David Rogerson is an unpleasant, foul-mouthed bully, a view readily formed by most people viewing films of his interaction with Huddersfield businessman, Stephen Bradbury, outside of West Yorkshire Police’s prestigious divisional HQ at Havertop, near Featherstone.
It is also the view of at least two WYP colleagues who worked with him at Havertop and, having now retired, are relieved to be no longer in his orbit. But not, it must be said, Rogerson’s own Professional Standards Department, within WYP, or his staff association, the Police Federation, or, indeed, the recently retired chief constable, Dee Collins. The latter, incredibly, signed off a promotion for Rogerson in the face of his odious conduct that could, and some argue should, have led to a criminal conviction.
On 18th June, 2015, Mr Bradbury had attended Havertop in order to gather information, including video footage and photographs for a forthcoming documentary with which he was concerned.
A short time after his arrival, he was approached by Sergeant Wooffinden, and then surrounded by six other police officers (with nothing better to do), and asked to explain his presence outside the police station and his intentions. Mr Bradbury gave his explanation and produced a letter from Chief Constable Andy Trotter, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (now renamed the National Police Chiefs Council), as it related directly to members of the public and photography in and around police premises.
Sgt Wooffinden, and his restless posse, was satisfied with the explanation and allowed Mr Bradbury to go about his lawful business.
Soon afterwards, CCTV footage shows the arrival of Acting Inspector Rogerson, as he was then, before his subsequent promotion to substantive inspector, and a short interchange with Mr Bradbury, prior to the officer entering the secure staff car park, ended with Rogerson calling him “an arsehole”.
The police officer, is then captured on footage accompanying Detective Constable Lisa Redfern, emerging from the car park and walking towards Mr Bradbury. A plainly agitated Rogerson tells DC Redfern: “I’m going to arrest him“. He offers no explanation to his female colleague as to the suspicion of any offence. She, in turn, offers no challenge as to the lawfulness of such an action, or the likely consequences.
As Rogerson approached, Mr Bradbury says: “You are going to lock him up are you, is that what you said?”. He took out a hand-held digital camera in order to record what was happening. The police officer then claims that Mr Bradbury is “harassing him” before grabbing his camera, and then the lanyard attached to it, which was draped around his neck. An assault had clearly taken place, the camera had been damaged, and the officer was asked to stop. Rogerson ignored the request and proceeded to drag his victim towards the police station, falsely claiming he had been assaulted by Mr Bradbury.
At this point, Rogerson told Mr Bradbury he was under arrest but released his grip on the camera and lanyard. He did not caution him, disclose the suspicion of any offence, or give any grounds for doing so. He simply fulfilled the promise he had made to his female accomplice a short while earlier.
At this point, DC Redfern intervenes but only, quite incredibly, to tell Mr Bradbury to “calm down”. She offered no challenge to her police colleague, as she is required to do under Police Regulations, and no protection to a member of the public subject to a pre-meditated, unprovoked verbal and physical attack. As a police officer she also should have known that the arrest was unlawful and there had been manifest breaches of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984. Her later accounts, during the complaints process that followed, suggest she did not. She was entirely supportive of Rogerson’s actions.
Mr Bradbury attempted to explain the prior exchange with Sgt Wooffinden and when the three ‘combatants’ reached the foyer of the police station, Rogerson marched off after refusing to provide details of his name and collar number. It is not clear if he subsequently spoke to the sergeant, or not. Mr Bradbury’s camera was damaged and he had suffered abrasions and soft tissue injury to his neck.
DC Redfern failed to respond at all when asked if Mr Bradbury was under arrest. A point she failed to mention in her later account. As a result the detained person left the police station voluntarily, if not a little shakily, and was never subsequently detained or questioned about the ‘arrest’ by the police. Another police officer who was sat in a vehicle nearby, and had witnessed the events involving Rogerson, declined to give either his own details, or those of his male colleague.
Shortly after the incident a complaint was submitted to WYP. It set out carefully, and comprehensively, the events that had taken place. The matters therein were not only supported by CCTV film obtained on Mr Bradbury’s Go-Pro camera, there were five cameras in the police station precincts that had captured the attack on Mr Bradbury.
After a delay of almost two months, the complaint was allocated to Sergeant Penny Morley of WYP’s notorious Professional Standards Department. This was a clear indication that the police were going to try to fudge the complaint and ensure that the six month limit for a prosecution of Rogerson was going to pass whilst they prevaricated. Sgt Morley had, some years previously, been called out by a circuit judge, HHJ Peter Benson, following a trial in Bradford Crown Court during which she gave untruthful evidence. Taking the College of Policing‘s Code of Ethics as a guide, she should no longer be part of the police service, let alone sitting in judgment of other officers, after such a condemnatory judicial finding.
A decision was taken by Mr Bradbury, in conjunction with his police complaints advocate, Neil Wilby (the author of this article), to lay an information at Kirkless Magistrates Court. This is more commonly known as a private prosecution. The necessary documents, witness statement and copies of film and photographs, were filed at court on 14th December, 2015, just before the six month statutory limit expired. The allegations concerned assault and criminal damage.
West Yorkshire Police and the Police Federation were livid when they discovered that the Resident District Judge, Michael Fanning, had issued a Summons against Rogerson, in early January 2016, under Section 6 of the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1985. They did not believe that the threat to issue court proceedings, privately, against Rogerson would be carried through. It was the first of its kind in living memory of court staff at Huddesfield and Leeds.
A pre-trial review was held the following month in Huddersfield and the Federation sent Nick Terry, a partner with Burton Copeland solicitors in Manchester, to try and have the case dismissed. Even with support by way of an email from the District Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service, Malcolm Christy, on the morning of the hearing, the judge was unpersuaded by Mr Terry’s increasingly desperate arguments and the matter was set down for trial on 16th April, 2016. Mr Bradbury, having represented himself at the first hearing, then appointed a leading local solicitor advocate, Michael Sisson-Pell, to prosecute the case on his behalf.
Three days before the trial the CPS notified the court that they were taking over the prosecution for the sole purpose of discontinuing it. Mr Bradbury was not notified until the day before the hearing. Their Deputy Head of the Yorkshire and Humber Region, Andrew Penhale, said that whilst the prosecution did not meet the public interest test, the evidential threshold was satisfied and there was a reasonable prospect of a conviction against Rogerson.
Smiles and handshakes all round at the police and Federation HQ in Wakefield, but Mr Bradbury was left with a £600 bill for legal fees (which Mr Sisson-Pell had very kindly reduced to the bare minimum) for which the CPS and the police steadfastly refused to reimburse Mr Bradbury.
The complaint that the CPS were ‘in thrall’ to WYP, and the Federation, did appear to have some merit. A review of the decision not to prosecute Rogerson also failed. As did Mr Bradbury’s entreaties to the CPS regional head, Gerry Wareham.
WYP’s PSD then dragged their heels for another two years before finalising the complaints against both Rogerson and Redfern. They, of course, found nothing wrong and both escaped any meaningful sanction. Rogerson was given words of advice after a misconduct hearing and, of course, promoted. Redfern’s alleged misdemeanours were dismissed out of hand. The misconduct hearing was, bizarrely, chaired by Inspector Richard Close, an officer who had acted adversely against Mr Bradbury several times over the past six years, including being a central player in a well-organised ambush and arrest outside police HQ in Wakefield. A malicious prosecution of Mr Bradbury followed but it didn’t get beyond ‘half-time’ at the nearby Magistrates Court as District Judge Day threw the case out.
Vigorous protests to Dee Collins, were, disgracefully, brushed aside in the face of the most compelling evidence against Close. Including the fact that Close had not seized relevant filmed and photographic evidence, including the clip embedded in this article and pictures of his injuries and the damaged camera. Or, obtained a witness statement from Mr Bradbury. It was a classic West Yorkshire Police ‘cover-up’.
But the last word went to Mr Bradbury, via his solicitor Iain Gould of DPP Law in Bootle. Letters before claim were drawn up regarding this and a number of other incidents in which Mr Bradbury was adversely affected by the unlawful actions of West Yorkshire Police and he was awarded £13,500 in compensation in a settlement that meant the police avoided having to air their dirty washing in public.
