Bradford GP hits out after latest High Court success

A full report of a handed down judgment of Mr Justice Lavender, Presiding Judge of the North Eastern Circuit, appeared exclusively on this website yesterday evening (read in full here). It followed an appeal to the High Court in Leeds against the dismissal of a wrongful arrest claim, at Bradford County Court, a year ago.

Dr Abdul Rashid, a highly respected GP and medico-legal practitioner, had been arrested at his home in March 2012. A dawn raid involving sixteen officers found him asleep, along with his wife and three young children. The High Court judge found that the arrest was unnecessary and, therefore, unlawful.

Dr Rashid said after the remote hearing yesterday:

“The past eight years have been incredibly stressful for both me and my family in putting right all the wrongs caused by the unlawful arrest, which the High Court has now ruled to have been completely unnecessary. Not least, succeeding at judicial review in 2012, following a suspension from practicing as a GP, instigated by these same police officers, then being exonerated by the General Medical Council in 2016 of all the numerous false complaints made by these officers, and now this latest court success, 4 years later, gives some measure of vindication, but very little satisfaction. The chief constable should now publicly, and sincerely, apologise for the appalling conduct of not only a significant number of his own officers, but also those that represent him”. 

He added; “There should be a full investigation by the police watchdog into the fact that the police officer who arrested me was also holding himself out, at the same time, as a Private Detective to insurance firms, through a bogus company, and the whereabouts of the £183,000 said by the police themselves to have been paid to this officer by an insurance company at the time he carried out this completely unnecessary and unlawful arrest. The police watchdog, and the CPS, should also be looking very carefully at the transcript of the evidence given in court by DC Lunn‘s line manager, DI Mark Taylor, and ask why he complied with an order by a senior officer in a conspiracy to keep the improper activities of the former DC Lunn secret from the all of the suspects his police force was prosecuting, their legal teams and the trial jury, which may make their trial unfair and convictions unsafe”.

Finally, he said: “I am very grateful to my barrister, Mr. Ian Pennock, who has remained steadfast throughout this ordeal and, along the way, has put those who believed they could deny me justice, firmly in their place”.

A response to enquiries made to West Yorkshire Police press office yesterday is still awaited.

Page last updated: Saturday 26th September, 2020 at 2035 hours

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. 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 Ne

Senior judge dismisses complaint over Recorder’s ‘offensive’ tweet.

An appeal has been filed against a judgment given by Lady Justice Carr DBE following a complaint against Mr Recorder Nolan QC to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO).

The complaint concerned a tweet posted on social media by the part-time, fee-paid judge in the late evening of 18th June, 2020:

It appears that the subject Twitter account has now been deleted.

The Middle Temple website states: “Ben Nolan was called to the Bar in 1971 and took silk in 1992. He lives in the Yorkshire Dales and practices across the North-Eastern and Northern Circuits with chambers in Newcastle, York and Manchester. He has a mixed practice and is noted in Legal 500 as a ‘well known circuit heavyweight in serious crime’. He is a Recorder and Deputy High Court Judge. He is actively involved in advocacy training in the Inn and on circuit”.

Recorder Nolan features elsewhere on this website (read here) after presiding over a high-profile and notably acrimonious civil claim in September, 2019. His heavily criticised judgment is, presently, the subject of an appeal to the High Court (read here).

In a complaint outcome letter dated 21st August, 2020 the JCIO say:

In her judgment, the Nominated Judge (NJ) concluded that “I do not consider that the posting of the tweet amounted to judicial misconduct. The tweet was not sent from a judicial account. The details of the account did not identify its holder as a judge. Nor did the contents of the tweet identify in any way that the author was a judge. In short, the tweet contained a private expression of opinion, albeit in offensive language, on the part of the Judge in circumstances that did not implicate him as a judicial office holder. In these circumstances, it did not risk bringing the judiciary into disrepute”. The NJ also considered that “the tweet did not reflect any social prejudice on the part of the Judge. Rather it reflected what the Judge had seen in the newspapers and on television”. Accordingly, the complaint has been dismissed under Rule 41 (b) of the Judicial Conduct (Judicial and other office holders) Rules 2014.

