Black woman in fear of local police forced to leave Bradford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Neil Wilby 2015-2017. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

When reputation management trumps safeguarding risk

If a citizen commits a crime then they can expect to face the full force of the law and an appropriately scaled punshment. Either by penalty notice at one end of the scale, or a lengthy prison sentence at the other. That is one of the foundation stones of a free, democratic society.

We are told, often, that police officers are citizens in uniform. But the reality is, they largely face a different set of rules, if they are found to break the law. Processing through the criminal justice system is seen, in many cases, by their force, as a last resort. Particularly, if the case is likely to cause harm to the reputation of the police service and there is an available compromise.

That may involve a ‘plea bargain‘ that amounts to a miscreant officer resigning from the force and no criminal charge. That, it must be said, saves money on misconduct and criminal proceedings – and also avoids the police’s dirty washing being aired in public.

Another exit route is the ‘not in the public interest‘ argument that forms part of the Crown Prosecution Service‘s Full Code Test [1]. The evidence may be there, but for reasons of proportionality, for example, the matter doesn’t proceed to court.

Other factors include the Police Federation’s input and the, mainly, benign approach of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) towards police wrongdoing.

The Fed are, of course, the police officer’s ‘union’ for all ranks up to chief inspector – and provide pastoral support, legal advice and, more crucially, funding for the latter. They are, beyond doubt, a powerful and very wealthy organisation (in West Yorkshire alone Fed has over £2 million in reserves). Their default position is that police forces (by definition, as appropriate authority, chief constables) should deal with miscreant officers ‘in-house’ and the Fed should be free to cut deals (or the ‘plea bargains’) with chief officers that suit them and their members – and, more likely than not, the force.

However cosy, and pragmatic, this arrangement may seem, the public, and in some cases, the press, are very often left perplexed by the system – and the unavoidable perception that a police officer has ‘got away with it‘. More crucially, victims in these cases can be left isolated, humiliated and with their confidence in the police shredded.

One small consolation is that police officers can no longer retire to avoid disciplinary proceedings. A route taken by thousands over the years, with gold-plated pensions intact.

Which brings us to two very recent West Yorkshire cases that, whilst not yet finalised, have ‘cover-up‘ written all over them. They have come to attention through whistleblowers brave, and public-spirited, enough to put their head above the parapet.

As criminal charges may follow in at least one of the two cases (probably as a result of this exposé), care has to be taken not to prejudice any contemplated proceedings and the names and ranks of the officers involved are, for the present time, not being revealed.

Curiously, both these officers have previously faced criminal proceedings for assault on members of the public. Neither was convicted:

The most senior of the two, of managerial rank, was cleared by a jury after a controversial trial concerning an incident that happened off-duty. The on-line report of those proceedings has, fairly recently, been wiped from the newspaper website that had carried it for some years. Presumably, after the officer came under increasing fire in a series of complaints made against him by members of the public who felt his conduct had fallen below the standards expected from a senior policeman.

The more junior officer, a police constable, was charged with assault, but the case did not proceed beyond the plea hearing due to witness issues. He resumed normal duties as a neighbourhood patrol officer in one of the many former mining communities in the county. He is said to be a likeable lad, but lacking in common sense. The assault charge was described as one of a number of disciplinary ‘near misses’.

On 21st July, 2017, the constable was arrested and detained over suspicion of improper contact with a young girl. She was a resident of a care home at the material time. It is said that there were inappropriate remarks made to the girl, by the constable, during a visit to the care home. This allegedly sparked further messages, and the sending of at least one photograph of an indecent nature. His locker was searched and police mobile phone siezed. Suspension from duty quickly followed, once the deputy chief constable’s sanction had been obtained.

The matter is further complicated by separate allegations that, when the first contact was flagged up to the constable’s supervision, no safeguarding measures were put in place to prevent an escalation. The suspicion persists that this management failing, and how to scrub around it, will be occupying the attention of the force’s decision makers.

Having received information about the incidents, and allegations, from three separate sources – which included being provided with the officer’s name, rank and collar number – the press office at West Yorkshire Police was contacted for comment, or a statement, early on 26th July, 2017. They were also asked to confirm if criminal charges were laid and, if so, when the officer would next appear before a court. For a variety of reasons, which will become clear as this matter unfolds, it is a case I would want to report upon. Preferably, exclusively.

Two and a half days later, the press office reverted with a refusal to comment, grounded in the fact that there were legal proceedings in process. They have been asked to clarify whether those proceedings are criminal, misconduct, or both. No response has, so far, been provided over three days later.

At the same time, the press office of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was also contacted. The question put to them concerned a mandatory referral of the matter as an abuse of the police officer’s powers to procure a sexual relationship. A form of corruption that the police watchdog has emphasised as one of their priorities. There has been no response at all from the IPCC, despite being pressed to do so on social media. Which gives rise to the genuinely held, and well grounded, suspicion that no referral had taken place prior to the press enquiry and a scramble is now under way as to how best to present that failure without appearig critical of WYP or their own lack of oversight.

To journalists dealing with the press offices of policing bodies this will come as no surprise; they are routinely opaque. To the public, who may have young girls as part of their family, this will be alarming. The victim, and the care home staff, may also be in the dark and not receiving appropriate liasion. The constable himself may need welfare assistance and support; often this type of offending is part of a matrix of troubled circumstances. For example, a chaotic home, or professional, life.

We can only speculate, until the police and the IPCC emerge from their ‘hidey-hole’ and inform precept payers, and the press, with sufficient information to maintain public confidence, but without prejudice to any ongoing proceedings.

The situation with the senior officer, and safeguarding risks associated with him, whilst very different in its circumstance and context, is also not being managed in a way that maintains public confidence in West Yorkshire Police. Indeed, it could be said that this officer has also led a charmed existence for a number of years now, whilst enjoying the patronage of one very senior officer in particular, ACC Andy Battle. An officer whose career has not been one without its own controversies – and one with whom I have clashed, personally.

Beginning in 2011, their have been a number of well evidenced complaints against the officer at the centre of the safeguarding concerns. During which time, he has held two significant, high profile roles. One of which may surprise and shock many members of the public. Whilst I am familiar with this officer’s career, to specify those roles, or indeed his rank, may present a risk of jigsaw identification.

The complaints which are known about – and the presumption is that there are more that the force seeks to conceal – include those made by a highly-regarded former police officer.

Other complaints were made by two well-connected West Yorkshire businessmen whose cases, for different reasons, attracted widespread press and broadcast attention. Two of the complaints concerned anger management issues, which was a feature of the evidence heard against him at the criminal trial. One of the complaints involved three successive witness statements being given by the officer, each different – and all inconsistent with independent evidence.

Another concerned a covert surveillance operation on me, mounted by WYP, in 2013. In October of that year, a group of my justice campaigning friends and myself met, not for the first time, socially, at the White Horse public house in Emley. Unknown to us WYP had placed at least one officer in the bar to observe the group. As we left, an unmarked grey BMW 5 series estate car tailed one of my guests as he left the pub and drove towards home. After less than two miles the errant officer and a uniformed colleague stopped my friend’s car, an expensive and very distinctive vehicle. The two officers proceeded to invent reasons for the stop – and asked the driver to take a breath test. It blew negative, as my friend is a virtual tee-totaller. The police had followed him because he had been the ‘carrier’ in the pub for other guests’ drinks and, as a result, the police watcher inside the pub had fingered the ‘wrong’ man. Not that if they had fingered the ‘right’ man would it have made a difference. I had been picked up at my home, nearby, and driven to (and from) the pub by a teetotal, retired police officer with 31 years exemplary service.

The most extraordinary part of this episode is that the unmarked police vehicle had been ‘borrowed’ from the force’s Carr Gate operational services complex, for the purpose, when the errant officer was based elsewhere and his duties, at the time, would certainly not have included covert policing. Quite the opposite, in fact. When he was identified at the scene. he put his head in his hands, over the steering wheel, like a man who knew the game was up.

One of the two businessman has now issued a wide-ranging civil claim, being handled by one of the top police complaints solicitors in the country, Iain Gould [2]. A without prejudice offer made by the force, in an attempt to settle matters, was countered by a more realistic sum that the complainant would agree to. At first, the force solicitor, Mike Percival, claimed this counter-offer had never been received by him, but had to retract when West Yorkshire Police disclosed materials, by way of a data subject access request, that included the very letter that Mr Percival stated he had not received. A routine day at the office for those unfortunate enough to have to deal with the smoke and mirrors world of WYP on a regular basis.

The complaints made by the former police officer have also been a thorn in both the side of the force and the errant policing manager. They are very well articulated and properly evidenced. At first, the force attempted to deal with them ‘off-system’ by way of a ‘fob-off’ letter from a crony of the officer being complained about.

Subsequent attempts to deflect the complaints do not reflect well on the force, either. The consistent thread of the complaints is of flouting regulations, poor interpersonal skills and intemperate responses to any form of challenge. The risk he posed to others was set out in stark detail by a highly respected, hugely experienced individual by way of close observation.

During this process, it was also revealed that the officer in question had applied for a transfer, from his previous force, to both Humberside and Lincolnshire Police, and turned down, before joining WYP. Which raises another set of questions as to how low the latter force set the bar for in-service recruits. Particularly relevant, at the present time, as WYP embark on a drive to attract over 600 officers to their ranks.

For my own part, I wrote to Chief Inspector Michelle Martin on 30th March 2015, highlighting the risk her miscreant fellow manager posed. She obviously didn’t agree, as she never even acknowledged the email, let aone provided a substantive response. It was copied to ACC Battle (and two other recipients), so it is not open to either CI Martin or ACC Battle to say they were not warned, in very bleak terms, that here was an accident (or worse) waiting to happen.

As night follows day, happen it has. The troubled officer has, it seems, imploded and suffered what is described to me as a ‘mental breakdown’. Surrounding this trauma, there have been a series of unappealing incidents about which I cannot, at this time, go into detail. They, allegedly, involve three females, two of them young, one of whom has been removed from his home by a council-run agency. It is said that the local authority had also, previously, been contacted with concerns over the risks this officer posed.

The overwhelming feeling is that what has happened in the case could well have been prevented with a more enlightened approach to officer welfare, and safety of the public, by the force and, equally, investigating public complaints proportionately and heeding the clear safeguarding warnings that were being given to senior managers. Most notably, ACC Battle.

The reaction to this crisis from WYP is much the same as with the constable at the centre of the grooming scandal. Lock down on information, keep colleagues and affected members of the public in the dark – and hope their luck holds out with no further serious incidents.

