and till in the shop, leaving Robin unharmed and immediately free to raise the alarm, beyond belief.

Much of the publicity that accompanied the third CCRC application featured a new ground of appeal upon which the Garbutt campaign team pinned great hope: The aforementioned Horizon software was to blame for cash shortfalls identified during the murder trial by two expert forensic accounting witnesses. It undermines the prosecution case fatally, they say.

Now it doesn’t even rate a mention in the most recent case update, posted by the same campaign leaders who were so vociferous upon the subject just a year ago. To those adjacent to this case, including the author of this piece, that comes as no surprise at all: If robbers emptied the safe of £16,310, a sum that Garbutt told the jury tallied with the shop and post office accounts, it seems inconceivable that he now claims a software glitch has a bearing on his guilt.

The third development comes via a response to a recent freedom of information request. It is reproduced in full here:

“I am writing in response to your email received by Post Office Limited on 23 March, which I am dealing with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”).  
 
In your email you have requested the following information: 
 
Please disclose the following information by way of the Freedom of 
Information Act, 2000. 
 
1. The number of written complaints made by the Sub-Postmistress of 

Melsonby Post Office, and received by POL, where the terms ‘software faults’ 
or ‘Horizon’ or ‘shortfall’ formed part of the text of such complaints.  
 
2. Alternatively, the number of telephone complaints, where POL’s record of 

those complaints includes those same terms mentioned in para 1. above. 
 
3. The relevant period is 1st January, 2009 until 22nd March, 2010. 

 
4. A copy of the ‘Known Error Log’, in issue by Post Office Limited at 31st 

March, 2010. This document, which recorded faults in Fujitsu’s Horizon 
software, has been referred to repeatedly in proceedings at the Court of 
Appeal Criminal this week (commencing 22nd March, 2021). 
 
The difficulties in respect of passage of time, and the consequent possibility 
of data weeding, are recognised. It is hoped that, by keeping the request as 
compact as possible, this may assist the location of the information or in 
establishing that none existed. 
 
Whilst FOIA requests are, generally, to be regarded as applicant and motive 

blind, POL is aware of my journalistic interest in this particular sub-post 
office and its history. I am, of course, grateful to POL for past assistance and 
hope that this request can be fulfilled as efficiently and with the same co-
operation. 
 
Response

Post Office does not differential between complaints, general enquiries or notifications made in writing and those made by telephone by Postmasters.  We confirm that we do have a log covering the period you have identified, however none of the entries match the criteria you have provided. 

Regarding the additional request for a copy of the “Known Error Log” that you sent to us, following our acknowledgement letter, we will respond to this by 26th April.

Information Rights Manager 
Post Office Limited  – Information Rights Team 
20 Finsbury Street 
London EC2Y 9AQ ”

The obvious conclusion drawn from such disclosure is that Melsonby Post Office raised no complaints about cash shortfalls or Horizon software faults. No such faults were raised by Garbutt’s defence team at trial, or at the Court of Appeal, or in their previous two CCRC applications.

That may well be why this ‘new’ ground of application has disappeared into the sunset. Robin’s campaign team has been asked to provide clarification on this point. They have never taken up right of reply, previously. Preferring news outlets with a less searching and more accommodating approach to their claims.

Page last updated: Thursday 22nd April, 2021 at 1655 hours

Photo Credit: York Press

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Line of Duty – review of episode 4

Wow! That was Jed Mercurio and television drama at their finest.

Keeping up with the storyline

Where to start? Because with Line of Duty plots it is often not ‘at the very beginning’. We leave that to Julie Andrews and Sound of Music.

Indeed, for this week’s review the closing scene is a good starting point. It left millions of viewers agog and social media in meltdown. AC-12’s all-action Temporary Detective Inspector, Steve Arnott, eventually receives the report from the forensic tear-up of Police Sergeant Farida Jatri’s home. As expected by most viewers and fans, the newly promoted Temporary Detective Superintendent Joanne Davidson’s fingerprints are prolific, exposing Jo’s lies about the relationship between herself and the exquisite Farida (I’m in love with her, too).

My instinctive reaction was that it was either Anne-Marie Gillis (see my review of episode 1 here) or rogue Detective Sergeant, John Corbett, (see episode 2 and 3 reviews here and here) which only served to demonstrate how an hour of Line of Duty can seriously addle the brain.

A second viewing of the episode, and many more of that closing drama, may yet rule out Corbett. The clues ‘nominal‘ and ‘not on the internal police database‘ point away from the now deceased detective sergeant.

By way of explanation, a nominal is, in policing terms, usually a person about whom information is held on a Police National Computer (PNC) nominal record. Primarily, convictions and cautions. There is no distinction, within that description, between shoplifter or murderer. Although the latter would, most likely, carry a marker or a flag. Alerting an officer mining the PNC as to the class of offender and any attendant risks associated in dealing with him or her. Particularly in relation to known use of weapons. Other reasons for being on the PNC can include being reprimanded, warned or arrested over a recordable offence. That is to say, one that is indictable (for example rape, armed robbery, murder) or can be tried either in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court and, generally, carries a prison sentence.

So, the search for the mystery person in the AC-12 file, one might think, is limited to convicted persons, or previously involved in an investigation of some seriousness, or of interest to the security services. The nominal is not, seemingly, currently serving in the police force, but is plainly well known to Supt. Hastings.

It is not revealed whether T/DI Arnott previously knew of this person before the database search. That could open up possibilities that it may be a criminal (or terrorist) known to Ted from his earlier career with the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The BAFTA-contending look on Detective Constable Chloe Bishop’s face suggests that viewers are going to be rocked off their chairs when the identity of Jo’s blood relative is made known.

It might also indicate that the revelation will not assist Ted in deflecting the impending retirement forced upon him earlier in the piece by the wily, world-weary deputy chief constable, Andrea Wise. Hastings – an officer with perenially forthright views – blames Chief Constable Philip Osborne for the decision to drastically reduce the number of anti-corruption officers in Central Police, and, in doing so, tagging him a “bare-faced liar”. With good cause for those that cast their mind back to Series 1. Osborne’s lying led to Steve Arnott leaving the unit to which he was attached (counter terrorism), headed up by DCI Osborne as he was then, following the shooting without warning of Karim Ali. The bent chief constable is many people’s favourite to be ‘H’.

Jo Davidson has a Scottish accent that might point to the deceased Organised Crime Gang (OCG) leader and paedophile, Tommy Hunter, later known as Alex Campbell in police witness protection, from whence he was reported to have died in the notorious ambush scene at the opening of series 2 (or did he perish, some now ask?).

Others touted by fans and viewers include Jackie Laverty, murdered during Line of Duty Series 1 and whose body, or parts or traces thereof, have popped up in Seasons 5 and 6. Laverty was a money launderer for the OCG and had an affair with bent cop, DCI Tony Gates, who was present when her throat was fatally cut. A method of execution favoured by the OCG as Carl Banks and John Corbett also found to their cost.

Gates was framed for the Laverty murder by the OCG; blackmailed by Tommy Hunter; relentlessly taunted by a much younger Ryan Pilkington; but was cleared of the murder before walking into a truck. ‘In the line of duty’, reported Steve Arnott at the time.

The body count increased significantly in Episode 4, including yet another female authorised firearms officer (AFO). This tragedy occurred during a dramatic hi-jack of a prison van carrying Arnott and a surprisingly tanned-looking Jimmy Lakewell, a crooked criminal defence lawyer who took bribes from the OCG, last seen taking his final breaths as a garrotte held by OCG henchman, Lee Banks, choked the life out of him. Lakewell is, of course, a veteran from Series 4 who set middle-aged female pulses racing.

The death throes were played out before Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells, currently on remand in HMP Blackthorn and, ostensibly, visiting Jimmy in his cell for a brew. It was a warning from the OCG, if one were needed, of the fate meted out to those who either rat on the OCG, or their continued existence presents an ongoing threat to these ruthless criminals and the bent cops in their midst.

The shoot-out between the OCG and Central Police, in broad daylight on a main road beneath a trunk road bridge, was pure television drama. With the permitted artistic licence that goes with such scenes. The sniper in the the third floor window of an adjacent building was such an embellishment, as was the acrobatic (or pained contortionist) James Bond-class shot from a 9mm Glock that took him out. Take a commendation, and a nod to your time in the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Steve Arnott. After a minute’s silence for another fallen AFO. RIP PC Ruby Jones.

