The dreaded vote of confidence

She has acted with the utmost integrity“.

So says Greater Manchester’s high profile Mayor, Andy Burnham, as part of a limp vote of confidence in his under-siege deputy, Baroness Beverley Hughes.

Except that she didn’t.

The Burnham endorsement came as part of a blustery defence of the sly, duplicitous, incompetent handling of a serious complaint against her chief constable, Ian Hopkins.

‘Bev’, as she prefers to style herself, is the de facto police and crime commissioner (PCC), as part of the region’s devolutionary structure under the Greater Manchester Combined Authority umbrella. With Mayor Burnham at its point.

Her responsibilities include dealing with complaints against the chief constable. She is, to use the correct regulatory terminology, the ‘appropriate authority’  in such matters.

The complaint against Hopkins concerns an allegation of lying in a press statement he made in response to an excoriating article that appeared in The Times newspaper in June, 2018 [Read statement here and article here].

Remarkably, as the alert reader will have noticed, the expression “acted with the utmost integrity” was also embedded in that statement from the under-siege chief constable. In it, Hopkins also gratuitously smeared police whistleblower, Peter Jackson, a highly respected former senior investigating officer with Greater Manchester Police .

Hopkins also, repeatedly, claimed that there was no ‘cover-up’ mentality within GMP and expressed confidence in the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and their ability to carry out rigorous investigations into alleged misconduct of his officers.

To anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of GMP, or the IPCC (now re-badged as IOPC), that was an assertion beyond ludicrous. Even before taking account of the uncomfortably incestuous relationship between the two, that has led to some appalling miscarriages of justice. Notably, in the ‘investigations’ following the deaths of Jordon Begley and Anthony Grainger at the hands of the police.

The latter case has been back in the headlines again, very recently. The Crown Prosecution Service declined to bring charges against ex-assistant chief constable Steve Heywood for lying, and falsifying evidence, at the public inquiry into Anthony’s death. Heywood has been allowed to retire on full, gold-plated pension, claiming he ‘didn’t intend to mislead‘. A familiar claim if you are a senior police officer, or elected policing body, in Manchester.

In the event, Hopkins’ press statement did not age well: Just three days, in fact. A video clip, published on The Times website on 26th June, 2018, shows Hopkins rubbishing the IPCC’s  investigative capability. Their alleged efficacy had, of course, underpinned the defence of GMP’s probity in his now infamous press statement (view The Times film here).

His reputation was, again, in tatters and, significantly, there was no statement put out by the media-savvy chief constable on this occasion.

Insiders say that the focus of the enraged Hopkins was not on an apology and reparation, but, instead, on a GMP counter corruption unit ‘witch-hunt’ for the source of the video clip, identifying how it leaked out of the force and to stem the flow of other information reaching journalists. They drew a blank.

These actions do not sit easily with Hopkins’ robust denials of a propensity to ‘cover-up’ senior officer wrongdoing. There is also a genuine concern that unlawful surveillance may be in use against journalists critical of GMP.

The Times‘ Crime and Security Editor, Fiona Hamilton, whose own integrity and journalistic capability were also attacked by Hopkins’ gratuitous, self-serving missive, responded further, and robustly, in a follow-up article on 15th October, 2018; ‘Police chief “misled” public over boy in abuser’s lair’ (Read here).

Hopkins’ lie about a referral he claimed to have made to the IPCC, in what became Operation Poppy 1 and 2, was ruthlessly exposed. In the same moment, The Times, and one its senior journalists, were both fully vindicated. It was the same plucky Australian, Fiona Hamilton, backed by the full might of The Times, who called for a public inquiry into Greater Manchester Police over high-level ‘corruption’ and ‘cover-up’ in an article published in December, 2017 (read here) and repeated in a stinging Times leader, ‘Murk in Manchester’ two months later (read here).

Again, there was no rebuttal statement from the chief constable over the latest Op Poppy revelations, and no apology for the smears against Hamilton and Jackson. The GMP press office refused to answer questions about the particulars of the untruth.

Meanwhile, Pete Jackson had lodged a complaint with the deputy mayor, over the Hopkins’ press statement alleging breaches of honesty and integrity. Very serious matters, on any independent view.

Bev’s own antecedents are both interesting and relevant. They include resigning from a Ministerial post after apparently lying on BBC Newsnight in 2004, over an immigration ‘scam’ (read BBC article here). At the time, she claimed she had “unwittingly misled” fellow MP’s and the media.

Five years later, Beverley Hughes was caught up in the Daily Telegraph‘s investigation into MP’s expenses. It was revealed that she rented a second home in London with running costs of £1,000 per month in rent, her cleaner was paid £150 per month, and she was claiming £350 per month for food allowance. There were also one-off claims for £801.60 for reupholstering furniture, £718 on a chair and £435 on curtains and for bedding.

Bev announced her decision to stand down as Children’s Minister, and as an MP, shortly afterwards, citing “personal reasons”. She maintained at all times that her expense claims were “appropriate”.

More recently, and, perhaps, most crucially, Beverley Hughes in her role as PCC, had also made a statement following The Times article in June, 2018 that, incredibly, and in its entirety, supported the one made by her chief constable. It was also an unvarnished attack on Pete Jackson (read her full statement here). In her concluding paragraph she says: “The article …… is deplorable, totally unjustified and completely wrong.”

It should be noted that she claims some of the allegations against very senior GMP officers, made by Pete Jackson and a group of other retired, and very well respected, former police officers, have been extensively examined (not investigated). They would all beg to differ.

She added: “Those who claim to have further information have been asked to bring it forward and it has been made clear that we will act on any new evidence. However, none has been forthcoming”.

That all changed when on 6th August, 2018 a meeting between Peter Jackson, Maggie Oliver and Paul Bailey, former chair of National Black Police Association and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, her chief executive, Clare Monaghan, and the Mayor’s political spin doctor and right hand man, Kevin Lee, took place at Churchgate House, the Mayor’s HQ. The sole topic for discussion was the disclosures made by the whistleblowers, and the further information that ‘Bev’ was, purportedly, seeking so as to justify a fresh investigation.

Bev’s poor attitude, facial expressions, body language and general conduct, during that meeting, was drawn to her attention both at the time, and in comprehensive, and contemporaneous notes of the meeting, provided by the whistleblowers to GMCA. She plainly found the whole process of listening to incontrovertible accounts of GMP wrongdoing highly distasteful. The only challenge to Pete Jackson’s copious notes, by the Mayor’s office, concerned Bev’s gurning. Which was an oddity, as she was facing the three whistleblowers, but sat alongside those who said she wasn’t face-pulling. The rest of his notes, on very serious and extensive police officer misconduct, drew no comment

Mr Lee had spent most of the time fiddling with his mobile phone, and appeared calculatingly disinterested in the meeting, so he couldn’t have seen anything, in any event.

Four months later, the whistleblowers still await any form of substantive response from the Mayor’s office, who stonewall requests for updates. There is no indication that any of the allegations have been severity assessed and passed over for investigation to an outside police force. There is no Decision Notice published, as required by the Elected Policing Bodies (Specified Information) Regulations that would record such action.

With her press statement in mind, together with her crass behaviour during the meeting with the police whistleblowers, the spectre of bias, therefore and unavoidably, raises its head when Beverley Hughes is dealing with a complaint by Jackson against Hopkins. Even at the unconscious level, an issue recognised as a deep-rooted problem within policing bodies.

The outcome into the Jackson complaint against the chief constable, delivered on 21st September, 2018, in a surprisingly short letter, and the subsequent appeal to the IOPC, has, almost inevitably, become the subject of the latest, and not inconsiderable, controversy to engulf ‘Bev’. It is believed to be the third complaint made against Chief Constable Hopkins since she took up the role of PCC in 2017. One was recorded and referred to the IPCC; the other was not recorded as it had been made by a serving officer, which is impermissible under the Police Reform Act, 2002. This information is drawn from confidential complaint documents passed to Neil Wilby.

‘Bev’ has repeatedly claimed that she conducted an ‘investigation’ into the Hopkins dishonesty allegations yet, counter-intuitively, determined its outcome by a process known as local resolution. Entirely inappropriate in the circumstances and, particularly, given what is in issue: The career and reputation of the chief officer of the fourth largest police force in the UK.

An appeal against the outcome, by the complainant, made to the IOPC, resulted in the police watchdog directing the deputy mayor to disclose the details of her alleged investigation to Pete Jackson.

‘Bev’ was given 28 days to do so, which, taken at its face, might seem an inordinate length of time to send an email and attaching a document that ought to be already resting on GMCA’s computer servers.

After several follow-ups from Jackson, protesting at the delay in disclosure, ‘Bev’ sent him a letter, on the 30th day, having ignored a lawful direction from a statutory regulator, saying there was no documentation relating to an ‘investigation’. Nothing. Not a single scrap of paper. Which the canny ex-murder detective had suspected all along, of course.

On any independent view, the constant references to an investigation having taken place, repeated to the IOPC, were false. Invented. Made-up. A lie.

Which takes us back to the opening lines of this article. The Deputy Mayor most certainly did not act with ‘utmost integrity’ and the claim that she did, by Mayor Burnham, seriously undermines his own credibility.

Crucially, the watchdog’s caseworker, whom, for legal reasons, cannot be named here, is now a witness to what may amount to a criminal offence, misconduct in public office. To lie to Pete Jackson is one thing, to set out to deceive a statutory regulator is quite another.

There is also the blackest of irony here in ‘Bev’ trying to convince a senior detective, who’s conducted 1,000’s of investigations, many into very serious crimes, what an investigation should comprise. She, as far as can be gleaned from her CV, has never conducted one before in her entire career.

Even worse, the basic documentation, action plan and communications with the complainant, that support a disposal of a complaint by local resolution were also completely absent. These are embedded in the IOPC’s Statutory Guidance and section 22 of the Police Reform Act, 2002. There can be no mistaking their specification, and necessity. If she needed clarification, Andy Burnham was Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Blunkett, at the time the latter was the promoter of that particular legislation.

The inescapable conclusion is that the ‘local resolution’ outcome, claimed by ‘Bev’, was also an invention. Another lie.

At this point, as social media is agog with the latest Manchester police scandal, in steps the Mayor himself, again: Andy Burnham writes to Pete Jackson and only succeeds in making the situation worse. Much worse, it must be said. He repeats the claim about an ‘investigation’ and conflates it with ‘local resolution’. Thus putting his own integrity into question:

“The Deputy Mayor has explained that your initial complaint was concluded through the local resolution process. This process quite rightly involved an investigation into the allegations you made. However, as you may be aware, no investigation report is produced at the conclusion of the local resolution process.”

He is bluffing, and plainly badly advised: An investigation has many characteristics, but making a phone call to the person complained about and receiving ‘assurances’ that it was ‘all a bit of a rush and a misunderstanding’ wouldn’t be one to rely on. Burnham then adds this:

“Following the decision of the IOPC to uphold your appeal and having consulted senior officials at the IOPC, the Deputy Mayor and I have decided to commission a local investigation which will be fully compliant under the terms of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 and therefore its validity beyond doubt.”