The present chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, Dee Collins, has been in post now for over three years (the first two and a bit as temporary post holder, in the enforced absence of the errant Mark Gilmore). She certainly talks the on-message safeguarding and victim priority talk, but it is time to walk the walk when the misconduct, or criminality, is within her own force.

Ms Collins is nobody’s fool, as her track record shows. Lots of sharp-end operational policing experience and, more unusually, spells as a Fed rep, and a Superintendents’ Association rep, to boot. Which may be unprecedented in the history of the post of chief constable, but decidedly useful tools for a chief officer to have in her bag.

Chief Constable Dee Collins, pictured in the famous Oak Room at West Yorkshire Police HQ, has endeared herself to many with an easy communication style.

Reputations, both amongst the ranks as well as the public, can be made, or lost, by dealing with these cases in the prescribed manner – and with an appropriate level of openness and transparency.

It would be a major step forward if the force, finally, had a leader that could shed the decades-old perception of a policing organisation where ‘cover-up‘ is the reflex reaction to a management incompetence, or investigative failure.

Over to you, Ma’am.

 

Page last updated: Sunday 30th July, 2017 at 1825hrs

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

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

© Neil Wilby 2015-2017. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

Will ‘sex in sauna’ officer slip off disciplinary hook again?

In April 2012, Chief Inspector Elizabeth Belton of West Yorkshire Police achieved national notoriety as the ‘Sex in the sauna’ cop.

The incident resulted in a punch-up between Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse and Ms Belton’s husband, Sergeant Chris Beddis and was splashed on the front page of the Yorkshire Post newspaper. National newspaper coverage soon followed [1].

This steamy tale was one of a number of exclusive pieces upon which I worked with the award-winning investigative journalist, Rob Waugh. Another major scoop was the outing of convicted paedophile, Mick Vause, who, at the time, was a long-serving detective constable in the force’s perenially disgraced Professional Standards Department [2].

Following the sauna debacle, Ms Belton, a graduate of Brigshaw Comprehensive School on the outskirts of Castleford, took on extra duties which included responsibility for the Standards Unit for North East Leeds, signing off investigations into complaints made by members of the public.

She also chaired misconduct meetings with officers whose fell foul of police regulations. West Yorkshire Police clearly didn’t see the irony in either of those two situations.

Mr Whitehouse retired in 2016 from his job as Director of the National Police Air Service (NPAS), having transferred out of his role as Divisional Commander of the North West Leeds Division, based at Weetwood, shortly after the sauna incident. NPAS are currently mired in their own sex scandal as lurid allegations emerge of South Yorkshire Police officers using an aircraft to film members of the public having sex, or sunbathing naked.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 08.37.54

A Professional Standards Department (PSD) source has also revealed that the police helicopter has, allegedly, been used on covert surveillance of at least one fellow officer. It is also said that the necessary authorisation to do so was not lawfully obtained. This impropriety would involve criminal prosecutions of those responsible – and a bigger story than the ‘sex in the sky’ farrago. There is no suggestion that Whitehouse knew of the deployment of the aircraft for this purpose. The information to hand suggests that the helicopter crew were deployed on ‘pre-planned operations’ tasked by PSD. Many flights are involved.

Ms Belton has said on social media that Ian Whitehouse definitely did not know about this misuse of police resources.

At the time of the ‘sex in the sauna’ scandal, West Yorkshire Police and their Police Authority, after the damaging story reached the press, focused on trying to root out my ‘whistle blowers’ rather than imposing either criminal, or disciplinary sanctions upon either Whitehouse, Ms Belton or the unfortunately cuckolded Mr Beddis.

The decision not to pursue the three officers was taken by Deputy Chief Constable John Parkinson (who retired from the force shortly afterwards after a brief, but troubled, spell as chief constable) and nodded through by the current Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson.

Instead, an enquiry, believed to be headed up by another chief inspector, Jim Dunkerley, was later launched against me to try to uncover police whistle blowers – and stem the flow of information that was leading to damaging press, radio and TV coverage of misconduct within the force. There was also widespread opprobium brought about by the launch of the uPSD whistleblowers website [3] and, particularly, on social media as scandal after scandal surfaced.

Allegedly based in an outbuilding in the car park at HQ, and reporting to Deputy Chief Constable John Robins, the investigation is believed to have involved intrusive surveillance and RIPA authorisation. A matter always denied by the force when I have pressed them on this.

In a face-to-face encounter with his Command Team colleague, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle at police HQ in 2015, I was asked to leave the inner sanctum of the Laburnum Road, Wakefield building on the basis that I was a ‘security threat‘. Invited to add substance to his claim, Battle declined to do so.

The uPSD website has been subject of repeated denial of service attacks over the past two years. The perpetrators have a very high level of technical sophistication, according to the webmaster and a security specialist consulted over the issue (he provides services to police forces as a retired intelligence officer).

In March 2017, Liz Belton hit the headlines, again, for all the wrong reasons. It was revealed, in a series of national newspaper stories, that she had been placed on ‘restricted duties‘ following a complaint over an alleged racist remark made at a detectives’ three day Christmas celebration.

By this time, she was a senior investigating officer (SIO) in West Yorkshire Police’s elite Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET) and was leading the cold case enquiry into the historic, and high profile, murder of Wakefield teenager Elsie Frost in 1965, as well as a probe into the murder of 27-year-old Nicholas Dean Williams, who was found murdered in his home in Stanley, near Wakefield.

It was a blow to the Frost family, who are known to have built a good, and fruitful, relationship with the SIO. It is also well known, locally, that this was regarded by DCI Belton as a seminal case in her career and she was very hopeful it could be solved.

Just a week later, it was revealed that the West Yorkshire Police press office had, not for the first time, misled both the media and the public: Ms Belton had, since a Regulation 15 notice was issued in January 2017, alleging gross misconduct, been arrested in a pre-dawn raid on her family home. She was detained on suspicion of two criminal offences: Misconduct in public office and police computer misuse. She was suspended whilst those criminal investigations continued.

According to a well placed source, a section 32 search was also carried out after the arrest, that included vehicles and outbuildings, as well as Ms Belton’s house. It is believed that she was taken to Huddersfield police station and held there all day.

Given what is at stake both for the force and, more particularly the officers concerned, it has to be assumed that officers with exemplary records, and the necessary investigative competency and rigour, have been deployed by the chief constable. Otherwise, the twin pillars of reassurance, and public confidence, would crumble.

In July, 2017 Chief Inspector Belton appeared in the dock at Leeds Magistrates Court along with two other police officers. PC Judith Mulligan and Sergeant Mohammed Gother. They are all charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Allegations relate to an investigation into a burglary at PC Mulligan’s home in 2013, in which it is claimed that the victim, an officer who began her service 27 years ago at Morley Police Station, was shown a photograph of suspects ahead of an identification procedure

Ms Belton is also accused of seven offences of breaching data laws. It is said that she misused police computers knowingly, or recklessly, obtaining personal data in relation to four named individuals.

A plea and case management hearing took place in August, 2016. Two subsequent hearings were listed in March and April 2017, and then vacated at short notice due to disclosure issues.

All three police officers deny the charges and a trial is set for 11th September, 2017 before the Recorder of Leeds, His Honour Judge Peter Collier. The accused are all on unconditional bail.

In the usual course of events, a pre-trial review (PTR) would be listed by the court around six weeks before the trial start date. As of 24th July, the court confirmed to me that no Order concerning a PTR had been made. This may well be connected to the long-running police/CPS disclosure issues that have, so far, dogged the process.

The September trial concerns only the perverting justice charges. No date has been set for the data breach hearing.

Mr Gother has now retired from the force, having completed 30 years service. A fourth officer, PC Chris Davey, a neighbourhood patrol officer based at Pudsey police station – and a subordinate of Sergeant Gother at the time – was also arrested in the early morning raids, and detained as part of the same investigation, but no charges were laid against him.

A source close to the gross misconduct investigation into Chief Inspector Belton, the subject of the first round of press coverage in March 2017 [4], claims that there was reluctance from a number of officers present at the Lake District Christmas junket to give evidence against a fellow officer. This included the well-liked junior detective at the centre of the ‘racism’ furore, PC Bud Wasti. 

It is understood that PC Warsi was not the complainant against Ms Belton, in any event. The officer mainly involved was the aforementioned DCI Dunkerley, together with another senior officer, Superintendent Mark Ridley (since promoted to chief super and Head of HMET).

After this article was first published an informant came forward and advanced the proposition that two senior officers (both of superintending rank) had ‘suggested strongly‘ to PC Wasti that he was to become ‘a victim‘. That does not give the impression that an investigation was being conducted at the necessary levels of independence and procedural rigour. If this allegation – and it is no higher than that at present – were found to be true, then the entire misconduct investigation would be tainted.

It has also been alleged that during a very lengthy drinking session, a female officer, not Ms Belton, lifted her dress in the public area of the hotel, and revealed a pair of very skimpy, designer brand (according to the exhibitionist) knickers. Whilst that might be considered perfectly normal  behaviour in some social circles, it could be construed unseemly when you are known to be part of a large group of West Yorkshire Police employees occupying a significant portion of an upmarket Lake District hotel?

This officer, it is said, was not the subject of any misconduct proceedings or even informal words of advice. Which, given the furore caused nationally by the Greater Manchester Police ‘Boobgate‘ scandal, might strike the reasonable minded, independent observer as concerning.

In any event, it certainly sounded as if the detectives’ party went with a swing, reminiscent of the Wakefield CID days of yore.

The Belton probe was downgraded to misconduct after the first round of witness statements had been taken. The racism allegations were not proven. The usual sanction in those circumstances is ‘words of advice‘ or, in the police vernacular, a ‘standards awareness meeting‘.

It is also also understood that the internal investigation fell short of the required standard on a number of other levels, including failure to sieze CCTV and other documentary evidence from the Red Lion in Grasmere; and interview independent, non-police witnesses who were on hotel premises at the time.

This ‘investigation’ was, according to another well placed source, carried out by Chief Inspector Simon Bottomley and Detective Sergeant Penny Morley. Both, to my certain knowledge, work in the force’s discredited Professional Standards Department, and have featured in a number of investigations of which I have close knowledge.

In 2010, Mrs Morley was found by a judge, His Honour Peter Benson, at Bradford Crown Court, to have lied in her evidence during a voir dire and, as a result, stopped a criminal trial concerning another West Yorkshire Police officer, PC Kashif Ahmed, as an abuse of process [5].

It is claimed by Mrs Morley, that no disciplinary proceeding, or criminal prosecution, was mounted against her following a three year investigation, involving many officers, and a collapsed trial that was reported to have cost the taxpayer over £500,000.

