Operation Lamp: A Major corruption scandal

‘This report will blow West Yorkshire Police apart’.

Sounds melodramatic, but these are the words to me of a well placed insider about an investigation into the fit-up of an up-and-coming young police officer, by his Leeds Bridewell colleagues, twelve years ago.

That bombshell revelation also fits into my own sphere of knowledge. Which is much more than most, as I was instrumental in setting the Terms of Reference for phase one of the investigation, in my role as complaint advocate to the family of ex-PC Danny Major.

Danny had only one dream as a boy. To follow in the footsteps of his devoted father, Eric, as a career policeman. On my frequent visits to the Major family home I watch Danny’s young nephew play with the toy police cars that have become family heirlooms. Soon Danny’s own bright-as-a-button little boy, Matthew, will be dreaming of driving those same police cars, as he plays with them.

It is a travesty that the conviction against Danny’s name is not yet quashed and relief brought to his inspirational, hard-campaigning mother, Bernadette Major, who has never once doubted, in over twelve years, that her son was innocent.

A trusted and well-liked bobby of the old school, Eric Major retired in 2011 after 31 years exemplary service with West Yorkshire Police. Danny’s own rise through the ranks ended abruptly in 2006 – after only six years – when he was convicted of assaulting a drunken, violent teenager he was attempting to arrest in the centre of Leeds three years earlier. He was subsequently jailed for fifteen months (released after only four) but Danny, a university graduate, feels he is still serving a life sentence as he waits for the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to consider his case for a second time.

In November 2006, after three trials, Danny was convicted of actual bodily harm and common assault. He was acquitted of a second assault charge. It was alleged that on 6th September 2003, he arrested Sean Rimmington for being drunk and disorderly while on duty near Millgarth police station. The prosecution claimed that Danny kicked Rimmington twice in the ribs whilst the prisoner was handcuffed in a police van parked in the docking area outside Leeds Bridewell. It was further alleged that Danny removed Rimmington from the van by throwing him head first onto a concrete floor and punching him in the head on at least four occasions.

The Bridewell police station in Leeds City Centre
The Bridewell police station in Leeds City Centre

In the police cell within the Bridewell, the prosecution claimed that he assaulted Rimmington, by punching him five to six times in the face, causing injuries to his nose. Danny says he committed none of the alleged assaults, which either didn’t happen at all or were, instead, committed by other police officers.

Crucially, the police failed to disclose CCTV footage that could have helped Danny’s defence team. It was produced in the final days of third trial when it was too late to be used in court. The footage was subsequently presented to the CCRC, who refused to refer the Major case back to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it did not materially enhance the defence case at trial and would not be seen as new evidence, or argument.

Danny’s imprisonment was a police trade-off for, what the court heard at the second trial, the concealment of the “shambolic” state of affairs in the Leeds Bridewell custody suite. Judge Linda Sutcliffe QC was not wrong: Amongst the many failings were the falsification of an entire night shift’s custody visiting records, right under one of the CCTV cameras (belatedly disclosed to the Major family) and with running, comedy-act, commentary provided by the officer involved, PC Richard Roberts. Better known to colleagues as ‘Ivan’. A senior PSD detective commented that “there was no proactive supervision” in the Bridewell, which resulted in prisoners not booked in, cell visits not made and others taken to wrong cells. Twelve years after Sean Rimmington received a series of injuries whilst in custody, West Yorkshire Police still have no explanation for concealing the missing 13 hours of CCTV footage that would have cleared Danny Major’s name at Court. Nor have they produced any film from the other five cameras they alleged were not working on that night.

In the hours after the incident, and whilst he was at the city’s  St James’s Hospital receiving treatment for injuries inflicted by the prisoner, Danny was accused by another police officer of punching the comatose teenager thus causing his injuries. He was suspended from duty but, he says, was not overly concerned, initially. “The Bridewell has cameras everywhere,” he says. “Alarms go off if film is not in them. It is not somewhere you commit offences. When I heard the allegations I told them: ‘Just look at the CCTV cameras’. Then, my own force’s Professional Standards Department claimed that at least five cameras weren’t recording.”