A copy of the judgment was not provided to the complainant.

He has appealed the findings in these terms:

“I appeal the outcome of a complaint investigation into a judge as conducted by JCIO on the grounds as seen below. Evidence is attached. Copies of the original tweets can be obtained from JCIO. The outcome letter to the complaint states: 

The tweet was not sent from a judicial account. The details of the account did not identify its holder as a judge.

The March 2020 Guide to Judicial Conduct states: 

Judges should be aware; however, that participation in public debate on any topic may entail the risk of undermining public perception in the impartiality of the judiciary whether or not a judge’s comments would lead to recusal from a particular case. This risk arises in part because the judge will not have control over the terms of the debate or the interpretation given to his or her comments.

The risk of expressing views that will give rise to issues of bias or pre-judgment in future cases before the judge is a particular factor to be considered. This risk will seldom arise from what a judge has said in other cases, but will arise if a judge has taken part publicly in a political or controversial discussion.For these reasons, judges must always be circumspect before accepting any invitation, or taking any step, to engage in public debate. Consultation with their relevant leadership judge20 before doing so will almost always be desirable.Where a judge decides to participate in public debate, he or she should be careful to ensure that the occasion does not create a public perception of partiality towards a particular organisation (including a set of chambers or firm of solicitors), group or cause or to a lack of even handedness. Care should also be taken therefore, about the place at which and the occasion on which a judge speaks. Participation in public protests and demonstrations may well involve substantial risks of this kind and, further, be inconsistent with the dignity of judicial office.


This is stated in the context of post on social media or to newspapers etc. There is no requirement in the Conduct Regulations that a judge is able to state anything he or she wishes provided he is not identified as a judge. The rules apply to judiciary regardless of if they are commenting from a personal perspective, or as a judicial office holder. Different rules apply to such as The Secret Barrister who is believed to be a member of counsel but is not identified directly as such. 

There is no mention made in the Conduct regulations that the judge is able to publicise his own views regardless of if he mentions his judicial office or not. The rules apply equally to if comments are made in relation to someone identifying themselves as a judge or not. 

The response of The Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Carr hinges on the basis that the judge was not identified on his Twitter account as a judge. This is the basis for her dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that the judge was not identified as such. This is not relevant to the complaint and has been seized upon as grounds to dismiss the complaint erroneously and contrary to the relevant rules. I was able to identify the Twitter account holder as a judge and the majority of the persons following the account will also have been aware that he was a fee paid judge from either media or professional connections. The basis on which the complaint has been dismissed is therefore spurious and erroneous. 

I refer also to the comment in the outcome letter which states:

“the tweet did not reflect any social prejudice on the part of the Judge. Rather it reflected what the Judge had seen in the newspapers and on television”.


This is problematic in a number of areas. Firstly why would Nolan comments on something that he has learned from second-hand experience? Is also his comment not reflective of social prejudice on the part of the source material in which he has seen such comments? Finally has the judge been asked the question of where this opinion came from (either his own or some form of repetition of a third party opinion) by JCIO in the course of the investigation? Were the sources of these ideas stated and relevant enquiries made to ascertain if these were the sources of such ideas? Regardless of if a prejudice has been obtained from TV or newspapers the expressing of the same ideation by a person – particularly a person intelligent enough to recognise them as being prejudice – is effectively them expressing the same prejudice. 

Any expression of social prejudice on the part of a judge is, I would submit, an exceptionally concerning matter. 


I wrote to ask JCIO:  Finally: you state a copy of the outcome letter has been sent to the judge. Is this identical to the copy sent to me? 

And JCIO replied: Yes, the same copy as stated in my letter of 21 August.

This being the case is it not so that now the judge at the centre of the complaint has the name of the person who made the complaint, as seen in the top left hand corner of the letter sent to me? Is this a breach of relevant data protection guidance? 

For this reason I appeal the complaint outcome to the Ombudsman.”

Recorder Nolan has been approached for comment.