The use of Stingers to halt the armed police convoy accompanying the prison van again points to serious police involvement in the OCG. Normally deployed in authorised police pursuits, this specialist equipment requires officers to be trained in its use and injuries during deployment are not uncommon.

Last week’s prediction, in these columns, that PC Ryan Pilkington, the OCG’s most junior but callous, fearless man on the inside, would be reined in by the police, or rubbed out by the crime bosses, bombed spectacularly.

Pilks is not only stalking her, he is now openly ‘running’ DCI Davidson at Hillside Lane Police Station. For emphasis, using a gun pressed firmly to the back of her head outside the plush, fortress property she visits to make, or attempt to make, encrypted communications with the OCG hierarchy. It, increasingly, looks as though she doesn’t actually live there. Which would explain why the framed ‘mother and daughter’ style photograph, on the cabinet in the main living area, ended up drenched by a glass of wine hurled through the air by Jo. Placed there as a reminder that she is now firmly under the control of the OCG and the reason why. Davidson has previously told her ex-lover, Farida, that she had no family. Which, of course, may yet turn out to be another of an increasing number of lies she has told.

Following the encounter with the sidearm, and the accompanying words of advice from Pilkington, Jo reversed her decision to transfer him out of ‘The Hill’. It appears that the OCG needs Ryan to be there to monitor progress of the Gail Vella murder enquiry, codenamed Operation Lighthouse, and to watch with whom Miss Davidson is getting into bed with, literally.

Speaking of which, the wily Kate Fleming continues to successfully play all sides off against the middle, but for how long? The blossoming friendship, potential romance, is starting to hit a bump or two as DI Fleming begins to question what is going on between Jo and PC Pilkington.

During a scene in AC-12’s very own grubby pedestrian underpass, surprisingly well lit and litter-free, between Kate and Ted Hastings, a decision is taken by the war-torn superintendent, at the behest of the now back in favour detective inspector, to leave the armed and dangerous constable in-situ, rather than ‘bring him in’. The rationale, apparently absent of any recognisable risk assessment, being that Pilkington’s link to the OCG, and the high ranking corrupt officer, or policing body involved with it, would be broken otherwise – and valuable intelligence lost. She also raised the lack of probative evidence against him, so far, and Pilkington’s cool and confident demeanour under questioning.

Some burning questions

Is Tommy Hunter still alive and the ‘unknown user’ in the computer messaging?

It is a plausible theory and one I am running with for the moment. The slit throat method of execution lives on, since the first of that ilk, when Hunter ordered the murder of Jackie Laverty. One suspects the end of Jimmy Lakewell would have been so arranged but for the biometric traces it would have, inevitably, left afterwards in his prison cell.

It is likely that Lakewell will be found hanging in his cell, by an OCG-friendly prison officer, some time after Banks and Buckells have returned to their own accommodation in HMP Blackthorn.

The control exerted over Ryan Pilkington by the OCG, both in last season and this, would also support the theory. He was groomed as a serious and violent criminal, and very probably sexually abused by Hunter, from an early age. The iron grip the OCG still have over bent cops, and the sheer force of the attacks they are able to mount against authority, aided by crucial information from some of the most sensitive areas of Central Police, point to a very strong-minded, cunning and utterly ruthless character in charge. Tommy Hunter definitely matches those competencies and leadership qualities.

Is Superintendent Buckells still a contender as ‘H’

Nigel Boyle’s fine acting has been a plus point in the present season, but the character he plays does not appear bright enough – which may still be a Columbo-style act – or have enough seniority in an OCG group if he is subservient to a thug such as Banks. The fact that he is ‘a twat’, as expounded by Jo Davidson, is not in doubt. Not least for accepting sexual favours for dropping charges. Buckells seems now to be an unlikely candidate as a criminal mastermind (‘H’), resembling much more a lazy, box ticking cop whose lack of attention to detail may inadvertently assist organised criminals. On a generous view, fooling round with persons of interest to the police, victims or suspects, may have given the OCG the leverage to blackmail him.

What or whose are the initials on Ian Buckells’ phone records

Line of Duty’s propensity for policing acronyms is well known. But none of those on the screen in the AC-12 interview room are recognisable as such. The best answers I have seen, by a considerable distance, are to be found on Den of Geek‘s brilliant Line of Duty blog: RGT could be ‘really great tits’, FAF could be ‘fit as f**k, NA ‘nice arse’. For BJL (………) the broad-minded are invited to insert their own answer. Or, like me, phone a younger friend more versed in those ways of the world.

What did Jimmy Lakewell reveal in the back of ambushed prison van?

If he did reveal information, it is likely be crucial in leading to the heart of the OCG – and ‘H’. In his interview in the Ac-12 interview room, after the ambush ordeal, Lakewell is at pains to say that he didn’t talk to Arnott in the back of the prison van, suggesting that he knows that there is a leak from Ac-12 to the OCG, and rejecting the offer of immunity and witness protection in return for what he knows. But that doesn’t discount him passing a note, or either of them writing in Steve’s pocket book (PNB for acronym and jargon enthusiasts). There has been speculation that the two spoke ‘off the record’, hinted at by knowing looks between the pair after Supt Hastings had left the room. But the savvy Lakewell might have correctly deduced that either the van, or DI Arnott (or both), were wired for sound.

Either way, the OCG did think that he had ‘ratted’ on the OCG – and paid the full price. The message from inside Central Police was that Lakewell had revealed something, even inadvertently.

Are Lee and Carl Banks related?

It has now been relegated to a matter of much less significance, but may assist Operation Lighthouse officers in solving the murder of journalist, Gail Vella. With so much action elsewhere in episode, the investigation seemed to be on slow burn. Although one interesting line was followed up by DI Fleming and Sgt Chris Lomax on ‘workshopped’, or modified, untraceable firearms. A ballistics link leads them to the guns used in the armed robbery on Hickey’s Bookmakers, which featured in the opening scenes of the current series. Banks, of course, is a common enough surname, but they are both members of the same OCG, with significant police records as serious, armed criminals. Brothers, cousins or another classic Jed Mercurio red herring?

Will the decision not to arrest Ryan Pilkington backfire?

Viewers and fans know about the murders of serving police officers (DS Corbett and PC Patel), an attempted murder of key witness, Terry Boyle, and the gun threat to Jo Davidson, so Pilkington is as dangerous as they come. Without factoring in other likely acts of extreme violence since, as a thirteen year old, he tried to cut off Steve Arnott’s fingers with a pair of industrial pliers in a classic tied to a chair in a derelict building torture scene. But Central Police, principally through the nous of Kate Fleming, only suspect his nefarious involvement with the car in the reservoir incident with Terry and Lisa.

The official police record shows that Ryan was commended for bravery as a result. Only Terry can tell a different tale and, knowing his life is likely to end soon afterwards, he is unlikely to go down the route of enlightening Central Police. For now, at least.

There is no police inkling, so far, that Corbett was slain by Pilkington. That may change, of course as the story unfolds over the closing episodes and OCG loose ends are tied together. But the Line of Duty body count is unlikely to remain static whilst he is at large. Those most at risk are likely to be carrying a warrant card.

Not least, because Ryan Pilkington was, even more seriously, one of the four machine-gun toting villains that carried out another armed convoy ambush at the start of Series 5, in which three AFO’s shot and one badly injured. John Corbett was one of the others.

Who will head up the merged and decimated AC-3, AC-9 and AC-12 units?

The announced re-appearance of Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael is very much welcomed in this quarter, and forecast in my preview piece prior to episode one (read here).

Anna Maxwell Martin is a sublime actress and one whose poker-faced AC-3 presence lit up the latter part of Series 5. The interviews with the, then, murder suspect, Ted Hastings, are enduring moments.

She is, not unoriginally, my hot favourite to land the new AC-3, AC-9, AC-12 supremo role with a twist in that particular tale (or tail) before this Line of Duty season is over.

What’s next?

So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to over the concluding three episodes. Buckle (or Buckell) in again at 9pm tonight, BBC One.

Finally, a sincere thank you to all those who have read the previous four Line of Duty pieces on this website; proof-read, gently chided, offered corrections to syntax errors and said the kindest things about our common passion.

For me, it is a form of escapism from the serious side of my journalism and court reporting – and much harder work than I thought. But I enjoy every moment, and the fun and fellowship the Line of Duty brethren brings into an, otherwise, mostly dull lockdown life.

It is hoped this latest piece, offering a different to slant to the events on screen, entertains and informs in the same way as before.

Page last updated: Sunday 17th April, 2021 at 1835 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

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Picture credits: BBC, World Productions.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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.