I recently had her removed from one investigation, where I act as complaint advocate. Her unwillingness to consider CCTV, Go-Pro Film evidence of alleged assault and criminal damage, led to an information being laid at Kirklees Magistrates Court by the victim and a warrant being issued against the perpetrator, Acting Inspector David Rogerson: Dealing with an officer, such as Mrs Morley, who lied in a a criminal trial is not something either the complainant, or myself, was willing to countenance.

Mrs Morley’s husband, Jon, is a retired police officer cum civilian investigator (by a curious twist of fate employed in HMET). A situation which must create certain tensions, both professionally and domestically, when one of them is a proven liar. Her close friendship with another well known PSD miscreant, Superintendent Steve Bennett, certainly caused tongues to wag at the time of the Ahmed case, especially after she escaped sanction for her perjured evidence. But allegations of any improper relationship came to nothing.

In 2013, Mr Bottomley had an adverse finding made against him, by his own PSD colleagues, concerning mis-handling of evidence and breach of a legal undertaking. Since then he has been at the forefront of an alleged force wide cover-up over the John Elam miscarriage of justice [6]. A matter presently being considered by the Criminal Case Review Commission.

Mr Bottomley has also been responsible, in a field of plenty, for one of the worst complaint investigations I have ever seen concerning a filmed assault on Huddersfield businessman, Stephen Bradbury, and, in yet another ‘cover-up’ farrago, attached himself, outwith the relevant statutory framework, to a ‘love triangle’ investigation into Police Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

In December 2015 I sought, but failed, to have Mr Bottomley removed from any involvement in Operation Lamp, the Greater Manchester Police investigation into the infamous PC Danny Major ‘cover-up’ by PSD [7]. His presence, in my entrenched view, taints the process and I recused myself from it a short time afterwards.

Simon Bottomley was also involved in beating off whistleblower submissions made by a management rank detective, with 30 years exemplary service, over well-rehearsed concerns about the provenance of the investigation into the a murder of a male in Headingley, Leeds and flaws in the investigation of the murder of another male, in the Leeds Road area of Bradford, that led to the conviction of three Asian men. The latter case is known by campaigners as the The Bradford Three [8].

The whistleblower’s identity is known to me. He claims he is in fear of his life after the disclosures made in meetings with Mr Bottomley and the SIO on the Bradford Three investigation, ex-Chief Superintendent Andy Brennan. The latter exited the force, under very strange circumstances, shortly afterwards and re-surfaced as Head of CEOP at the National Crime Agency.

The same whistleblower supported the miscarriage of justice campaign around the John Elam case. As part of his specialist role within the force, the whistleblower had been involved on that investigation in a significant role.

It is not known whether either Mrs Morley, or Mr Bottomley, was involved in the criminal investigation that followed the dramatic arrests and searches of homes, police premises and equipment that has led to the impending court case. That would, no doubt, be revealed at trial if it were the case.

So it seems, for a second time, at the very least, Ms Belton has escaped disciplinary sanction after high jinx involving other senior officers. It is believed that Ian Whitehouse was also present at the HMET party.

In a dramatic turn of events, news reached me, from a number of police sources, that on Friday 7th July, 2017 the force had circularised all officers with information to the effect that DCI Elizabeth Belton had ‘resigned’. Which, in all the circumstances, would be extraordinary under the new Police Conduct Regulations, specifically framed to prevent officers leaving the police force when facing gross misconduct disciplinary proceedings, or criminal investigation. There are special exemptions to those Regulations, but it is not known if these were engaged.

It is a move by the DCC Robins, as Command Team PSD portfolio holder, that is certain to attract a great deal of controversy. It also begs the question as to why a senior officer would ‘resign’ over misconduct matters that are largely unproven and likely to be disposed by way of words of advice?

view_001
The Red Lion in Grasmere. Scene of a controversial 2016 West Yorkshire Police Christmas party.

A counter-allegation by Ms Belton of sexual assault, by a senior male detective (whose identity is known to me), at the same Christmas party, has been recorded as a crime but the present status of that investigation is not known. But, as actus reus was in Cumbria, it is assumed that the county police force there is handling the investigation.

There has also been a employment tribunal claim issued by Elizabeth Belton against West Yorkshire Police over alleged sexual discrimination. This pre-dates her arrest, or the misconduct investigation. It is believed that this action may be connected to a promotion board for a vacant Superintendent post. The aforementioned Jim Dunkerley was also an applicant. It appears that neither got the job.

Ms Belton could not be contacted for comment on the misconduct or tribunal matters.

The force press office issued a terse one line statement: “As proceedings are legally active  in this case, we are unable to comment further“. They refused to be drawn on the apparent contradiction in the Regulations concerning the ‘resignation’ (or retirement) of Ms Belton.

The Police Commissioner’s press officer, Dee Cowburn, did not respond to a request for comment.

The force’s chief constable, Dee Collins, has recently issued a press statement, along with Mark Burns-Williamson, saying some of her officers are ‘exhausted‘. A three day drinking and partying spree by her top detectives might add some context to those remarks.

____________________________________________

Page last updated 1950hrs on Monday 7th August, 2017

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

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

© Neil Wilby 2015-2017. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Yorkshire Post: [Exclusive] ‘Probe after steam rises at police gym’ 19th April, 2012′

[2] Yorkshire Post: [Exclusive] ‘Ex-detective admits string of child porn offences 9th June 2012’

[3] uPSDWYP: Home page

[4] Daily Mail: ‘Murder detective placed on restricted duties after ‘making a racist comment at her force Christmas party’, 25th March, 2017

[5] Telegraph and Argus: ‘Bradford police officer tells of his relief’, 11th March, 2011

[6] Hansard: Adjournment debate – Gerry Sutcliffe MP, 28th January, 2014

[7] Neil Wilby: ‘Operation Lamp – A Major corruption scandal’, 29th April, 2016

[8] uPSDWYP: ‘The Bradford Three’, 12th March, 2014

Cost of police chief’s exit set to rise further as court proceedings issued

Civil proceedings have been issued against the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for West Yorkshire concerning the outcome of a misconduct investigation that he ordered into his former chief constable, Mark Gilmore [1].

In response to a long running freedom of information request [2], made via the What Do They Know website on 21st September, 2016, a spokeswoman for PCC Mark Burns-Williamson says that details of the probe carried out by Lancashire Police cannot be released, as to do so would be prejudicial to the impending court case.

The same argument is applied to the refusal to release emails and meeting notes between Lancashire detectives and the PCC that formed part of the information request. It is further claimed by the PCC that some of the emails may be legally privileged.

A response to the information request was only given after a complaint was made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 10th January, 2017. After an inexplicable delay by the watchdog who, incredibly, wanted to close down the complaint, the PCC was eventually directed on 26th April, 2017 to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and provide a finalisation of the request within ten working days.

The reasons set out in that finalisation are not consistent with those given previously for failing to disclose the information. An detailed internal review request made on 10th November, 2016 was, more or less, ignored. This was the main ground for the complaint to the ICO.

In September, 2016 Burns-Williamson was quoted in a local newspaper as saying: “I have committed to publish as much of this report as I can,” he said. “I’m presently taking legal advice.”

Mark Gilmore pictured in his office at police HQ in Wakefield. He never returned there following his suspension in June 2014. Picture credit: BBC

Gilmore was appointed as chief constable of the country’s fourth largest force in April, 2013 following the controversial departure of the disgraced Sir Norman Bettison. Just over a year later he was suspended from duty whilst bribery allegations against him were investigated by the force where he started his career, the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

In May 2015 it was announced that there would be no criminal charges against Gilmore concerning the award of vehicle contracts. His suspension was lifted, but he was immediately placed on gardening leave, purportedly working remotely for the National Police Chiefs Council. A misconduct investigation, codenamed Operation Barium, was launched by Lancashire Police immediately after the conclusion of the criminal matters.

Retirement from the police service followed a short time after the Barium report was delivered to Burns-Williamson by Lancashire Police in July, 2016. Ten months later, the public are no wiser as to whether Mark Gilmore had a case to answer.

The civil proceedings filed at the Royal Courts of Justice are an application by Mark Gilmore for judicial review of the failure, by the PCC, to reach a decision on whether there was a case to answer for misconduct. The stipulated period is 15 days for making such a decision. Gilmore’s solicitors – Belfast based McCartan Turkington Breen – say that there is a ‘continuing failure by the PCC for West Yorkshire to comply with his statutory obligations’.

The claim is being handled by Ernie Waterworth, who now acts as a consultant to the law firm, having previously served as a partner. He specialises in civil litigation, public enquiries and criminal law matters.

Mark Burns-Williamson has issued a statement saying that ‘The claim is denied in full. We will be submitting a response to this effect to the court in accordance with the legal process“. The PCC did not elaborate on the reasons for defending the claim.

The cost of paying for two chief constables, Gilmore and the temporary incumbent Dee Collins, over a two year period is estimated to be close to £800,000.

The belatedly finalised information request is now the subject of further challenge.

A new request has also been made concerning the documents filed at court in the action against the PCC [3].

Page last updated: Tuesday 16th May, 2017 at 0955hrs

[1] Neil Wilby: Barium too hard to swallow

[2] WhatDoTheyKnow: Operation Barium – A Freedom of Information request

[3] WhatDoTheyKnow: Civil proceedings between Mark Gilmore and WYOPCC – A Freedom of Information request

© Neil Wilby 2015-2017. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Stories untold: A Disaster of a book

I thought long and hard about writing this piece.

Over the past four years I have made friendships that I deeply cherish amongst the bereaved families, survivors and vanguard campaigners of the Hillsborough Disaster – and I would never, ever contemplate putting that camararderie at risk.

On my visits to Warrington to hear sittings of the recently concluded inquests I was welcomed by them, sat with them, ate with them and shared the terrible anguish of images on TV screens in court that those present will never be truly able to put out of their minds.

I was also sat amongst the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) group when the Norman Bettison circus came to town and he gave his own version of events from the witness box .

The dilemna, therefore, was: Do I review a book published by one of the bête noirs of the police actions that followed the Disaster that will inevitably re-open scarcely healed wounds? Or, leave it shunned for the short shelf life it is likely to have, before its appearance in the remainder bin.

It was through my own battles with Bettison’s police force that I first came into contact with the Hillsborough campaigners (a phone call in 2011 to Yorkshire-based Trevor Hicks). He had been a person of very obvious interest to them for two decades; I first wrote to Norman Bettison in July, 2009 to tell him something was deeply wrong with my home force in West Yorkshire. He was chief constable from 2006, until the aftermath of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report claimed it’s first high profile victim in October 2012. His Deputy throughout almost all that time was David Crompton. He, too, was eventually claimed by the outfall from the Hillsborough. This time, it was the way South Yorkshire Police had conducted themselves at the inquests that led to his suspension in May 2016, then resignation in September, 2016.