It was, to say the least, an operational and mathematical improbability that so many cameras had failed on one night in and around the main custody cells in a city the size of Leeds.

The first Danny Major trial was stopped following an abuse of process submission by his defence counsel. There were a number of flaws connected to disclosure of evidential materials to the defence team by the police and CPS – and the Crown’s overall presentation of its case was criticised by the judge. At the second trial, at Bradford Crown Court, the jury heard that officers at Leeds Bridewell failed to follow even basic procedures, as outlined above. The jury was unable to reach a verdict and discharged by Judge Sutcliffe. The third and final trial also saw another circuit judge, the late Roger Scott QC again repeat the view that the custody suite was “a shambles”. He criticised senior police officers, including Detective Inspector Michael Green, and called the Rimmington custody record “a document of fiction”. Perjury, by any other name, once its contents were relied upon, by Green, under oath. Indeed, the judge went on to say further: ‘We saw an unorganised, unsupervised rabble. In my view, it requires further investigation and possible charges against a large number of officers”.

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The Leeds Bridewell “Shambles”, as described by Judge Scott in court, was the headline that covered most of the front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day.

Danny was acquitted of assaulting the teenager whilst putting him in the van on a jury count of 12-0. The jury simply did not believe his accuser, PC David Oldroyd. Danny was, however, convicted of assaulting him while taking him out of the van which, once the proximity of another police vehicle in the caged and CCTV’d Bridewell van dock is confirmed, that alleged attack becomes a physical impossibity. He was also convicted, by a majority of 10-2, of the cell assault.

The police’s key witness PC Kevin Liston has now left the force in disgrace, after committing a series of assault/drug/sex based offences before and after the trials. Liston was kept ‘clean’ by the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of West Yorkshire Police, racking up at least twelve serious crimes over a ten year period. That was the price the force had to pay for the lid not coming off the huge cover-up that was in play. Much more can be read about Liston here.

In January 2013, Greater Manchester Police was appointed to review the PSD investigation that led to Danny’s conviction. The codename is Operation Lamp and it began with Superintendent Peter Matthews as Senior Investigation Officer. From Matthews’ first visit to the Major’s home – a meeting at which I was present – the shock at what he and his fellow officer, DC Natalie Kershaw, were seeing, when viewing the evidence for the first time, was palpable.

It was an investigation that was expected to last six months, but the amount of previously undisclosed material, plus the lines of enquiry flowing from that, extended the time required for both the detective work and report writing.

Matthews retired at the end of 2013 and was replaced as SIO by an officer who had worked on the case from the outset, DCI Julian Flindle.

Both Matthews and Flindle – and indeed the rest of the Manchester detectives involved on Lamp – developed a very good rapport with the Major family from the outset, and have been impressed by the sheer scale and reach of Eric Major’s own detective work on the case, before their more formal investigation began.

There has also, clearly, been some behind-the-scenes political wrangling as phase one of the investigation was, to all intents and purposes completed in December 2014. It is expected to at the very least infer, if not expose directly, that the drive to convict, and then remove, Danny Major from the police service extended to the top management of West Yorkshire Police.

David Crompton, the recently suspended and thoroughly disgraced Chief Constable at South Yorkshire Police, was the officer who dismissed Danny at a misconduct hearing following what his mother, Bernadette, described as nothing more than a “kangaroo court”. At the time, Crompton was the infamous Sir Norman Bettison‘s Deputy and, in correspondence between the IPCC Commissioner at the time, Nicholas Long, and the IPCC’s current Senior Oversight Manager Rebecca Reed, it is clear that is was Bettison himself who made the decision to hold misconduct proceedings, before the outcome of Danny Major’s appeal against his conviction had been heard.