Number of candidates set to contest Oldham elections drops to 95

With the local elections in the East Lancashire mill town less than three weeks away, the statutory list of wards, candidates, and their proposers and seconders, has been published by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council (see here).

There are twenty wards in the Borough, and the Council, as part of its Publication Scheme, provides impressive in-depth profiles and statistics for each on its website (read here).

Ten different parties are represented (if Labour and Co-op, and the Labour Party, are counted as one) and a total of ninety-five candidates will go to the polls.

The two Labour parties, between them, field candidates in all twenty wards, as do the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats. The Green Party has eleven candidates; Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (the POOS) put up eight; there are five independents; Northern Heart UK has four; United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Reform UK and Failsworth Independent Party (the FIPs) all have two; Worker’s Party of Britain has just the one. Making up the total of ninety-five. In 2019, there were one hundred and two.

Labour

Zahid Chauhan (Alexandra); Elaine Taylor (Chadderton Central); Mohammed Islam (Chadderton North); Chris Goodwin (Chadderton South); Abdul Jabbar (Coldhurst); Basit Shah (Crompton); Liz Jacques (Failsworth East); Sean Fielding (Failsworth West); Kyle Phythian (Hollinwood); Ur-Rehman Ateeque (Medlock Vale); Mick Harwood (Royton North); Amanda Chadderton (Royton North); Connor Green (Saddleworth North); Stephanie Shuttleworth (Saddleworth South); Ken Rustidge (Saddleworth West & Lees); Cath Ball (St.James); Imran Yousaf (St.Marys); Syed Ali (Shaw); Ros Birch (Waterhead); Fida Hussain.

Conservatives

Jonathan Ford (Alexandra); Sharif Miah (Chadderton Central); Mohammed Jahan (Chadderton North); Robert Barnes (Chadderton South); David Cahill (Coldhurst); Lewis Quigg (Crompton); Shefur Miah (Failsworth East); Jawaad Hussain (Failsworth West); Michele Stockton (Hollinwood); Sahr Abid (Medlock Vale); Dave Arnott (Royton North); Ian Bond (Royton North); Luke Lancaster (Saddleworth North); Max Woodvine (Saddleworth South); Anthony Cahill (Saddleworth West & Lees); Beth Sharp (St.James); Mujibur Rahman (St.Marys); Tom Lord (Shaw); Sajjad Hussain (Waterhead); Mohammed Rahman (Werneth).

Liberal Democrats

Martin Dinoff (Alexandra); Barbara Beeley (Chadderton Central); Katie Gloster (Chadderton North); Joe Beeston (Chadderton South); Mick Scholes (Coldhurst); Diane Williamson (Crompton); Lynne Thompson (Failsworth East); Richard Darlington (Failsworth West); Brian Lord (Hollinwood); Rachel Pendlebury (Medlock Vale); Russ Gosling (Royton North); Ken Berry (Royton North); Garth Harkness (Saddleworth North); Kevin Dawson (Saddleworth South); Mark Kenyon (Saddleworth West & Lees); Joe Gloster (St.James); Pat Lord (St. Marys); Howard Sykes (Shaw); Linda Dawson (Waterhead); Keith Pendlebury (Werneth).

Green Party

Andrea Valencia-Chiverra (Alexandra); Jess Mahoney (Chadderton Central); Daniel Clayton (Chadderton North); Jean Betteridge (Coldhurst); Lina Valencia-Shaw (Crompton); Jim Stidworthy (Royton North); Kathryn Banawich (Saddleworth North); Brian Banawich (Saddleworth South); Roger Pakeman (St. James); Miranda Meadowcroft (St.Marys); Freedom Solaiman (Waterhead).

Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth

Ronald Bailey (Hollinwood); Mark Birchall (Medlock Vale); Paul Goldring (Royton North); Gary Tarbuck (Saddleworth North); Simon Hodgson (Saddleworth South); Paul Shilton (Saddleworth West & Lees); Amoy Crooks (St. James); Mark Hince (Shaw).

Independents

Tracy Woodward (Chadderton North); Montaz Ali Azad (Coldhurst); Warren Bates (Failsworth West); Helen Bishop (Saddleworth South); Hussain Aftab (St. Marys).

Northern Heart UK

Jack Dickenson (Chadderton Central); Cath Jackson (Chadderton South); Rob Vance (Crompton); Anne Fiander-Taylor (Royton North); Paul Taylor (Waterhead).

UKIP

Bernard Akin (Chadderton South); Anthony Prince (Royton North).

Reform UK

Colin Jones (Royton North); Chris Green (Saddleworth North).

Failsworth Independent Party

Neil Hindle (Failsworth East); Mark Wilkinson (Failsworth West).

Worker’s Party of Britain

Lisa Roddy (Chadderton South).

Three wards have six candidates contesting each seat; Royton South, Saddleworth North and Saddleworth South. At the other end of the scale, Werneth has just three.

Four councillors are not standing for re-election: Fazlul Haque (Labour, Chadderton North), Steve Hewitt (Labour, Saddleworth West and Lees), John Hudson (Conservative leader, Saddleworth South) and Vita Price (Labour, Waterhead). Forty councillors are not on the ballot papers, as their terms of office do not end until either 2022 or 2023.

Cllr Hudson retires after 50 years of service to the community. Since 2000, as a Borough councillor and as Mayor of Oldham in 2013/14. He was awarded an OBE in 2017 by the Queen for charitable and political service.

This is the present composition of the Council:

Turnout, in the aftermath of a virus epidemic, is even more of an unknown in this election year than ever. In 2019, 32.95% went out to vote.

The election count in Oldham will take place in various rooms around the Civic Centre and Sports Centre overnight on 6th/7th May, 2021, in order to maintain COVID-safe conditions.

The Mayoral count will take place on Saturday 8th May, 2021.

Returning Officer is Dr Carolyn Wilkins, the Council’s chief executive.

Page last updated: Saturday 17th April, 2021 at 1445 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Picture credits:

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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.

Election by stealth?

Following the publication of an article on this website on 13th April, 2021 (read here), more information and tip-offs than usual resulted. It was the regular mixed bag of rare nuggets, plenty of hearsay, false trails and axe-grinding. A journalist’s stock in trade, writes Neil Wilby.

Amongst them was an innocuous looking link to a website belonging to a political party completely unknown to me, with a very limited amount of narrative accompanying it – and with what turned out to be a plausible, but mistaken, assumption.

It looked one for the ‘intel file’, except that the source is well respected and usually ‘on the money’. So it proved, yet again. Although not in the way either of us could have expected.

The link provided by the informant led to the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom website (abbreviated, by them, to ADF). A quick search uncovered that its headquarters are in Oldham, no less, a town from which I have been reporting for over a year now (read more here about how I became involved).

Not a single mention of this political party has been heard during all that time. From anyone. The siting of their HQ was, obviously news to me, also.

ADF occupy offices in Shaw Road; formerly housing the United Kingdom Independence Party, more widely known, of course, as UKIP. A short time later, it became apparent why.

On the ‘People’ section of the ADF website, my attention was immediately drawn to three of the seven biographies: Dr Teck Khong, Mike Hookem and, most particularly, Paul Goldring. His name is already familiar and, in fact, features in at least one article elsewhere on this website (read here).

Dr Khong has a high profile on Twitter (over 17,000 followers) and stood as a Conservative candidate in Bradford North at the 2005 General Election and as a UKIP candidate in Harborough in the 2017 renewal (he lost his deposit as party support collapsed nationally). He has a colourful background and, in the past, been accused of holding anti-Muslim sentiments (read more here). Beyond commenting below an article titled “How modern Islam has made UK citizens homeless in their own homes” (read more here), there appears to be no formal finding, as such.

Mike Hookem, who had a military and strong Labour Party background before defecting to UKIP in 2008 and becoming a leading light in that party, is, of course, most widely known for ‘an altercation’ with a fellow Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in 2016 which left Stephen Woolfe, another UKIP elected representative, in hospital. Hookem denied any wrongdoing.

More controversially, in 2015 he supported another UKIP MEP, Bill Etheridge – who posed on Facebook with a golliwog and, separately, quoted from Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech – in Etheridge’s bid to run the party, following the departure of TV personality and UKIP founding member, Nigel Farage. Hookem became Etheridge’s running mate.

In the same year, The Independent newspaper reported that Hookem had claimed a “migrant” pulled a gun on him and threatened him at the port of Dunkirk in northern France. Police later said the suspected gunman was a British gangster.