Two of the other cases that led to the compensation award are covered in a separate article on this site and can be read here.
Page last updated: Monday 22nd April, 2019 at 1810 hours
Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.
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Photo credit: West Yorkshire Police In Action YouTube Channel
It is said that renowned explorer Ranulph Fiennes has one stipulation about whom accompanies him on his far flung expeditions. He is quoted thus: “I would be happy to take anyone on my expeditions, with one exception ….. people from Yorkshire”! The characteristic Fiennes is, apparently, unable to tolerate is the Yorkshireman’s dourness and refusal to accept they are wrong.
This particular sterotypical characteristic of residents of God’s Own County might well be said of Stephen Bradbury who has recently successfully concluded a series of civil claims against West Yorkshire Police.
Having acted as police complaints advocate for Mr Bradbury, since 2012, it must be said that in all my dealings with him he is found to be charming and affable. Also, no-one I know spends more of his own time helping others. A selfless, generous individual, on any independent view. That said, his case history undoubtedly reveals other classic Yorkshire traits; plain speaking, stubbornness and, unfortunately, for West Yorkshire Police an ability to stick to his guns in the face of hostile enemy fire.
Back in 2003, Mr Bradbury had raised concerns with his local council as regards quality and frequency of services to the tax-paying public by Kirklees. Looking back, how prescient those complaints were, as his local council staggers perenially from crisis to crisis. Not content with the council’s response, he attempted to raise issues in public meetings with both paid and elected officials. Unfortunately, Mr Bradbury’s persistence, and refusal to accept nonsensical answers from public officials, and detriment to his businesses, led, ultimately, to him being banned from all Kirklees Council buildings. Including libraries, wedding venues and sports centres.
In response, Mr Bradbury exercised his rights under the Data Protection Act and filed a data subject access request with the Council. In doing so, he discovered email correspondence between senior council officials, including Senior Legal Officer, Dermot Pearson, and another council lawyer who has since passed away, setting out that should Mr Bradbury’s “extreme behaviour” continue, they would take up the offer of Chief Superintendent John Robins, Kirklees Divisional Commander, whom had suggested that Mr Bradbury could be arrested for Breach of the Peace and “locked in a cell for a couple of hours while he cools down”.
Sure enough, a short time after that email exchange, Mr Bradbury, was indeed arrested and locked up for a few hours. He was, of course, released without charge. Robins was recently promoted, for a third time since that incident, and now heads up the force as Temporary Chief Constable, a matter that should concern every law abiding citizen in the county, based on this account.
It is fair to say that Mr Bradbury, a man of exemplary character, did not ‘cool down’. He was, in fact, incensed by what appeared to be a pre-planned, but unlawful, conspiracy between the police and the council, and was not prepared to take this lying down.
Mr Bradbury decided to make a video film compilation that would chart his experiences with both the council and the police and, as such, appeared outside both council and police buildings, with his camera, taking photographs and filming with purpose, and intent, of exposing the police as (he sees it) “thugs”. This, ultimately, resulted in a YouTube channel being created. It is titled ‘WestYorkshirePoliceAction‘ and can be viewed here.
In its first four weeks after launch, unheralded, WYPA received over 500,000 views. In the twilight of a successful and varied business career, Mr Bradbury had fallen backwards into successful film production outlet. Over 80% of those making comments were supportive of Mr Bradbury, or critical of the appalling conduct of the officers . This video clip has received over one million views alone. The damage to public confidence in the police service is incalculable:
As retired chief constable Andy Trotter, Communications lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers (now National Police Chiefs Council), advised all other chief constables in August 2010 “there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place.”
Unfortunately, that very simple and direct statement didn’t get through to West Yorkshire Police, whose officers took a significant dislike to Mr Bradbury and his perfectly legitimate, commercially successful, if unconventional, film-making activities. Neil Wilby lodged a complaint, in 2013, with the Police and Crime Commissioner against two chief constables, Norman Bettison and Mark Gilmore, concerning their failure to circularise officers about the NPCC’s directive. It was proved that they hadn’t done as required by ACPO, but the PCC, Mark Burns-Williamson, decided not to uphold the complaint and took no action.
To compound matters, Mr Bradbury is aware of his right not to have to answer any police questions, or provide his name and address; a well established principle illustrated by the case of Rice and Connolly in which the then Lord Chief Justice, Hubert Parker, ruled in the following terms: That police had no power to insist upon answers to their questions, or to detain Mr Rice while they checked up on him:
“It seems to me quite clear that though every citizen has a moral duty or, if you like, a social duty to assist the police, there is no legal duty to that effect, and indeed the whole basis of the common law is the right of the individual to refuse to answer questions put to him by persons in authority, and to refuse to accompany those in authority to any particular place; short, of course, of arrest”.
And so, over a four year period, between July 2012 through to June 2016, Mr Bradbury was involved in numerous incidents with WYP officers where he was, variously, unlawfully detained, arrested, assaulted, and on one occasion, prosecuted.
It might usefully be pointed out, at this juncture, that Mr Bradbury, as at 2012, was 62 years old, small in stature (5′ 2″ tall) and light-framed.
It is for the police to establish that arrest, and use of force is lawful, and it soon transpired that, on every occasion WYP officers arrested Mr Bradbury (and different officers were involved in all seven incidents), not once could they prove that his detention, or arrest, was lawful. Either because detention and/or arrest lacked lawful authority, or because of the manner of arrest which, invariably, involved violence of varying degrees.
On occasion, officers sought to arrest but failed, in breach of Section 28 of PACE, to advise Mr Bradbury that he was under arrest, or tell him the reason for the arrest.
On other occasions, officers did seek to comply with Section 28 and advise Mr Bradbury that he was under arrest and sought to rely upon a variety of offences: Breach of the Peace, Public Order and Anti Terrorism and yet, on the facts, no such offences had occurred .
One example is what happened on the afternoon of 31st January, 2013 when Mr Bradbury was outside the northern extremity of WYP headquarters, on the public highway, but close to the exit barrier from the car park.
At the time, Mr Bradbury was in possession of a handheld digital camera and a Go-Pro digital mini camcorder, resting on his chest. A vehicle passed through the exit barrier, driven by DC Shaun Hurd. As the vehicle of DC Hurd approached, Mr Bradbury took a series of photographs of the car. DC Hurd drove through the exit barrier stopped his vehicle and then alighted, asking what Mr Bradbury was doing. Mr Bradbury responded that he was minding his own business and doing nothing wrong.
As Mr Bradbury was stood recording the unfolding events, DC Hurd turned towards his vehicle, removed a digital camera and took a photograph at close proximity of Mr Bradbury. As Mr Bradbury explained that he in turn would photograph the lollipop-sucking detective, DC Hurd moved towards him and attempted to snatch the camera from his grip.
Mr Bradbury was then grabbed by DC Hurd and told that he was under arrest for conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace. DC Hurd forced Mr Bradbury up against an adjacent brick wall, with his arm held tightly up behind his back.
Mr Bradbury challenged DC Hurd as to the reason for his arrest, specifically what basis there would be to suggest a breach of the peace. DC Hurd (perhaps unaware that the arrest was being recorded) suggested that it was because Mr Bradbury had attempted to get into his car, which was manifestly untrue. Mr Bradbury, quite correctly, denied this to be the case. DC Hurd then falsely suggested (on more than one occasion) that Mr Bradbury had put his camera inside of his car.
Another officer, Detective Inspector Damian Carr from the force’s Professional Standards Department, then arrived on the scene and, after a private conversation with DC Hurd, Mr Bradbury was de-arrested and permitted to go on his way.
DI Carr, of whom, it is fair to say, had a chequered history in his role as a PSD officer, made no attempt to hold DC Hurd to account, either on the day or, subsequently, throughout an elongated complaints process.
Was Mr Bradbury guilty of causing a Breach of the Peace?
Breach of the Peace is a common law concept which confers upon police officers the power to arrest, intervene or detain by force to prevent any action likely to result in a Breach of the Peace.
A Breach of the Peace will occur whenever harm is done, or is likely to be done to a person, or in his presence to his property, or, whenever a person is in fear of being harmed through an assault, affray, riot or other disturbance.