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Crompton (pictured above) made an excruciating ‘gaffe’ at the opening of the disciplinary hearing that revealed his mind was already made up about dismissing PC Major and the hearing, thereafter, was a sham. It is also clear from the same batch of IPCC documents, to which I have exclusive access, that the hearing itself was potentially unlawful. No appropriate notice had been served on the IPCC by the police, who were yet to determine what disciplinary measures were to be recommended in Danny Major’s case. West Yorkshire Police later claimed – and the IPCC tamely accepted – the S75 notice was “lost in the post”. The two IPCC officers who made this discovery withheld this, and other, crucial information from the Major family for five years. This revelation would appear to seriously compromise the IPCC’s Chair, Anne Owers, who sits as a non-executive director of the CCRC.

One of the most damaging effects of that delay is that the Crown Prosecution Service disposed of their files relating to the three trials that ultimately led to conviction of PC Danny Major, prior to launching of the GMP outside force investigation.

The Operation Lamp report was presented to the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, and the Chief Constable, on 11th December, 2015. Mark Burns-Williamson, who for so long frustrated the family’s fight for justice, released this press release shortly afterwards (click here).

Ex DI Michael Green, Ex-PC Kevin Liston and former West Yorkshire Police Band leading light, David Oldroyd (promoted to sergeant immediately after Danny’s conviction at the third trial) are expected to face criminal proceedings, if the report is acted upon appropriately by the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police. Another Band member at the heart of the Major scandal is Force Solicitor, Mike Percival, who has been excluded from any further dealings with the case at the request of the Major family.

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The Manchester detectives have also been liaising with the CCRC throughout the investigation and Lamp’s key findings are expected to be presented to them, shortly. The new evidence uncovered should be sufficiently persuasive for the CCRC to refer the matter back to the Court of Appeal for a second time.

Danny Major continues to be represented in his dealings with the CCRC by Maslen Merchant at Hadgkiss, Hughes and Beale, a Birmingham firm of solicitors.

In the meantime, battle is joined with the West Yorkshire PCC, and the force, over the provision to the Major family, as key stakeholders, of an unredacted report to Danny’s solicitor. Given the track record of Mark Burns-Williamson and his Chief Executive, Fraser Sampson, in repeatedly blocking this family’s fight for justice in the years prior to 2013, it is not expected to be easy. It is also noteworthy that Burns-Williamson did not contact any member of the Major family even once, in the period between the referral in January 2013 until the day the report was delivered to him almost three years later.

A redacted version of the Operation Lamp report was made available to the Major family on 29th January, 2016. Channel 4 covered the event with this loop broadcasted on their main evening news slot: click here to view. The interview with Danny Major revealed only what has been known for some years and what I have been publishing for over three years. Curiously, C4 made no comment over the concerns about the referral by Mark Burns-Williamson and the Chief Constable to the IPCC.

Burns-Williamson was expected to announce phase two of the Operation Lamp investigation early in the new year and Greater Manchester Police are keen to take on the task with the same team of detectives who completed phase one. This follow-up investigation should probe the WYP PSD and IPCC cover-up, from 2006 onwards, that prevented the Major family getting justice much earlier than 2016. Instead the referral has been made to the IPCC which will, inevitably, mean another long delay whilst the police watchdog decides how it can best step around the fact that they were an integral part of the problem ten years ago and, of course, ever since. There is also the deeply unhealthy relationship between the Wakefield office of the IPCC and West Yorkshire Police to factor in, which is not at all good news for the Major family.

In the event, the IPCC quickly washed their hands of Operation Lamp and referred it back for ‘local investigation’ and GMP have now been further tasked with investigating ‘whether, in their view, there are any criminal and/or misconduct matters to answer’ according to a statement issued by T/Chief Constable, Dee Collins. Who shares the Command Team table with two officers who must certainly have known of the sustained Danny Major ‘cover-up’ through their senior roles within Professional Standards over the years. They are ACC Andy Battle and ACC Angela Williams. The latter was involved from the outset, dealing with Mrs Major’s original complaints about the crude fit-up of her son by his own police colleagues. Battle was Head of PSD in 2011 to 2012 when PC Kevin Liston was still being ‘protected’ whilst commiting offences.