A fourth man on the ADF website is a former West Yorkshire Police officer, of whom I was aware for reasons other than politics: Stephen Place. Mainly, because he wrote a superb, graphic, moving, three-part blog about his first-hand experience at the 1985 Bradford City Fire Disaster and a book about policing in Bradford, ‘Dodge City: A copper’s tale‘. A subject about which I know a great deal, having spent days and weeks on end at the city’s Magistrates’ and Crown Courts.

He stood as a UKIP candidate in the Bradford South constituency at the 2017 General Election (also lost his deposit). Memorable to me, insofar as Gerry Sutcliffe, who still supports a miscarriage of justice campaign to which I am very adjacent (read more here), held that same seat for 26 years. Gerry retired from Parliament in 2015. Stephen Place also held high office in UKIP, being their Home Affairs spokesman.

Paul Goldring is standing in the Oldham local elections on May 6th as a candidate for the Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth party (the POOS), whose behaviour before and during the current local election is, most charitably, described as troubling: One of its leading lights, former soldier Gary Tarbuck, featured in a recent, shameful episode where a crude attempt to discredit Labour Party leaders, and the Muslim community in one of the most deprived wards of Oldham, spectacularly backfired (read in full here).

Goldring stood as a candidate in the same Royton North ward in 2019, whilst he was Chair of UKIP in Oldham. Now living in the area, having moved to Oldham from Telford around 6 years ago, he finished third in the polls.

In the circular way that journalists have, contact was made with Dr Khong first. But he didn’t respond (and still hasn’t) to these questions:

(i) Is Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth part of ADF?

(ii) What position does Paul Goldring hold in ADF?

Soon afterwards, similar questions were put to Mike Hookem. He quickly replied that the POOS ‘are not aligned to ADF’. He was less forthcoming, however, about Goldring’s position in ADF, stating, eventually, and after being pressed, that ‘he [Goldring] is a member’. Hookem had been sent a screenshot from their website that suggested, very strongly, that Paul is rather more than that. As does his previous senior role within UKIP.

These questions were then put to 68 year-old Paul Goldring:

(i) If I may ask, what is your position/title in ADF? You sit squarely [in an image I had attached] between Teck and Mike Hookem, so, one assumes, very senior? Thanks.

(ii) A second, obvious, question is, if you are standing as a candidate for Proud Of Oldham and Saddleworth in the May elections, what is connection between them and ADF Party?

The exchange concluded thus: “I’m writing up a piece overnight and would very much appreciate a prompt response to the above questions. Thank you. My press credentials are attached”.

All very polite and reasonable, one might say. But confronted, in the event, by a wall of silence. At the time, and since: That, of course, is Goldring’s (and Dr Teck’s) prerogative, as it is that of a journalist, and his or her readers, to draw inference from that. Not least from blocking such seemingly innocuous questions. Begging a question Royton voters will answer, of course; is he a fit and proper person to hold elected office if he is unable, or unwilling, to answer the simplest of questions about his political affiliations?

Regrettably, it is a trait common to others in their circle, such as the POOS Party Leader, Paul Errock. Whom, if he isn’t ignoring a straight question, answers a different one. Not least about his purported affinity for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (sometimes known as ‘Tommy Robinson’). Likewise, one of the Party’s other directing minds, thoroughly disgraced Raja Miah: When asked to back up his invariably ludicrous, hate-filled claims with evidence, none is ever forthcoming. The permanently spiteful output on his Recusant Nine Facebook and YouTube channels is the subject of numerous complaints, bans and removal of defamatory material.

Less reticent is Sarah Shilton, whom describes herself as POOS ‘Party Chairwoman/Treasurer’. After the Tarbuck/Miah/Coldhurst lies were exposed in the Absent of Evidence article, she posted:

 “Seriously guys, I hope he [Neil Wilby] sees this or someone sends it to him. Mental health is a serious subject and if someone is showing signs of mental health issues we should be offering help”. For emphasis, she added this NHS Helpline weblink. Mrs Shilton did not challenge any of the evidence meticulously laid out in that piece – and neither has anyone else, for that matter. Distasteful, ad hominem attack was the sole response. Apart from this, of course:

But that is the price a journalist pays in Oldham for confronting a contrived, race-baiting narrative with plain, old fashioned facts and evidence.

Tarbuck, to his credit, did not refer at any time to the racist incident on his own Facebook page, or support in any other visible way what was said and done in his name by Raja Miah. But it does not bode well that he failed to denounce what was written in his name, either. Or take up his right to reply on what is an episode that leaves his credibility badly dented.

It is also concerning, given the POOS non-stop barrage of insinuations against others in authority in Oldham, that he continues to pro-actively support a proven, deeply corrupt ex-Labour councillor, Montaz Ali Azad, whom having left that Party in disgrace is now standing as an independent candidate.

So, what are ADF and the POOS hiding? Why are the key players so shy about the Paul Goldring link?

(i) On his Facebook campaigning page, run within the POOS ambit, there is no mention at all of the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom Party. In the limited number of posts he makes, all very jolly one has to say, the link is concealed. The electorate, in effect, think they would be voting for one party and its policies, but it appears that it may yet be another.

(ii) He posted this in his election page on Facebook on 21st March, 2021 [emphasis added]:

“I just want to remind everybody that I am an independent candidate with Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth and we are not a whipped party. What does that mean? Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth councillors do not dance to anybody’s tune but that of the voters we were elected to represent. That means that we have no bosses but you. We answer to nobody but you. Nobody at Party HQ tells us what to think and what to do. So if there is a major issue in Royton North that is being discussed in the council then I will keep you informed. I will ask for your opinion. If necessary I will hold a ward [mini] referendum to establish what the ward majority want. I will be your councillor and I will answer emails, I will return phone calls. I will represent Royton North and not some outdated ideology. Want to meet me in person ? Let me know and as soon as Covid lets me I will meet with you.

(a) There is no mention of his apparent seniority within another ‘non-aligned’ political party. Or to whose tune he dances. ADF or the POOS?

(b) It is not clear as to which Party HQ he refers. Paul has at least two.

(c) On all the evidence so far, Goldring cannot count communication as a competency. There is no telephone number listed for ADF HQ. He has no contact details on his election page, such as mobile number and email address. In the unlikely event that he is elected on May 6th, 2021, they would be published on the Council’s website. It might strike the reader as extraordinary that no such details are available during the election campaign. The weblink on his Facebook page inviting questions to Paul Goldring, bizarrely, takes the inquisitive to the POOS Home page on their website. There are no contacts details there, either.

(d) I’d like to come and talk to you Paul, about this article, the ADF and the POOS. Preferably, whilst you are out campaigning. I’ll bring a cameraman.

(iii) Likewise, on the ADF website, there is no reference to Goldring standing as a candidate in the Oldham elections for a party (the POOS) they say is not aligned to them.

(iv) Is Paul Goldring’s recent spell as Chair of UKIP, and the fact that he appears to be based at what are now the ADF’s offices in Oldham, a blow to the POOS claim of ‘independence’ and their ‘centralist’ (sic) positioning as a party?

(v) UKIP’s one-time ‘consultant’, the aforementioned ‘Tommy Robinson’, campaigned in Oldham in May 2019, and riots ensued in the Limeside area, as his far-right supporters clashed with Muslims. Goldring was, it seems, UKIP Chair at that time. Yaxley-Lennon was jailed two months later over contempt of court. This related to his actions outside Leeds Crown Court during a ‘grooming gang’ trial that very nearly collapsed as a result. For some weeks, I had been covering a perverting the course of justice trial in Court 11, next door to the ‘grooming trial’, not long before the Yaxley-Lennon incident took place. Protests by the far-right had taken place in and around the court at that time and the atmosphere was highly charged, on occasions, and made the court precincts and concourses not a good place to be.

(v) Is it also a blow to the POOS claim that they do not have a far-right element to their membership or aims as a party? Many of Oldham’s knuckleheads, some unpleasant and criminal characters amongst them, have gravitated to the party and regard Raja Miah as their unassailable totem. He feeds them relentlessly (and himself by pimping donations to his Facebook platform) with a now totally discredited grooming gangs ‘cover-up’ narrative (read more here).

(vi) Or, is the embarrassment over the Goldring connection to the POOS, and discredited Raja Miah, an embarrassment to the future ambitions of Alliance for Democracy and Freedom as a ‘clean skin’?

Records at Companies House (read here) show that ADF was incorporated in September 2019 as The Democracy Party, using an address in Exeter. Mike Hookem was one of its two founding Directors and remains in post up to the present day. He had announced his departure from UKIP the previous month.