Burnham doesn’t offer any explanation, or apology, to Jackson, as to why the initial process didn’t even begin to be compliant. He also fails to disclose why he has acted outside the Police Reform and Responsibility Act in having informal discussions with the IOPC, rather than referring the matter to them for a mode of investigation decision, to be made by the watchdog, not the PCC or the Mayor.

As crucially, what the Mayor doesn’t say is WHO will be carrying out the investigation into the allegation that Ian Hopkins has lied in a public statement. Again, with not a little irony, about a referral to the IOPC.

It also appears that Burnham is minded to attempt to conduct a second complaints process without involving the complainant. In response, ex-Supt Jackson has made it crystal clear that he expects a Section 9 Criminal Justice Act statement to be taken, as there is now a misconduct in public office allegation against Hughes. An allegation of a criminal offence from a retired senior police officer, that the Mayor seems to have airily dismissed without referring the matter to a police force, other than, possibly, GMP, for investigation.

Mr Burnham also does not make clear whether the PCC and appropriate authority, Beverley Hughes, is excluded from the process as a result of her catastrophic failings in the first attempted disposal of the complaint. Both she, and the statutory officer advising her, Clare Monaghan, appear to be clueless about the applicable legal framework in respect of complaints: ‘Bev’ is automatically excluded from the process having been involved in an abandoned local resolution. IPOC’s Statutory Guidance makes this clear.

Mrs Monaghan was also surprisingly unresponsive when approached by a card-carrying journalist to ascertain that she was, in fact, the statutory officer required to support a police and crime commissioner. Given that her total cost to the taxpayer is approaching £170,000 per annum, the salary cost of eight police officers on the beat, better might be expected of her.

Mayor Burnham signed off his letter to Pete Jackson not only with the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ but, also, what appears to be a veiled threat:

“There can, therefore, be no suggestion that the Deputy Mayor has lied or acted with anything other than utmost integrity throughout this process. I ask you not to repeat your accusations.”

A politician is, effectively, telling a police officer with 31 years exemplary service, latterly as Manchester’s top detective, what does, or does not, constitute an untruth. This is Pete Jackson’s response:

“All [Beverley Hughes] actions suggest anything but that [utmost integrity]. There has been zero communication, zero consultation and zero documentation provided. Can you imagine how a police officer would be received at court if they had taken such a clandestine, secretive approach to an investigation with no records or documentation to show what they had done? Do you think the court would determine that the officer had acted with ‘the utmost integrity throughout’?”

“All I have seen is delays, prevarication and a response to my complaint that has engendered complete and utter mistrust.”

There has been no response, as yet, from the Mayor to that compelling argument.

But the Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s present problems aren’t confined to a dishonesty complaint about the chief constable. ‘Bev’ is facing one herself from investigative journalist, Neil Wilby. The genesis is a highly contentious freedom of information request which has again caused Bev’s integrity, and compliance with statutory obligations, to be questioned.

The requested disclosure concerns the circumstances surrounding the appointment of GMP’s newest member of the command team, Assistant Chief Constable Maboob ‘Mabs’ Hussain.

It seems that, caught out by other disclosure made to that same requester, on the same topic, from Greater Manchester Police, ‘Bev’ has provided a false outcome. She claims that, after appropriate searches were conducted, not a single scrap of paper was retrieved, or available to be lawfully disclosed. No notes, no diary entries, no telephone logs, no meeting notes, no meeting notes, no interview agenda, nothing.

Even taken at its face, any independent reviewer would find that far-fetched. Also, the GMP disclosure strongly indicates otherwise.

Having been forced to make a request for the false finalisation to be reviewed internally, the first paragraph of what is a quite brutal examination of the shortcomings of Beverley Hughes reads thus: “This is a response so deceitful, calculatingly so, in my respectful submission, that section 77 of the Act may well be engaged. For convenience, I attach a copy of the relevant section of the Act. As the Deputy Mayor should be aware, not knowing the law is not a defence.”

The review request goes on to say: “Further, and in any event, there is no provision in the Police and Social Responsibility Reform Act, 2011 for secret meetings, absent of written record, to take place between a chief constable and an elected policing body concerning the appointment of his assistants. The proposition, advanced in the finalisation of this request, is, accordingly, deeply concerning. Again, the Deputy Mayor is most strongly urged to seek appropriate, independent legal advice before attempting to maintain this position following internal review.”

Three reminders to comply with the Freedom of Information Act have not persuaded ‘Bev’ to swing into action. In fact, the last two have been completely ignored and the Information Commissioner’s Office is now seized of the matter. No rebuttal of the direct challenges to her integrity has been provided in the ensuing two months.

The full correspondence trail from the What Do They Know website can be read here. It presents ‘Bev’ again as incompetent, a prevaricator and prepared to indulge both in deception and breaching an Act of Parliament.

As an elected policing body, her position might now be argued as being untenable. The question should also be asked how, given her past history, she came to be handed the role in the first place.

This extract from Wikipedia sums up Baroness Beverley Hughes, another disgrace to this country’s honours system, as neatly as any other anecdote: In July 2001, she received significant ridicule and criticism in the media after it was revealed that, along with other politicians, she had repeatedly denounced an edition of the Channel 4 television show Brass Eye as being “unbelievably sick”, but then subsequently admitting that she’d never seen it – and refused to ever watch it. The programme was, in fact, parodying hysteria surrounding the issue of paedophilia and the media, thus commentators suggested that extreme reactions such as those by Hughes had in fact emphasised the need for such programming. Sir Paul Fox criticised Hughes and her colleagues, suggesting they “have to have the courtesy to have seen the programme before they go in at the deep end”, with Christopher Howse even more critical, suggesting “it was as if paedophilia were sacred and not to be blasphemed against” and that the IDIOCY of Hughes’ performance on the affair was “hard to beat”.

That last line could well be repeated over her performance in handling the complaint against her chief constable. Taking a wider view, in the Hopkins case she repeats her delivery of a pre-formed judgement, without considering any of the evidence, as she did in the Brass Eye controversy.

But, whichever way it is looked at, it does little for her standing as a public figure and her well-tarnished integrity. How long she now lasts as PCC, following the ‘vote of confidence’ from her boss, remains to be seen.

GMP’s press office provided these two statements:

“Complaints against the Chief Constable are required to be considered independently by the Local Policing Body which in the case of GMP is the Mayor for Greater Manchester. The decisions concerning recording and investigating complaints against the Chief Constable are a matter for the Local Policing Body”, a GMP spokesperson said:

Comment from Chief Constable Ian Hopkins: “I am aware of the allegations that are being made. I welcome the allegations being looked at that I deliberately lied in my public statement of 23 June 2018. There was no intention on my part to lie or deliberately mislead anyone in my statement.”

The GMCA press office was also approached for comment. The request has not, so far, been acknowledged. Which, regrettably, is standard for that organisation.

There was, however, a response to the information request from GMCA’s Assistant Director of Information and Governance, Philippa Nazari. Materials were disclosed that Beverley Hughes had previously denied existed. There was no explanation for the discrepancy. No explanation as to why Bev chose to break the law to avoid disclosure.

The GMCA finalisation has been challenged on the basis that there are still further materials undisclosed.

The IOPC press office has refused to provide either the name of the police force appointed to carry out a second investigation into Chief Constable Hopkins, or name the senior investigating officer. They attempted to pass a press request over to their freedom of information department.

Last updated: Monday 10th December, 2018 at 2020hrs

 

Picture credit: Greater Manchester Police

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 2015-2018. 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.

Scandal-hit police stonewall ‘sex ring’ allegations

A major sex scandal has been brewing at Cleveland Police for almost two years.

The lid was partially prized open by John Beggs QC at a disciplinary tribunal that attracted widespread media attention in late 2016. Sensationally, the troubled force abandoned proceedings against an officer, Sergeant Waseem Khan, who had been suspended for three and a half years, at the start of the second week of the hearing.

But, during the first week, Beggs had probed a personal relationship between Superintendent Beverley Gill and Chief Superintendent Jon Green which the ‘attack-dog’ barrister characterised as “exceptionally close“. Green had been moved sideways from his role as Head of Professional Standards Department (PSD) as scandal after scandal dogged him and his disgraced department. The replacement Head was his “personal friend“, Bev Gill. Her evidence at the hearing had troubled the Panel chairman.

On 7th November, 2018 Gill was suspended by the force, at the outset of an investigation codenamed Gosport, over allegations she subdued an investigation into former colleague and ‘dirty detective’, Simon Hurwood. The latter was officially outed, at another disciplinary hearing in October, 2018, at which Beggs QC was again heavily involved, as a manipulative sex fiend.

Cleveland Police is very clear that they are not naming the officer, and their head of communications confirmed this in response to a press enquiry in which Beverley Gill was named, and a request made for her length of police service with Cleveland to be provided. The force continues to rely on the press briefing given the previous day.

Hurwood was found guilty of eight allegations of gross misconduct, plus a number of other misconduct allegations, after the inquiry found he had groomed and pestered 21 female Cleveland Police colleagues, most of them of junior rank, for sex and other indecent acts, over a 14-year-period.

Leeds barrister, Simon Mallett, Chair of the police disciplinary panel which heard the complaints, said: ‘Simon Hurwood was treating the professional standards department as a personal recruitment centre for his own sexual gratification.’ Nevertheless, Hurwood was allowed to retire with a pension pot of £1.1 million, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

On Friday 2nd March 2018, Hurwood was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault offences,  interviewed, released under investigation and, subsequently, suspended from duty later the same day.

Following further enquiries, early consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) complex case unit in London took place. This was in relation to four victims. Subsequently, Detective Chief Inspector John Wrintmore made the decision that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with either the alleged sexual offences, or misconduct in public office. This left police disciplinary proceedings as the only course of action available.

Described as ‘creepy and sleazy’ by his victims, Hurwood abused his position as a management rank officer to have sex in police cars, and in his own office in PSD, the department charged with holding up the highest standards of conduct amongst all the force’s officers. He also persuaded female officers to send him sexually explicit pictures and videos of themselves. He was obsessed with the colour of females’ underwear, and having explicit photos and videos sent to him on his mobile phone.  One witness alleged Hurwood forced her into ‘non-consensual sexual intercourse’ and others complained of being coerced into performing sex acts.

There are also allegations surfacing that Hurwood threatened to blow the whistle on other senior officers if he was prosecuted. The name of an alleged ‘go-between’ that allegedly brokered a deal is circulating on social media. If true, this cover-up was conducted at a senior level in Cleveland Police.

There was no public appeal for witnesses, internally or externally, and some complainants were instructed to sign confidentiality agreements. Police have offered up the rationale that it was to prevent cross-contamination of evidence, but, to the more enquiring mind, it simply fuels belief in a senior management cover-up. Particularly in the light of the most recent revelations.