On a more positive note if, as now seems very likely, Danny Major’s conviction is quashed at the Court of Appeal he will be reinstated in the police service, by right. It his wish that he joins the Manchester force who will have done so much to help that cause.

My own view, and one, I must stress, not shared by the Major family, is that GMP should not have been given the second investigation into the shameful conduct of their West Yorkshire neighbours. They took far too long on the first investigation, without properly explaining why, and with ACC Garry Shewan in charge – a police officer in whom I have absolutely no trust or confidence – there is the ever-present risk of tainting (Shewan is pictured below). I also have good reason to believe that, whilst Shewan is keen to see the Danny Major conviction quashed at the Court of Appeal, he is not a police service boat-rocker and, in my informed view, lacks the stomach to see through a conviction of the perpetrator of the assault on Sean Rimmington in 2003. Unless and until that happens, Danny’s name will not be cleared.

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My choice for phase two of Operation Lamp would be Devon and Cornwall Police, who conducted an investigation in 2013 which was codenamed Operation Garnett (read the redacted report here). This also concerned deep-seated corruption within WYP’s Professional Standards Department dating back to 2006 and was brought about following complaints by a retired Northumbria Police officer, Supt Trevor Fordy. All Mr Fordy’s complaints were upheld by the Devon force and some of the discredited officers were common to both the Garnett and Lamp investigations. Notably, ex-Supt Trevor Kerry. As an experienced major crimes SIO, Mr Fordy’s best collar was Curtis ‘Cocky’ Warren, the infamous Liverpool drug baron who was, reportedly at the time of his sentencing, the country’s biggest ever drug dealer.

There is also the spectre of two outside force investigations and a Metropolitan Police ‘peer review’ into alleged corruption within the Professional Standards department at Manchester which, on the face of documents I have seen, may involve both Shewan and DCI Flindle.

Aidan Kielty, a former GMP Police Federation official, now turned whistleblower, made some startling revelations to the BBC on this topic in September, 2015. Read more here. His views reinforce my own, insofar as the Major case would be best served well away from GMP, once all the implications from phase one of Operation Lamp have been dealt with. Mr Kielty was interviewed as a potential witness in a recent BBC File on 4 broadcast featuring the GMP scandal, but was edited out due to time constraints. There is a curious symmetry here as it was co-producer of the GMP programme, Sally Chesworth, whose views on the merits of the Danny Major case were one of the keys in forcing the Operation Lamp enquiry to be opened. The full GMP File on 4 podcast is available here.

However, the Danny Major scandal is a story that still has some way to run, and with the sensational collapse of the high profile Dennis Slade murder re-trial in November 2015, together with the Inspector Keith Boots alleged £1million drugs theft trial due to commence in January, 2016 it leaves the beleaguered West Yorkshire Police facing three more huge corruption scandals, to add to an already bulging tally.

With the next PCC elections due on 5th May, 2016, will beleagured Burns-Williamson be sticking to his 2012 election mantra? “There is no corruption in West Yorkshire Police

Last update: Friday 29th April, 2016 at 0925hrs

Follow me on Twitter: @Neil_Wilby

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2016. 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.

Photo credits: Greater Manchester Police; Parliament.uk

Proportionality, policing and the public interest

‘Proportionality’ and ‘in the public interest’ are two of the buzz words and phrases often deployed amongst policing professionals and commentators these days, and this is a tale that brings both into play in a quite noteworthy, and in many ways, disturbing manner.

Apart from fixed penalty offences for such as shoplifting; drunk and disorderly; possessing cannabis; an offence under Section 89 of the Police Act 1996 is at the very bottom of the criminal scale: Obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty. The most common disposal is a caution or, even, words of advice for a person of good standing and clean record.