An arrest may be made where a Breach of the Peace is being committed, or has been committed and there is an immediate need to prevent a further breach, or where the person making the arrest has a reasonable belief that a breach will be committed in the immediate future.
The courts have held that there must be a sufficiently real and present threat of a Breach of the Peace to justify the extreme step of depriving the liberty f a person who was not at the time acting unlawfully.
While a constable may, exceptionally, have the power to arrest a person whose behaviour is lawful but provocative, this power ought to be exercised only in the clearest of circumstances and when he is satisfied on reasonable grounds that a Breach of the Peace is imminent.
There was clearly no basis to arrest Mr Bradbury, and his arrest and detention were unlawful. As the arrest was unlawful then it is clear that DC Hurd seriously assaulted Mr Bradbury. The errant detective faced no charge, or disciplinary proceedings, in the face of the clearest of evidence.
Sometimes the reasons given to arrest Mr Bradbury changed upon either reflection, or advice, from more senior WYP officers.
On 7th December, 2012, Mr Bradbury was again situated at the rear of West Yorkshire Police headquarters, on the public highway, a short distance from the car park.
Pursuing his film-making ambitions, Mr Bradbury was engaged in taking photographs of police officers and vehicles.
Unbeknown to Mr Bradbury, information as to his whereabouts, and activities, had been reported to the WYP Control Room and, in consequence, Detective Constable 4613 Edwards decided to approach Mr Bradbury.
DC Edwards requested an explanation for the activity of Mr Bradbury which the latter, quite rightly, refused to give. When he then attempted to walk away, the bullying detective proceeded to grab him by the arm to prevent his movement. DC Edwards stated that Mr Bradbury would be conveyed to a nearby police station, without confirming that he was under arrest, or the reasons for his detention.
DC Edwards proceeded to escort Mr Bradbury to the local police station. Upon his arrival, Mr Bradbury was produced before the Custody Officer, Sergeant Knight, who had met him previously
The interaction was recorded on the custody CCTV camera. The following is a transcript of the conversation between Mr Bradbury, the arresting officer and the custody sergeant.
Mr Bradbury – Could you tell me for what reason I’ve been arrested, you haven’t err explained.
Police Officer – To establish who your details are cos you haven’t told us who you are.
Mr Bradbury – Am I obliged?
Police Officer – To establish who you are and what you’re doing.
Police Officer – Sergeant I’ve arrested this man cos he was stood outside the back door of Wood Street not Wood Street Headquarters.
Mr Bradbury – Laburnum Road
Police Officer – Taking pictures of vehicles exiting the premises and people exiting the premises and I’ve approached him and asked him why, he’s refused to answer and he’s refused to give me details.
Police Officer – I don’t know if he’s a member of an organised crime group or terrorist or whatever.
Mr Bradbury – Let me take me coat off it’s getting warm.
Police Officer – So I arrested him for something, sergeant.
Custody Sergeant – Ok, right, do you want to just give me a second out back for a moment please.
(and with this the custody sergeant escorted DC Edwards away from the spotlight of the camera, into a back room, where no doubt he challenged the detective as to what had occurred outside and, it is strongly suspected, coached DC Edwards to provide a more ‘reasonable’ basis for arrest than ‘terrorism’. Indeed a few minutes later, both sergeant and the arresting officer returned and all became clear ………..)
Custody Sergeant – Right the officers …hmm.. told me the circumstances with regards to you being brought to the police station, the fact is that you’ve been arrested for breach of the peace okay. Hmm….
Mr Bradbury – Could I ask some questions please?
Custody Sergeant – You certainly can.
Mr Bradbury – Right how do you come to breach of the peace when I’m stood there not err I’m sure these people have realised that I’ve not uttered one word of bad language.
Custody Sergeant – No not in not in here sir no but
Mr Bradbury – Not
Custody Sergeant – err obviously at the…, at the…, at the……..
Mr Bradbury – Is this man accusing me of using bad and threatening behaviour outside?
Custody Sergeant – No, you’ve been …err… argumentative and obstructive with obviously there was there was a breach
Mr Bradbury – But but I’m not obliged to
Custody Sergeant – there was some concern that there be other offences …err… as well so initially the officer brought you in for a breach of the peace. I’ve checked with the……..
Mr Bradbury – Sorry that’s not correct.
Custody Sergeant – Okay well you you can agree, or disagree
Mr Bradbury – he mentioned okay well I’d like it recorded please
Custody Sergeant – with me as you wish
Mr Bradbury – that he mentioned terrorism.
Custody Sergeant – “Yes that’s no problem I’ve made enquiries with the Counter Terrorism Unit ….hmm…. they’ve …err… confirmed with …err… for me that there’s ..err.. no ..hmm… incidents that of note where you are linked to terrorism or anything like that , there’s no offences that they’re …hmm… they would like to speak with you about so therefore with regard to any criminal side at all there is no criminal offences that you’re here for.”
Mr Bradbury was promptly released from custody, by Sergeant Knight, as it was clear that even the alternative justification for his arrest – ‘Breach of the Peace’ – was without any foundation.
Following a subsequent investigation into the incident, DC Edwards ‘clarified’ his version of the arrest circumstances.
In response to a call regarding a man stood at the rear exit photographing vehicles leaving the police car park, he walked to the barrier and saw Mr Bradbury holding a compact camera. The detective (the term is used loosely) claimed he approached Mr Bradbury, identified himself and asked what he was doing. Mr Bradbury refused to provide an answer and asked what it had to do with him, (DC Edwards).
Mr Bradbury again refused to account for his actions whereupon DC Edwards told him he was under arrest unless he provided an explanation and his details. Again, Mr Bradbury refused. DC Edwards then advised Mr Bradbury he was under arrest for offences under the Terrorism Act 2006.
On challenge, DC Edwards explained that he did not know under what specific section of the Terrorism Act under which he had arrested Mr Bradbury, but that it was on suspicion of the preparation of a terrorist act.
This is, actually, covered by Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which provides as follows –
Section 5 Preparation of terrorist acts
(1) A person commits an offence if, with the intention of—
(a) committing acts of terrorism, or
(b) assisting another to commit such acts,
he engages in any conduct in preparation for giving effect to his intention.
(2) It is irrelevant for the purposes of subsection (1) whether the intention and preparations relate to one or more particular acts of terrorism, acts of terrorism of a particular description or acts of terrorism generally.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.
As will be noted, this is a very serious offence which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. To my mind, it is utterly ridiculous that Mr Bradbury was arrested under this law. Section 5 of the Act is intended to encompass such activities as travelling abroad to Syria to join jihadist groups, financially supporting terrorist organisations such as ISIS, or involvement in a bomb making plot.
It was utterly draconian to attempt to utilise this section of the law to justify the arrest of Mr Bradbury, for what was in reality the non-offence of “refusing to answer an officer’s question”, or indeed “infringing the officer’s sense of power” which I suspect was what was really motivating DC Edwards. Rather than any genuine belief that he was, in Mr Bradbury, confronting a ‘terrorist’. I think this is confirmed by the custody sergeant’s apparent attempt to get DC Edwards to change his ‘script’, as to the reason for arrest, to something that did not seem so obviously outrageous.
There is in fact an offence under Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 which is designed to prevent the eliciting, publication or communication of information about members of the armed forces or police, where such information is designed to assist an act of terror. However, the Metropolitan Police’s own guidelines on this law state very clearly that “It would ordinarily be unlawful to use section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities” , unless there are further grounds for suspecting that the photographs were being taken to provide assistance to a terrorist.
There is also a power under section 43 of the 2000 Act which allows officers to stop and search anyone who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist; this would certainly have been a less draconian action for DC Edwards to have taken against him (a simple search rather than an arrest) but he chose not to do so; and it is suggested that this was because he did not really think Mr Bradbury was a terrorist at all, but was just looking for a reason to arrest a man who was – in the officer’s eyes – being ‘disobedient’ or ‘disrespectful’ to him.
In my view, it is absolutely right that Mr Bradbury should take a stand against such egregious behaviour as demonstrated by DC Edwards. Individual liberty – and the right not to have to ‘produce your papers’ when challenged by a police officer, or to refuse to answer an officer who is questioning you because he doesn’t like your face (as it were) – is one of the hallmarks of British democracy, as opposed to a dystopian police state such as existed in Eastern Bloc countries not so very long ago.