When approached by a Sunday Times reporter at Hurwood’s £400,000 home last week, his wife, Kimberly, said: “We are not answering any questions.” Her husband has completely denied any misconduct or sexual assaults. He has been married twice previously.

Force spokesperson, Xanthe Tait, a former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North Yorkshire, said the suspension of Bev Gill was a ‘neutral act’ and the presumption of innocence remains.

There are other allegations on social media, made by a regular and very well informed, critic of the force, Michael Carey, which, no doubt, Operation Gosport will explore, that Bev Gill was also “close” to Hurwood, in a similar way to her friendship with Jon Green. There are, it is said, other senior officers who enjoy similar relationships as part of a friends group.

After the Hurwood disciplinary hearing, and it may not necessarily be connected, it was said that Deputy Chief Constable Simon Nickless, who had portfolio responsibility for PSD at the material time, was leaving Cleveland Police to join the College of Policing as Senior Policing Adviser. Which has, one might say, the look and feel of the situation pertaining to ex-West Yorkshire Police chief constable, Mark Gilmore, who was sent off to do a ‘non-job’ at the National Police Chiefs Council, for over a year, in an attempt to disguise the fact that he was on gardening leave.

On 7th November, 2018 it was announced by Cleveland Police that a new deputy chief had been appointed for a temporary six month period. It was Helen McMillan, drafted in from Northumbria Police, who suspended Beverley Gill. Helen previously worked with Durham Constabulary, based in Hartlepool. She would be well advised to make a trawl of the public complaints made against Gill and re-visit them. There are at least two shocking cases that should be the subject, at the very least, of gross misconduct investigation. One made by the aforementioned Michael Carey and the other by Karim Allison, who succeeded in a substantial civil claim against Cleveland Police, and has been relentlessly persecuted by the force since. Including an unsuccessful prosecution against him. Carey has also been arrested and all his computer devices seized, but very recently informed by the police, after an eighteen month hiaitus, that the CPS will not prosecute.

On 17th September, 2018, six weeks before the Hurwood disciplinary hearing became public knowledge, a series of questions was put to Cleveland Police, and its Police Commissioner, Barry Coppinger:

“A statement is requested from PCC Coppinger regarding a report that is circulating on social media concerning an alleged ‘sex ring’ operating in the upper echelons of Cleveland Police.
The reports states, inter alia:
1. Insp Simon Hurwood, whose arrest was reported in the press earlier this year, may have assaulted, harassed up to 30 female officers, staff.
2. Insp Hurwood and Insp [name redacted] (whom it is said are involved in a physical relationship) are part of a police sex ring that may include five other named officers of managerial rank, including the present [name redacted] . It is also said that Insp Hurwood was present in the vehicle when Insp [name redacted]  was found to be OPL (subsequently convicted).
3. The sex-ring has operated for many years and those involved ‘cover-up’ for each other if misconduct or criminal matters are reported against them.
4. Insp [name redacted] has discussed publicly how ‘sex-corruption’ is rife in the force and institutional sexual assault is commonplace.
5. The chief constable and PCC are actively seeking to conceal these matters from public scrutiny.”

It took almost four weeks, and several reminders, for this response to be provided:

I take any allegations of misconduct within Cleveland Police very seriously and I have developed a small Complaints Triage team to assist the newly established Directorate of Standards and Ethics in investigating concerns raised by the public.

I will not, however, comment on unsolicited and unsubstantiated reports appearing on social media. An appropriate complaints process is in place, details of which can be found on the Cleveland Police website.

The statement glosses over the fact that since Mr Coppinger was elected as PCC in 2012, the force over which he has oversight has staggered from crisis to crisis, with scandals, across the misconduct spectrum, featuring routinely in the national press. He previously served on Cleveland Police Authority, under the chairmanship of David McLuckie, who was jailed in 2013 for perverting the course of justice.

In the light of the suspension of Bev Gill on 7th November, 2018, a request was made for an updated statement. The response was almost immediate:

Cleveland Police has informed the Police & Crime Commissioner of the suspension of an officer. This matter is within the remit of the Chief Constable and the PCC is assured that the necessary investigation will be carried out thoroughly, promptly and fairly.

It would not be appropriate for the PCC to comment further at this time.”

The statement carefully, and ironically, avoids the point that this routinely scandalised police force has proved almost entirely incapable of carrying out any thorough, prompt or fair investigation when its own PSD (now re-badged as Standards and Ethics) has been involved. There is also the collateral issue that Mr Coppinger employs a chief constable who is a proven liar, twice over. An  unsatisfactory situation, by any measure, and one that the PCC defends with extraordinary zeal.

If there are two officers already suspended, and the working hypothesis is that is the minimum number, it also suggests that the force may be drip-feeding information to Mr Coppinger, and his PCC team, to minimise the risk of ‘leaks, or for other operational reasons.

Operation Gosport is an investigation that should, quite properly, and on any independent view, have started out as a criminal investigation, not one of gross misconduct, and been referred by its chief constable, Mike Veale, to another police force for investigation.

Veale, unusually, and bizarrely, given his recent history, is the portfolio holder for Standards and Ethics. A role undertaken by the deputy chief constable in most other police forces. However, he is said by a well placed police source to be ‘furious’ over what is now being revealed and is ‘wielding the knife’ in an attempt to cut out deep-seated cancer of corruption in that department. Whatever his recent history in Wiltshire Police, this is an important, and most welcome, step in the right direction for Cleveland and its constituents.

But, until the Veale ‘surgery’ is complete and the integrity of the force recovered, Cleveland Police simply cannot be trusted to investigate itself. But, there is some light at the end of what must have been a very dark tunnel for Hurwood’s victims, as their press office provided me with this statement on 9th November, 2018.

Cleveland Police fully supports any victim’s right to review (VRR) such decisions and is currently supporting a review in this case by another police force. It is important that there is transparency in decision making and that any such decision is rigorously tested in the best interests of victims and the public.”

On 12th November, 2012, it was confirmed that Northumbria Police had been appointed to assist with the VRR. No timescale has been given.

That police force, however, could not have been West Yorkshire Police, headed by chief constable, Dee Collins. From the start of her police service in 1987 until the end of 2005 she served with Cleveland Police, including a spell in its ill-starred PSD. In the offices where Hurwood would later have illicit sex and be pleasured orally. She was also a Police Federation representative as an inspector.

She was a superintendent when she left the force to join Cumbria Police in December, 2005. Hurwood had begun his sex spree against female colleagues almost two years earlier.

Ms Collins was asked for a statement on 7th November, 2018 – the day Bev Gill was suspended –  and has ignored the request (a routine occurence, it must be said).

She has also been, subsequently, invited to comment on well sourced information that she is ‘very, very good friend‘ of 50 year old Bev Gill (a couple of years younger than Dee Collins).

The point to these questions is that the WYP chief was honoured recently by the Queen, and quite rightly, as a champion of women in policing. But that does not sit easily with any knowledge, at all, of what was happening to her junior ranked female colleagues, in what is a relatively small police force. Hurwood, Gill and Collins all have similar lengths of police service and would, at the very least, it is reasonable to infer, have been well known to one another as they progressed up the ranks.

Despite his predatory behaviour, after he became a sergeant in 2003, Hurwood was promoted and moved to the professional standards department, where most of the offences took place. Even after complaints were made against him, he was put on a recruitment panel where he could choose potential victims, implying to one woman that he could help her get a job.

Two detective inspectors were informed about Hurwood’s sexual encounters at the material time, and one victim was at a rank of chief inspector, or higher. Yet the misconduct continued, not just unabated, but even more blatantly.

It may well be that Dee Collins didn’t know, and there cannot be any presumption, at all, of wrongdoing by her, without probative evidence. But if she didn’t know, then serious questions need to be asked ‘why not‘ given her various, and highly relevant, roles in the Cleveland Police.

It’s the same question asked by many others about what she does, or doesn’t know, about alleged misconduct and criminality of her own West Yorkshire Police officers: Apart from the selfie-loving, teddy-bear hugging, gushing, heavily sentimental, fluffy, public relations role which she enthusiastically adopts, it is difficult to see, from an investigative journalist’s perspective, what contribution she makes to maintaining the requisite ethical and professional standards in the force.

In January, 2019, Dee Collins takes up a three month role at the College of Policing in Surrey. There is speculation, explored in an earlier article on this website (read here), that she will only return to WYP to say her goodbyes and then retire. That is denied by the force, but in terms sufficiently vague to leave that open as more than a possibility.

An approach has been made to the WYP press office for comment or a statement from the chief constable. In their routine, unethical, unprofessional manner, and taking their lead from the chief constable, who conducts herself in much the same way, it has not even been acknowledged, so far.

 

Page last updated on Saturday 10th November, 2018 at 2050hrs

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 2015-2018. 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.

Black woman in fear of local police forced to leave Bradford

On 22nd April 2014, Oluwatoyin Azeez, a British black woman of Nigerian origin,  was at her home in Bradford with her young children (aged between 1 – 13), when officers from West Yorkshire Police arrived at her property, demanding to speak to Ms Azeez’s lodger (the teenage son of a family friend), who was living with the family at the time. Previous visits to Ms Azeez’s home, by the police, to check on the lodger, who was at the time under a curfew order, had passed entirely peacefully. But on this occasion the lead officer, PC 521 Hirst, forced his way into the premises as soon as Ms Azeez answered the door to him, pushing her to the floor in the process.

Ms Azeez is a law-abiding person, of good character, with no previous convictions, or adverse interactions with the police. She had willingly answered the door to PC Hirst, and the violence which he then displayed, in bursting past her into the house, was completely unjustified.

Ms Azeez, in a state of considerable distress, protested to PC Hirst that he had no right to enter her house in such a manner. She was at the time, dressed only in a loose-fitting kaftan, having been in the shower when the police officers first knocked at the door. At this point, she asked PC Hirst to leave, whereupon he pushed her in the chest, making contact with her breast, and again knocked her to the floor. Now even more distressed, Ms Azeez got to her feet and asked, again, that PC Hirst leave. In response he assaulted her, grabbing her by the neck and pushing her against the wall. All of this was unfolding in front of Ms Azeez’s young children.

The Azeez children pleaded with PC Hirst to release their mother, to no avail. As Ms Azeez began to choke and feel lightheaded, PC Hirst then escalated the assault by spraying CS incapacitant gas into her face at close range, and without warning. The gas spread throughout the close confines of the house, and also began to affect the  young children, one of whom was a one year old infant.

PC Hirst then dragged Ms Azeez outside, and onto the pavement, causing her to fall and strike her head on the ground. Forcing Ms Azeez to keep her head down by kneeling on her back, PC Hirst then handcuffed her arms behind her back and left her lying in the street. Added to the pain and degradation she was already suffering, was the further humiliation that she was wearing only loose-fitting clothing and felt exposed to the public view of her neighbourhood.