It should come as a surprise, therefore, to many – if not all interested in policing matters – that such an offence has been recently pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service and West Yorkshire Police, aided by an evidence bundle extending to over 50 pages and which includes Criminal Justice Act statements from an inspector (who is also staff officer to the Deputy Chief Constable), two sergeants, five constables and three civilian officers, one of whom is of high managerial rank. This follows a total of thirteen hours detention of the suspect at Normanton police station and over four and a half hours of largely ineffective interviews by two constables led by PC Rebecca-Leigh Thompson.

Stephen Bradbury, a successful and well known Huddersfield businessman, was arrested (with the routine breaches of PACE that feature in so many complaint cases against WYP officers), and originally charged, with assaulting a police officer and wilful obstruction of the highway. He was not, at any time, cautioned or interviewed about the S89 obstruction offence with which he was ultimately charged. He was bailed, and re-bailed by the police, three times in total.

The charge of obstructing a police officer arises from an incident at the barrier entrance to the force car park, prior to an arranged two hour meeting at West Yorkshire Police headquarters on 12th December 2014. Two of the officers Mr Bradbury was due to meet, A/Sgt Anthony Lee and Helen Crosland, a senior civilian officer in the Force Disclosure Unit, turned turtle to give evidence against him.

Wakefield Magistrates Court heard, at a plea hearing in April 2015, that the incident in question followed several previous meetings between Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle and Mr Bradbury, which were arranged in an attempt to resolve issues between the defendant and the force. The court also heard that a substantial without prejudice offer was made to the defendant by the Force Solicitor, Mike Percival, (in December 2013). The meetings having been called by ACC Battle to discuss the counter-offer from Mr Bradbury that followed.

Mr Bradbury pleaded not guilty at the April hearing and the trial was listed for two days, starting 26th October 2015, and directed to be heard by a District Judge, rather than a panel of lay magistrates.

The trial was duly heard before District Judge Day, on the arranged date, with Leeds barrister Martin Sleight prosecuting for the Crown and well known Huddersfield solicitor advocate Michael Sisson-Pell defending Mr Bradbury.

As a result of Mr Sisson-Pell’s intervention the witness list had been reduced from eleven potential police witnesses to five. In the event, Ms Alex Kirkham, who is personal assistant to ACC Battle, failed to appear at court (without explanation) and PC Daniel Stoppard, who assisted in the arrest of Mr Bradbury, had his evidence read to the court by the District Judge. That left three live police witnesses: A/Sgt Lee (by now demoted back to constable rank), Police HQ receptionist Emma Littlewood and Miss Crosland.

It serves no useful purpose to re-heat the detail of the evidence of what was, in its totality, an unattractive mish-mash of lies, don’t-knows, don’t-recalls and reluctant admissions of fact. The principal offender was DC Lee, who struggled, at any stage in his oral evidence, to match up with the testimony of Misses Littlewood and Crosland, or the CCTV film that was viewed several times in court or, in fact, his own written evidence and that of PC Stoppard. On top of this, DC Lee displayed a demeanour towards both defence counsel and the Court that reflected little credit on him, or the police force of which he has been part for twenty-two years.

The fate of the case was effectively sealed by the testimony of the police’s own witnesses: An offence of obstruction did not appear to have been made out by the Crown and this proposition was put to the judge in ‘half-time’ submissions by Mr Sisson-Pell. The lack of credibility of the Crown’s principal witness, DC Lee, formed the second part of Mr Sisson-Pell’s offering: During evidence it was put to DC Lee that his account of the events before, during and after arrest was ‘a complete fabrication’.

Following a detailed, incisive, and in parts scathing, summing up of the part-heard case, District Judge Day dismissed the allegation against Mr Bradbury. He also ordered that Mr Bradbury’s costs be assessed and met from central funds.

What was plain throughout the trial, and referred to by the judge in his closing remarks, is that a number of officers within West Yorkshire Police lack objectivity in their dealings with Mr Bradbury. A needless dispute that centred on whether or not Mr Bradbury was allocated a visitor’s car parking space, whilst attending a meeting at police HQ at the invitation of senior officers, had led to the fiasco in court.