The Democracy Party changed its name to its present form in March, 2020. There is one other remaining Director, Keith Lonsdale, whose biography also appears on the ‘People’ page of the ADF website. Two other Directors have been appointed and resigned after brief spells in office.

Another ex-military man, with many other professional accomplishments, Lonsdale is based in Belfast. It is said on the website: “Keith has stood for local election and has held regional and national posts in a large political party. He has been politically homeless since 2018 and is keen to get this new party [ADF] off the ground”.

The un-named political party is, of course, UKIP. Which makes a clean sweep: Five out of five key players in ADF, all prominent in a party that became increasingly far right and appears now to only attract those of that ilk.

If that is why any, or all of them, left UKIP, then it should be important enough to post on the ADF website and/or have the record put straight in this article.

Paul Goldring and Dr Khong were offered right of reply, via Mike Hookem. He declined to provide an email address to which the draft article could be sent and indicated that Goldring and Khong would not be so doing, either. He offered no explanation at all for such a refusal.

Mr Hookem also has my telephone number and a call back is still awaited. In the meantime, readers and voters in the local elections can form their own judgement regarding the ADF/POOS silence and the peculiar juxtaposition of Mr Goldring, about whom all is clearly not what it seems.

But much more on that in the sequel to this piece.

A full list of wards and nominations published by the Council’s Returning Officer can be found (here). There is also a helpful party by party breakdown of candidates and other interesting statistical information relating to both the forthcoming and 2019 local elections in Oldham.

Page last updated: Sunday 17th April, 2021 at 0855 hours

Photo Credits: Facebook, Twitter.

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

‘Bare faced lies’

These are words uttered by Leader, Sean Fielding, during a tumultuous full meeting of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council on 7th November, 2019, writes Neil Wilby.

“Over the last few months there have been daily postings on social media about planning and historic safeguarding incidents.

“These allegations have been combined with a series of personal online attacks on councillors, residents, MPs and council officers, and often come from people with a clear political agenda.

“We will always take action where appropriate including the recently announced review into historic safeguarding. 

“Too often, however, the allegations and claims made online are bare faced lies designed purely to stoke fears and score political points.”

The session ended in chaos and the police were called to quell protestors in the public gallery. They were unedifying scenes. The person at the centre of them was Debbie Barratt-Cole, whose behaviour then, and subsequently, resulted in court proceedings and later visits to her home by police. She has, some might say, thankfully, now left the area to go and live in the south-west of the country ‘to start a new life’.

Although not named, the person to whom Cllr Fielding mainly alluded as the teller of ‘bare faced lies’ was a man from a neighbouring Borough: Raja MIAH, a long-term resident of the upmarket commuter village of Mossley.

Miah’s only recent connection to Oldham is as the founder and chief executive of a spectacularly failed enterprise, Collective Spirit Free School, over which there are still ongoing police investigations. There have already been other findings against those running the school, concerning grotesque safeguarding failures, including one instance of child sex abuse on the premises. A significant number of children’s lives were ruined – and many parents and teachers remain utterly despondent that Miah made himself very much wealthier from this disastrous enterprise, but went unpunished. He denies any wrongdoing.

He does not visit the town because he is unpopular and made unwelcome: On the last known occasion, it is said he was beaten up by Asian men outside a burger bar, over unevidenced and broad brush allegations, repeatedly made on his ‘Recusant Nine’ platform, inferring that their entire community was either perpetrating, or covering-up, child sex abuse – or running criminal cartels. Or both. No action was taken against the alleged perpetrators of the assault.

For the avoidance of doubt, violence is not condoned in any form by the author of this piece, however serious the provocation. The temptation for those affected to say ‘he got what was coming to him’ has to be resisted – and peaceful, lawful remedies sought.

Which is precisely what this column is about: ‘Bare faced lies‘ and identifying who tells them in the Boroughs of Oldham and Tameside. The reader can then make up their own mind as to whether Cllr Fielding was right, all along.

Starting with the Recusant Nine post on 6th April, 2020 (scroll down the page to the latest posts), a brief analysis of what is asserted by Miah will be inserted under an image of the post. Over time, based on past experience, a clear pattern should emerge. One of a ‘Walter Mitty’ character whose persistent, mendacious bare faced lies leave him entirely discredited.

6th April, 2021

A full and forensic deconstruction of this disgraceful, race-baiting post appears elsewhere on this website (read in full here). Raja MIAH has not repeated any of these allegations since that article headlined ‘Absent of evidence’ was published or referred to them on Facebook since.

In summary, these are the lies in this Recusant Nine offering:

(i) There is no council CSE ‘cover-up’. Quite the opposite, in fact. As set out in very considerable detail here. Fully supported by FACTS and EVIDENCE. 

(ii) There was no ‘HE KILLED MUSLIMS’ rumour. Except the one started by Miah himself.

(iii) There was no sharing of the ‘rumour’ by senior Council leaders and politicians. A point emphatically made by Jim McMahon MP in a quote provided for inclusion in that article.

(iv) Very few, if any, Bangladeshi members of Coldhurst are likely to have contacted Miah. (a) Firstly, because there was no ‘rumour’ (b) Secondly, because so many in that community deeply resent the constant smearing by MIAH of Asians in the town.

(v) There was no incitement to violence towards Gary Tarbuck. That is made up nonsense. Tarbuck, himself, has not posted anywhere on social media, since, that he feels threatened or afraid. Indeed he has has not referred to the visit to Coldhurst at all.

(vi) The police are intervening in this matter. But not in the way that MIAH expects.

(vii) No condemnation is required apart from the town utterly rejecting this latest pack of lies on the Recusant Nine platform.

(viii) Gary Tarbuck has never held elected office in Oldham. His ‘continuing to serve the town’ is yet another decoration of the truth.

(ix) A further deception by both Tarbuck and Miah is the omission of the fact that one of the independent councillors, with whom Gary was showing solidarity in Coldhurst, is corrupt ex-Cllr Montaz Ali Azad. Found guilty of a string of tax fraud and illegal immigrant offences in 2016. The penalties for those offences are not yet spent.

(x) On Tarbuck’s Facebook page, promoting his candidacy in forthcoming local elections, there is no mention of this incident or any fear that the ex-soldier may have as a result.

(xi) A source who lives on the same street as Montaz Ali Azad says that the deeply religious former councillor, and his family, dissociate themselves from the Miah/Tarbuck allegations as they offend Islam.

(xii) Another shameful day for Raja MIAH. How many more do we have to endure?

8th April, 2021

(i) Raja MIAH’s concept of evidence would differ markedly from that accepted by either the police or a court of law. As a journalist and court reporter, it is a topic upon which I am well informed. The assertion by him, and it is no higher than that, of an association between ‘Rusty Wheels’ and myself is another ‘bare faced lie’. 

(ii) Euan Stewart and Cllr Fielding are well able to speak for themselves. For the record, I have never spoken to Euan and have spoken to the Council Leader once in the past seven months, by telephone, and there have been a small number of emails. All transparent, on official business and, as such, subject to scrutiny. I have never met Sean Fielding, mainly due to lockdown constraints. It is inevitable that our professional paths will cross, sooner rather than later, as the epidemic restrictions ease.

(iii) As it happens, through assiduous journalistic enquiries and assistance from a network of sources, I was able to narrow the identity of the anonymous Twitter user down to two possibles. Individuals with whom I have absolutely no connection, whatsoever. 

(iv) What I can say for certain is that the police have had to put in place safeguarding measures for ‘Rusty Wheels’, after concerns were raised over the harassment of one of those two persons that included implied threats of violence against her/him.

(v) Miah has made many claims about ‘inaccuracies’ in my reporting, but never specifies a single one. Also, he never takes up his right to reply. Which would be a straightforward and appropriate form of challenge. Always relying, instead, on his stock-in-trade innuendo and smearing.

(vi) For Miah to claim that others are bullies is simply to deflect attention from his own nefarious activities. What he really means, through his tissue of lies and hate-filled bile is ‘I hate people whom not only stand up to me but push back hard’. Get used to it, Raja.

(vii) Given his own wide-scale and far-reaching failings towards children in Oldham, his repeated attempts to weaponise them against his critics, without an iota of credible evidence, is as grotesque as it is deeply offensive. 

(viii) As for the entire town knowing who is telling bare faced lies, Raja Miah inadvertently stumbles on the truth. I wouldn’t presume to speak for the town of Oldham, and he certainly can’t, but the metrics and doorstep feedback say that it is The Man from Mossley who is much more readily recognised in Oldham as a persistent, mendacious liar.