The stretching of powers granted under the Terrorism Act to encompass the harmless if eccentric – even, perhaps, bizarre and annoying – behaviour of individuals such as Mr Bradbury is something which we must absolutely guard against, lest it become a matter of routine for the police to use ‘terrorism’ as a catch-all excuse to arrest anyone they don’t like, who hasn’t committed any specific ‘proper’ offence; although this is a much more extreme example, look at a country like increasingly authoritarian Turkey, where anti-terrorism powers are used as a matter of routine to justify the arrest of opponents of the government (including journalists and lawyers).
The powers of arrest granted under the various Terrorism Acts must not be taken lightly; and we all, as citizens, journalists or lawyers, have a duty to ‘police the police’ if individual officers attempt, either deliberately, or because they don’t fully understand the law, to misuse those powers. Regrettably, this happens all too often when dealing with West Yorkshire Police.
This is exactly what Mr Bradbury chose to do, by bringing civil claims against WYP for the no less than seven occasions he was unlawfully arrested as described above, or in very similar circumstances. Having threatened the police with litigation, Mr Bradbury’s solicitor, IainGould of DPPLaw in Bootle, persuaded the police to the negotiating table and a sum of £13,500 in damages was secured for Mr Bradbury, plus recovery of his firm’s costs. Iain is one of the leading police complaints lawyers in the country and was also one of the first in the legal profession to report outcomes of cases on his own widely-read website (read here).
What will probably prove of even more value in the long term, is the lesson the police have, hopefully, learned from this, and other similar actions police action lawyers have brought on behalf of their clients – not to overstep their powers of arrest, and to ensure that their officers keep their tempers in check, and properly understand the law of the land which they are charged with upholding.
*Clarification* West Yorkshire Police have two officers with rank, name of “DC Edwards”. One based in Wakefield, one in Bradford. The latter was invited to provide the given names of both, as was the police force press office, so as to eliminate doubts as to whom the detective interacting with Mr Bradbury actually was. No response was provided from either.*
Page last updated on Monday 1st April, 2019 at 1255hrs
Picture credit: Stephen Brabury; West Yorkshire Police in Action YouTube channel
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.
Over the years, no force in the United Kingdom matches West Yorkshire Police (WYP) for sub-optimal criminal investigations, and the high profile miscarriages of justice that flow from their routine incompetence, and, in some cases, blatant dishonesty.
The known history dates back to just after their formation, in 1974, with the infamous cases of Stefan Kizsko and Judith Ward, both of whom were callously fitted up for crimes they didn’t commit.
A feature of both the Kizsko and Ward miscarriages of justice, and many others since, is confirmation bias. In other words, starting off an investigation with a pre-formed concept that a suspect is guilty, and only, it seems, considering evidence which supports that hypothesis.
The case of Ralph Christie is no Stefan Kizsko, that is for sure, but he was sentenced to 7 years in prison, following an eight week jury trial, at Bradford Crown Court, in March 2015. Those court proceedings had been preceded by a WYP investigation, codenamed Operation Laggan, that had stretched as far back as July, 2009. It is strongly argued by Christie that such confirmation bias was present in his own case.
Non-disclosure of key documents to the defence, by the police and prosecution, also features strongly. As it does in every other miscarriage of justice case involving WYP.
Coercion of prosecution witnesses by the police is, regrettably, also present in this troubling case.
Leeds-born Christie was found guilty by the Bradford jury of five counts of fraud by false representation, but NOT GUILTY of fourteen other counts of fraud by false representation, converting criminal property and perverting the course of justice.
On two of the counts, his co-accused, John Jessop, was also cleared and left court without a stain on his character.
All the charges on the indictment concerned investments in land and construction projects that were at various stages of development in Crete, where Christie had settled in 2004 and started his property developing business three years earlier.
Operation Laggan was launched following a complaint made to the police, in early July 2009, by a business associate of Christie, Stephen Thomas, who had, at first, invested in the early Christie projects in Crete, then partnered him in at least one of the later developments. Thomas has always denied being a business partner of Christie, but a notarised document lodged in 2007, in the Public Finance Office at Chania, Crete clearly shows otherwise.
Ralph Christie was, at the time of the Thomas complaint, already known to WYP by way of criminal intelligence passed by him to the police, via his brother Cedric, who was a detective inspector in the same force. That intelligence, it is said, spawned a police operation, codenamed Godstone, that led to the conviction of a number of drug dealers. Two years earlier, Cedric Christie had received a judge’s commendation for his investigative work on Operation Folkestone. That investigation also concerned drug dealing in the same West Yorkshire town of Halifax, from which Ralph Christie had also operated a successful flooring business for many years.
From the outset, it appears that the WYP officers principally involved in Operation Laggan, Detective Constable Charles Skidmore and Detective Inspector Stephen Taylor decided that Ralph Christie was guilty of something – they appeared unsure of what – and, seemingly, only considered material that supported that proposition. Or took actions that were, taken at their face, calculated to damage the reputation of their suspect and encourage other complainants to come forward. Their starting point was that Christie owned no land or property in Crete and that he was operating a multi-million pound Ponzi, or Madoff, scam.
Whether it was a coincidence, or not, within days of the Thomas report to WYP, Greek tax authorities raided the Christie family home in Crete and took away all documents, electronic records. Some of those records related to a trading style called Monte Crete, which was to feature strongly in the Laggan investigation and whose website is still functional today.
After the Greek raid, Christie was called in to have ‘an informal chat‘ with WYP detectives at the end of the same month. It turned out to be rather more intrusive than that.
Christie was exonerated by the tax inspectors in November, 2009. Shortly after that notification, he was interviewed, arrested and bailed by WYP. He remained on bail until the conclusion of his criminal trial in March, 2015.
Laggan was, on any independent view, a grotesque, six-year failure that cost well over £1 million of taxpayer funds. Potential prosecution witnesses were harassed and, in one case, ‘blackmailed‘ by the police according to an email he sent to Christie immediately after, reluctantly, giving a statement. One was summonsed to give evidence by deposition at Calderdale Magistrates Court. Another was threatened with a charge of perverting the course of justice if he didn’t give evidence against Christie. There is an email trail between DI Taylor and the witness, a well respected, successful Halifax businessman, that clearly spells this out. The witness stood his ground and there was no prosecution.
The witness, whose evidence eventually resulted in Christie being sent to prison, had to be formally summoned to court following an application by the Crown. He appeared as neither defence nor prosecution witness.
In March 2014, the ex-wife of Stephen Thomas, Jane, was issued with an undated harassment warning by Sergeant 6215 James Firth, on behalf of DI Taylor, after she presented the latter with a comprehensive bundle of documents, evidence that set out alleged criminal offences against Thomas. Those allegations have never been the subject of investigation by WYP. It appears, to the independent reviewer, that it did not, and does not, fit the police agenda.
The entire Laggan investigation will be the subject of a forensic dissemination in a separate article to this one.
A further article will look at the role of Ralph’s brother, Cedric. Who turned from his biggest supporter – including via TV, radio, press interviews and a website substantially devoted to the case – to assisting the police in procuring complainants against his elder brother. After contact from Cedric Christie in 2014, some key defence witnesses migrated away from that position. Those actions had a profound effect on the outcome of the trial.
From the date of Ralph Christie’s first police interview in July 2009, it took almost three years for WYP, and the Crown Prosecution Service, to take the case before magistrates’ court in April 2012, where there were three charges. The most serious involving 300,000 euros, of which 85,000 was resting in a bank account, frozen following a request by WYP to Interpol, in October, 2009. This freezing of bank accounts, assets, took place before Christie was arrested, or charged. A matter that was not before the jury at the Bradford trial. Relevant documents were not disclosed to defence counsel, until the last week of the trial.
Another three years later, in January 2015, and, largely, after the intervention of his younger brother, Christie was facing nineteen charges at Crown Court. The court heard that the offences were committed between March 2007 and May 2009.