Quite apart from the merits of this case, upon which readers can form their own conclusions, this prosecution throws up serious questions for, firstly, the police, who in times of austerity have not only abused bail yet again (the West Yorkshire force are, per capita, by some distance the worst abusers in the country) they have approached this matter in a grotesquely disproportionate manner – and committed themselves to an investigation and trial for a very minor offence that is likely to cost in excess of £30,000 and have taken up an enormous number of policing hours. Secondly, the CPS has decided to run this case against a background of huge criticism, nationally, of their decision making. Allegedly, at the insistence of at least one senior officer in West Yorkshire Police.

Both the police press office and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire were approached for comment on the proportionality and public interest aspects of the case. None has been offered.

Recordable Conduct complaints arising from the aborted trial have now been filed with West Yorkshire Police. They concern four officers involved in the case: C/Supt Clive Wain, Inspector Richard Close, A/Sgt Anthony Lee and Civilian Officer, Helen Crosland. The complaints allege  breaches of Standards of Professional Behaviour and Code of Ethics. If proven, the most serious allegations of abuse of authority and/or honesty and integrity, against all four, would amount to gross misconduct.

Additionally, there are criminal allegations of assault and criminal damage made against Lee, and taking a motor vehicle without consent and driving without insurance against Close.

Complaints were recorded on 11th November, 2015 by the Professional Standards Department of West Yorkshire Police and the force has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission concerning the incidents.

Other matters have now come to light regarding breaches of Data Protection and the Regulatory and Investigative Powers Acts and complaints will also be submitted to the police and the IPCC in due course concerning those.

Police and Crime Commissioners, Scrutiny Panels and some ‘holding to account’ myths

In November 2012, voters in forty-one police areas in England and Wales went to the ballot box and elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) for the first time. They would replace the moribund police authorities, which had existed since the abolition of watch committees in 1964.

The three principal functions of a PCC were, by statute, to be the drawing up of policing priorities, setting the budget for their force and holding the Chief Constable to account.

As part of the same Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, Police & Crime Panels (PCP) were to be established to provide financial and performance scrutiny, deal with complaints and to hold the PCC to account. The Panels were established in line with the legislation, comprising of a large number of elected local councillors and a small number of independent nominees. It was a natural sinecure for former police authority incumbents.

The Police Commissioner poll was, by general consensus, badly conceived, poorly executed and resulted in voter turnouts at unprecedentedly low levels. It resulted in almost all of the successful candidates having a mandate from their electorate of less than 8%. It was a notable Home Office failure.

It comes as no surprise in this maelstrom to find that some of the new PCC’s were to prove either incapable of fulfilling the role or to have have been embroiled in controversy of varying degrees of seriousness: Bedford’s Olly Martins, Cumbria’s Richard Rhodes, Durham’s Ron Hogg, Kent’s Anne Barnes, Lancashire’s Clive Grunshaw have all faced Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation and, most notoriously, Shaun Wright resigned his South Yorkshire post following the breaking of the Rotherham children abuse scandal and Wright’s alleged complicity in it.

West Yorkshire’s Mark Burns-Williamson has narrowly avoided IPCC investigation over criminal complaints thus far (three previous referrals to them and one being presently considered) but has suffered the ignominy of having a Chief Constable he hand-picked being suspended for over a year over bribery allegations and Mark Gilmore is still, to date, on gardening leave whilst Lancashire Police conduct further investigations under the codename Operation Barium, and led by ACC Tim Jacques. Burns-Williamson did not come out unscathed either, in the IPCC investigation that followed the sudden, and controversial, retirement of Sir Norman Bettison.

He is joined in this calamitous situation by Avon and Somerset’s Sue Mountstevens, who dispensed with an incumbent Chief Constable (Colin Port) to install York born and bred Nick Gargan. After a suspension of over a year, whilst the IPCC conducted an investigation-cum-fishing expedition, Ms Mountstevens has asked Gargan to resign. A decision which was the subject of challenge by Gargan and over which the Police Scrutiny Panel were due to have the last say. In the event, Gargan tendered his resignation on 16th October, 2015 and it was accepted with immediate effect. Thus, apparently, ending a saga which is estimated to have cost approaching £1 million.