The Judicial Conduct Investigation Office has been approached for clarification on timescale for finalising the appeal. They have also been asked to provide a copy of the judgment for wider publication.

A copy of the Amended Guide to Judicial Conduct, referred to in the complainant’s appeal, can be read here.

Page last updated: Thursday 23rd September, 2020 at 0605 hours

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

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Day of reckoning

In the summer of 2009, a dispute began between two erstwhile business partners when Bradford businessman, Stephen Thomas, walked into a police station and reported concerns over his dealings with Ralph Christie, a Leeds-born flooring retailer and contractor turned property developer, who had risen to prominence on the paradise Greek island of Crete over the course of the previous seven years.

The report led to the issue of civil proceedings by Thomas against Christie and two criminal trials in which Christie appeared as defendant. The first in Chania, the Cretan capital in 2013 and the second in the more urban surroundings of Bradford Crown Court in West Yorkshire, UK (read more here).

Judgment was given in favour of Thomas in the civil proceedings, in April 2013, whilst Christie was incarcerated in a Greek jail on Crete, ahead of the criminal trial. The claim totalled over 1.6 million euros.

At the Greek criminal trial, where Christie faced fraud and money laundering charges, he was emphatically acquitted. Thomas fled the island along with two other key prosecution witnesses, Susan Watt and Neil Waite, on the morning of the trial. In Greece, if civil proceedings are issued, the court, via judicial investigators, has the powers to advance the claim to criminal proceedings.

They claimed that they were the subject of intimidation, although the evidence behind that claim appears to be sparse and no proceedings have ever been brought against any alleged perpetrators, despite submissions to that effect by lawyers on behalf of Thomas, at the outset of the criminal trial, which caused an adjournment of almost 3 weeks.

Neither Thomas, nor Ms Watt, nor his civil lawyers turned up at the resumed hearing on 14th October, 2013.

In Bradford, fifteen months later, the jury cleared Christie of 14 of the 19 counts on the indictment. He was found guilty of the remaining 5, all for fraud by false representation, and received a sentence of 7 years imprisonment. Those guilty counts are still hotly disputed, as is the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) Order that was subsequently made in the same court in 2018 (read more here).

Two of the three witnesses who had fled Crete before the trial there did, however, give prosecution evidence in the Bradford trial. However, the jury did not believe either Watt, on seven of eight counts, or Waite on a separate single count. The guilty count, which concerned Stephen Thomas’ brother, Simon Thomas, is, according to Ralph Christie, the most controversial of the five.

A value of £55 million attached to all the offences on the indictment had been reduced to £486,000, plus interest by the time the POCA Order was made. Costing millions of pounds, and thousands of police officer, CPS lawyer and court hours, it amounts to one of the most spectacularly failed, and expensive, fraud investigations in police history. Yet, not one single West Yorkshire Police officer has faced a complaint investigation as a result of that shambles and the force remain determined to use every means possible to avoid doing so.

Ralph Christie contends strongly that his youngest brother, Cedric, a former police officer was the unseen hands behind the significant rise in the number of criminal charges that had grown from three to five to nineteen from the committal hearing at the now defunct Calderdale Magistrates Court, in April 2012 up to the final trial.

Stephen Thomas did not give evidence at Bradford, in spite of being the star witness for the police for years; nor did he feature on the indictment along with his former property development partner. Belated disclosures from West Yorkshire Police show that there were over 200 exhibits attached to his various statements made against Ralph Christie. None of which were in either the used, or unused, schedules of materials used, respectively, by the Crown Prosecution Service or disclosed to the defence team at trial. At least one of those exhibits was tainted as it comprised materials stolen from Ralph Christie’s villa in September, 2009. A fact of which WYP, and the Crown, were very well aware. But it didn’t appear an impediment to the latter when relying on that material during a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing in March, 2018.

An extraordinary situation and one that begs the question: What was Thomas saying to the police, and vice-versa, in all that time, and what were the police telling the CPS? One interesting fact that has emerged simply adds to the odour: The solicitor representing Stephen Thomas at the time, Phillip Sweeney of Opus Law, wrote to Detective Constable Charles Skidmore of West Yorkshire Police and pointed out that the witness statement presented to his client to sign was ‘neither accurate nor succinct nor representative of his [Stephen Thomas’] intructions to you’.