The consensus amongst those with whom the matter has been discussed, at some length, is that I am well placed to find holes in the Bettison story. Although, the fact that the book is published at all is a surprise. Sheila Coleman sums up the feelings of so many in this quote given to the Liverpool Echo: “I think it’s wholly inappropriate that he’s publishing a book whilst the Director of Public Prosecutions is still giving consideration to criminal prosecutions”. Bettison bizarrely contends: “This book might be the only way in which my own account of the Hillsborough aftermath will ever be heard. By the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as by the public.”

Changing the narrative

I have now read the 355 pages of the book twice. Firstly, cover to cover without a break. Then in a more studied mode and armed with marker pen. It is a well written tome, of that there is no doubt. Bettison is an educated, erudite and articulate man and he writes very much as he speaks. The book does, however, read more like a statement, or a report, than an autobiographical account. It’s several purposes appear very clear to me:

  • To create a lasting narrative, principally it seems, for the consumption of family and friends, concerning his role in the aftermath of the disaster – and one that aligns with his oral evidence given at the inquests.
  • To sweep away much of the organisational criticism that still attaches to South Yorkshire Police and land most of the opprobrium at the door of just four officers (David Duckenfield, Paul Middup and two Bettison doesn’t name whom were responsible for leaked information to the press, leading to The Sun’s infamous ‘The Truth’ front page).
  • To attack those that have given testimony against him, such as Clive Davis and John Barry. Or been, in his eyes, either partly, or largely, responsible for his fall from grace. These, surprisingly, include mild rebuke for Professor Phil Scraton, but at the other end of the scale his most poisonous attack is reserved for Deborah Glass, formerly of the IPCC, and a number of her colleagues still engaged with the police watchdog. For better or worse, it will leave the IPCC badly wounded if Bettison’s account of breathtaking incompetence and sloth is left unchallenged. Others to suffer badly are Maria Eagle MP, West Yorks PCC, Mark Burns-Williamson, and his chief executive, Fraser Sampson.
  • To reinforce his own view that he was one of the finest police officers ever to pull on a uniform. It remains a forceful, shameless, insensitive and excrutiating self-eulogy throughout. One shudders to think how the first draft manuscript would have read. Just a shred of humility may have assisted him both within policing circles and, more crucially, amongst those foolish enough to shell out £18.99 for what amounts to ill-judged propaganda.

It is decidedly not, as it says on the front cover, ‘The Untold Story’. Or, as the publisher’s blurb says: “This personal account describes how the Hillsborough disaster unfolded, provides an insight into what was happening at South Yorkshire Police headquarters in the aftermath, and gives an objective and compassionate account of the bereaved families’ long struggle for justice, all the while charting the author’s journey from innocent bystander to a symbol of a perceived criminal conspiracy“. Far, far from it. Neither does it fulfil the billing in the Preface of ‘openness and transparency’ (that utterly meaningless but perpetual line of policing spin). Or, the ‘nothing concealed’ labelling. That is arrant nonsense, for the reasons I set out in some considerable detail in this article.

It should also be borne in mind that, in his evidence to the inquests at Warrington, Bettison either answered ‘I don’t recall‘, or ‘No‘ to questions on the lines of ‘Do you recollect/remember, over TWENTY times. Is the reader of this book, therefore, expected to accept that these ‘untold’ revelations were either withheld from his evidence, or he has had some miracle restoration to the left side of his brain in the ensuing few months?

Hillsborough Untold MASTER jacket.indd

Subliminal thread that still smears the fans

It is beyond argument that Norman Bettison has never once lifted a finger to help the twenty-seven year fight by bereaved Hillsborough families, and the survivors of the caged hell that was pens 3 and 4 on the western terraces. Firstly, for the truth. Then, latterly, for justice. His ‘compassionate account‘ is, therefore, both unwelcome and paints him in an unattractive, self-serving light. Passing himself off as an ‘innocent bystander‘ in a force so deeply corrupt as South Yorkshire Police is also self-defeating and will, inevitably, backfire on him.

There is also this subliminal thread that runs through the book that places the traditional smears in the mind of the reader without them being stated head-on. The mention of Heysel, as early as page 10, sets the tone for that line of Bettison inculcation. The sly references to late arrival, touts, swaps, drunkenness – and the unruly behaviour of a small minority at the rear of the crush in front of the Leppings Lane turnstiles (he doesn’t make the important distinction of whether that is 0.1%, 1% or 10%*) inserted innocuously through successive chapters. (*The correct answer is 0.1%).

The contemporary audio-visual clips, and the 450 photographs, shown endlessly in evidence at Warrington is the true test, and one upon which the jury answered at the seminal question 7: Was there any behaviour on the part of the football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? The jury answered ‘NO’, yet Bettison makes no reference to that point or, indeed, any other mention of the 14 – 0 verdict delivered by the nine battle-fatigued men and women who were left sitting at the end of the most gruelling test of endurance, and character, in British legal history. A nod to them might have softened the narrative a little.

Yes, of course, there are some interesting personal insights, pen portaits and caricatures and, in some places (surprisingly few as it happens) information that is not known to those campaigners and journalists who have variously read, or heard, all the inquests evidence and are familiar with the vast database contained within the Panel website, the texts of both of the Taylor Reports (interim and final) and the Stuart-Smith Scrutiny.

These new insights (to me at least) include Bettison being responsible for the headcount in pens 3 and 4, from a montage of photographs put together in preparation for the Taylor Inquiry; Comparison of command officer styles from the ‘military, shouty, authoritarian‘ police chief of the 70’s and 80’s to the ‘lily-livered, laissez-faire, dilettantes‘ of the 90’s and beyond; The mealy-mouthed praise of the late Brian Mole whom, we learn, was nicknamed ‘Soames’ after a ‘dapper, smooth, self-righteous‘ character from the Forsyte Saga TV drama. Bettison also contends that Mole was ‘not much favoured in HQ‘, particularly after the prank that, indirectly, led to the experienced match commander being stripped of duties on the fateful day.

On a wider view, the Bettison interpretation of the physical difficulties, and psychological effects, of the Bradford City Fire Disaster happening at ‘home’, as it were, versus the Hillsborough Disaster happening ‘away’ from Liverpool, was as interesting as the book got. But, even here, Bettison doesn’t burden his readers with the knowledge that, in the past year, the police force that he formerly commanded has been referred to the IPCC over its investigation of the aftermath of the Bradford fire. He also, curiously, refers throughout to Sheffield as a town, rather than a large city.

The cameo – and I place it no higher than that – striking me as the most odd in the book was the extraordinary revelation that Bettison had been a keen supporter of the Reds since he was eight years old. Playing keepy-uppy in his full Liverpool kit that had been bought as a Christmas present. Ergo, he couldn’t possibly hold a grudge against Liverpool fans, as he was one of them. The counter-arguments I advance to the concept of him being a Liverpool supporter are fourfold: Firstly, what was he doing sat in South Stand amongst Notts Forest supporters in 1989? Secondly, why was he not at the 1988 semi-final taking place a short distance from his home between the same two teams. Thirdly, why was this secret affiliation not mentioned as a key point in his contemporaneous witness accounts? Fourthly, and crucially, a declaration of that lifelong interest to ACC Stuart Anderson, when told he had been selected to join the Wain team should have, effectively, disqualified him from that process.

The love of Liverpool, as a city and a place to live, work and socialise, now also belatedly professed by Bettison, can be categorised similarly to his latent support of the Reds. It has emerged, by my own reckoning, only as part of a charm offensive to win over its citizens and, more particularly, bereaved families, survivors, campaigners and journalist critics. It could be paraphrased thus: ‘Look at me, lads and lasses, I’m one of you at heart. The wife cooks me a pan of scouse at least once a week‘. He misses the point, maybe, that only 37 who died were from Liverpool, although another 20 were from Greater Merseyside and the crusade for truth and justice is, and always has been, inextricably linked to the city.

The real truth is that, after only three years in post at Merseyside Police, he was hankering after leaving this great city. He was offered, and accepted, a post with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), but the move was called off after an argument with the Home Office over salary and pension. That, more accurately, sums up the narcissitic Bettison’s true love: Himself.

The Devil is in the detail

Looking at the book through a wider lens, what does come across as striking to me, at least, is the inconsistent manner in which content is presented. Where it suits the overall Bettison narrative, there is almost an excess of minutiae. In other places the reader is left, time and again, with the thought that important detail has been omitted by Bettison that he either knew, or could have very easily found out, if he is the ace thief taker/detective he would have everyone believe.

– Bettison in his witness account in May 1989 says he parked at the junction of Niagara Road and Claywheels Lane from where he walked to the football ground. There is no such junction, as it happens; Niagara Road is a service road that spurs off Beeley Wood Road. In the book he does not give the location of where he parked his car. The untold story is that he may have used the car park of the infamous Niagara Police Sports and Social Club. As did a number of other senior officers on the day. Bettison, it would appear, as he does in a other areas in the book, seeks to avoid mentioning controversial locations and individuals. There is another train of thought entirely – and that is Bettison did not park in, or near, Claywheels Lane at all. But at nearby Hammerton Road police station and walked to the game from there and returned by the same route, largely via Middlewood Road.

– In the book Bettison states that his account was prepared ‘in several sittings over seven or eight days’ after 17th April, 1989. It is a matter of record that his account (actually marked as a report) is dated 3rd May, 1989. What is described as his witness statement is dated 2nd June 1989 (often one simply became the other as they were typed onto the incident room HOLMES database). There is no reference to any pocket book (PNB) entry that he should have made when he put himself on duty at Hammerton Road at around 4pm on day of disaster and, again, when he was released from duty some twelve hours later at the gymnasium (or if we are to believe the statement at the time he joined Merseyside Police, sixteen hours). Those basic duty entries are an essential requirement for any policeman. The fact that it appears he chose, an an experienced, process-orientated, upwardly-mobile officer, not to make any entries concerning either what he had witnessed from seat NN28 in the South stand, which he himself identified as a major incident at 3.06pm, or his contact with what he describes as deceased casualties, on his exit from the ground, simply defies belief. In any properly run police force it would be a disciplinary offence. It also goes to the hypothesis that Bettison didn’t take that route to, or from, the ground at all.