Over in Lincolnshire, former ITV Calendar presenter Alan Hardwick wrongly suspended his Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes. The £500,000 High Court spat that followed completely exonerated Rhodes, as did the subsequent Operation Redbone police investigation conducted by Sir Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police. At the core of the dispute were allegations made by the West Yorkshire PCC’s Chief Executive, Fraser Sampson, who emerged with little credit at the conclusion of the saga.

Amidst all of this controversy, there has been an almost eerie silence from the Scrutiny Panels and no visible holding to account. Even allowing for the limitations placed upon the Panels by the woefully-drafted Elected Local Policing Bodies (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations, there has been no robust condemnation of some notably poor conduct. As with their police authority predecessors, drawing a handsome honorarium and not rocking the boat is, seemingly, the priority.

The North Yorkshire PCC, Julia Mulligan, is Chair of the Transparency and Integrity Standing Group at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, an organisation set up – and funded by – the Home Office. No criticism of her colleagues’ behaviour by Mrs Mulligan can be traced by searching the internet. Apart from her sub-group role Mrs Mulligan is also a Main Board Member of the APCC. Along with, incidentally, the aforementioned Mark Burns-Williamson.

Mrs Mulligan, whose husband Paddy is both a local and county councillor in North Yorkshire, earned the notable distinction of polling the highest percentage vote (58.25) of all the PCC election ballots, but by way of the sixth lowest turnout (13.25%), has neither suffered such widespread opprobrium nor has she, so far, been referred to the IPCC (or, in this writer’s certain knowledge, ever looked likely to be) over her conduct, by the PCP sub-committee that handles complaints against her.

It is known that of the eight complaints made against Mrs Mulligan, in the near three year period since she was elected, three are from journalists (this writer and two others I will not name, at this stage, as Mrs Mulligan is funding civil action against them) and one is from a retired Middlesbrough solicitor, Anthony Nixon. The Nixon complaints are in the public domain and can be read at this link.

Two of the journalist complaints were both concerned with poor communication from the PCC’s office and, also, of prejudicial treatment against each of them when pursuing complaints on behalf of others, in the public interest. Broken promises, and insulting comments made by Mrs Mulligan, were amongst other issues cited in the complaints. She has also refused, for over two years, to apologise to one of the journalists after being recommended to do so, by the PCP, following the upholding of his complaint: A rare instance, indeed, of the PCP holding their PCC to account. Albeit, with little or no discernible effect. The complaint from ‘Mr H’ – and its outcome can be read here.

But it is the latest of these complaints to have been lodged against Mrs Mulligan that has, arguably, caused her, and the North Yorkshire PCP, the most angst. These are the core of those complaints, submitted by this writer:

  • She has failed to hold the Chief Constable to account over (a) a bomb hoax that appears, on the face of it, to have been instigated deliberately by police officers in Northallerton (b) woeful outcomes delivered on a regular basis by the force’s professional standards department, at least one of which was widely reported in the regional and national press. Read more here. (c) routine breaking of the law concerning disposal of freedom of information requests (d) victim support – specifically not providing written outcomes to complainants/victims of crime (e) 101 service being not fit for purpose
  • She failed to comply with her statutory duty (See here for The Elected Policing Bodies [Specified Information] Order 2011) to provide a Decision Notice, concerning the expenditure of several hundred thousand pounds funding a civil court claim, filed by three very senior police officers and six members of the public. Two months after this complaint was recorded – and very probably ten months after it should, lawfully, have been published, a Decison Notice (of sorts) appeared on the PCC website. It’s full text can be read here and is presently the subject of robust challenge, by way of a judicial review application. A Letter before Action was served on Mrs Mulligan on 9th November, 2015.
  • The legality (vires) of that funding was also raised in the complaint and is, also, argued in the judicial review application referred to above.
  • She allegedly made defamatory statements concerning two local journalists in public statements published in two regional newspapers and on the police force website.
  • There were other minor matters concerning failures to engage effectively (a regular feature of earlier complaints against Mrs Mulligan) and one which is still very much extant. For example, she has so far failed to acknowledge the letter despite being specifically requested to do so.