PC Hirst then returned and renewed his assault upon Ms Azeez, pulling her to her feet by her handcuffs and then pushing her back down, causing her to bang her head against her garden wall, and vomit. PC Hirst then further tormented Ms Azeez by informing her that, not only was she to be taken into police custody (for no specified reason and in breach of PACE), but, also, Social Services would be called and her children taken away from her.

Ms Azeez was then transported in the caged rear section of a police van to Bradford’s notorious Trafalgar House Police Station, still without any explanation as to why she had been arrested, or even confirmation that she, was, technically, under arrest.

At the police station, PC Hirst falsely asserted that Ms Azeez had assaulted him. But, after listening to his account, the custody sergeant refused to authorise detention of Ms Azeez, on the grounds that PC Hirst had not been acting in the course of his duty. He had, in truth, no lawful right to enter Ms Azeez’s premises, uninvited.

Ms Azeez was then told by the custody sergeant that she was free to go, but was offered no explanation, or apology.  Given her obvious injuries, the custody sergeant advised that he would arrange for her to be given a lift to the local hospital.  She was directed to wait in the police station public waiting area.  She did, for over an hour, before eventually just leaving the police station and walking home, partially clothed and in custody slippers, injured and without any money. After walking some distance, she eventually had to accept a lift from a stranger to get back home.

Fortunately, she discovered that her children had not been taken by Social Services and were, in fact, being looked after by a friend. But all of the family were deeply traumatised by what had happened, and the children, as well as Ms Azeez, were still suffering from the effects of the CS gas spray which PC Hirst had discharged in their home.

PC Hirst is known to have worked in the Bradford City NPT team in 2015 and 2016 as part of their ‘off-road’ motorcycle unit. His current deployment within the force is not known.

Ms Azeez, understandably, brought an official complaint against the police, but found the Professional Standards Department (PSD) officers handling her complaint to be generally unhelpful, rude and dismissive.  Following their ‘investigation’ (the term is used loosely), it was concluded that although the officer did not have a lawful power of entry  he had “an honestly held belief” that he did. Accordingly, the officer did not have a case to answer in misconduct, or gross misconduct, but would “be given words of advice and appropriate training”.

Ms Azeez felt deeply hurt, not only because of the serious and sustained assault she had suffered at the hands of PC Hirst, but because of the total lack of help, or sympathy, offered to her by West Yorkshire Police as a whole, and who, rather than supporting her as a victim, seemed to rally behind, and protect, PC Hirst. She subsequently instructed Iain Gould [1], one of the country’s leading lawyers in police misconduct actions, who commenced court proceedings on behalf of Ms Azeez against West Yorkshire Police for assault and battery, false imprisonment, trespass to property and breaches of the Human Rights Act.

Leading police complaints lawyer, Iain Gould of DPP Law in Liverpool

Following the issue of those proceedings, and just two weeks before trial, West Yorkshire Police agreed at a Joint Settlement Meeting on 29th September 2017 to a payout of £25,000 in damages, plus Ms Azeez’s legal costs and, perhaps, most importantly, and very rarely seen even in successful actions against the police, a formal apology from an Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police:

“I write on behalf of West Yorkshire Police to offer my sincere apologies for the way in which you were treated by our officers on 22nd April 2014.

Having reviewed the incident, I can see that there were significant failings on the part of the officers involved, both in terms of their knowledge of their lawful powers and then the way in which the situation developed. It is also unacceptable that you (Ms Azeez) were not provided with a proper explanation for the custody officer’s decision to release you from custody on the night of the incident.

I fully appreciate how distressing this whole event must have been for you, and acknowledge that the consequences of the incident, for both you and your children, have been serious and prolonged. 

As outlined in the report of the Professional Standards Department, both PC Hirst and PC Nkasu received words of advice and appropriate training as a result of this incident to ensure the same mistakes are not made again.

West Yorkshire Police aim to ensure the safety of all members of the community and, on this day, I very much regret that the standards we set were not met.

The settlement terms achieved should go a long way to helping Ms Azeez put her life back together after this highly distressing incident, the memories of which had caused her to have to relocate her family from the Bradford area to London”.

What happened to Ms Azeez and her family is truly outrageous and the settlement does not take away the fact that two officers, one a perpetrator, and the other failing to challenge the unlawful behaviour, have been present at a serious assault on a mother, in front of her young children. Then continued to taunt and humiliate her, in a most calculating and appalling fashion. Yet, they remain serving officers with West Yorkshire Police.

Iain Gould concludes; “Obviously the assault perpetrated upon her by an armed officer in front of her young children was absolutely unconscionable, but to me equally shocking and deplorable was the way in which West Yorkshire Police as an organisation callously turned their backs on Ms Azeez once they determined that they in fact had no grounds to arrest her. 

It would have been a simple and straightforward matter at that stage for a senior officer to have offered an apology, some words of kindness and  arrange immediate medical treatment and, thereafter, a lift home.  Even just an explanation as to what had happened. 

As it was Ms Azeez was left completely in the dark both as to the reason for her arrest and the reason for her release.  But it seems that the Force was only interested in her if they could classify her as a villain; they had no concern for her as a victim – the victim of one of their own officers, indeed.  Having been assaulted in her home, effectively abducted, separated from her children and taken across town against her will, and without any just cause, she was now ‘thrown out’ onto the street to make her own way home. 

Further insult to injury was added by the forces’ usual approach to a complaint against its officers:  Treating the complainant with contempt, and carrying out an investigation motivated by the desire not to discover the truth, but to shield their own officers.  Eventually, they have done the right thing, but only because my client had the courage and conviction to pursue a court claim to enforce her rights”.

Whilst it might be difficult for the reader to comprehend, the conduct of the two constables is not at all out of the routine for West Yorkshire Police, and they feel empowered to act this way because they are certain that, backed by the powerful police officers’ ‘union’, the Police Federation, there will be no meaningful sanction from the force’s entirely discredited Professional Standards Department.

West Yorkshire Police chief constable, Dee Collins. Pictured on duty with “PC Edward Walker”.

Meantime the force’s chief constable, Dee Collins is happy to broadcast, on social media, pictures of her carrying a teddy bear around and, at the same time, pushing out PR guff about how she puts victims at the heart of her police work. That, on the evidence of the Azeez case, is simply not true.

The chief constable also boasts about providing statements in support of her officers who are assaulted (‘he touched my arm‘ was the basis of one ‘assault on constable’ charge) but was nowhere in sight in Oluwatoyin Azeez’s hour of need. It is also noteworthy that PC Hirst made an allegation of assault against Ms Azeez that the custody sergeant, to his credit, wouldn’t entertain.

That is double standards at its very worst. Ms Collins’ past role as a ‘Fed rep’ has, perhaps, never really left her?

The reality, as I know much better than most, when dealing with West Yorkshire Police, and particularly their notorious PSD [2], is very different from the ‘caring’ PR face they try to project. The unofficial force motto, famously immortalised by author David Peace in his seminal Red Riding trilogy, perhaps sums them up best: “Where we do what we want“. [3]

Ms Azeez’s elected policing representative, PCC Mark Burns-Williamson, and the chief constable, Ms Collins, were approached for comment.

The question put to both was: “In all the circumstances of this case, is the Chief Constable satisfied that ‘words of advice’ was the appropriate disciplinary sanction for PC’s Hirst and Nkatsu?”

The force press office provided a response that was almost identical to the gist of the letter of apology sent to Ms Azeez. When pressed for a comment attributable to the chief constable they, surprisingly, declined.

The PCC’s press officer, Dolores Cowburn, did not even acknowledged the email sent to her.

 

[1] Contact Iain Gould, via his website, at http://www.iaingould.co.uk

[2] Unprofessional Standards website at http://www.upsd.co.uk

[3] The Guardian: ‘Northern Exposure’ https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2009/feb/28/david-peace-red-riding-tv

Page last updated Friday 17th November, 2017 at 1710hrs

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 2015-2017. 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.

 

Court set to decide between watchdog and journalist in long running ‘truth’ dispute

Another lengthy legal battle between the police watchdog and an investigative journalist is set for a public airing on Friday 8th July, 2016.

A hearing in Leeds County Court, before His Honour Judge Mark Gosnell, will decide a number of issues dividing three employees of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Neil Wilby.

The two caseworkers and a senior manager employed by the IPCC cannot, presently, be named for legal reasons.

leeds_combined_court_centre

In May 2014, the IPCC gave open-chequebook funding to their three lay claimants in order to launch legal action grounded in claims of harassment over articles that had been written about them. One of the original claimants, caseworker Mohammed Ejaz, dropped out of the case unexpectedly, and was substituted a few days before the first court hearing, with another IPCC employee taking his place.

After the IPCC had spent well over £100,000 of public money, the case against Mr Wilby was settled in his favour on the day the trial should have commenced in December, 2014. A consent order was agreed between the parties and, subsequently, sealed by the court.

The matters to be heard by HHJ Gosnell on 8th July concern, firstly, the terms of the Consent Order. Each side alleges the other has broken them. Secondly, the judge has to decide whether consent to include the names of the IPCC employees, in four articles Mr Wilby has written, can be given.

One of the terms of the Order was that Mr Wilby has to approach the IPCC for consent to name any of the three lay claimants in his articles, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.

In the case of three other articles the IPCC, at first, unreasonably, withheld permission then capitulated on either threat, or filing, of legal action. It is the four remaining articles, where permission to name has been withheld, that are still in issue.

The IPCC’s lay claimants are also seeking an order to have the most contentious of the remaining articles, Liar, Liar. Pants on Fire taken down from Mr Wilby’s website. They have not sought any interlocutory relief, despite the article being published in January, 2016.

The Liar, liar article is fiercely critical of other senior figures within the IPCC, notably Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone, and a number of lawyers who have acted for them in this claim. None of whom have made application, or complaint, about the piece.

Counsel for Mr Wilby is well known human rights barrister, Ian Brownhill. Representations will also be made by Mr Brownhill challenging the legality of the use of public funds by the IPCC’s lay claimants in a hearing of this nature.

There are also now two other articles, published since proceedings were issued by Mr Wilby, upon which Mr Brownhill will ground further arguments over consent being unreasonably withheld. They include this one, for which no response at all was provided by the IPCC to a request seeking consent to name their employees.

Sara Mansoori (who appeared for the applicant in the recent PJS celebrity threesome case) will represent the IPCC’s three lay claimants. She is instructed by disgraced Leeds solicitors, Cohen Cramer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 19.15.15

The case is likely to attract a good deal of press attention following the IPCC’s recent capitulation in a harassment case concerning multiple award-winning Croydon Advertiser journalist, Gareth Davies.

The IPCC press office were approached for reaction to this article. Their response was provided anonymously: “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to comment, however we will not be supplying one. Your email has been forwarded to the appropriate teams within the organisation“.