That inaccurate witness statement, processed by Skidmore, has never been produced to Ralph Christie, or his legal team during either criminal or civil proceedings, or via data subject access requests.

Thomas also appears to have enjoyed a charmed life, and a police and prosecutor safety net, with regard to other complaints and proceedings brought against him by his ex-wife, Jane Thomas, who alleges large scale fraud. These allegations feature in the judgment of the Greek criminal court. Matters that her former husband still denies. A final hearing is set to take place to settle these long running issues at Bradford Law Courts in November, 2020.

DC Skidmore has always been the subject of fierce criticism by Ralph Christie over his incompetence and apparent confirmation bias. Apart from the issues concerning the witness testimony of Stephen Thomas, the truthfulness, and motive, of a letter drafted by Skidmore and sent by David Levy, a very senior prosecutor, to the Greek authorities in 2011 has also been persistently and robustly challenged. To add to those, the background to how a memory stick belonging to Ralph Christie, believed to be product from the burglary at his villa in Crete in 2009, turned up at Dudley Hill Police Station in Bradford during the same month has never been properly explained by the police, or DC Skidmore, who was the officer fronting the investigation.

Yet the errant officer was allowed to retire from the force without facing any internal investigation, let alone sanction. A remark that also applies to the senior investigating officer in Operation Laggan, the codename for the ill-starred investigation set up to snare Ralph Christie. That was the hapless Detective Inspector Stephen Taylor. Formerly a close working colleague of Cedric Christie in the force’s Economic Crime Unit.

In December, 2011, a few months after he had retired, Cedric wrote to DI Taylor about the case against his elder brother and said: ‘You are really scraping the barrel now and you know what I mean. This concocted farce started just over 3 years ago and still no charges’.

The missive from his former colleague appeared to galvanise DI Taylor as the first charge was laid against Ralph Christie six weeks later. A theft charge upon which the jury returned a not guilty charge at Bradford Crown Court over three years later. The Greek authorities did not charge Christie with theft based on the same evidential materials.

On 22nd September 2020, at the picturesque Chania Court House in the administrative capital of Crete, Ralph Christie and Stephen Thomas are set to face one another in a further legal renewal. This time it is Christie who is in the driving seat in a much delayed appeal against the civil judgment, granted in favour of Thomas, as referred to earlier in this piece.

Given the findings of a three judge panel at the criminal trial, including the senior appellate judge on the island of Crete, in the same courtroom, Christie quite rightly assesses his chance of success as better than 50%. The bench found the Thomas allegations of fraud against Christie unproven and had some harsh words regarding his own conduct in concealing substantial investments abroad from his ex-wife during an acrimonious divorce settlement – and also from the UK and Greek tax authorities.

The three senior judges were also emphatic that the two men were business partners over a significant period, with ample documentation to that effect, despite a 54 page witness statement, filed and served by Thomas, going to considerable lengths to persuade the court that was not the case.

Under Greek law, that may pose a difficulty for him if he returns to the island for the hearing of civil claim appeal.

It is expected that the hearing will be relatively short, judgment will be reserved and handed down sometime during mid- to late October, 2020.

Ralph Christie, who will be represented by local lawyer George Komisopolis at the hearing says: “I am very hopeful that justice will prevail here in what is now my home country. The quashing of this judgment against me will impact markedly on other actions I am taking to clear my name, including the challenge against the Proceeds of Crime Order against me. That hearing, in my opinion, should have been delayed until after the conclusion of these proceedings in Chania”. He was previously represented by Dr Themistoklis Sofos, a leading Athens lawyer.

Stephen Thomas has been approached for comment. He is represented by Athenian lawyer Andreas Voltis and the Chania lawyer Nikolaos Giakoumakis.

UPDATE: A short report on the hearing can be read here.

Page last updated: Wednesday 23rd September, 2020 at 1000 hours

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

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

© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. 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.