9th April 2021 (1 of 2)

(i) The ‘malicious blogger’ slur is repeated often and I will rehearse what was written in an earlier piece on this website and ignored by Raja MIAH: The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) spent almost £150,000 (figures obtained via Freedom of Information request) trying to silence my criticism of the disgraced watchdog. The headline in the Huddersfield Examiner that reported on interlocutory proceedings correctly had the ‘malicious blogger’ allegation framed in quotation marks. I was neither present nor represented at that first hearing. Once my barrister was instructed, matters took on an entirely different hue. That allegation was not repeated, either in witness evidence from the IPCC caseworkers or in submissions made by the watchdog’s counsel. On the last working day before a final court hearing, that I was absolutely determined would go ahead, the IPCC capitulated and a compromise agreement was signed on terms that were favourable to me. At their insistence, a confidential annex was attached to the consent order which prevents me articulating exactly what those terms were. The temporary injunction was lifted and there is no final finding of malicious blogging. That leaves Miah, and his acolytes, who frequently post the ‘malicious blogger’ term, very exposed in terms of defending either defamation or harassment proceedings.

(ii) The ‘proven liar’ allegation, also repeated very often, arises from a libel judgment entered against me in 2014. Damages of £60,000 and costs of £18,000 were awarded to the claimant, a police sergeant who was a long-term friend of the former BBC personality, Jimmy Savile, and a regular visitor to his home. Due to ill-health, and financial embarrassment at the time, I was unable to afford representation or defend myself. The episode is, very obviously, one of considerable regret. However, both of those sums were settled some years ago and the matter concluded. Raja Miah is, of course, entitled to refer to those proceedings (no more than twice before it becomes a course of conduct of harassment) but he will, ultimately be put to proof, as will others, before a court of law, that he is entitled to refer to me, repeatedly, as ‘a proven liar’. The more he does it, the greater the difficulty in which he will find himself. If he takes independent legal advice that would be readily explained to him.

(iii) Miah claims that I ‘repeatedly promoted lies’ about him being a police informant. That is incorrect: I have on several occasions posed the question as to why, despite the commission of the most obvious and well-evidenced criminal offences of harassment, committed by way of posts such as these, on the Recusant Nine platform, he has not been arrested, charged and prosecuted. It was posited by way of the fact that many other people in Oldham, including prominent public figures, believe he is an informant or, alternatively, afforded some other form of protection by the police. Known in criminal circles as ‘a roof’. There is no statement of fact that he is a registered police informant. Simply because, if he is, as any journalist or court reporter would know, that information would never be publicly available, unless such an informant turned whistleblower, for example. If Miah denies that he is an informant then, in the first instance, that must be taken at face value. But some may wish to weigh, in the scales of truth and justice, his propensity to tell bare faced lies about many other matters. 

(iv) As explained to Detective Inspector Kenneth Blain, in an intelligence report filed with Greater Manchester Police on Monday 28th March, 2021, I have known a great deal of personal, financial, property and company information about Raja Miah for over six months, including his full address and postcode. That was obtained in order to ensure correct, appropriate and proportionate service of civil proceedings and/or for the purposes of laying an information at Tameside Magistrates’ Court (private prosecution is a more commonly used term). The police were assured that there has been no misuse of that information, whatsoever. Nor would there ever be. Beyond stating that Miah has lived in Mossley since 2004 (information readily obtained from Land Registry upon payment of a fee), and a highly relevant detail that Miah had previously tried to conceal from the wider public, there has been no attempt to identify publicly where he lives, or any association with any other person attempting to do the same. To suggest otherwise is a bare faced lie.

(v) I have neither knowledge of child abuse at Failsworth School nor of Cllr Fielding’s alleged wrongdoing in connection with it. All that can be discerned, from a distance, is that it amounts to more Raja Miah innuendo and tailored narrative, based on the usual second or third hand hearsay. If there is evidence, as is suggested, he should either publish sufficient detail to give readers a clear understanding of what are very serious assertions or, better still, take the concerns and the evidence to Oldham’s Safeguarding Hub. 

(vi) Similarly, I have no idea what Cllr Fielding was doing out walking in the Mossley area, apart from, perhaps, being drawn, as so many are, to the stunning West Riding countryside that borders the town. In which case, he would be showing very good judgement.

9th April, 2021 (2 of 2)

(i) This post alludes to the biggest and most bare faced lie of all. One that was completely destroyed last November in an excoriating piece, headlined ‘Get the white vote angry’, elsewhere on this website (read in full here). Raja Miah, and his cohort (also known as Raja’s Rabble), cling on desperately, and falsely, to ‘the Lee Rigby email’ because, in all truth, there is nothing else of substance left to support their purported claims as ‘child sex abuse campaigners’. The subject email, upon close analysis and taken in conjunction with a plethora of evidence, proves conclusively that there was no ‘cover-up’ of child sex abuse. Indeed, the very opposite is true. Arguably, Oldham Council did more than any other local authority in the country to tackle the child sexual exploitation (CSE) problem at the material time.

(ii) Miah has now dropped one of his previous oft-repeated bare faced lies: That Mohammed Imran Ali was convicted of a ‘hate crime’ against him. He wasn’t. It was a Communications Act offence for which ‘Irish Imy’ (as he is more commonly known) received a fine. The principal witness, Kaiser Rehman, declined to give evidence at the trial, on behalf of Miah, having lost confidence in his former friend and ally. Miah was also very upset that Rehman had contributed significantly to the ‘Get the white vote angry‘ piece and helped dismantle the false CSE cover-up claim.

(iii) Last month, ‘Imy’ submitted a detailed harassment complaint to Greater Manchester Police against Miah. His persistent smearing of Mr Ali includes the false allegation that he was Dale Cregan‘s ‘getaway driver’. Another bare faced lie (as set out in some detail here). Miah also falsely attempts to link ‘Imy’ to the killing of two police officers by Cregan, then attempts to extend the broken chain to those deaths to another of his regular targets, Cllr Arooj Shah. More bare faced lies.

(iv) Miah doesn’t name ‘the gangsters’ who have allegedly threatened him. Very probably because such individuals have more rewarding enterprises to deal with than wasting their time with Walter Mitty-type characters out in the Tameside countryside.

(v) Another regular bare faced lie is his constant reference to “my town” or “our town”. Oldham does not belong to Raja Miah or his attendant Rabble. A fair number of whom, including Miah, live nowhere near the town. They are a small group of belligerent, noisy, mostly unpleasant malcontents who speak for a tiny minority. 

(vi) He will be seeing at least one person in court before this year is out – and it remains to be seen whether his bravado is still extant at that point. Or he collapses in defeat beforehand, via a consent order, in the way he was forced to do recently when faced with a defamation claim from Cllr Riaz Ahmad. Whom Miah had falsely, and grotesquely accused of ‘grooming’ at least one child.

10th April, 2021

(i) The attempts to restrain Raja Miah from posting persistently harassing and defamatory material on his Recusant Nine platform are reasonable and proportionate. The Man from Mossley believes he is above the law. But the tide has turned; he is going to be kept very busy over next few months dealing with the consequences of his actions. 

(ii) As for claims of ‘intimidating’ commentators on his posts, that is arrant nonsense. It is their choice to make offensive, baseless comments in open forum – it is the choice of a journalist to place them in context, in a highly relevant article (see 6th April post above). Those keyboard warriors are either bold enough to stand by what they have said and take up right of reply – or slink sheepishly away with tails between their legs. Having been sucked into another pack of bare faced lies by Raja Miah.

(iii) Miah repeats the “our town” nonsense. If Oldham belonged to him, and those named in that article, everyone else would very probably leave.

(iv) If Raja is not rich, the public of Oldham is entitled to know what has happened to the alleged £millions milked from the Peacemaker racial harmony project and the free schools over a 15 year period. That led to him, at one point, owning four properties and driving, variously, a classic Jaguar, a Porsche 911, TVR supercar and a Maserati, whilst mostly working on a social worker’s pay grade. A contact whom worked with him in the latter part of the Peacemaker era, before it folded with money problems, says Miah also had shares in restaurants and takeaways. Businesses he now often dismisses as money-laundering enterprises.

(v) Miah claims he is not begging. But offers no explanation as to why he should be constantly pressing his supporters for money. Does the plush apartment need more fine furniture or art decorating the walls? Does the top end motor need a valet? Is there a more expensive version of his electronic gadgetry available? Tell us more, please, Raja.