Those wishing to attend court for the hearing on 8th July may find this HMCTS Court Finder link useful:

https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/courts/leeds-combined-court-centre

_________________________________________________________________

Page last updated Wednesday 30th June, 2016 at 1655hrs

© 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: HMCTS

Hangin’ on a telephone wire

This is the unexpected sequel to the Liar, liar story as the case which appeared to have been brought to an end in December 2015, with a settlement very much in my favour, has now erupted into another series of legal arguments.

Earlier this year, I published an article on this website called Liar, liar. Pants on fire. It is an account of the protracted legal battle between the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), and myself, over the right to publish articles concerning alleged incompetence and corruption within the ranks of the so-called ‘police watchdog’.

 

logotype

The twin thrusts of the Liar, liar piece were the decision by the IPCC’s Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone, to apply a huge sum of public funds in attempting to silence their critics, including me, and the disgraceful manner in which the litigation had been conducted.

Amongst the issues highlighted were breaches of court rules by the IPCC’s solicitors of choice, troubled Leeds law firm Cohen Cramer, and persistent lying in witness evidence by two of the IPCC’s employees (or ‘lay claimants’ as they are significantly described by their own barrister).

This is the unexpected sequel to the Liar, liar story as the case which appeared to have been brought to an end in December 2015, with a settlement very much in my favour, has now erupted into another series of legal arguments.

This time around, the battleground has changed. The harassment case against me, brought by the IPCC’s lay claimants, did not achieve either of its objectives (a harassment finding or an injuction) and now the fight is over repeated breaches, by them, of the consent order that was agreed between all sides – and sealed by the court in January, 2016.

In three applications made to the court by me since, there are details of eleven such breaches set out against the three IPCC employees, who cannot presently be named for legal reasons. The IPCC claim, on behalf of the senior manager and two casework managers, that the article is ‘critical’ of them and their names should not be published on that basis.

In a tit-for-tat response, the IPCC have made an application of their own to the court alleging minor breaches of the consent order by me and, significantly, seeking the removal of the Liar, liar article from the internet.

Before the publication of the Liar, liar article, a comment or statement was sought from both the IPCC’s press office and Lesley Longstone. An unidentified press officer replied saying the IPCC did not wish to comment. Ms Longstone did not even acknowledge the email. Comment was also sought from David Hall,  an associate solicitor at Cohen Cramer Ltd., (pictured below alongside Mrs Longstone). He didn’t bother to reply, either.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 18.28.23           David Hall Cohen Cramer

The legal action by the IPCC, seeking the removal of the article, was not preceded by any correspondence from either them – or Cohen Cramer. It was filed at court, without warning, a month after publication of the Liar, liar article.

The court application made by the IPCC, and fronted by their lay claimants, does not seek injunctive relief, but they are asking me to pay the costs of them taking out these proceedings against me.

A court hearing was originally listed for 10th March, 2016 but was adjourned due to circumstances beyond the control of either the IPCC, or myself. All four applications – the three of mine and the one filed by the IPCC – were re-listed to be heard on 18th April but that date had to be vacated due to non-availability of the IPCC’s barrister, Sara Mansoori.

Representing the IPCC in a harassment claim is very different to Ms Mansoori’s recent claim to fame in the controversial ‘celebrity threesome’ injunction case in which she represented ‘PJS’, the husband in a well-known entertainment industry coupling, at the original hearing (read more here).

The matter of the four applications concerning the IPCC and myself will now be ventilated at a full day hearing in Leeds County Court on 8th July, 2016.

The IPCC are again using public funds to finance this legal action, by three of their employees that, essentially, seeks to restrict my investigations into their activities and publish the findings. Despite refusing to provide a rationale for such a decision after being specifically requested to do so.

Proceedings have now been filed by me at the High Court in Leeds to begin the process of challenging the vires (legality) of this use of public money by the IPCC. This follows a childish refusal by the IPCC to even provide the name of the solicitor who will accept service of the claim form.

The Economic Crime Unit of West Yorkshire Police are to be invited to satisfy themselves that the arrangements for payments of invoices between the IPCC, their employees and Cohen Cramer meet the requirements of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. Suspicion has arisen following the refusal by Mr Hall to appropriately answer questions on the matter.

Cohen Cramer (and David Hall’s line manager, Michael McDonnell) were the subject of an adverse finding by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority in 2013 (read in full here) over the manner in which they conduct litigation. In itself, this may look a serious and damning outcome for Cohen Cramer but complaints against predecessor firm, Howard Cohen & Co, had been persistent, and numerous, for at least five years before the sleepy lawyers’ watchdog finally delivered its findings. Some of the malpractice reported anecdotally, via the Consumers Action Group website, is troubling to say the least.

There are, presently, at least two other complaints to the SRA, including my own, concerning alleged regulatory breaches by Cohen Cramer during the conduct of litigation. Given the terms of the previous regulatory settlement against them, this is likely to cause the Leeds law firm considerable difficulty.

The other SRA complainant about whom I am specifically aware, Lincolnshire businessman Stuart Brown, has also issued civil proceedings alleging harassment against Cohen Cramer. Mr Brown’s issues with the law firm made the national press in an article highly critical of them (read in full here). I have been invited to give similar fact witness evidence in that claim.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 13.20.58

In the circumstances, it seems reasonable to draw inference that the Daily Mirror article will not be the last time Cohen Cramer will be brought to account in the mainstream media. Such scrutiny is bound to include the question as to how a Home Office funded organisation, such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is spending the significant amounts of the public’s cash with lawyers who have brought disgrace on their profession – and seem well set in continuing to do so.

Mr Hall of Cohen Cramer, Mrs Longstone of the IPCC and her Northern area press officer, Diane Bramall, were all approached for comment on this article on 26th March, 2016.

An acknowledgement of the email to Mrs Longstone was received from the IPCC’s contact centre on 4th April but no substantive response has been received since.

The emails to Mr Hall and Ms Bramall have, to date, not produced any response from either of them.

Recent enquiries have revealed that Mrs Longstone’s brother-in-law is an officer engaged with South Yorkshire Police. A force subject to ferocious criticism by both myself and many other justice campaigners connected to the Hillsborough Disaster, the Battle of Orgreave and the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal.

Mrs Longstone left her previous employment with the Ministry of Education in New Zealand under a cloud, resigning after just one year of a five year contract. It was reported that she had a poor relationship with the Minister employing her and there were also ‘strained relationships with other sector groups outside the ministry’. Full New Zealand Herald story can be viewed here.

_________________________________________________________________

Page last updated Sunday 24th April, 2016 at 1835hrs

© 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: LinkedIn, Mirror Online

 

The case of Stefan Kiszko and a police force enamoured by its own sense of invincibility

This is a piece I first wrote for the uPSD website three years ago (2013). It has been updated with some recent developments, particularly relating to the ex-PC Danny Major miscarriage of justice case, in which I have been closely involved:

stefan-kiszko_1381765224

On the gravestone that marks the burial place of Charlotte Hedwig Kiszko, and her son Stefan (pictured above), the inscription is carved on blackened Pennine rock: “A loving wife and a very devoted mother“. That is an understatement of monumental proportions. No one could possibly have been more steadfast than  Charlotte, who campaigned tirelessly – and ultimately successfully – for sixteen long years to prove the innocence of her son. Much in the way that the relatives, and friends, of the many who perished in the Hillsborough Disaster have fought relentlessly for justice – and the parents of Danny Major who have battled for so long to clear their own son’s name after he was fitted up by the police force that faetures centrally in this shocking story.

Stefan Ivan Kiszko was convicted, after a diabolical West Yorkshire Police investigation, of the murder of a frail, 11-year-old Rochdale girl, Lesley Molseed, in 1975. She had been brutally stabbed to death on Rishworth Moor, close to the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. The killer had ejaculated on her underclothes.

The murder probe, and subsequent persistently unlawful, and relentless, three day interrogation of Kiszko, was led by Detective Sergeant John Akeroyd and, later, his boss, Detective Chief Inspector, Dick Holland, both of whom were commended at the subsequent trial.

As was the senior investigating officer, Chief Superintendent Jack Dibb. In spite of almost every one of the Judges’ Rules, governing detention and police interviews, at the time, having been broken by the police.

Holland and Dibb were later charged with perverting the course of justice, but the trial was halted after Dibb passed away in 1995. An application for a stay, on the grounds of abuse of process, was allowed by the stipendiary magistrate in Rochdale, Jane Hayward. She said that a fair trial was not possible without hearing oral evidence from the deceased Dibb. Passage of time and non-availability of other witnesses were also factors weighing in the balance.

Holland, and a forensic scientist charged along with the two police officers, Ronald Outteridge, were set to blame Dibb for any evidential shortcomings. Holland died in 2007.

The repeated request to have Charlotte present, whilst he was being questioned, was refused and, crucially, the police did not caution the grossly immature Stefan Kiszko until long after they had decided he was the prime – and indeed only – suspect. He ultimately “confessed” after being told he could go home to his mother if he did so. He retracted the confession almost immediately. Stefan had attended Rochdale police station voluntarily, and had, in fact, driven himself there in the bronze coloured Hillman Avenger that was his pride and joy. He was not arrested until his third day in custody.

That came two days after his first contact with Holland, who is alleged to have said, without preamble, to an immature, frightened, unwell man:     “I’ll get the fucking truth out of you, one way or another”, whilst assaulting him.

Holland was later to achieve notoriety in the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, after which he was demoted following an internal inquiry. He was also one of the senior investigators on another of the greatest miscarriages of justices of modern times: Judith Ward was wrongly convicted of the M62 IRA coach bomb murders, after a similarly brutalising WYP interrogation.

When he retired in 1988, Holland viewed the convictions of both Stefan Kiszko and of Judith Ward as being “among his finest hours during his 35 years in the police force”. The quashing of both those convictions, by the appeal court, came less than five years later.

It is over 40 years since Stefan, an Inland Revenue clerk with the mental and emotional age of a 12-year-old, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court by a jury directed by the highly experienced ‘red’ judge, Sir Hugh Park; and 20 years since he died, like his father, of a heart attack, after an all too brief taste of freedom. He was just 41 years of age, mentally and physically broken. His beloved mother, of Slovenian descent, died just a few months later.

Charlotte had buried her husband, the giant Ukrainian-born Iwan Kiszko, in a Halifax cemetery after he dropped dead at Stefan’s feet, in 1970, following a heart attack in the street near their home in Rochdale. His parents had met in migrant accommodation in 1951, married a year later and were a devoted, happy couple. Iwan, a road construction worker had helped build the M62 trans-Pennine motorway that swept past the spot at which Lesley Molseed’s body was foun d near Windy Hill.

Stefan suffered from XYY syndrome, a condition in which the human male has an extra Y chromosome. Such men are normal except for – sometimes slight – growth irregularities and minor behavioural abnormalities. He also suffered from hypergonadism and was acutely anaemic. As a child he had suffered badly with asthma.