These complaints were recorded by the PCP Secretariat on 30th July 2015 and considered by the Panel complaints sub-committee on 19th August. At which, the notably weak submissions of the PCC (compiled by her Chief Executive) in response to the complaints were considered. The three sub-committee members, presumably acting on advice from the Panel’s legal officer, Barry Khan, decided that some of the more serious elements of the complaint were to be referred to the next full Scrutiny Panel meeting, where Mrs Mulligan was to be questioned on these. So far, so good: A discernible level of holding to account by the PCP.

That full meeting, which took place on 8th October 2015 had been in the calendar, and advertised on the PCP website, for months. Mrs Mulligan, allegedly, told the Panel Secretariat that she wasn’t able to attend the Panel meeting and the Secretariat declined twice to respond to written requests from this writer to provide an explanation for her absence. Which is a most peculiar stance to adopt, from a body whose principal purpose is to hold the PCC to account.

After persisting via social media, this writer was able to obtain details of Julia Mulligan’s diary for 8th October, the day she was supposed to be facing questions over the complaints against her at the Panel meeting. The diary shows she was in her office making, and receiving, phone calls. On any independent view, fairly routine stuff and certainly nothing in the way of a good and sufficient excuse not to be at the PCP meeting. All public entreaties to her office, via social media, to elicit the reason for Mrs Mulligan’s absence from the Panel meeting failed.

The presumption is this: There is no viable reason – and the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel are now complicit in the failure of their PCC to hold the Chief Constable to account and, further, are not overly exercised in holding Mrs Mulligan to account, either.

Both the office of PCC Julia Mulligan, the Panel Secretariat and its Chair, Cllr Carl Les, were approached for comment on the matters set out above. Mrs Mulligan’s staff officer, Will Naylor, claims that she was told by the Panel ‘she was not needed at the meeting’ which is at complete odds with what this writer was told, in writing, by the Panel Secretariat’s Corporate Development Officer, Ray Busby. The Panel, through Cllr Les, responded with a statement that, in parts, stretched the bounds of credulity and further clarification has been sought from him before his response is published. In the interim period, this writer is happy to reproduce the factual part of Cllr Les’s statement: ‘During the (period) since Mrs Mulligan took office, the Panel has met fifteen times. Mrs Mulligan has attended all those meetings, except the one on 8th October, (2015)’

It is unclear, at this stage, whether Mrs Mulligan’s absence was connected to a Conservative Party PCC selection meeting, on 15th October, at which she was re-selected as candidate for the May 2016 election. Presumably Cllr Les, as Chair of North Yorkshire County Council, as well as the Police Scrutiny Panel would have had a big say in that. As, it is reasonable to assume, would Cllr Les’s fellow County Councillor, Paddy Mulligan.

It is also worth recording at this point that Cllr Les has come under journalist scrutiny from in the past, over expense claim and register of interests issues (read here) which might lead some to question as to whether he is, in fact, the right person to be holding the Police Commissioner to account. Mr Les has also refused an interview with this writer, in an attempt to get to the bottom of this farrago.

For his part, Ray Busby, has now decided that being asked, in his role as a public servant, to provide honest answers to polite, if awkward, public interest questions by a journalist concerning legitimate business with the Panel is just too much for him to bear. He has requested that this writer does not contact him again, directly. Not much evidence of holding to account there, either.

This is a story that will run for some time yet and one that will be regularly updated as more information is prised from the relevant authorities by way of Freedom of Information requests, or the judicial review challenge to the Decision Notice referred to above.

But one crystal clear view has emerged from this sorry saga: The Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel in North Yorkshire is a sham, and a shambles, and it fails in its primary duty to hold to account the Police and Crime Commissioner, Mrs Mulligan.