– Bettison doesn’t make clear in the book whether that he filled in a police questionnaire before writing up his account. He did complete one and should, of course, declared his status as a supporter of Liverpool Football Club on that form. But he chose not to and doesn’t expand upon it in the book. The rest of the questionnare is absent of detail, particularly relating to timings. Another untold story?

– His account of the reason for leaving the ground has, crucially, changed from his first, contemporaneous, witness statement to the book. He, emphatically, says he left the ground to phone his wife in his statement. His arrival at nearby Hammerton Road police service was simply to facilitate that purpose after finding only phone boxes with queues around them, along the one mile journey. That has now been modified in the book to include the parallel thought that he could assist in the aftermath of the tragedy by reporting to the police station and relieving strained resources. Reading book and statement side by side paints an unattractive picture and, largely, undermines all what follows.

– The failure to identify the scouse-accented South Yorkshire Police officer who went to hospital as continuity officer, accompanying whom Bettison believed was a deceased casualty in his late 20’s or early 30’s, at the south west corner of the ground. How did the casualty get there at that early stage? How did the ambulance know to go there when the other police officers and the St John’s Ambulance officer attending the man, and one other casualty with an arm injury, had no radios, according to Bettison. Another untold story? Or several of them, in fact. I am, as they say on the TV, helping police (and the IPCC) with their enquiries.

– The failure to note whether there were ten, or twelve, casualties whom he described as deceased at the rear of the West Stand close to the River Don. It is not the difference between 100 or 200. Especially, if you are the self-proclaimed, quick-witted, multi-tasking, ace detective with an eye for detail that Bettison says he is. The books note that the majority were ‘in the recovery position’ but can’t specify how many. Crucial evidence for any investigation that followed, yet he has never been interviewed about it. There were in fact eleven bodies laid there, a fact I have subsequently established from the witness statement of the officer in charge of continuity at the temporary mortuary in the gymnasium, Inspector John Charles. The same number is also referred to in Brian Mole’s statement. Bettison then came across Chief Inspector Roger Purdy, but did nothing more than nod to him, without mentioning the RV point he says he had set up in the south west corner of the ground. He then hastened his exit and, en route, he says, mobilised some officers from Purdy’s serials to form a cordon preventing access to the scene where the bodies were located. Without identifying himself as a police officer. It does, as I have always contended, give the appearance of a rat leaving a sinking ship.

– In Bettison’s witness statement he claimed that ‘more than enough officers were doing everything they possibly could’ once the football match had been stopped by Supertindendent Roger Greenwood‘s belated intervention at 3.06pm. Bettison, unsurprisingly, doesn’t venture to repeat that in the book. Or, more crucially, correct it. The inquests established beyond doubt that a heroic minority were ripping at mesh, helping fans over fences, passing casualties out of the pens chain gang style, carrying them out through the tunnel, or attempting resucitation. Tragically, far too many of the rest either froze, were misdirected by senior officers or couldn’t raise an effort to help the hundreds of Liverpool fans desperately trying to stop death touching their fellow travellers.

– Bettison, although critical of cages (pens), barrier configuration and the policy of segregation over safety, persists with a line that the police only lost control of the crowd outside of the Leppings Lane turnstiles at 2.45pm. The inquests established beyond doubt that effective control had slipped away from the police by 2.20pm and all vestiges of control had gone by 2.30pm. He also makes several references to the beach ball being patted around in pen 3 to support his own view from the South Stand that the pens were not abnormally overcrowded and he ‘sensed no danger’ at that point. The last person known to have touched that beach ball was Jason Kenworthy at 2.40pm. He was stood with three teenaged friends who died in the crush. The families of those three, which include Barry Devonside, will be horrified at the inference Bettison seeks to make.

–  Bettison also puts a veiled construction on the circumstances of the removal of barrier 144 near the mouth of the tunnel. He says an unnamed chief inspector asked the club and their consulting engineers to ‘review’ its positioning. The inquests heard that the police requested the removal of the barrier. The officer to whom Bettison refers is John Freeman (at the time of the Disaster a Superintendent) and the omission of his name is both startling and alarming. ‘The Freeman Tactic’ was one devised by that officer, during his time as a match commander at the Sheffield Wednesday ground, to close the tunnel entrance to the pens as they became full. References to the Freeman tactic were removed from statements prepared by the Wain team for the Taylor Inquiry.

– Another pointless attempt at justification of the police’s actions on the day comes with the lengthy Bettison narrative over delaying kick-offs. A simple check of the inquests evidence of Kenneth Dalglish lays that to waste. As does the fact that the kick-off at a FA Cup semi-final at the same ground in 1987 was delayed due to crowd congestion. Many Leeds United fans had experienced crushing in the Leppings Lane turnstile area and central pens before and during the match.

– Analysis of the questionnaire and statement of Chief Inspector Les Agar (who is mentioned on page 41 of the book) reveals other inconsistencies with Bettison’s version regarding timings and who did what. That concern is amplified when also compared with the account of DC Bob Hydes (of catching Yorkshire Ripper fame) and what he did during his two visits to the gymnasium.

Dramatis personae

There are also the gaps in the ‘untold story’ that appear, on their face, designed to either downplay the role, or avoid scrutiny, of Bettison’s former colleagues in the upper echelons of policing. I give just four examples out of many:

– What was the substance of the email messages between Bettison, David Crompton and Sir Hugh Orde on the day of the publication of the Panel report and in the ensuing hue and cry?  West Yorkshire Police refused my freedom of information request on the topic many moons ago and this was Bettison’s opportunity to unlock the mystery. We know, because my journalist colleague, Jonathan Corke, eventually secured release of the emails between Crompton and Orde that the line being taken between those two that the families version of ‘the truth’ was not acccepted and was to be lobbied against. There is also no mention of the calls or text messages Bettison said he couldn’t have made, whilst in Sussex, that were later traced through analysis of his phone records.

– It is established beyond doubt that Bernard Hogan-Howe was managing the accommodation and pastoral care of relatives of missing persons at the boy’s club opposite Hammerton Road police station, from early in the evening until he went off duty at around 3.30am. Bettison appears to have put himself in charge of a temporary missing person’s bureau shortly after arriving at that police station. Bettison refers only to an inspector taking charge at the club which was, of course, the current Met Commissioner’s pip at that time. Hogan-Howe’s name is conspicious only for its absence from the ‘untold story’.

– The odious John Beggs QC also rates a mention late in the piece. But, in the context of his services being procured by the Police Authority in their bid to oust him from his role as chief constable of West Yorkshire Police in September and October, 2012. There is not a single word of criticism of Beggs’ relentless and unedifying antics at the inquests in Warrington, at which the drunk, ticketless, non-compliant line of questioning was pursued relentlessly on behalf of the police’s two match commanders. Prolonging the inquests and adding hugely to it’s cost. Not just in monetary terms but, much more crucially, in the emotional attrition ladelled onto to families and survivors sat in the galleries at either end of that vast courtroom. Over the duration of the inquests, I saw the physical and mental effects that was having. I also witnessed, for the only time in my lengthy career as newspaper publisher and journalist, Queen’s Counsel incandescent with rage once they had left the calmer confines of the courtroom. The source of their disquiet was Beggs’ conduct and blatant lies told by South Yorkshire Police officers in oral evidence.

– The input of HMIC is relied upon to sterilise Bettison’s account of the interview process that led to his appointment as chief constable of Merseyside. The HMIC officer involved was Sir Dan Crompton, father of the hapless David. Bettison has not sought to explain, or apologise, for Crompton senior’s appalling, deeply damaging and distressing remarks made at the time about the Hillsborough campaigners, whom were described as “vexatious, vindictive and cruel” to oppose the controversial appointment in their city. Bettison, with all his newly-avowed compassion towards the sufferers does not seek to denounce this outrageous slur. As with Crompton Snr, Crompton Jnr and now Bettison, it seems there is no need to correct those words, or profusely apologise for them.

– Of the few mysteries still remaining to be unlocked concerning the Disaster, and the one that probably interests me the most, is the whereabouts of David Duckenfield between finishing the match briefing at around 10.30am until having lunch in the gymnasium at 1.30pm. Bettison offers no clue as to the disgraced chief superintendent’s whereabouts. The inquests evidence from Duckenfield is that he couldn’t recall what he had been doing between the end of the early morning briefing and arriving in the police control box at 2pm. Or, in fact, where he had been. Another untold story.

Bettison’s anointing of his chief constable at the time, the late and highly autocratic Peter Wright, the cerebral deputy chief, Peter Hayes and, in particular, Terry Wain, may not have been calculated to vex, annoy and harass the bereaved, and the survivors of the Disaster, but that will be the inevitable effect. It is established beyond doubt that Wright and Hayes were at the heart of the thoroughly dishonest injustices perpetrated against the coal mining pickets at the Orgreave coking plant, just four years before the Hillsborough Disaster. Bettison’s unstinting praise of both further underscores his own fallibilty and completely undermines the credibilty of the rest of the book. As does his wholehearted endorsement of the heavily criticised Stuart-Smith Scrutiny. Similarly, his lack of any criticism, whatsoever, of the mini-inquests conducted by Dr Stefan Popper, one of the biggest, and most hurtful, travesties of justice in the modern era, does Bettison no credit at all.

The missing word

The eight letter word O-R-G-R-E-A-V-E does not appear on any of the 355 pages of Bettison’s book. It is a remarkable omission. The legal teams representing the Orgreave campaigners have put the view, most forcefully and persuasively, to the Home Secretary that the full truth and justice over Hillsborough cannot finally come unless there is a full independent investigation, or inquiry, into the events surrounding the miners’ strike which came to a head in the summer sunshine on June 18th, 1984. Bettison plainly does not agree, and that part of the contemporaneous, and highly relevant, history of South Yorkshire Police remains untold.

There was no cover-up

This is the most remarkable passage in the book and plainly expected to reach only a narrow, mostly uninformed, readership. Bettison paints a picture of the Wain Report being scrupulously prepared, by the team of which he was a pivotal part, with a single purpose in mind: To assist the police QC, William Woodward, in presenting submissions to the Taylor Inquiry and prepare counsel for what the police’s own witnesses might say in their oral evidence.

Over the years Bettison has consistently downplayed his role in the Wain team as ‘peripheral’ and ‘junior’. Similarly, in his consecutive role after being chosen as the chief constable’s eyes and ears at the Taylor Inquiry. In his oral evidence to the inquests at Warrington, the only light relief over four torturous days came when Bettison claimed that he was the ‘Butty Boy’ for the lawyers when they took their lunchtime break from proceedings – and he was despatched to Marks and Spencers for the sandwiches. He has not repeated that claim in the book, but supplanted it with the startling revelation that a man so humbly positioned took it upon himself to prepare, and send by fax, to Bill Woodward, an unsolicited overview of his own findings from listening to the entire 31 days of Inquiry evidence at Sheffield Town Hall. For better or worse, influenced or not by Bettison’s input, it remains a fact that Woodward’s submissions to the Inquiry contained no paragraph where blame was accepted by his clients, South Yorkshire Police.