One of Stefan’s “behavioural abnormalities” was jotting down the registration numbers of a car if he had been annoyed by the driver. This trait led, in part, to his wrongful conviction as he had, at some point prior to the murder, unwittingly jotted down the number of a car seen near the scene of the crime on the Oldham – Halifax A672 road on that fateful Sunday. A red Renault 16TL with the mark, ADK539L.

It was argued by the prosecution, at the murder trial, that only someone at the scene could have known the number of this car. A submission that was later to be proved wholly unlikely, by even the simplest of investigations. It was a car first registered in Rochdale, and owned by a couple in the town for the first two years of its life. It was even known to have been parked in the car park near the Inland Revenue offices where Stefan worked. One of a number of simple tasks that, regrettably, Rochdale solicitor Albert Wright, the senior partner in the town’s oldest firm of solicitors, and instructed counsel also failed to undertake.

Also, as a symptom of his medical conditions, Stefan Kiszko would have been physically incapable of producing the the type of sperm that covered Lesley’s knickers, which was a cornerstone of the prosecution case. A crucial fact that was never disclosed to either the court, or more particularly, his defence team, at the time of the trial. Another incapacity, a surgical pin in a recently, and badly, broken ankle, would have prevented Stefan carrying, or dragging, Lesley up a steep forty foot ascent, away from the main road to the killing ground. Wright, and the defence team, never made submissions to the court in this regard.

Apart from these evidential and investigative failings, Stefan Kiszko’s defence team, led by David Waddington QC, made a number of significant tactical mistakes at trial. Grounded in the belief, it seems, that the jury would find Stefan guilty of the murder.

Firstly, they did not seek an adjournment when the Crown delivered over 6,000 witness statements, as part of the unused material, on the first morning of the trial. These had lain, untouched, in an office attached to the Director of Public Prosecutions for weeks before the trial. Included in those statements were those of Chistopher Coverdale and Maurice Helm, both of which would have seriously undermined the prosecution’s claims. Coverdale had seen a man and a girl, at the lay-by on the A672 beneath the murder scene, on the Sunday afternoon. The man described bore no resemblance at all to the the accused, the description of the girl, and what she was wearing, was uncannily close to Lesley. Helm was a local milkman who admitted inadvertly exposing himself to two young girls when taking an emergency ‘leak’ on the Friday before the murder. Much was made of this ‘crime’ being committed by Stefan Kiszko at the crown court, in what was perversely described as ‘similar fact evidence’ to a brutal murder. Had Coverdale and Helm been brought to court as witnesses the trial would have been, effectively, over.

Secondly, Waddington never challenged the admissibility of the Kiszko cofession or the lurid similar fact evidence of alleged indecent exposure offences. In his summing up, the judge gave a clear direction to the jury that the latter bore no relevance to the murder. It follows, therefore, that an application to exclude it would have succeeded

Thirdly, in court, Waddington maintained the risky, inconsistent, and parallel, defence of diminished responsibility, which the Kiszko family had never authorised. The lawyer contends that they did. Stefan was adamant that he had never seen nor touched Lesley Molseed and they were his instructions to Mr Wright and instucted counsel. In effect, Waddington was putting to the jury an admission of guilt to murder but a plea for them to return a manslaughter verdict running alongside an alibi defence to the murder.

Waddington went on to become Margaret Thatcher‘s last Home Secretary, on the very day that Stefan’s second, and ultimately successful, appeal was filed with the Home Office – and now sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords as Baron Waddington.

Albert Wright had, in fact, initially instructed George Carman QC, the best criminal defence barrister of his day. He was, however, detained elsewhere when the Kiszko trial started on 7th July, 1976. It is not difficult to believe that the trial would have had a very different shape, and outcome, had Carman retained the brief.

In February 1992, at the time of the quashing of Stefan’s conviction, Charlotte Kiszko said that it was David Waddington who ought to be “strung up” for his pro-capital punishment views and for the way he had handled her son’s defence at the 1976 trial. On any independent view, it was shocking – and Waddington was not helped by a judge who also appeared, in a one-sided summing up, to take the view that Kiszko was guilty.

Prosecuting counsel, Peter Taylor QC, later became Lord Chief Justice and, in another quirk of fate attained that high office one day after Stefan’s conviction was finally quashed. He maintained, at the time, that the police had withheld the crucial scientific evidence from the prosecution, as well as the defence, at the fateful trial. A proposition that now seems highly likely.

As Lord Chief Justice, and, by then, Sir Peter Taylor, he became increasingly aware of miscarriages of justice and gave due attention to appeals against conviction. He was also responsible for many liberal innovations in the English criminal and civil justice systems and gave strong support to the full disclosure of police and prosecution evidence. Still a controversial topic almost 30 years later.

Taylor is, of course, is now eternally (and now posthumously) famous as the legal luminary leading the Departmental Inquiry into the Hillsborough Disaster, just over 4 weeks after the football stadium tragedy which cost 96 lives at the Sheffield Wednesday football stadium, in April, 1989 .

After a month in the notorious Armley Jail, following his conviction, Stefan Kiszko was transferred to the Category A Wakefield Prison and immediately placed on Rule 43 to protect him from other inmates. As, at least in the eyes of the law, he was now a convicted sex offender. Or, in prison parlance, a ‘nonce’. He suffered a number of assaults during the first five years of incarceration but, after striking back at his assailaint on the fifth occasion he was attacked, the beatings ceased.

Stefan’s mother launched an appeal, but it was dismissed on 25th May 1978, when Lord Justice Bridge, sitting with Mr Justice Wien and Mr Justice Eastham, said, curtly: “We can find no grounds whatsoever to condemn the jury’s verdict of murder as in any way unsafe or unsatisfactory. The appeal is dismissed”. Lord Justice Bridge is, probably, best known as presiding judge in the infamous Birmingham Six trial, especially his closing remarks where he expressed regret at being able to pass a sentence that would see those convicted, hanged.

Stefan had insisted that Waddington and Clegg represent him at appeal. The former should, arguably, have returned the brief as he was compromised by the grounds of that appeal.

Charlotte Kiszko, ably aided by her elder sister, Alfreda Tosić (Stefan’s beloved Aunt ‘Freda), never gave up the fight to clear her son’s name, despite being roundly ignored, and then airily dismissed, by many politicians, including her own MP, the now notorious Cyril Smith, together with successive Prime Ministers James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher and their secretaries of state, and by a legal system designed to stonewall justice campaigners. Thatcher’s role in the police cover-ups after both the Battle of Orgreave and Hillsborough Disaster has now unravelled in spectacular fashion. She set out to protect her political militia at all costs and would hear no criticism of the police.

In 1984, Charlotte contacted JUSTICE, the UK human rights organisation which, at the time, investigated many miscarriages of justice. Three years later, she made her first contact with solicitor Campbell Malone, who agreed to take a look at the case when it seemed almost certain that Charlotte’s son would never be released.

JG3

Meeting Malone (pictured above right) was the turning point for Mrs Kiszko and two years later, working with barrister Philip Clegg (Waddington’s junior at the trial and later a highly respected circuit judge) a petition was presented to the Home Office. By an astonishing quirk of fate, Waddington replaced Douglas Hurd as Home Secretary on the very same day, 26th October 1989. It took the Home Office a further sixteen months to refer the matter back to West Yorkshire Police for re-investigation. Detective Superintendent Trevor Wilkinson was asked by his chief constable, Peter Nobes, to look at the investigation afresh. He quickly established that there were glaring errors in the prosecution case, particularly relating to the medical evidence. Key witnesses against Stefan also retracted their original statements saying that they had lied for “a laugh”and other witnesses were located through private investigator, Peter Jackson, who discovered that Stefan had strong alibis at the time of the original trial.

On 17 February 1992, a fresh appeal against Stefan Kiszko’s conviction was heard by three judges, Lord Chief Justice Lane, Mr. Justice Rose and Mr. Justice Potts. The Crown were represented by Franz Muller QC and William Boyce . The inimitable Stephen Sedley QC and Jim Gregory were defence counsel, who asserted Kiszko was innocent. Gregory had taken over from Clegg when the latter took up his judicial appointment. However, Muller and Boyce did not put up any counter argument after hearing the new evidence, and immediately accepted its provenance.

Despite the overwhelming, and obvious, evidence that Kiszko was innocent, West Yorkshire Police and Ronald Outteridge, the original forensic scientist, refused to apologise to Kiszko for his wrongful conviction. In 1991, Outteridge became angry when questioned by journalists about his role in the trial.

Neither did David Waddington, Sheila Buckley, her daughter Maxine BuckleyPamela HindDebbie Brown and Catherine Burke, whose perjured evidence helped convict Kiszko, offer any apology, or express one word of regret, for what had happened. All refused to comment when Kiszko was released. West Yorkshire Police even tried to justify the position they took in 1975 whilst accepting, and admitting, they were wrong. Stefan did, however, receive a letter from Sir Hugh Park, the trial judge, expressing his profound regret over what had happened, but maintained that his conduct of the trial was above criticism. A view not shared by a number of legal commentators.

Anthony Beaumont-Dark, a Conservative MP said, “This must be the worst miscarriage of justice of all time” and, like many others, demanded a full, independent and wide ranging inquiry into the conviction.

JS47203711

Fifteen years after Stefan was vindicated and released, justice was finally done for the victim’s family. Ronald Castree, a comic-book dealer from Oldham (pictured above), was eventually caught after he gave a DNA sample in connection with what is understood to have been a serious sexual assault in 2005. No action was taken over that complaint, but the body sample provided a match with semen found on Lesley Molseed’s underwear. The sexually deviant Castree was found by the jury to have lured Lesley into his taxi before sexually assaulting her, stabbing her 12 times and leaving her for dead high up on the moors.

Despite DNA evidence that established there was a billion-to-one chance that Castree was not the killer, he continued to protest his innocence after he was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court. “I didn’t do it” he shouted out, as he was led down the steps to the cells beneath the dock.

Liverpool-based Mr Justice Openshaw (also twice Recorder of Preston) told him: “You kept quiet whilst an entirely innocent man was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced for this murder. He served 16 years before his conviction was fully set aside, living only a couple of years after his release before he died.”

Justice campaigners continue to protest Ronald Castree’s innocence saying he was the second person fitted up for Lesley Molseed’s murder by West Yorkshire Police. But I have, so far, not been given sight of any materials that support their campaign.

One of the grounds appears to be that, at the Castree trial, it was said that Lesley’s knickers had been pulled down whilst he masturbated and then returned to their normal position.  Which, apparently, explains the presence of Castree’s DNA inside the knickers, but this movement of the little girl’s underwear had never been part of any evidence advanced by the police or prosecutors previously.

Another ground mentioned by those campaigning for Castree concerns the provenance of the DNA sample and the fact that no counterpart sample was provided to the defence team for independent checking.

Castree’s appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, although the judgment appears to have gone unreported on BAILII.