‘A grubby little police force’

This catchphrase, now widely shared on social media and indelibly associated with Durham Constabulary, was first coined in November 2016 as part of communication between journalist, Neil Wilby, and the force, concerning a concise, plainly expressed freedom of information request (read in full here).

The disposal of that request quickly turned very ugly after Durham made, very arguably, the worst and most offensive response in the history of the Freedom of Information Act, 2000. It was an unwarranted, unvarnished, libellous attack by a police force, against an enquiring reporter, that also contained a series of deliberate and inexcusable untruths. There had never been any communication or interaction between them prior to that request, which made a response of that deeply offensive nature all the more inexplicable and inexcusable.

Those police officers responsible, both civilian and warranted, should, on any independent view, have faced a criminal investigation or, at the very least, a disciplinary hearing. A clearer case of misconduct in public office or, in police regulations parlance, disreputable conduct, would be hard to find.

Interestingly, the senior officer with portfolio holder responsibility for information rights at that time was Deputy Chief Constable Jo Farrell, since promoted to the top rank following the sudden, inexplicable ‘retirement’ of her predecessor, the vastly overblown Mike Barton.

Their motivation, it seems, was to frustrate a journalistic investigation into yet another shoddy operation, in a lengthy cataloge in that era, by North Yorkshire Police. Durham’s part in that probe is that they had, allegedly, taken over a fraud investigation from NYP as it involved a very prominent, and influential, former police authority Chair in North Yorkshire, Jane Kenyon. Over the years, a regular object of derision in the satirical magazine, Private Eye, regarding her dubious business dealings (read more here).

The criminal ‘investigation’ also featured Thomas William Miller, a Scarborough councillor better known as Bill, who is now married to Kenyon. The victims of the alleged fraud were one Miller’s sons, Jeremy, and his daughter in law, Karen. All four had been involved in a company called Dales Timber Ltd.

In the event, disclosure was refused by Durham after a series of ludicrous, childish, unlawful posts on the What Do They Know website, upon which the request was first posted. They relied on Section 14 of the Act, saying the request was ‘vexatious’, without actually explaining why.

Following a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Durham decision was overturned. During the watchdog’s investigation the police force continued their smearing campaign against the journalist. Given weight to the argument that this was not about an information request but much more about pursuing a vendetta.

They eventually, and reluctantly, made partial disclosure from which it could readily be deduced that the fraud ‘investigation’ on behalf of NYP was a sham. There was simply no intention to gather probative evidence, take statements from key witnesses and/or suspects, seize evidence or apply the necessary rigour to what, on any independent view, was a very serious matter involving a high profile public figure with a history of dodgy dealing. Efforts since, via the Police and Crime Commissioner, the disgraced Julia Mulligan, a close Conservative Party associate of Jane Kenyon, to have the flawed fraud investigation re-opened, were vigorously rebuffed.

The outfall from that venomous attack by Durham is still the subject of civil proceedings that were first brought in November, 2017 against Durham, who have done everything they can to frustrate that process. A resumed hearing is listed for November 2020. The first, in December, 2019, was adjourned due to the court not allocating sufficient time for the hearing to be completed. [The court service’s over- listing of multiple back-to-back hearings, with no provision for urgent or emergency matters to be dealt with by district judges, will be the subject of a future article].

The claim has been brought by way of section 13(2) the Data Protection Act, 1998 (since superceded) following the sub-optimal disposal of a data subject access request; Durham’s Information Rights Manager, Leigh Davison, has admitted the breach and apologised in her witness statement but, at the same time, their counsel, Daniel Penman, pleads that there is ‘no cause of action’ and advises Durham to refuse to pay the nominal damages sought.

Penman, an oppressive, excessively bullish and sometimes foolish individual is, in those terms, ideally suited to this particular client. One of his bizarre claims, made during informal discussions with the district judge at the conclusion of the last hearing, designed only to humiliate his opponent, was that Mark Gosnell, a senior civil judge based in Leeds, is known as ‘Mr Justice Gosnell’. He was not then and is still not now a ‘red judge’; notwithstanding the very fine and highly regarded arbiter that His Honour undoubtedly is.