In between the magistrates’ and crown court appearances, in October 2013, Ralph Christie had been exonerated in a Greek trial covering much the same matters that were tried in Bradford. A certified translation of the court’s judgment can be found here:
The main prosecution witness was the same Stephen Thomas, who had complained to WYP in 2009. He did not give evidence in the Greek trial. Neither did the second prosecution witness, Susan Watt. Thomas was not produced by the prosecution at the Bradford trial, either. Watt did give evidence there but, from the press seats at least, was an unimpressive witness. She admitted in the witness box that she had provided a glowing reference for Christie in order to encourage investors, later claiming that it was false when she wrote it.
The genesis of the Greek criminal trial was a civil claim made by Thomas against Christie. The proceedings were changed to criminal, by the Greek authorities, after they received a seventy-three paragraph letter from the Head of Advocacy, CPS Central Fraud Unit in London, David Levy. That letter, dated 11th February, 2011, believed to have been drafted by DC Skidmore, and signed off ‘blind’ by Mr Levy, now stands discredited. It contained a large number of errors, misrepresentations and in some paragraphs, falsehoods. Inadvertent, or otherwise.
A civil trial between Christie and Thomas, in which the former seeks to recover substantial property assets in Crete from Thomas, is listed to be heard in Chania in March 2019.
As a category C prisoner, Ralph Christie served a total of 34 months in five different UK prisons: HMP Leeds, Doncaster, Hatfield Lakes, Lindholme, Sudbury. It would be true to say that, in spite of being a model inmate, well-liked by the majority of prison staff, Christie was constantly messed around by the authorities for no apparent reason. Other than routinely protesting his innocence.
He had previously served eight months in a Greek jail which counted towards the sentence.
In April, 2018, three months after his release from prison, on licence, Christie was back at Bradford Crown Court for a final Proceeds of Crime Act (commonly known as POCA) hearing. It was before the same judge who presided over the criminal trial, HHJ Durham Hall. The police were claiming over £1.6 million, the judge made an order for £480,000, plus interest. The part of the section 16 POCA application to recover funds connected to the charge that led to him being jailed, rather than a suspended sentence, was dismissed by the judge. This concerned an investment made by a blue chip company that at the time of the criminal trial was valued at £1.1 million.
The four remaining counts that comprised the POCA award against him are still the subject of bitter dispute, with Christie maintaining, staunchly, that those convictions are unsafe. He has, whilst in prison and since his release, compiled a detailed timeline connected to a substantial archive of information, and documents, that certainly add force to that view.
Upon his release from jail, Ralph Christie instructed Peters and Peters, solicitors, of Fetter Lane, London to prepare an application and statement of grounds for the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC).
The first hurdle to overcome is that the Bradford conviction has never been tested before the Court of Appeal. It requires ‘exceptional’ circumstances for the CCRC to allow an appeal application to be filed with them if the case has not already been rejected by the law lords.
The second is one of time, CCRC cases are now taking as long as six years before any referral to the Court of Appeal.
The third is that only a very small proportion of cases considered by the CCRC actually make it to the appellate court, where the threshold for overturning convictions from the lower courts is very high indeed. A separate article will cover, in detail, the grounds for the Christie appeal.
This is a story that is set to run for a considerable time yet and, in the meantime, Ralph Christie seeks to resume his home life in Crete and re-build business relationships upon which his earlier success on the island was founded.
“I am determined to correct the wrongs done to me by the criminal justice system in the UK. I have never been convicted of any offences here in Greece, in what I now regard as my home country“.
Page last updated: Wednesday 3rd October, 2018 at 0945 hrs
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.
For a journalist to pursue her, or his, craft productively, one of the most important tools in their workbox is the ability to make effective requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.
Public authorities are obliged to consider requests, make searches within their own records and then decide, if the information is held by them, whether, and in what form, disclosure can be made ‘to the wider world‘, not just the journalist, or member of the public, making the request.
There are a number of exemptions upon which a public authority can rely, under the Act, to avoid disclosing information. Two of the most common being personal information (section 40) and over cost (section 12).
If a requester is not satisfied with the response of the public authority, the first step is to ask for another officer to consider the request afresh. That process is called an ‘internal review’. Very often, the outcome is the same after review and the only remaining recourse is by way of a complaint to the statutory regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This will involve considerable delay, and the general quality of caseworking is widely regarded as below the expected standard. Their ‘investigations’ are carried out under a veil of secrecy and, in my own extensive experience as an information rights practitioner, too often the ICO simply accept whatever the public authority tells them, however implausible their submissions may seem.
Another exemption that has become ever more frequent over past few years is section 14 of the Act, vexatious or repeated requests. The oft-quoted test case concerned a democracy campaigner, Alan Dransfield, and Devon County Council, and ended before the court of appeal in 2015 (a subsequent permission appeal was refused by the Supreme Court).
The decision by the higher court, in effect, gave public authorities greater licence to avoid answering unwelcome information requests, and dismiss them as ‘vexatious‘. Once labelled as such, a requester can subsequently encounter great difficulty in having his, or her, requests considered by that public body, irrespective of merit and public interest arguments.
It is true to say that the ICO, having spent a very considerable amount of public funds pursuing the Dransfield case through three court tiers (the First Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal being the other two), adopted the appellate court finding, in their favour, with particular relish. The support for public authorities, in this way, has bordered on the ludicrous in some cases in my own professional knowledge.
However, very recently the tide may well have turned back in favour of requesters, and the information rights ‘watchdog’ put back on its leash.
Two First Tier Tribunal appeals, decided within two months of one another, both resulted in ICO Decision Notices, upholding section 14 exemptions, being overturned (the legal terminology is ‘disturbed’).
The first, Paul Arnold -v- ICO and Department of Business and Energy (EA/2018/0061) was heard before Judge Stephen Cragg QC  and two lay panel members in July 2018.
The second, Roger Good -v- ICO and Sedgemoor District Council (EA/2017/0228) was heard before Judge Brian Kennedy QC  and, by a quirk of fate, the same two lay panel members as heard the Arnold appeal.
In the Arnold appeal the key parts of the judgment are set out here:
 In this case we are of the view that the Commissioner has wrongly labelled the Appellant’s request of 22 June 2016 as vexatious. We should say first of all that it may well be that the Appellant has been overly persistent over the years, that it may well be that continuing to try to persuade the Department to take action is now futile, and it is certainly the case that there have been occasions when the Appellant has used aggressive and abusive language to which officials should not be subjected.
 Additionally, we accept that it is right to look at the current request in the context of the almost 20 years of correspondence and contact (including a number of FOIA requests) which the Appellant has generated.
 But we do remind ourselves that we have to take all the circumstances surrounding the request into account, and that having done so we have to find that it is the request (and not the requester) that is vexatious.
 We should emphasise that our decision is based on the particular nature and circumstances of this request. Our decision does not mean that the Department would be necessarily be unsuccessful in relying on s14 FOIA if further requests are made by the Appellant in pursuing the issues which are important to him. As the case-law set out above demonstrates, the decision on each FOIA request has to take all the circumstances in relation to that particular request into account, when considering whether it is vexatious.
In the Good appeal these are identified as the key passages in Judge Kennedy’s findings:
 The Tribunal was provided with correspondence sent to the Commissioner, in which the Council laid out it’s reasoning as to why it considered the request to be vexatious. In it the Council confirmed that it had not sought clarification about the scope of the request, nor conducted any investigations into whether it was a repeat request. It explained that the Appellant had previously been warned that further requests for information would be considered vexatious, and the request itself appeared to be a ‘fishing’ expedition designed to damage the Council.
 A letter from the public authority dated 7 July 2017 was effectively a pre-warning that any further request would be regarded as vexatious and pre-empted the necessary assessment of the request.
 The Tribunal notes that there was no attempt by the Council to establish whether this was actually a repeat request. Page 96 of the Bundle before us demonstrates there was no reasoning to establish this is a repeat request. In fact, on the evidence before us, the Tribunal believes that the subject request is a fresh request.
 We do not concur with the Commissioner’s assertion that this request has no value. In fact we find it is a request that has value and on a specific subject which, on the evidence before us, has not been the subject of a previous request.