Whilst writing to his eldest natural son, Nick Castree, in October 2013, seeking reconciliation and inviting a prison visit, Castree said that it had taken six years for the case file, containing only the used materials at trial, to be disclosed to him (read here). The schedule of unused material (MG6c) was still absent.

In 1997, a book written by Jonathan Rose, now a judge based at Bradford Crown Court, journalist Steve Panter and retired WYP detective, Trevor Wilkinson named Raymond Hewlett as the likely murderer of Lesley Molseed. In a highly forensic account, it provides significant background detail and witness statements. The book also identified a previously unknown link between Hewlett’s family and friends of the Molseed family.

In 2002, when Detective Chief Superintendent Max McLean was leading the new investigation into the Molseed murder, he reported that he was confident he would find Raymond Hewlett, who remained the prime suspect.

Hewlett was a drifter, at the time busking his way across the sunnier spots of Europe and North Africa. He was later captured and interviewed by police over the Molseed murder but released after a no reply interview through lack of evidence.

In 2009, Hewlett was, it is said, still being investigated by Max McLean, who travelled to Aachen in Germany to see him, over an attack almost 35 years previously: “West Yorkshire Police are also investigating his possible involvement with an indecent assault in 1975.”

As Castree continues to proclaim his innocence, it should be borne in mind that his defence counsel Rodney Jameson QC told Bradford Crown Court that there was “an overwhelming possibility” that the man who sexually assaulted Lesley and stabbed her 12 times was Hewlett. There is controversy over the proposition advanced by some of Castree’s campaigners that his DNA was planted by police on the piece of tape used to convict him. Lesley’s clothing had been destroyed by the Forensic Science Services in 1985. Extraordinary, particularly when one considers the vociferous, and persistent, campaign mounted by Stefan’s mother and aunt over his wrongful conviction.

Could a case as shocking as the Stefan Kiszko fiasco happen today? I say, emphatically, ‘yes’ because you have the same West Yorkshire Police force completely enamoured with its own sense of invincibility. The man who helped to prove Stefan’s innocence, and who acted as his mother’s staunch ally, believed at the time that there was just as much danger of ignoring equally egregious miscarriages of justice. “In the current climate more miscarriages will take place,” said Campbell Malone. “It is nonsense to suggest miscarriages of justice are less likely to happen now. We are more at risk – the climate is just as bad as it was in the 1970s when you had all the Irish cases (including Judith Ward featured here). I am profoundly gloomy about the situation.”

Mr Malone accepted that changes in the law through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) had removed some of the dangers. Stefan Kiszko was, for instance, initially questioned without a lawyer and made his confession after being told by West Yorkshire Police detectives that, if he did so, he would be allowed to go home. Under PACE both those events would now be unlawful.

The bad news here is that West Yorkshire Police treat PACE with almost complete disdain. In almost every case I examine, that features one of their officers, breaches of PACE are blatant and manifest.

It is hoped, with Danny Major’s case back in the national newspapers, on network television and, possibly, headed back to the Court of Appeal, that it will give people the opportunity to think about the widescale misery that can be caused by concealing the truth about such cases – and remind people that the real perpetrator can be free to carry out other offences. The drive-by West Yorkshire Police (and aided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission) to keep their star witness against Danny Major ‘clean’ allowed PC Kevin Liston free licence to go and out and commit a string of sex, drug and violence offences.

Since the Birmingham-based Criminal Case Review Commission opened its doors in 1997, it has received 10,288 applications for cases to be reviewed. Of these, 376 were referred back to the court of appeal and 241 convictions were quashed.

Anecdotally, the CCRC presents a higher evidential hurdle than the Court of Appeal to which it refers those cases it deems have sufficient merit. It is an area of our judicial system which, uPSD believe, requires urgent review.

_________________________________________________________________

Page last updated Tuesday 30th August, 2016 at 1935hrs

© 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: uPSD WYP,  The Justice Gap and Manchester Evening News

Liar, Liar. Pants on fire.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, or IPCC for short, is an organisation that has been extensively, and justifiably, criticised since it replaced the thoroughly discredited Police Complaints Authority in 2004.

In February 2008, over a hundred lawyers who specialise in handling police complaints resigned from its advisory body, citing various criticisms of the IPCC including a pattern of favouritism towards the police, indifference, rudeness towards complainants, and complaints and appeals being rejected in spite of apparently powerful evidence in their support.

In 2011, a falsely grounded press statement, authorised by Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne (pictured below), concerning the shooting of Mark Duggan by armed police officers on a Tottenham street, was considered by some to have contributed to the confrontations with the police that ultimately led to what are now known as the London Riots. Looting and burning on an unprecendented scale also spread to other major cities in the UK soon afterwards. The IPCC publicly apologised for ‘misleading journalists’ six days after the violence erupted (read BBC report here).

Cerfontyne_54474394_jex_1129600_de54-1

On television, in national newspapers and in Parliamentary committees the conclusion today is still much the same: Slow, inadequate, poor decision-making and apparent bias. In 2013 the Home Affairs Select Committee said the IPCC was ‘not fit for purpose’ as the so-called police watchdog.

There are many other people, particularly justice campaigners all around the country, who have a negative view of the IPCC and its workforce.

Now I can exclusively reveal that there are other serious, and deep seated, problems within the IPCC which include alleged misuse of official funds. running into six figures.

From September 2014, until the matter was settled in December 2015, I was the subject of a High Court action, brought and funded by the IPCC, in which it was alleged that I harassed three of its employees.

The IPCC alleged that articles written and published by me on the uPSD police whistleblowers website – and messages broadcasted on the Twitter social media website referring to those articles – had caused their employees ‘distress and alarm’.

The legal proceedings against me were issued, on behalf of the IPCC, by a Leeds firm of solicitors, Cohen Cramer. An odd choice for a Home Office funded Commission, given a Solicitors Regulation Authority finding which condemned both the law firm and one of its senior partners, Mr Michael McDonnell, for unlawfully conducting litigation (read more here). The choice of lawyer within that firm to act for the IPCC was even more bizarre: Miss Emily Slater whom, it seems, had also been publicly pilloried by a Master at the Royal Courts of Justice for the manner in which she had conducted libel litigation. She acted for the claimant, who lost the case and had costs awarded against him (read more here).

solicitor-emily-slater

Apart from Master Eastman’s criticisms, Miss Slater (pictured above) had attracted some shocking national newspaper headlines of her own (click here) which cannot have escaped the attention of either the IPCC, or their lay claimants. Simple enquiries about the capabilities in, and likely conduct of, a harassment claim by Miss Slater could also have been easily gleaned in the public domain. Such as this stinging criticism from HHJ Robert Owen QC in another case that Cohen Cramer ‘lost’ (read the approved judgment extract here). Another losing legal case for Miss Slater, and her firm, was a libel action against the Metropolitan Police in which two high court judges separately found the claim to be grounded more in hope than substance (read the full judgment here).

By way of balance, I have tried to identify cases in which Miss Slater may have enjoyed even partial success but, so far, I have found no such trace.

From the outset, the IPCC’s legal action against me attracted attention in the press, and amongst the legal profession, mainly as a result of some quite startling allegations made by the three claimants. One of whom, C1, appeared as a very late substitute only five days before the interim hearing, with their name scribbled over that of another IPCC caseworker, Mr Mohammed Ejaz, who abandoned his own claim without any explanation. No pre-action protocol was followed by Cohen Cramer, and the IPCC, in respect of the appearance of the new claimant in the claim, which set the tone for a number of later breaches of Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).

Given that I had only ever written positively about Mr Ejaz, it appears to be a reasonable deduction that his claim was withdrawn because it was completely without merit. He refused an opportunity to explain his abrupt departure from the case when approached by me, in writing, to provide a witness statement.

There was evidence  which attempted to link me with improvised explosive devices and threats to kill made by a member of the public of whom I had never even heard, let alone interacted with. These unevidenced assertions were later withdrawn, once I had made contact with the alleged ‘bomber’ and taken an evidential witness statement from him. Suffice to say, such a device never existed.

The findings of HHJ Richard Parkes at the interim hearing did not make good reading for me, my family, friends and fellow justice campaigning supporters and the Huddersfield Examiner made a meal of it the following day by publishing a salacious, gratuitously damaging article to which I have never been offered a right of reply.

The sharp-eyed would also have noted, that I did not appear and was not legally represented at the interim hearing. This was because I had only been given 15 hours notice that the hearing was going ahead at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (180 miles from my home), two days after I believed I had come to a reasonable, provisional settlement with the IPCC. It had all the appearances of a legal ambush, seemingly orchestrated by Miss Slater and, presumably, given the green light by her IPCC paymasters.

I was, however, able to attend the judgment hearing at the same court two weeks later at which it was pronounced that an interim injunction had been ordered against me. The effect of which, I was to take down the articles about which the IPCC had complained and also remove the tweets that referred to their three employees. Before the judge handed down his findings, I was approached by counsel for the IPCC, Matthew Richardson (pictured below) outside Court 14, the historic and highly ornate Lord Chancellor’s Court. Matt is an affable chap, perhaps better known as the former General Secretary of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and his opening remarks to me were surprising to say the least: ‘We need to make this go away‘. My response was similarly plain. I was prepared to have any articles in dispute put to the IPCC press office (or legal team) for comment, or objection, and amend them if they could show any of the facts underpinning the articles had no foundation. A stance I maintained, on a point of principle, until the matter was settled fifteen months later.

Matthew-Richardson_3053728b

In the meantime, senior management of the IPCC allocated around £125,000 of public funds in their attempt to bring proceedings against me and, of course, Mr Hofschröer. A man I have never spoken to, but with whom I had a small amount of correspondence some years ago when I first became aware of what is now the well known ‘Grandma B’ scandal involving his mother, Mrs Barbara Hofschröer.

In Mr Hofschröer’s harassment case, brought against him by the IPCC , Cohen Cramer finally brought matters to a conclusion in February 2016 against a defendant who had no access to either his electronic or paper records since his arrest and detention – and had declined to take part in the proceedings since June 2015. The eventual finding against Mr Hofschröer followed a ‘failed’ summary judgment application, heard before HHJ Mark Gosnell at Leeds County Court in November last year. I was in court to hear this particular application in my capacity as a reporter. It was, by any measure, a comical exhibition of legal incompetence on the part of the troubled Leeds law firm: Trying to convince a circuit judge that sending notice of an Application to an inmate of HMP Hull, by first class post three days before the hearing was, in legal parlance, ‘good service’ never had a realistic hope of succeeding despite the valiant, and persistent efforts, of counsel. The argument advanced that the overriding objective of the litigation (CPR1.1) would be best served by circumventing notice of proceedings on the defendant was novel, to say the least

Having been referred to in generally unflattering terms in that same summary judgment application made by the IPCC against Mr Hofschröer, two other journalists, Timothy Hicks and Nigel Ward, along with myself, submitted witness statements and exhibits which directly challenge some evidence in that claim.