Bettison’s book in seeking to label the cover-up  as ‘mythical’ not only offers no explanation for these crucial elements of it, he doesn’t mention them at all:

– Sampling blood alcohol levels of deceased, including children as young as 10yo

– Questioning bereaved families over alcohol consumption

–  Criminal record checks on the deceased

– Theft of CCTV tapes from football club control room

–  Removal of logs from police control box in West stand

– Instructions given to officers not to make entries in pocket note books (PNB’s)

–  Evidence gatherers and operational support units sent out looking for evidence of bottles and cans (and carafes) that had contained alcohol. Both around the ground and over the outlying road routes between Sheffield and Liverpool

The above all happened within hours of the Disaster. Those below were perpetrated as the cover-up mentality became more developed:

– Instructions to officers to write out undated ‘accounts’ on plain paper, rather than provide conventional S9 Criminal Justice Act statements, which carry a perjury warning

– Statement tampering that removed criticism of police operations (not closing the access tunnel to the West stand central terraces, faulty radios, displacement of serials etc) and ineffectiveness of senior officers

– Intimidation by West Midlands Police officers of key witnesses

– Keyword interrogation of HOLMES computers to identify and distil evidence relating to drunkenness or unruliness of fans

More recently, it became apparent that swathes of evidence had not been disclosed to the Independent Panel by South Yorkshire Police in 2009 and, in point of fact, the IPCC were still searching police premises for evidential materials as late as last month. That would tend to go further to the evidence of a ‘cover-up’.

Bettison claims to have followed the inquests every day and read the transcripts. If that is true, then all the above elements of the South Yorkshire Police cover-up were examined in great detail by counsel for the inquest, and those representing the families and the interested parties. Yet, still, it seems, Bettison wants to run the no cover-up narrative. He can expect little sympathy from a largely hostile media on that score. The BBC’s Evan Davis destroyed him within seconds in this seconds over his claim of being a “peripheral” part of the police cover-up:

The Mirror’s Brian Reade has described Bettison as a “duplicitious snake” and Channel 4’s Alex Thomson cornered him with a line that will enter broadcast journalism folklore: “Who made the changes, the statement fairies?” The Guardian’s David Conn has written a measured, but exoriating, piece ‘Hillsborough: Sir Norman Bettison is seeking to deny the truth’. The Liverpool Echo has carried a series of withering pieces that include the accusations that Bettison is ‘Evil and arrogant’ and ‘Patronising, pompous and self-serving.’

The Best of the Rest

Three other soon to be published articles will cover the remaining parts of the book that touch more on the events surrounding Bettison’s ignominous exit from the police service in 2012, rather than any untold story of the disaster. These will add important context to his ongoing battles with the IPCC – and other peripheral issues such as the Platinum Theft allegation, Bettison’s explanation for it and the very recent decision by South Yorkshire Police to lie to me over requests for information concerning that alleged theft. It is already swathed in further controversy as John Mann MP has rounded on Bettison accusing him of rubbishing the reputation of the wrong former police officer in the book, describing him as “a vindictive former police officer, himself sacked for dishonesty and sent to prison”

Mann is quoted in the Yorkshire Post as saying: “His character assassination on an unnamed South Yorkshire Police officer may well come back to bite Bettison. If he has knowledge of the source of the allegations then this can only have come through a criminal leak from within the police. If he has guessed wrongly at the source, which I strongly suspect, then he has launched an unwarranted and vicious attack on the wrong person and that has consequences. I will be pressing the IPCC on this matter”.

The IPCC have announced that they have no issues with the book as far as their own criminal investigations are concerned.

Now this really does start to have the look and feel of ‘The Untold Story’. Except it won’t come to light in Waterstones. Their buying decisions, they have told Alex Thomson, are based on ‘the quality of the book’ and they have rejected Bettison’s debut effort.

It is not unrealistic to hope that the publishers will soon withdraw the Bettison book, on the basis it now stands entirely discredited.

 

Page last updated: Saturday 19th November, 2016 at 0845hrs

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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Copyright: Neil Wilby 2015-2016. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Operation Barium too hard to swallow?

On 7th July, 2009 I wrote to Sir Norman Bettison, then Chief Constable of my local police force. He was offered intelligence over the misconduct of a number of his junior officers and a newspaperman’s instinct that all was not well within West Yorkshire Police.

Shortly afterwards, I received a telephone call from his staff officer at the time, Chief Inspector Christopher Rowley. Recently, and controversially, appointed to disgraced South Yorkshire Police as an assistant chief constable (read more here).

It matters little that CI Rowley’s call was a fob-off, delivered in an unattractive manner. It was to lead, indirectly, to a challenge never before faced by a police force: Scrutiny by investigators, not part of any official oversight body, who were to determined to show the true face of a police force that considered itself completely unaccountable to anyone.

At the time of my letter being sent to Bettison, one of his gilded protégés was Mark Gilmore. He was one of five assistant chief constables in a Command Team that was to become almost entirely  discredited: Bettison’s career ended in ignominy as he became engulfed in a number of scandals, with his role in the Hillsborough Disaster aftermath being much the highest profile.

Bettison’s deputy chief constable was none other than David Crompton. Also widely known as ‘Disaster Dave‘ and for whom Hillsborough was also to prove his nemesis (read more here).

Two other of the disgraced chief’s assistants, John Parkinson (later to succeed him as temp0rary chief constable) and Geoff Dodd, were to retire from the police service with clouds hanging over them. Dodd was connected to the framing and jailing of a promising young police constable and, after the Operation Lamp investigation into that miscarriage of justice was completed, but before the report was published, he sailed into the sunset clinging to his gold plated pension. Parkinson was also deeply involved in the PC Danny Major cover-up, amongst a significant number of other misdemeanours, about which more can be read here.

My first interaction with Parkinson was in May 2010, as he was portfolio holder for the notorious Professional Standards Department in West Yorkshire Police. Just under two years later I wrote to him and promised I would drive him out of the police service, based on the evidence I held. He probably laughed it off at the time, but a year later he was gone.

Mark Gilmore, having been recruited in 2008 by Bettison from a sinecure as staff officer to ACPO president Sir Hugh Orde, was given a special projects role in the procurement and delivery of profit for investment (PFI) schemes at WYP. Bettison was, at the time, vice president of the now-defunct ACPO.

A number of new divisional headquarters around the county and a massive project at the force’s operational support and training centre at Carr Gate, near Wakefield were built as a result of the PFI financing. The total sums involved have been reported in the local press as totalling £300 million, yet the company appointed to facilitate the financing appeared to be carrying a net current deficit of several million pounds.

There is a well-grounded suspicion that the PFI schemes are a ticking timebomb as far as future debt is concerned. As soon as time and funding allow, this is to form the subject a separate forensic investigation by me.

In July 2011, Gilmore was appointed as deputy chief constable to another big city force. He joined another Bettison protégé who was chief constable of Northumbria Police, Sue Sim. Recently in the news as a whistleblower exposing concerning practices amongst senior officers in her former force (read more here). Bettison and Sim worked together at Merseyside Police, during the former’s controversial reign in Liverpool.

It is not known, at this stage, whether Gilmore was intended to be one of the subjects of his former chief’s scathing and wide-ranging criticisms. Incredibly, it is West Yorkshire Police who have been sent to investigate Mrs Sims’ complaints.

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Less than two years later, Gilmore was back at West Yorkshire Police having been crowned as chief by the newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Mark Burns-Williamson.

Sources close to the process suggested at the time that Gilmore had defeated John Parkinson, Mark Milsom, an ACC with WYP and most famous for running a BMW X5 police car through a red traffic light and into the side of a bus in Leeds city centre, and Phil Gormley, at the time chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary, a formet Metropolitan Police assistant commisssioner and, presently, chief constable at Police Scotland.

The largely invisible Gilmore was later to controversially refuse to prosecute Milsom over the ramming of the bus in City Square, saying after a lengthy investigation that “it was not in the public interest“. A decision that was to leave most West Yorkshire folk, and many of the front line officers in their police force, entirely bemused (read more here).

The very few policing commentators who were aware of the shortlist could only stand shocked at the decision to select Gilmore ahead of Gormley. Burns-Williamson, who prior to his appointment had been Chair of the police authority for ten years, appeared to place emphasis on the fact that Gilmore was a known entity – and his experience in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was particularly relevant.

Those in the know had an entirely different perception: Gilmore knew where a whole pile of WYP corruption bones were buried and it was felt that Burns-Williamson didn’t want anyone from ‘outside the circle’ poking around and asking questions.

I wrote an article that was first published on the uPSD website at the end of April 2013 that set out in some detail the extent of the alleged ‘cover-ups’ to which Gilmore was, at the very least, a passive party (read more here). It was a formidable list. For his part, Burns-Williamson was content to continue as though none of this corruption existed. Indeed, his oft-repeated mantra during the election campaign that brought him to power in 2012 was that “there is no corruption in West Yorkshire Police”. He didn’t repeat it in the campaign in May, 2016.

It took just fourteen months before his PCC, so effusive at the time of his appointment, had to remove his ‘chosen one’ from police HQ. Mark Gilmore was suspended from duty in June, 2014. This move was prompted by a PSNI investigation into the awarding of police vehicle contracts in Northern Ireland.

Seven men were arrested by detectives working on the case at the time and questioned on suspicion of offences including bribery, misconduct in public office and procuring misconduct in public office. Gilmore was not one of those detained. In a statement he insisted that “I have conducted myself with the honesty and integrity expected of someone in my position and have 31 years unblemished professional record”. He presented himself at a Belfast police station, voluntarily, for an interview under caution.

He added: “I have fully co-operated with the investigation and will continue to do so. I hope to work with the Police and Crime Commissioner to bring about a quick and positive resolution to this matter so I can return to serving the people of West Yorkshire as soon as possible.”

The criminal investigation was concluded a year later with no charges being laid against Gilmore. His suspension was lifted by Burns-Williamson, but he was immediately placed on gardening leave. The effect was, more or less, the same. Gilmore was barred from West Yorkshire Police premises and could have no contact with any of the officers over whom he, notionally, had command. The criminal investigation was replaced by a misconduct probe led by Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques of Lancashire Police. It was codenamed Operation Barium. The terms of reference and cost for that probe are currently the subject of a freedom of information request.