 The Tribunal accepts the request has value because the subject is correspondence relating to a specific planning application. We have heard the Appellants personally explain the detail and we are persuaded there is value to this request. He refers to information provided by the LGO to the Appellant at page 581 of the Bundle before us, which appears to reveal that specific instructions to delay the process of investigating the breach of planning control leading ultimately to the grant of permission were given by a planning officer at the Council. It appears this information was not supplied by LGO with the letter that is at page 130 of the Bundle before us. The Council did not provide it to the Appellant. It may provide information that would support a complaint, justify litigation or even end the need for further requests from the Appellant, or others in the circumstances of this subject matter.
 It is in the public interest that any possible fault on the part of the public authority in dealing with this planning issue is fully explored. Even though the decision in Dransfield suggests that an authority does not need to consider every part of a request in certain circumstances, we find that this case is not such as would fall into that category. On the evidence before us we do not accept that the request was “manifestly unreasonable”.
It should be noted that First Tier Tribunal judgments are not binding authorities, but the fact that, in these particular cases, the two judges were widely experienced, very highly rated QC’s will, no doubt, raise eyebrows at the ICO, and in public authorities up and down the country.
Journalists, seen as very much ‘the enemy‘ in my own specialist field of challenging policing bodies, can also take heart from these judgments – and live in hope that a more balanced view will be taken by the watchdog when assessing complaints against public authorities that have simply resorted to a ‘vexatious‘ label as a means to avoid deeper scrutiny of malpractice and wasteful use of public funds.
The only public body to label me ‘vexatious‘ – the joint Civil Disclosure Unit of North Yorkshire Police and its Police Commissioner – face me at a Tribunal hearing early next next year. On advice from my barrister, I was quietly confident of overturning the ICO’s Decision Notice before these latest Tribunal findings. Now that confidence has grown further.
I defeated the same Civil Disclosure Unit at a Tribunal hearing in September, 2017 (EA/2017/0076). But that concerned a section 40 exemption, not section 14. Heard before David Farrer QC and two lay panel members at Barnsley Magistrates Court, Elizabeth Kelsey of counsel represented the ICO and Alex Ustych appeared for the North Yorkshire Police Commissioner (NYPCC).
I have also succeeded against NYPCC in a county court claim over data protection breaches.
Page last updated Wednesday 24th September, 2018 at 2120hrs
 Stephen Cragg QC. Doughty Street Chambers bio: https://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/barristers/profile/stephen-cragg-qc
 Brian Kennedy QC. 4 KBW Chambers bio: http://www.4kbw.co.uk/members/brian-kennedy-qc/
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.
This is an updated version of a piece I first wrote in 2013 for the uPSD police whistleblower website.
A condensed version also featured on the widely acclaimed Justice Gap website in 2014, during the period when I assisted fellow journalist and justice campaigner, Jon Robins, in research for his book about the appalling Tony Stock miscarriage of justice. One of a number of common threads being outrageous misconduct by the notorious Leeds City Police.
The story of David Oluwale is a compelling one with many twists, turns and surprising links to other people, and places, that have formed the subjects of some of my other investigations into police misconduct. But Oluwale is best known as one of the biggest stains on the history of the grand old city of Leeds and a significant, indelible black mark on the police service in Yorkshire – and beyond.
Oluwale’s death in 1969 was the first known incident of racist policing leading to the death of a black person. It is also the only time in contemporary British history that police officers involved in brutality that directly, or indirectly, led to the death of a suspect have received criminal sentences.
Oluwale, whose nickname locally was “Uggy”, cut a familiar figure in Leeds city centre in the 1960s. A black man, short (5′ 5″) in stature, shuffling around Kirkgate Market, close to where the ‘new’ Millgarth Police Station stood.
Regular drinkers at nearby The Market Tavern – a legendary pub known locally as ‘The Madhouse’ – knew him as a solitary person, lost in his daydreams and his usual pint of popular local brew, Tetley’s Mild. At night, he buried himself in shop doorways, steering clear of the places favoured by most other street dwellers.
When his bruised and beaten body was pulled from the River Aire by police frogman Ian Hastie and two officers from Gipton police station, PC’s Albert Sedman and Steve Hall, on 4th May 1969, he had not been missed and no questions had been asked concerning his disappearance.
Even questions that should have been asked by Superintendent Michael Wilson and Chief Inspector Len Bradley, who attended the scene by the river at Knostrop, were brushed over. Particularly about the bruises on Oluwale’s head and arms. No photographs were taken of the body. Clothes that should have been retained for forensic purposes were incinerated. It is reported that PC Hall, to his credit, wanted CID called in but was overruled by Wilson.
The only mourners at the pauper’s grave, in which nine others were buried alongside David Oluwale, were the undertakers who had stuffed his coffin with discarded telephone directories and the gravediggers who would also assist in the exhumation of his body two years later.
Another Leeds police officer to emerge with credit was PC Dave Stanton (later invalided out of the force as a detective sergeant). He would stop on his rounds and check if Oluwale was okay, then try to direct him to shelter. I’ve met Dave Stanton through his campaigning for injured on duty police pensioners – and spoken to him on the phone a number of times – but he didn’t tell me of his kindness to a man rejected by virtually everyone else in Leeds. His modesty was not lost on me and strengthened my faith in good coppers who don’t stop helping others, both during service and long after retirement.
Oluwale, a Yoruban by origin and educated at a Christian grammar school, was almost 20 years old when he came from Nigeria in August 1949, stowing away on a cargo ship, the Temple Bar, carrying groundnuts from Lagos to Kingston-upon-Hull. At least two others had stowed away with Oluwale on that same voyage. One of whom was known to have been Johnny Omaghomi.
Another vessel, the MV Apapa, also left the port of Lagos that day in 1949 with, amongst it’s official passengers, the first ever Nigerian national football team to visit these shores. They played, incredibly, throughout their tour of England, in stockinged feet.
David left behind his doting mother, Alice, and a work-scarce, poverty-stricken British colony, in the hope of a better future in the ‘Mother Country’. Instead, half of his 20 years in England was spent on the secure ward of a mental hospital and he soon became familiar with the inside of the notorious Armley prison. Starting with his capture after docking at Hull, following which he (and Omaghomi) was sentenced to 28 days in jail for breaching maritime regulations (by not buying a ticket).
The long-serving magistrate at the old Hull police court, Mr J H Tarbitten JP, told Oluwale that he “would have been better off staying home (in Nigeria) digging groundnuts“.
After his release from Northallerton jail, where he had ended the short sentence, he made his way back to Leeds and a new life in the city hoping, eventually, to study engineering. He got a job, after short spells working for local tailors, at West Yorkshire Foundries in Clarence Road, Hunslet, just south of the river in which he was to later perish. At work, he was noted for reading “educated” newspapers such as The Times. Some reports say that, after a short time, he married a Sheffield woman, Gladys, and they had two children.
In 1953, Oluwale was charged with disorderly conduct and assault on constable following what was believed to be an incident over the price of a cup of tea in a city centre hotel, The King Edward. He subsequently served a two month jail sentence. In prison it was reported he suffered from hallucinations, possibly because of damage sustained from a blow from a police truncheon during arrest. He was then labelled schizophrenic and transferred to the Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Menston near Otley (now called High Royds Hospital), where he spent the next eight years.
Whilst at Menston he was treated with a variety of medical techniques, including the ‘liquid cosh’ Largactil, and electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). Hospital records were destroyed in a flood, but staff working at the institution have said that ECT left Oluwale confused and disorientated for much of the time, and he was often found asleep under radiators.
After his release Oluwale was unable to hold down a job and a permanent residence, and soon became homeless. The relationship with Gladys had broken down and friends reported that he was a shadow of his former self, and had lost all his trademark ‘Yankee’ swagger. As a black man in a still overtly-racist Britain, his choices of lodging and employment were also limited. During this time he regularly moved between London, Sheffield and Leeds but always gravitated back to his adopted home city.
But he soon found himself in regular trouble with the Leeds police again, and accused them of harassing him. In late 1965 he was returned to High Royds Hospital, where he spent another mind-numbing two years in the asylum.
Following his release, he was once again forced to live on the street. He was the only homeless black man in the entire city and it raises the wider context of Oluwale’s story, and that of the city of Leeds, as virtually all immigrants (including Irish) at the time faced a slammed door when searching for accommodation or hostel sanctuary, and a “colour bar” in various pubs around Leeds.