(vi) As for corrupt politicians, Raja omits mention of one who is proven, by Home Office Immigration Service, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and the Insolvency Service to have committed serious wrongdoing and lost his council seat as a result. One whom Miah now avidly champions. Step forward, the aforementioned Montaz Ali Azad. There are no such findings against Jim McMahon and Cllr Sean Fielding, only bare faced lies.

11th April, 2021

(i) The claim by Raja Miah that ‘everything is either factual or my opinion based on the facts’ is a bare faced lie. It is very difficult to identify, in any Recusant Nine post, one single fact, that is backed up by viable documentary evidence. Many people, including this journalist and others of the fourth estate, have asked for proof of his claims. None has ever been forthcoming. Which is why his posts are being removed, his podcasts taken down and there are repeated social media bans. Playing the victim, which is the only recognisable talent in the Miah portfolio, just doesn’t wash. Those he attacks have decided enough is enough. The day of the Mossley bully is almost done.

(ii) Once the local elections are over, there are a number of people very happy to see Miah in a court of law. His bluff will be called in the way Cllr Riaz Ahmad did (see 9th April post above). Raja lost then – and he will lose again and again. Simply because his actions over a long period of time are indefensible. The police may have their reasons for not prosecuting him and I am more than alert to what they may be; others don’t, apart from limitations on funding. They want to go about their daily business in peace without a bombardment of harassment or to have bare faced lies told against them time and time again.

12th April, 2021

Many of the posts on the Recusant Nine platform are repetitive and tedious. Raja Miah has little new material to offer those from whom he is constantly seeking to milk money.

(i) He chooses not to use the name, ‘Neil Wilby’, in this post but repeats, yet again, the ‘malicious blogger’ and ‘proven liar’ slurs.

(ii) He claims I live in Huddersfield. Although my address, from 2004 up to 2018, had a HD postcode I have never lived in, or near, the town. I have no affinity with it, either.

(iii) He asserts, not for the first time, that I am ‘a so-called journalist’. My credentials as ‘a newsgatherer authorised by the National Police Chiefs Council’ (as stated on the rear of my press card) are well established. As in my accreditation as a court reporter with all of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Ministry of Justice. I routinely make applications on my feet, from court press sets, before senior judges. If that is not good enough for Raja Miah, then so be it. But it is interesting that one of the key members of his ‘Rabble’, someone who sends him money every month, sees fit to set up a fake anonymous profile on Twitter with my press card as their bio pic.

(iv) He asserts that the legal action being taken against him is regarding grave concerns he may have about the Council’s running of his neighbouring Borough. That is a bare faced lie. It has been made very clear that the legal action concerns harassment and defamation. His conduct, no-one else’s.

(v) He states that Oldham is his ‘home town’. It is not. Another bare faced lie. He was born in Bradford and spent his early years there. He left Oldham, apparently, as soon as he had enough money to do so.

(vi) He claims to speak for the whole town of Oldham. That is another bare-faced lie. He has, or had, 114 subscribers to his Recusant Platform and a similarly small number of viewers of his ludicrous, self-aggrandising Sunday podcasts (the latest had just 71). If a vox-pop was conducted outside the civic centre, asking opinions on Miah’s claims about Cllr Fielding’s ‘bare faced lies’, 99% wouldn’t have a clue on the subject. Ask the same people about the spectacularly failed free Collective Free Spirit school (read more here) and there would, very likely, be a much stronger response.

(vii) Miah’s constant whining about ‘censorship’ reveals a troubled mindset: Always the victim, never the perpetrator. He sees nothing at all wrong spewing out a daily dose of hate-filled bile. The main purpose of which has always been to distract from the shame of exposure over the free schools that he founded, ran and used as cash cows.

13th and 14th April

The Miah response to this article, ‘Bare Faced Lies’, first published on the 13th, was largely predictable. It consisted of three lengthy, intemperate Recusant Nine cherry-picking diatribes that re-hash the same old allegations against the author of this piece. At their centre is the same ludicrous, self-gratifying proposition that someone is going to murder him – and the perpetrator could identify his location from an indistinct long shot of the facade of an unidentified stone building.

There is little or no public interest in repeating the same comments in response.

He continues to deny any wrongdoing in any area of his business past, and in his present personal conduct, and that, of course, is his prerogative; as is my ethical duty to report it if, and where, I find it.

The attack on ‘disgraced’ Cllrs Jenny Harrison and Arooj Shah is a dreadful slur and another bare faced lie. Neither of these elected officials have any findings against them, whatsoever. Both highly thought of in their wards, local communities and across the Borough. Cllr Shah and ‘Team Oldham’ have earned high acclaim for the efficient and effective esponse to the virus epidemic from local, regional and national media. Where is the disgrace in that?

A destruction of the bare faced lies told about Cllr Shah, by Raja Miah, was my first Oldham article last year (read here). It provided vindication for her but, most regrettably, no release from the torment of his persistent, misogynistic harassment.

There are, however, a number of interesting denials, and omissions from his narrative, that will be analysed in the next update to this piece. Although they do appear, at first blush, to be found wanting.

Miah claims that Jim McMcMahon MP and others are ‘distancing’ themselves from me. Elsewhere he claims that the national Labour Party has instructed its Members to avoid contact. Neither has any basis in either fact or evidence:

Firstly, there is no association between Neil Wilby and Mr McMahon, beyond the routine involvement of a journalist and an elected member of Parliament. There is infrequent contact, but he did provide a statement for inclusion in the article ‘Absent of evidence’ published on this website only last week (read here).

He did so because of the grave and demonstrably false, race-baiting allegations made by Miah against him and other Labour leaders in Oldham. Claims that Raja himself now appears to have now resiled from. He has certainly never repeated them once, since the subject article was published. Or referred to them in any form in his response to this ‘Bare faced lies‘ article.

Secondly, I contact Sean Fielding on an absolutely necessary basis. Like MPs, Council Leaders have their hands full at present dealing with the epidemic crisis on top of routine casework and the usual mountain of administration. The latest contact was earlier his month – and I am fully tuned into why he does not want to respond, publicly, to every single allegation against him, and those he leads, that pours incessantly from the Recusant Nine platform.

Thirdly, to the best of my recollection and record-keeping, there has never been a single contact between Debbie Abrahams MP and myself. We do not follow one another on Twitter either.

Fourthly, there is no UK Labour Party ban. Oldham councillors and at least one local constituency party continue to interact on social media, as recently as yesterday.

As part of my wider role as a journalist, I routinely have contact with other councillors and MP’s, across the Yorkshire and Humber Region and the North West, of all political persuasion. There is no reticence at all in Labour officials dealing with an accredited member of the press – and why should there be? Because Raja Miah says so. The proposition is utterly ludicrous.

To weaponise the death of Jo Cox, who was the Labour MP in the neighbouring constituency to my own, at the time of her death at the hands of a far right political extremist, and relate it even remotely to his own situation is beyond sleazy and grotesque. There is, on any independent view, no connection whatsoever between fair and balanced reporting of wrongdoing and an ‘incitement to murder’ of its subject. To then link senior politicians, some of whom were Party and Parliamentary colleagues of the late Mrs Cox, in an alleged conspiracy to murder Raja Miah, simply demonstrates how deranged and dangerous this man from Mossley has become. One might fairly argue that he may be coming perilously close to an enforced detention under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Raja MIAH alleges I have told lies about him in this article and particularises his complaints above. These are my responses (and last word):

1. There is an ongoing police investigation into the murky finances of the free schools which Miah founded and run. Referred to the Serious Fraud Office after pressure brought to bear by Angela Rayner MP, the investigation passed through to the National Economic Crime Unit and then Greater Manchester Police. Unless Miah knows any different then it is still ongoing:

2. In my possession is a leaked Manchester City Council report, authored by chief executive Joanne Roney and circulated to relevant council leaders and MP’s. It is a damning six-page document that particularises the safegaurding and child sex abuse failures at the free schools. It is unequivocal and calls in strong terms for further action to be taken by the relevant authorities. Once those formal avenues are exhausted, and only with the express permission of affected victims, then the contents of the document will be storified on this website. In the meantime, if Raja Miah wants to argue with lawyers as to whether that damning multi-agency report constitutes ‘findings’, or not, then he is invited to file and serve the necessary pre-action protocol letter.