The cost at this point to the taxpayers of West Yorkshire of funding two chief constables was in the region of £200,000. Burns-Williamson sought to deflect criticism by concocting a role with the National Police Chiefs Council (formerly ACPO in all but name) whereby Gilmore was supposed to be occupied by the implementation of an intranet system for the chief officers involved with the Council.

Bradford councillor, Michael Walls, a member of the police scrutiny panel said at the time: “It seems improper that the West Yorkshire taxpayer is funding an officer on a very significant salary, to undertake work benefitting the residents of London”. Which wasn’t quite accurate, but the sentiment was well meant.

Burns-Williamson, meanwhile, was deaf to the criticism and appeared to be clinging grimly on to the hope that Gilmore would be cleared by the Barium probe and he could return to police HQ.

On 9th August 2016, almost 26 months since he was suspended, Gilmore announced he was retiring from the police service and would not be returning to the West Yorkshire force, irrespective of the outcome of Operation Barium.

As ever with Burns-Williamson, there is a troubling deceit about such matters and it now revealed that the report was delivered by Lancashire Police on 26th July, 2016 to the Commissioner’s office. A spokesman says that the PCC plans to publish the report ‘as soon as practicable’, but fails to clarify why that cannot be immediately. It also remains unclear, at present, as to whether Operation Barium’s remit covered Gilmore’s involvement in the highly lucrative PFI building contracts.

The Chair of the police scrutiny panel, Alison Lowe, a close Labour party ally of Burns-Williamson, says he is currently on holiday and that she didn’t expect to be briefed by him until the next panel meeting in September. She didn’t even know that the report had been in Burns-Williamson’s hands for the past two weeks. Which, given my own extensive experience of dealing with Cllr Lowe’s hapless panel, is entirely in character. She added that she felt that Gilmore’s retirement was a “good thing”. But made no mention of the huge burden placed on the taxpayer for the previous 26 months amounting to a sum in excess of £600,000.

The last words, at least until the Barium report is put under the x-ray, goes to Mark Polin, Chair of the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA). He said in May, 2016: “Mark Gilmore remains committed to working alongside the police and crime commissioner to serve the communities of West Yorkshire”.

Mr Polin added “We are disappointed at the length of time the investigation has taken, which follows satisfactory resolution of the Northern Ireland and IPCC investigations, and Mr Gilmore looks forward to this matter being resolved as soon as possible.”

It is understood that CPOSA’s insurers have been underwriting Gilmore’s legal fees in defence of any contemplated actions against him. Mr Polin was not so forthcoming when contacted for comment this week.

 

Page last updated: Sunday 14th August, 2016 at 0855hrs

© Neil Wilby 2015-2016. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo credit: Huddersfield Examiner

 

David Crompton: The South Yorkshire Police years

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The recently suspended Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, David Crompton, joined the police service in 1982. He is the son of Sir Dan Crompton, a former Manchester officer who later became Chief Constable of Notts Constabulary.

Crompton senior topped up his post-retirement pension by serving with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, a sinecure which is now most noted for him describing Hillsborough justice campaigners, in writing, as ‘vindictive, vexatious and cruel’ as a result of them opposing the appointment of Norman Bettison as Chief Constable of Merseyside.

15,000 Liverpool people, led by the indomitable Sheila Coleman, signed a protest petition – and it has never been clarified whether those scandalous words applied to the entire throng. For more background on the disgraceful conduct of Crompton Snr, and sight of a copy of that shocking letter, click here.

Crompton junior, a public schoolboy educated at fee-paying Bury Grammar School, and later a geography graduate of Salford University, was always going to have advantages not open to, shall we say, an ordinary bobby. He rose to the rank of Chief Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police, during which time (in 1994) he graduated through the Common Purpose programme, and transferred to West Yorkshire Police (WYP) in 2004, taking up the role of Assistant Chief Constable.

At that time, WYP was embroiled in a huge corruption scandal that was being investigated by neighbours, North Yorkshire Police, under the codename Operation Douglas. Crompton seems now, with hindsight, to have been a highly appropriate choice to assist in the orchestrating of a cover up in which no WYP officer, out of the eighteen that were identified as committing serious criminal offences, was ever prosecuted. Indeed, it is true to say that not one criminal in uniform even faced a disciplinary hearing.

Lord Justice Simon Brown, in a withering Supreme Court ruling, described some of those offences by West Yorkshire Police officers as part of the worst prosecutorial misconduct he had ever encountered by a police force. A full report on Operation Douglas can be found here.

David Crompton  became Deputy to the infamous Bettison in 2006 after the disgraced knight returned to policing following a two year sabbatical at CENTREX, an ACPO-funded police training organisation. Crompton’s other failings, apart from Operation Douglas, some of them equally disastrous, in those WYP roles, before and during the Bettison years, are covered elsewhere in some detail by uPSD (click here).

Given what was already known about David Crompton, his father’s callous attitude towards bereaved Hillsborough families, and following the disastrous tenure as an ACPO ranked officer at WYP, it would strike the independent observer as incredible that he could ever be chosen to lead a police force, even one as thoroughly discredited as its  South Yorkshire neighbour.

But South Yorkshire Police (SYP) had become desperate by the Spring of  2012, having first advertised the post of Chief Constable the previous Autumn, at the time of the departure of the now disgraced, Meredydd Hughes (pictured below). That initial selection process resulted in all the candidates, including Crompton, being rejected as not good enough.

A second attempt to hand over the poisoned chalice was undertaken and Crompton applied again (he was, according to a well placed source, being plugged for the role by Labour Party contacts close to the appointing body, South Yorkshire Police Authority). Two candidates came through this renewed process, including Crompton (even though he had been passed over first time around), but once Stuart Hyde withdrew his candidacy to take up the Chief’s role at Cumbria Constabulary,  SYP and Crompton were stuck with each other.

Some may even say, deserved one another.

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Meredydd Hughes giving evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee in September, 2014. By the end of the session his reputation was in tatters.

One of Crompton’s very first acts, as a newly promoted Chief Constable, was to try and bury a perjury/perverting the course of justice complaint against one of his own South Yorkshire road traffic officers, PC 480 Gary Garner. Aided and abetted by his Head of Professional Standards, DCS Neil Jessop, who was one of the on-duty Hillsborough officers referred to the IPCC in September 2012. Jessop was, however, allowed to scuttle off into retirement in February 2013, even though his 30 years service were not completed until three months later. This neatly avoided any awkward questions over the Hillsborough cover-up, but would not protect Jessop if a rigorous criminal enquiry was instigated over the Garner cover-up.

The intended victim of the frame-up was none other than the author of this piece, Neil Wilby. But the Crown Prosecution Service withdrew the charge against him, less than a month before the intended trial date. There was no longer a realistic prospect of a conviction grounded in Garner’s deliberately false evidence. But pursuing their police officers for perjured CJA Section 9 witness statements – and prosecuting them – is not how things work in South Yorkshire Police, as Hillsborough and Orgreave justice campaigners well know.

Notwithstanding, of course, the comment attributed to Crompton in this BBC piece: “I think that if people (police officers) are shown to have acted criminally then they should face prosecution”. Click here to read full article.

Crompton himself was under investigation by an outside police force – supervised by the IPCC – at the time of publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report (12th September, 2012). This investigation had commenced in May 2012 and followed discrimination allegations made against him by no less than the former Legal Services Director at West Yorkshire Police, Ajaz Hussain. A fact Crompton conveniently forget to mention to reporters, TV crews and millions of readers/viewers around the UK, and beyond, on the fateful day that the truth emerged about the sheer depth and reach of the Hillsborough cover-up.

Crompton is now famously exposed by the Daily Star as needing a hug and re-assurance from ACPO’s Sir Hugh Orde on the day the Panel Report was published. It might have been said a bucket of ice cold water to wake him up would have been more prescriptive. Crompton didn’t even know who Margaret Aspinall was, until Mark Thompson, the now-departed Head of Media at SYP reminded him: “David, she’s chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group. She lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster.” Readers will draw their own conclusions from that gaffe.

In February 2013, even worse emerged when Crompton was forced to apologise as emails, that he had tried desperately to conceal from public view for months, were forced into the public domain. He accused one of the campaign groups representing Hillsborough families of “lying”. He made the comments in the offending email four days before the publication of the Panel report in September 2012. He said the families’ “version of certain events has become ‘the truth’ even though it isn’t“.

Crompton has not specified what falsehoods he was referring to and has consistently refused to make himself available to answer any further questions. Which is typical of the man known as a “walking disaster” at West Yorkshire Police.

In that particular round of correspondence, Crompton emailed the force’s Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt (also ACPO lead for football policing matters), and Mark Thompson (see above) on 8th September 2012, four days before the HIP Report was released. The offensive email was ordered to be disclosed by the then South Yorkshire Police & Crime commissioner, Shaun Wright, following a Freedom of Information request by the Daily Star’s Jonathan Corke. The game was up for Crompton as soon as that decision was reached.

The Police Commissioner said the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, had both been informed of the existence of the email and Wright was “disappointed at the use of such languaged” by Crompton. IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long concurred – and noted that the content of David Crompton’s email was “at best ill judged, and at worst offensive and upsetting

In the email, Crompton asked for a meeting with Holt and Thompson to discuss launching a web page about Hillsborough, with links to documents. Including previous apologies and memos. He continued: “We then publicise it on Twitter. In effect, it amounts to the case for the defence. One thing is certain – the Hillsborough Campaign for Justice (sic) will be doing their version…..in fact their version of certain events has become ‘the truth’ even though it isn’t“. A quite astonishing passage in the light of subsequent revelations and jury determinations at the new Hillsborough inquests.

Three days after the publication of the HIP report, during which the Prime Minister apologised twice for what the bereaved families, and survivors, had suffered at the hands of South Yorkshire Police, Crompton made his now infamous ‘The Cupboard is Bare’ statement, concerning what had already been disclosed to the Panel, exclusively to a local newspaper (click here to read the full article). Subsequent events showed that Crompton had lied to the Sheffield Star (as he set out to deceive throughout almost all of his WYP tenure) as revelation after revelation emerged about what had not been disclosed to the Hillsborough Independent Panel by South Yorkshire Police. A situation that was to repeat itself during the IPCC’s two year scoping investigation into events at the Orgreave coking plant in June 1984 and the fitting-up of striking miners with false criminal charges arising from events of that fateful day – and beyond.