Another Nigerian stowaway, John Otse, who was only 12 years old when he left his homeland, knew Oluwale through good times and bad. He was very fond of ‘Yankee’, a nickname given to Oluwale because of his passion for Western movies, his swaggering walk and trousers with his trademark twin pockets to the rear. Otse remembers him as a sharp dresser who frequented the fashionable Mecca Locarno ballroom, managed at the time by none other than Jimmy Savile. Who, quite apart from his infamy as a rapist and child abuser, was known to tie up clubbers in the Mecca boilerhouse and subject ‘miscreants’ in his dance hall to punishment beatings. There are, however, no records or verbal accounts of Oluwale being such a victim.
David Oluwale was frustrated with his life in Leeds, his menial jobs and shabby lodgings. “He talked of going to night school to improve his writing, but he was more interested in partying.” says Otse. He just didn’t submit to the subservient role then expected of black people. He hated being pushed around and over-reacted to situations where others might have walked away. That chippiness and impatience for success did also, undoubtedly, contribute to Oluwale’s own difficulties.
His friend, Otse, lost touch with Oluwale when he was first sent to High Royds and that was, undoubtedly, a brutalising experience. He did not receive a single visitor there in ten years of incarceration. When Otse next saw Oluwale in Leeds he was in a sad way. “He’d started to disintegrate. Even his English had deteriorated. He tried hard to look decent but struggled to keep himself clean.”
Otse tried, but failed, to get Oluwale back on his feet. Most of his other West African friends had disowned him. “The blame should rest squarely on us as well, because we didn’t do what we should have done for him, all living in a foreign country,” Otse says, candidly if a little harshly, of the city’s small Nigerian community. “If we had only got ourselves together we could have been able to save Oluwale’s life.”
In 1968, to add to Oluwale’s thoroughly miserable existence, he became the target of a sustained and violent campaign of physical and mental cruelty. His principal tormenters were two officers based at Millgarth police station, housing some of the worst of the ‘punch first, ask questions later’ Leeds City Police. Inspector Geoffrey Ellerker and ruthless ‘hardman’ Sergeant Kenneth Kitching took perverse pleasure in making Oluwale’s life a misery. Once the doors of Leeds bars and clubs were shut (the front ones at least) they went looking for him, tormenting and humiliating him.
After one particular incident in September 1968, during which Ellerker alleged David had bitten him, the Inspector promised to get revenge. The two out-of-control police officers forced him to bow down in front of them and then banged his head on the pavement. They called this his ‘penance’. Kitching was also seen urinating on Oluwale in the doorway of a Headrow shop called the Bridal House, as Ellerker shone his torch on him. The witness was another Millgarth police officer, Cyril Batty. The police persecutors even once assaulted him by kicking him repeatedly in the genitals and then drove him to the city limits and dumped him at Middleton Woods at 3.30am, joking afterwards that he would ‘feel at home in the jungle’.
At the subsequent criminal trial of Ellerker and Kitching, PC Batty said he didn’t report what he had seen on The Headrow ‘in order to protect his career’. Which is as good a commentary as you will get on the warped values of the officers at the heart of the Leeds City Police.
Another experienced officer, radio operator PC Ken Bennett, with almost 20 years service, and Sgt Dougie Carter were other Millgarth men who knew of the abusive treatment of Oluwale and chose to remain silent. Sadly, that type of tribalism, and mis-placed loyalty, still exists in the Leeds Division of West Yorkshire Police today.
A few weeks before his death, Oluwale had told his probation officer that he wanted to return to Nigeria. The police harassment had almost broken him. In the early hours of 18th April 1969, just a week after the very last time he was released from a prison cell, he was beaten with truncheons in the doorway of John Peters Furniture store in Lands Lane, Leeds (now a Miss Selfridge outlet). The store was just off The Headrow, then Leeds’ main shopping thoroughfare. Oluwale fled for his life down Lands Lane towards Leeds Bridge screaming and holding the back of his head.
A local petty criminal later came forward to say that he had been on the parapet of the ornate, green-painted Leeds Bridge and saw two uniformed police officers “silver buttons and cap and helmet badges clearly visible” inflict a terrible beating on a smaller, dark man and then kick him into the river after they had smashed him unconscious. The witness added: “I recall saying to myself ‘jump in and swim for it’, as the blows rained down on him, but he just took it all before going down.”
Another witness, a Leeds City Transport bus conductor, told the police inquiry that he had seen, from a distance, two police officers chasing someone towards the same section of the River Aire from which David’s body was pulled two weeks later. George Merrion, a local postman, had seen a police vehicle parked on an alleyway off Call Lane facing the river at the material time.
In 1970 a young Leeds City Police cadet Gavin Galvin, reported first to ‘old hand’ SOCO officer Detective Sergeant Jock McLeod and then a senior officer, believed to be Inspector John Puddefoot (a former British Colonial Police officer in Rhodesia who received a BEM for gallantry whilst serving with South Wales Police), that he’d heard police station gossip from colleagues about the horrendous treatment Kitching and Ellerker had meted out to Oluwale.
This report may have been prompted by perverting the course of justice charges that were ongoing against Ellerker. This was ‘The Big Red scandal’ and concerned the death of an elderly woman, Minnie Wein, struck by the drunk driver of an unmarked police car on a pedestrian crossing near the Skyrack pub in Headingley. Ellerker was later found guilty, sentenced to nine months in prison and dismissed from Leeds City Police. The driver was alleged to be Superintendent Derek Holmes.
An enquiry was launched following the Oluwale intelligence provided by Galvin and McLeod, carried out by the Metropolitan Police, and sufficient evidence was gathered to prompt manslaughter, perjury and grevious bodily harm (GBH) charges being brought against Kitching and Ellerker.
During the Scotland Yard enquiry, led by dour, dogged, determined Detective Chief Superintendent John Perkins and his more affable ‘bagman’ Detective Sergeant Basil Haddrell, and at the subsequent trial in November 1971, a catalogue of sustained physical abuse came to light, mostly carried out by Kitching and Ellerker.
The meticulous ‘Polly’ Perkins was obsessive in his pursuit for justice and was the first person in authority, even though he never knew David Oluwale, who related to him as a person, rather than a problem, in the city of Leeds. It was Perkins’ investigations that revealed Kitching and Ellerker had taken special interest in Oluwale and asked colleagues to let them personally handle incidents relating to him. They specifically targeted him in the early hours of the morning, when there was nobody about and he could usually be found sleeping in shop doorways.
Kitching, in his first interview with the Scotland Yard detectives, made comments such as: ‘I have put him out of doorways and kicked his behind’, ‘tickled him with my boot’, ‘never hit him really hard’, ‘kicked him gently’, ‘just a slap’, ‘booted his backside out of it’, and described David Oluwale as ‘a wild animal, not a human being’. He never denied being rough with Oluwale.
Ellerker, already convicted of perverting the course of justice on what he claimed was rumour and hearsay, refused to co-operate with the Perkins inquiry. He also conveniently lost his duty book covering the night when Oluwale was believed to have ended up in the river.
The enquiry also found that racist terms were used on paperwork relating to Oluwale, such as scribbling “wog” in the space reserved for nationality on charge sheets. However, despite this, the trial made no mention of racism and was centred around police brutality.
Several trial witnesses described Oluwale as a dangerous man, and the trial judge said: “I would have thought that had been established a thousand times. It is accepted on all hands that he was dirty, filthy, violent vagrant“.
However, this extraordinary and partial pronouncement is contrary to the statements of witnesses collected during the earlier enquiry, who described Oluwale as unassuming – and even cheerful. One of these witnesses was Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Tony Harney who gave a heartfelt account completely at odds with the picture painted by the police and prosecutors.
However, their statements were not featured in the trial. It was later alleged that Judge Hinchliffe was a member of the same Masonic Lodge as Ellerker and that the judge, a short stocky septuganarian, had also been seen as a passenger alighting from the car that had killed the old lady outside the pub in Headingley on Christmas Eve, 1969. It was suggested that Hinchliffe was swiftly removed from the scene by another police car and continued his journey to Castle Grove Masonic Hall at Far Headingley.