Following my appearance before HHJ Parkes at the Royal Courts of Justice there followed a stream of correspondence from Miss Slater, which became ever more bizarre as her IPCC lay clients sought removal of every reference to them ever written and published on the internet. However innocuous and whether, or not, I was author or publisher. This included tweets broadcasted by national newpaper journalists and justice campaigners. Such as this one from Sunday Times reporter, Tom Harper:

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 09.22.03

Or the many that had been tweeted by nationally known justice campaigner, Michael Doherty, a relentess critic of the IPCC. Indeed, it was submitted by my defence team, in evidence, that Mr Doherty had more recorded interactions with the IPCC – many of them in adverse terms – than myself, yet the IPCC had pursued me through the courts, and not him. Indeed, Mr Doherty’s principal criticisms of the IPCC: covering up child abuse and being the IPCC’s ‘hatchet woman’ are still there on the internet for all to see today. As are those of a number of other IPCC critics in a similar vein. Perhaps, I was perceived as the softer target given my precarious health. Or, Mr Doherty’s much greater public persona deterred them?

Even in full knowledge of those health issues, Cohen Cramer’s Miss Slater conducted an intimidatory, oppressive stance throughout – presumably on instructions from the IPCC – and even threatened to have me arrested and detained by the police for not removing the tweets highlighted above, and a number of other tweets and articles in a similar vein over which I had no control, whatsoever. Miss Slater also lied in correspondence between us in an attempt to withhold the source of the claimants’ funding. Incredibly, she denied that the IPCC was, in fact, footing the bill on behalf of their employees, despite the fact that her retained counsel, Mr Richardson, had openly confirmed to me before a witness, at the Royal Courts of Justice, that the police watchdog was financing the claim.

This was a low point for me. Having been rushed to hospital three times under blue lights in the preceding six months and, awaiting remedial surgery, I was not in good health. Furthermore, I did not have the financial resources to engage lawyers in an action in which the IPCC appeared to have given their three employees a blank cheque, in order to prevent me writing about them. I was defending myself as a litigant in person and it was, quite obviously, not a level playing field and the IPCC were kicking me all over the park.

But the rules of the game – over which the IPCC and Cohen Cramer thought they had complete control – were set to change dramatically. Galvanised by the unflinching support I received from those closest to me – and from others around the country – the task of unravelling the case constructed by the IPCC’s chosen ones began. In January 2015, I served my witness and defence statements on the IPCC, and their lay claimants, and also witness statements from seven other journalists and campaigners who had all been involved in close, and very unsatisfactory, dealings with the ineffective police watchdog. These included Mr Doherty, and other high profile figures such as Janet Alder and Bernadette Major.

It certainly appeared to be the tipping point for Emily Slater: She and Cohen Cramer parted company and, according to information given to me, she had moved abroad to Vienna. Miss Slater no longer shows up on a search of the Law Society’s solicitor database (see screenshot below) and, until she removed her LinkedIn profile a few months ago, was seemingly unemployed.  Another high profile victim of Miss Slater’s unethical approach to her professional calling, Lincolnshire businessman Mr Stuart Brown, reported on his weblog that she had been dismissed by Cohen Cramer at the end of January 2015 (read more here), a claim the law firm denies.

Mr Brown, in a remarkable turnaround, has recently served harassment proceedings on Cohen Cramer which centre on the behaviour of Emily Slater during litigation which was, in the words of HHJ Owen “an oppressive use of the legal procedure” and “conducted with unnecessary aggression”. A case in which I will be providing witness evidence on his behalf.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 16.37.24

At a case management hearing before Mr Justice Warby at the Royal Courts of Justice in March 2015, the IPCC, their lay claimants and their lawyers did not fare well. By this time, Miss Slater had been replaced by a Cohen Cramer partner, Mr David Hall. Their first-choice barrister, Matt Richardson, had also been replaced by Mr Guy Vassall-Adams, who appeared uncomfortable throughout the hearing about the case he was being asked to present. Through the generosity of my family I was able to engage lawyers to represent me on the day. My counsel, Mr Ian Brownhill, persuaded the judge to transfer the case to Leeds High Court – against the strong protest of the IPCC’s lawyers – which was much more local for myself, all three claimants, most of the other witnesses and Cohen Cramer. The only reason the IPCC wanted to have the matter heard in London was to cripple me financially and put off most of my witnesses from attending a final hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on the grounds of time and cost.

During this hearing Mr Vassall-Adams’ complained to the judge that I had harassed the IPCC’s employees that very morning by tweeting this on the social media website:

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 09.17.36

This is a graphic illustration of not only legal bad faith, but the petulance and poor judgment with which I have been confronted in all my dealings with Cohen Cramer and the IPCC, both throughout their conduct of the case – and since. As a highly regarded media and information lawyer, regularly heard on The Strand defending the freedom of speech of large newspapers groups, Mr Vassall-Adams should have cause to reflect upon making a submission, albeit on instructions, to the effect that me saying to a friend “Thanks, Michael. En route to RCJ. Will call you later” constitutes harassment.

In any event, Mr Vassall-Adams subsequently returned the brief to the IPCC’s lawyers and was replaced by the third barrister to be acting in this increasingly vexed action, Mrs Sara Mansoori, who hails from the same Matrix International chambers.

At the case management hearing the judge gave Directions that, effectively, required the IPCC to start their claim again and that all their costs, up to and including the case management hearing could not be recovered by the IPCC, even if the claim ultimately succeeded against me. My lawyers calculated that ‘penalty’ to be at least £25,000 of public money wasted on protecting Crown servants, sanctioned at the very top of the IPCC by their Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone (pictured below).

lesleylongstoneposterframe1024x576

Following partial release of information by the IPCC that I requested under the Freedom of Information Act at the conclusion of the case (click here), it is now apparent that the amount of money lost by the end of the March hearing was nearer to £50,000 than my lawyers’ estimate of £25,000. On the face of those figures, it would appear that Ms Longstone, and her senior IPCC cohorts, were already in deeper financial water than either my legal team, or I, realised at the time.

After the case management hearing, new particulars of claim were duly issued by the IPCC’s lawyers, but were met with a robust defence drafted by my own counsel. The allegations of harassment against me were systematically rebutted and the claim reduced to what, in my solicitor’s view, was nothing more than ‘a storm in a teacup’. The libel allegations that were an earlier feature of the IPCC’s pleadings – and also referenced in a letter openly published on the internet (click here) by their now departed Chief Operating Officer, Nick Hawkins (pictured below) – had now inexplicably disappeared. Some might infer from such a change of direction that the IPCC were avoiding a legal fight grounded in whether, or not, the articles published about their three lay claimants were true. It is assumed that Mr Hawkins, given both his working proximity to Ms Longstone and also the tone and content of the letter in his name, would have also been supporting the IPCC’s action against me and the funding of it. He left the IPCC, in September 2015, after just one year’s service.

Nick-Hawkins

At about the same time Cohen Cramer also confirmed, in writing, that the IPCC’s lay claimants were no longer relying on their first or second statements. Which was not at all unexpected, given the way they had been torn apart by the defence evidence. But my legal team and I waited, and waited, and waited, for the third statements to be filed at court and served on me. Eventually, the statements of two of the three claimants were emailed to my lawyers less than two weeks before the trial was listed to be heard (7th December 2015) and more than six months after they were directed to do so by Mr Justice Warby. The third claimant did not file a revised statement at any time.

As a result of this late service of evidence, Cohen Cramer were forced to go cap in hand to the court in Leeds and ask the judge, at the pre-trial review, to make a retrospective Order to allow the statements of their clients into the claim.

It should surprise no-one that, of the many slurs in their various witness statements against not only me, but also against some of those for whom I act as complaint advocate and others with whom I have had only passing acquaintance, not one single document was adduced by any of the three lay claimants to support the IPCC’s allegations. Anyone who could be linked with me, however tenuously, was fair game for the smear campaign being funded by the IPCC.

There were also a number of incredible claims about the impact of the alleged harassment, but not one shred of medical evidence to support it.

Similarly, for anyone who has had dealings of any length with the IPCC, there was the familiar ducking and diving over disclosure. They breached their obligations under Part 32 of the CPR Rules, and there was an unresolved Part 18 Request still pending at the time the matter reached a settlement. I simply asked for the materials that supported the fanciful  assertions made by the claimants. I was entitled to see these, but they were not produced. Or, confirmation given to me that such documentary evidence did not actually exist, so that my lawyers could apply for the claim could be struck out. Any experienced litigator (or judge) knows that contemporaneous documents are the first port of call when assessing witness credibilty. The obvious conclusion to draw from that is Cohen Cramer and the IPCC’s lay claimants simply did not want to go there and have theirs tested.

The two teams of lawyers, respectively acting for the IPCC, and myself, eventually agreed on terms for settlement on the day the trial should have started, after a torturous few days of negotiation. I was determined to go to trial and have the matters raised in evidence fully ventilated in open court. It was like a bad smell hanging over me.

The prospect of having the IPCC’s lay claimants on the witness stand and subjected to cross examination by a formidable human rights barrister, not only having the organisation’s honesty and integrity questioned in public hearing, but also the reputation of the whole organisation they worked for coming under severe scrutiny was one that held significant attraction for me – and to the other witnesses who were prepared to travel far and wide to give evidence on my behalf.

The final settlement of the claim was in terms very favourable to me. The interim injunction was removed; there was no admission (or finding) of harassment and I gave an undertaking to the court and to the claimants; and the right to continue to publish articles about the IPCC and its employees was preserved. In respect of any articles that name the IPCC’s three lay claimants, I am required to give them sight of the articles first and invite each of those named to give their consent. Such consent to be not unreasonably withheld, if the articles are true and the evidence behind the articles stands up to legal scrutiny.

There was another part of the settlement that the IPCC were absolutely insistent did not reach the public domain, so I am unable to disclose that particular point at the present time. But I can say the ‘secret’ agreement was also very much to my advantage, without breaching the confidentiality clause. It is also noteworthy that enforcement proceedings had to be threatened against the IPCC, by my lawyers, before they complied with that particular term of the agreement.

On any independent view, the IPCC strategy to oppress and stifle my right to report on corrupt practices, using huge amounts of public funds, has failed. It is a situation that I will continue to address by whatever legal means are available, if the IPCC continue to shield dishonest employees and allow them to prosper from their misdemeanours: Those options include laying an information concerning a private prosecution at Wakefield Magistrates Court – a mere 100 yards from the IPCC’s own offices – if such a step becomes necessary

3016132161_b899dac6d0-2

The grim exterior of Wakefield Magistrates Court -a short walk from the IPCC’s office

Mr Hall of Cohen Cramer and both the IPCC’s press office and their Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone, were all approached for comment on this article prior to publication. The IPCC press office said they would not be commenting. Ms Longstone did not acknowledge or respond to my email. A remark that also applies to Cohen Cramer’s Mr Hall.

_________________________________________________________________

Page last updated Saturday 16th April, 2016 at 1035hrs

© 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: IPCC, Private Eye, Law Society