The Orgreave miscarriages of justice were referred by Crompton to the IPCC in November 2012, following a David Conn piece ‘Hillsborough and the Battle of Orgreave: One police force, two disgraces’ that appeared in The Guardian (click here for full story), which then led to a BBC Inside Out documentary outlining the criminality of South Yorkshire Police officers (click here).

In fairness to Crompton, he was a beat bobby in Manchester when the criminal acts by SYP officers at Orgreave (and in other mining communities) took place. He was, however, in charge of the force when the IPCC complained publicly, more than once, about their scoping investigation being obstructed by SYP’s failure to release all relevant documentation.

At the outcome of the IPCC’s exercise it was very clear from their two reports that serious criminal offences were disclosed (read full IPCC reports here). Instead of arrests and charges being brought against the mainly senior officers responsible, Crompton ducked in behind the quite incredulous line peddled by the IPCC: The offences took place too long ago and it’s not proportionate to deal with the perpetrators through the criminal justice system. The unspoken proposition being that if a police cover-up can be kept going long enough no officer will be charged at the end of it.

Also laid bare was the lie that Crompton told the whole country in September 2012 when he said anyone guilty of a criminal offence should be prosecuted. Orgreave justice campaigners are presently awaiting news from the Home Secretary as to whether she will order a public inquiry, following a recent meeting with her in Westminster.

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Andrew Norfolk – award winning journalist at The Times newspaper

The Rotherham child sex abuse scandal had already been broken open by The Times’ Andrew Norfolk (pictured above) in the same month as the Hillsborough truth day – and it was to reveal a scale of police incompetence, indifference and, in some cases downright wickedness, exhibited whilst hundreds and possibly thousands of young girls were being raped, trafficked and tortured.

What the The Times investigation was also to reveal, once more, was the permanent mindset of the already discredited chief of South Yorkshire Police. David Crompton immediately tried to downplay the piece and sought to discredit Norfolk’s reporting, which has, of course, subsequently received universal acclaim and won many awards.

Crompton’s November 2012 letter to Home Affairs Select Committee can be read by clicking here. In it, Crompton falsely and, it is believed deliberately, claimed that the problem of children being systematically raped was nowhere near as extensive as had been claimed in the newspaper reports and he, further, attached credence to a 2010 co-agency child sex exploitation report, in which South Yorkshire Police were key stakeholders. This ‘whitewash’ has subsequently been entirely discredited by first, the 2013 Jay Report (read here) and later, the 2014 Casey Report (read here). Both of which were hugely critical of the roles of South Yorkshire Police (and Rotherham Council).

The criticisms were not confined to historic events either that, in theory, would leave Crompton, largely, in the clear. The condemnations of the police inaction, up to the time of writing of both reports, were both stinging and relentless: Crompton’s force was still badly letting down victims, long after he became Chief Constable.

He has made two subsequent appearances at the Home Affairs Select Committee when his evidence has, at best, appeared unconvincing and, in places, hopelessly inadequate. These dressings-down by the cross-party panel of MP’s have led directly to the National Crime Agency being appointed to take over primary responsibility for child sex investigation in South Yorkshire – and indirectly to an external inspection of the force being ordered by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings. It is, therefore, safe to say that Crompton has lost the faith and trust of his masters – not to mention victims and the wider public – to be able to deal effectively with the protection of children on his patch.

The hardworking and inspirational Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion, also has very little faith in Crompton as she rounded on him as recently as February 2015 in this Helen Pidd interview in The Guardian. Miss Champion didn’t mince her words and accused the Force of “crass policing” when dealing with CSE victims (full Guardian piece here).

For those that have the time, and the specialist interest, the full portfolio of The Times investigations into grooming and child sexual abuse, spread over five years and across into many areas of the country, can be read by clicking here. Whilst the shocking and wilful negligence, and seeming complicity in child sexual exploitation, by South Yorkshire Police looms large – other forces such as Thames Valley and Greater Manchester also fare badly. The latter, of course, one of the other forces scrutinised by Neil Wilby and uPSD.

Turning attention back, specifically, to Crompton, he is not only incompetent and dishonest, proven many times over, he is also incredibly thick-skinned (or possibly just thick) and largely indifferent to criticism, in whatever form that arrives. He also cares little for the feelings of victims, or for public opinion. Despite his constant bleating to the contrary.

A vivid demonstration of those characteristics came in August 2014 when he recruited his old West Yorkshire Police chum, Ingrid Lee, as an Assistant Chief Constable. Lee has three major claims to fame in her policing career: none of which look too attractive in the cold light of day. During her tenure as Head of Organised Crime in WYP, her team managed to have £3.5 million of Class A drugs (cocaine, heroin and cannabis largely) stolen from their property and exhibits store at the showpiece Carr Gate complex in Wakefield. These drugs were then recycled back on to the streets of Leeds and made the thieves, which included one of her own detectives (DC Nick McFadden), around £1.8 million in cash.

Incredulously, after he was first arrested, McFadden was offered a plea bargain, sanctioned by Lee, that if he admitted to theft by finding (he had claimed he found a bag with a large quantity of cash in it by the M62 motorway) then no drugs, or money laundering charges, would be brought. He would get a sentence of 4 years, rather than the 23 years in prison that he actually received.

Another former member of Lee’s aptly named Organised Crime Group found himself in jail soon after. This was long serving Detective Sergeant Chris Taylor, who was sentenced to three years in prison for his part in the infamous multi-million pound Muldoon timeshare fraud.

Lastly, but most crucially, Ingrid Lee was the subject of derision in every national press and broadcast outlet following her disgraceful Operation Newgreen report which ‘whitewashed’ West Yorkshire Police’s role in allowing Jimmy Savile to evade capture for almost fifty years, during which time he was regularly sex offending against children in and around his home city of Leeds. It was an astonishingly inept piece of work, dishonestly grounded – and a kick in the teeth for Savile’s many victims. Why then, did David Crompton, just months later, pick Lee as a member of his Command Team and then earmark her for a role as CSE spokeswoman for the Force?

It is almost as if he is mocking child sex abuse victims.

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Ingrid Lee – her infamous Operation Newgreen report made her a laughing stock

In September 2014, just a month after Ingrid Lee (pictured above) had joined the SYP team, Crompton was in hot water again with the Home Affairs Select Committee. This time a bungled house raid of pop star Sir Cliff Richard‘s home in Sunningdale, Berkshire which was filmed throughout via helicopter and ground cameras and broadcast live by the BBC.

It was a hapless freak show organised personally by Crompton and his Head of Communications, Carrie Goodwin, who is another ex WYP recruit to the Crompton ‘gang’. Goodwin, incidentally, was part of the WYP Comms team that put out the infamous Sir Norman Bettison ‘blame the Liverpool fans’ press release which, indirectly, led to Bettison leaving the police service six weeks later. (Miss Goodwin is also responsible for recruitment of a SYP Hillsborough PR specialist on £45,000 pa, who worked for three months and spent the subsequent nine months on sick leave).

Cliff Richard has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. He was interviewed by the police ten days after the televised, five-hour trawl of his property in connection with an offence that took place 30 years ago and 160 miles away. Keith Vaz, on behalf of HASC told Crompton that he, and his police force, were guilty of ‘sheer incompetence’. The beleaguered chief then wrote to Vaz in February 2015 to say that the investigation into Cliff Richard ‘had increased significantly in size’. This was yet another example of Crompton’s economy with truth: The investigation by then comprised of just three allegations in total, now reduced to two as one of the allegations has proved incapable of substantiation.

There has, to date, still been no arrest or charges brought against the alleged perpetrator in an investigation that now stretches almost into its nineteenth month. It is a shambles and it is not difficult to hypothesise that, ultimately, this will lead to a hugely embarrassing climbdown by Crompton. It would also lead to immediate civil action launched by Richards’ solicitors, Kingsley Napley, who will be seeking a huge sum in damages from South Yorkshire Police on behalf of their client.

At a more basic policing level, South Yorkshire Police under its hapless, hopeless chief constable are a disaster: In October 2014 following freedom of information requests it was discovered that the force has a staggering 75% of its crimes unsolved which begs the question what officers do all day apart from create a villain’s paradise.

Crimes which have not been solved in just the past four years include four murders, 14 attempted murders, 13 child abductions, over 100,000 thefts and 61,320 reports of criminal damage. A full newspaper report on the crisis can be read here. Just two months later, it was revealed in the same newspaper that a staggering 28 murders remain unsolved by SYP and that the force’s cold case review team faced extinction. So, apart from thousands of children being raped, trafficked and tortured in the area for decades there are probably two dozen, or more, murderers running loose on the patch.

Most recently, South Yorkshire Police have come under yet another stinging attack following the publication of a report compiled by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. It finds that, up to June 2015, the force are still letting victims of child sex abuse down. Of 28 investigations examined by HMIC, only 2 (two) were up to scratch. The report (which can be read in full here) is yet another damning indictment of Crompton and the force he commands, including his CSE lead, Ingrid Lee. Calls for Crompton’s resignation have been led by former Sheffield Council leader and now life peer, Lord Scriven.

So, the Teflon Man survived yet anther crisis – and ten years of the most alarming catalogue of quite catastrophic failures both at South Yorkshire Police and, before that, in the West Yorkshire force still see him serving as a police leader. Little wonder that morale in the force is at rock bottom and the rank and file officers are leaving the force in droves, according to local Police Federation chairman, Neil Bowles.

David Crompton has endeared himself little to front line bobbies, almost from the moment he arrived in post as Chief Constable. Within the first two weeks, he had announced a barmy plan to replace all beat constables with community officers, a scheme that was widely condemned by police commentators and senior politicians, which included the Labour leader at the time, Ed Miliband and a former Home Secretary and Sheffield MP, David Blunkett. Crompton excused the fiasco by describing it as ‘a storm in a teacup’ but many viewed it as a clear signposting of the chaotic shambles that has been a feature of his reign, ever since. (The full Daily Mail story on the PCSO plan can be read by clicking here).

But the final nail in the Crompton coffin may come sooner rather than later with the publication of Operation Lamp. An investigation by Greater Manchester Police into widespread corruption in West Yorkshire Police that led to the malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment of one of its own officers (read more here). The man who dismissed ex PC Danny Major (pictured below with father Eric) from the Force in a quite breathtaking kangaroo court was – you’ve guessed it – David Crompton. It may not be the biggest surprise, either, to learn that the man who has advocated on behalf of the Major family for the past three years, and brought about the GMP investigation, is the author of this piece, Neil Wilby.

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Danny Major (right) pictured in happier times with father, Eric, at Danny’s wedding.

Page last updated Wednesday 27th April, 2016 at 2220hrs

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