3. There are two credible witnesses to the events that I have described. They would be prepared to give evidence to that effect. Given Raja’s unfortunate propensity to tell bare-faced lies then it would be an interesting call for a district or circuit judge as to who to believe. What would, inevitably, emerge in the course of those proceedings is just how many times, since, he can prove he has visited Oldham. Many, many witnesses could be produced to say that he is unwelcome. That is an inalienable fact.

4. There is nothing ‘clever’ about asserting one’s personal beliefs, especially if they are widely known and regularly broadcast on social media. I am in the fortunate position, both as an individual and through my vocation as a journalist, of not having to seek approval from Raja Miah for what I write, or explain every nuance to him and his cohort. If they don’t care for what is written, walk around it as you would if you saw dog excrement on the pavement. There is no obligation to step into it.

Also, I do not intend to attempt to provide multiple explanations to counteract the same lie that Miah repeats over and over again. But for simplicity, it is stated, unequivocally, that I have not said he is a police informant, but posed questions on social media to the effect that he may be one. As a credible explanation as to why he has not been arrested, interviewed, charged and prosecuted over the most dreadful, persistent, offensive harassment against a large number of Oldham citizens, elected officials and paid officers.

As it happens, in my possession is an account from a named witness who states that Raja was believed to be ‘a police informant’ back in the days when he lived or worked close to the old Chadderton Police Station in Victoria Street as a younger man. It goes on to say what relatively low-level activity Miah was alleged to be involved in at the time. It is very specific. Nevertheless, it is no higher than an allegation and one, doubtless, that Miah will deny. But the point is this; such information has been in the public domain since long before my investigations in Oldham began, and articles were published on this website, and Raja Miah has come to no harm. Nor did he scream at the time, or at any time since, that he was in danger of his life, as a result.

As Detective Inspector Kenny Blain explained to him, when dismissing criminal complaints made by Miah against me, a ‘police informant’ can take many forms and he is, on his own admission, almost certainly Oldham Police’s most prolific correspondent, with hundreds and hundreds of pages of complaints and disposals passing between them. Falling squarely into one of the specific categories that DI Blain had so carefully pointed out.

The proposition that these revelations are either likely to cause harm or intended to cause harm is roundly rejected. Not least, if he felt that way and was genuinely afraid, why make post after post on Facebook about it, drawing further attention to the possibility?

15th April, 2021

If Raja MIAH has a nemesis in Oldham it is Tahir Mushtaq – and here I must declare an interest: Having met Tahir for the first time last Autumn, to interview him over Oldham’s recent cultural and political history and to tap into his vast knowledge of the town, and many of its leading community figures, we have become firm friends. An articulate, intense, deeply religious, strong-willed family man, he is utterly committed to making Oldham a better place to live and a more cohesive, inclusive town. That came across, above anything else, in the first ten minutes of conversation and questions – and why we have become drawn together.

He is actively involved in, and a contributor to, a number of charities, and other good works, but makes no song and dance about that. His pleasure, in my informed estimation, is giving and providing succour to the needy.

Compare and contrast with Raja Miah’s contribution to charity, or wider society, in Oldham. Which, conversely and perversely, is to extract money from its citizens on a flimsy pretext rather than putting anything back into the town.

Tahir’s younger brother, Shaid is an elected Member of Oldham Council and serves the Alexandra ward, close to the town centre and the office in which I interviewed his brother. I have spoken once to Cllr Shaid Mushtaq, for around 30 minutes, ahead of publishing what has become a seminal piece on this website ‘Get the White Vote Angry‘ (read here).

He too, although a little less forthright, is another impressive individual. The willingness to engage, commitment to serve and improve the lives of those in his ward, under testing circumstances, coming across in every sentence.

The Mushtaq brothers come under fire from Raja Miah, on a routine basis, with his contrived, absent of evidence ‘Asian Cartels’ and ‘Gangster’ narratives. Shaid now picked upon, and bullied, because his elder brother had the temerity, over a period of six months, up to April, 2020, to relentlessly expose the tailored narratives and outrageous untruths posted on the discredited Recusant Nine platform. Amongst neutral Oldhamers it left Miah’s credibility seriously impaired.

Raja’s response was, according to him, to send a 100 page dossier about Tahir to the police. It resulted in no further action by the Greater Manchester force.

The latest post by Raja Miah, about Tahir Mushtaq, dated 15th April, 2021, is another desperate muddle. Miah is very free, almost every single day, with his gratuitous insults and peurile name-calling is, plainly, very touchy about being called ‘A Sewer Rat’. In the light of what Raja has posted about the late Jo Cox, one might say that Tahir was being generous?

The invitation for ‘The Pakistani Glodwick Goons’ to visit his home in Mossley runs counter to the fear Miah says he lives in. If violence was in issue, and it very plainly is not as far as the Mushtaqs and the other unidentified ‘Goons’ are concerned, Tahir wouldn’t need company. He is as strong as an ox, fleet of foot and as fit as a flea. A fighting machine, but in the ring not on the streets.

But what Tahir really, really wants, very much, is not a fist fight or a martial arts contest, but for Raja to seek professional help: Counselling, prescription drugs could avert a bigger crisis in someone who has, so plainly, lost the plot and is utterly consumed by hatred and revenge.

These obsessions with constantly making himself the victim, telling outrageous bare-faced lies that he cannot back up and, more crucially, violence and murder (and going to bed with a large knife, bought specially for the purpose) is seriously concerning and one, for sure, that is not lost on the local police. Particularly, as they had to recently put in place safeguarding measures for a harassment victim of Miah and his cohort. A matter in which I was able to provide some assistance to GMP.

The dispute between Miah, Tahir Mushtaq and Longfords has been investigated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the complaint(s) made by Raja not upheld. There was also an internal disciplinary enquiry, within the law firm, over the matter and a public statement issued. I know no more than that. Except, that one of Miah’s core tactics is to constantly re-hash his mountain of similarly failed complaints, ad nauseum. A characteristic of most, if not all, serial and vexatious complainers.

The allegations Miah makes regarding ‘hatred of Jews’ has no specification, supporting evidence and appears not be supported by application or complaint. When they are, appropriate journalistic enquiries will be made. In the meantime, it is classified as a baseless smear to distract from a lengthy, serious complaint made to Facebook, by Jim McMahon MP, over a series of allegedly anti-semetic posts on Recusant Nine.

15th April, 2021

If Heineken did persistent, mendacious liars they would call it Raja’s Brew. He repeats for the umpteenth time, mainly because there is nothing else left in the Miah locker, the Lee Rigby bare faced lie. For emphasis, the forensic, fully evidenced article, Get the White Vote Angry, completely destroying this Raja Miah myth, is weblinked here. As articulated elsewhere on this website, the shameless weaponising of the murder of a soldier, in these Recusant Nine posts, is on a par with linking his own alleged mortal danger to the late Jo Cox.

As for the allegations against Cllr Sean Fielding and Failsworth School, like so many others propogated on this platform, consist of innuendo and a loose association of facts. Yes, Cllr Fielding was a Governor at Failsworth School. Yes, there has been at least one court case involving a teacher there. But how does that (i) equate to a ‘cover-up’ if the offender(s) have been reported and prosecuted? (ii) a matter in which Cllr Fielding could have been directly involved with? (iii) Is the unspoken smear that all teachers, headteachers, safeguarding partners, the police and the other governors were involved with this ‘cover-up’.

Any, or all, of those mentioned have every right to be aggrieved at the imputation of very serious wrongdoing. If it was decided to take legal action against him, jointly or severally, he would appear to have little or no defence to a claim.

For clarity, in relation to the role of school governor, this is a widely accepted specification for the role:

-Is accountable for the performance of the school to parents and the wider community.

-Plans the school’s future direction.

-Selects the head teacher.

-Makes decisions on the school budget and staffing including the performance.

-Management policy.

-Ensures the agreed curriculum is well taught.

None of those components would give substance to the allegation that an individual governor had locus over matters concerning the behaviour, criminal or otherwise, of a schoolteacher. For the avoidance of doubt, and mindful, and respectful, of course, of the front centre placement of the abuse victims, this is not a defence of Cllr Fielding – he is a bit part player in all of this and appears to have little or no culpability – it is put up for the benefit of the many other innocent parties now tainted by Raja Miah’s thoughtless actions and gratuitous smearing.

Postscript

In the meantime, his home borough of Tameside, Oldham and the rest of Greater Manchester await something original and engaging from Recusant Nine that might, just might have a ring of truth. Before it is finally closed down permanently by Facebook.

Page last updated: Tuesday 20th April, 2021 at 1055 hours

Photo Credits: Facebook.

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