Coincidentally, Mr Justice Hinchliffe had tried Tony Stock in the same Leeds Assizes courtroom seventeen months earlier. By a another curious coincidence, Harry Ognall was junior defence counsel at both trials, appearing behind the legendary Gilbert Gray QC, for Kitching.
Ellerker and Kitching were jailed for a series of assaults on Oluwale at the old Leeds Assizes, but found not guilty of manslaughter at the direction of Judge Hinchcliffe, who concluded that there was no evidence to place them at the alleged scene of the crime, by the river at Warehouse Hill. Ellerker was sentenced to three years in prison, and Kitching received 27 months. Throughout the trial, Judge Hinchliffe, the most powerful judge on the North-Eastern circuit at the time, could neither conceal his distate for the victim or his disappointment that two serving police officers were up before him.
Those two officers, the heavy-drinking Ellerker and Kitching, maintained an arrogant attitude throughout Court proceedings on the premise that Oluwale was a vagrant and they were entitled to move him on using whatever force they deemed necessary.
One of the prosecuting counsel, Donald Herrod, wrote afterwards that the other police witnesses gave a sorry impression, that the full truth was not being told and that there was a scarcely-concealed conspiracy to protect the two officers on trial. He singled out Sgt Frank Atkinson as ‘a thoroughly unimpressive witness’ and PC Keith Seager as ‘reluctant throughout’. Seager was the third officer often seen with the other two assaulting Oluwale and the driver on the ‘trips’ when Oluwale was deliberately dumped far from Leeds city centre.
Beyond that appalling disposition before and at Court, neither Ellerker nor Kitchen admitted to making the racist alterations to the charge sheets and, at a subsequent internal police inquiry, no other officer admitted any knowledge of the those deeply offensive amendments . Kitching, who worked in a cloth warehouse in Leeds after his release from prison, is now dead and Ellerker, represented by Basil Wigoder QC and his junior, Arthur Myerson, has consistently refused to comment to anyone publicly on his role in the hounding of David Oluwale.
At the time of the Oluwale tragedy, there were several other scandals involving Leeds City Police which almost led to the Home Secretary of the day, Reginald Maudling, taking over the running of the force. It merged three years later with Bradford Police and West Yorkshire Constabulary (which had come into being after the four ‘Borough’ forces had merged with Wakefield City and West Riding in 1968) to become West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police. The word Metropolitan was dropped from the force’s title in 1986.
Apart from Oluwale’s savage death, the committing of at least two armed robberies by firearms crackshot DCI Roy Caisley was, probably, the worst of the other crimes committed by what came to be regarded as a ‘bandit’ police force. Caisley was arrested by a subordinate and close colleague DC John Stockwell whose brother, Dave, was a star rugby league player of that era and played for the famous Bradford Northern team.
A highly visible nobody in life, Oluwale entered popular culture in the city soon after the trial. His name was chanted enthusiastically at Leeds United’s football ground at Elland Road during that team’s heydays. To the tune of Michael Row The Boat Ashore, the Kop heartily sang: ‘TheRiver Aire is chilly and deep, Ol-u-wale. Never trust the Leeds police. Ol-u-wale‘
The darling of that same Kop for a decade before had been the black South African, skilful and fleet-footed winger, Albert Johannesen. The first black player to play at the highest level of English football. The Johanneson adulation and the antipathy towards the hated local police were probably equal in the motivation of the overt support of Oluwale. There was also a widely held sense amongst the ordinary people of Leeds of deep embarrassment that such indignities, and violence, could have been inflicted on a vulnerable man by two of their policemen, on the most well known of their own city streets. They knew the police had gone too far, had acted illegitimately and targeted a small, helpless, unwell man with no means of defending himself .
Yet there was very little soul-searching amongst the Leeds police in the aftermath of the Oluwale case. It was easy to blame Oluwale’s fate entirely on ‘two rotten apples’ within the police. But social services also failed Oluwale, shunting him from one department to another. After his long incarceration, High Royds mental hospital released him into the community with scant thought as to how he might cope (a few months after being discharged he bit a park-keeper’s finger, but instead of being returned to hospital was jailed for malicious wounding).
An interesting footnote to the sense of outrage surrounding Judge Hinchliffe’s partiality at the trial of Ellerker and Kitching was the role his son-in-law, Judge David Savill QC, played many years later in the fate of the homeless in Leeds. He spent much of his retirement as a successful fundraiser for The Friends of Leeds and, as twice a former Honorary Recorder of Leeds, gave the charity welcome gravitas. He was also a passionate champion for those who often could not speak up for themselves – and went on to become a patron of the Church Housing Trust, another charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and resettlement of homeless people.
These activities were an incredible contribution by Judge Savill to the city of Leeds and seen by some as atonement for the Oluwale affair. Interestingly, both Donald Herrod (see above) and David Savill were members of the same barristers’ chambers in Leeds. Judge Savill latterly as Head of Chambers. He sadly passed away in 2011 and was the subject of a fitting Yorkshire Postobituary. Herrod, after taking silk and unsuccessfully defending disgraced architect John Poulson three years after the Oluwale trial, also went on to became a highly respected circuit judge. As did, Arthur Myerson and Donald Herrod. Harry Ognall took Silk in 1973, and was appointed a Judge of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division in 1986. He retired in 1999 and, in 2017, published a highly readable book charting his legal career (more details here).
John Cobb QC who had successfully prosecuted Ellerker and Kitching, also led for the Crown against Poulson.
Although Oluwale’s story caused a national scandal at the time (thanks in part to the radio play ‘Smiling David‘ written by Jeremy Sandford, it had been all but forgotten until police paperwork detailing the case was declassified under the Thirty Year Rule. This was used by Kester Aspden to write the book Nationality:Wog, The Hounding of David Oluwale, published in 2007, which returned the story to the public eye. It won the crime writer’s Golden Dagger award the following year.
A Memorial Garden in Leeds is planned on the likely site of David Olulwale’s death near Leeds Bridge. The David Oluwale Memorial Association (DOMA) is working on the land on Water Lane, in the city centre. There is presently a hold up with the lease for the necessary land, ASDA plc having gone cold on DOMA after previously being very enthusiastic.
Among those of a younger generation to become fascinated by the case is Mahalia France. She was born in 1976, years after Oluwale’s bloated body was dragged from the river near the sewerage works at Knostrop after being spotted by a group of boys which included Wayne Batley and Martin Thorpe, but as a young girl growing up in the Chapeltown area of Leeds remembers the name being in the background. “Remember Oluwale,” was one bit of graffiti scrawled near the Hayfield Hotel. Ms France is now involved in the memorial campaign as a fundraiser and her hope for a life-affirming urban garden is on the cusp of being realised. “He didn’t ask for much, only a place to live. And who doesn’t deserve that as a human being?” she says.
John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, who has also pledged his support to the campaign, wants to secure that memory as a warning of where racial hatred leads. “It’s important to show how sorry we are that this happened within our own culture,” he said.
Author and former Leeds University crime lecturer Kester Aspden’s book was adapted by Oladipo Agboluaje into a stage play. It was first performed in Leeds at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in February 2009 and starred Daniel Francis (pictured below), and theatre critics described it as ‘a richly emotional play which proves its point without coming across like it has a point to prove’. Many of the direct quotes in this article are drawn from Kester’s book.
Agboluaje, whose work is known for its anarchic spirit and subversive humour, said at the time of the play’s first production: “The aim of this adaptation is to discover the man buried beneath the pile of official records. My intention is to paint a human story putting David at its centre. To say that David was an angel whose name has been sullied is incorrect. He was a person, which makes it easy to empathise with his story.”
A link to the DOMA website can be found by clicking here. It is a cause well worth supporting as homelessness is still an issue in Leeds, as in most other major cities in the UK, and a high police priority, according to the Leeds City NPT website, is to deal with vagrancy.
A recent Yorkshire Evening Post story also helped raised the profile of the fundraising and memorial project. read more here.
Another David Oluwale tragedy must never be allowed to happen. In Leeds or in any other town or city within our shores.
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:
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 waslater 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.
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 Buckley, Pamela Hind, Debbie 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.
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.