He did not welcome the advice from a seasoned journalist/court reporter that, without a change in approach towards other parties to litigation, or journalists, he may well not make the advance in his career his undoubted promise as an advocate might warrant. An approach also in evidence at Bradford Law Courts during a hotly contested civil claim at which both journalist and barrister were present (read here) when he and his leader, the similarly bullish Olivia Checa-Dover, tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent Neil Wilby reporting on the case. Anyone reading that trial summary will understand precisely why those instructing counsel, led by Alison Walker of West Yorkshire Police no less, would have preferred the highly controversial matters aired in the resolution of that £5 million claim, including lurid details of the activities of a “bad apple” officer (read more here), to remain concealed.

A second civil claim is to be issued shortly against Durham concerning the same data subject access request: The force, via Ms Davison, maintains that all materials to which the applicant was entitled were disclosed, when it is patently obvious that such an assertion has no basis in either the facts or evidence. There is also a peripheral issue of the torn packaging in which the subject access materials were sent. Taken at its face, a minor matter of course, but one that created significant distress and alarm at the prospect that sensitive personal data, sent out by a police force, was accessible to anyone within the postal service.

At the time, Durham didn’t even have the courtesy or professionalism to respond to the email and attached photographs, evidencing the flimsy, careless and, in fact, unlawful manner in which the data was transported. But for “a grubby little police force” that type of treatment comes as standard. They utterly resent any form of scrutiny or challenge.

Ms Davison is the subject of robust criticism, over both disclosure failings and her lack of professionalism and the seeming lack of integrity of her department, from other service users such as Huddersfield businessman Stephen Bradbury who has also succeeded at the ICO in his complaint against Durham and has been forced to issue civil proceedings, grounded in Section 168 of the Data Protection Act, 2018 and Article 82 of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), over a grotesque breach of his privacy and misuse of personal data. Despite the ICO finding, the police have ignored all attempts to settle the claim without resort to legal action.

The case of local man Mel Dawson has reached the national newspapers (read here). Durham Constabulary has been responsible for a quite remarkable sequence of ‘disappearances’ of important data. Not least of which is all materials related to a search warrant that Mr Dawson asserts was unlawfully obtained.

Another more startling critic of the Information Rights Department, Ms Davison, the force’s Legal Services Department and Chief Constable Farrell is one of their former colleagues, Michael Trodden, who complains bitterly over disclosure failings relating to a criminal trial at which the detective was cleared by a jury (read here) and in misconduct proceedings that followed.

A third Yorkshire man, Darren Longthorne, together with his wife, Tracey, are also fiercely critical of Ms Davison, and others, following the death of the latter’s father and a botched investigation by Durham that followed. The inevitable disclosure failings by the police are at the heart of their complaints.

This is an emerging picture of sustained abuse of the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act and the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act by a law enforcement agency. A national disgrace and one upon which the statutory regulator should be taking much more robust action than the occasional slap on the wrist.

It is a near certainty folowing publication of this article that other complainants will come forward and add further weight to the “grubby little police force” strapline.

More recently, yet another decision made by the ICO has gone against Durham following a further Neil Wilby information request (read in full here). The genesis of the request was the media storm over another grotesquely failed ‘outside force’ investigation. This time concerned the alleged theft of sensitive documents relating to the review of the police actions following the Loughinisland massacre in 1994.

Durham Constabulary and the two officers who led the investigation, at the invitation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the aforementioned Barton and the civilian investigator, Darren Ellis, about whom much has been written elsewhere on this website (read more here), were absolutely slaughtered both in the High Court and the national press over their conduct – and particularly over warrants obtained unlawfully against two hugely respected Irish journalists, Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey. The latter two are presently involved in mediation over settlement of their claims for unlawful arrest, trespass and detention. Neither Barton nor Ellis have faced any investigation or proceedings over their ghastly conduct.

In their response to the information request, again very precisely drafted, Durham claimed that they held no information and that under the Police Act, 1996 the request should be transferred to Durham. It was a response so ludicrous that it might have been written by a 12 year old – and was nothing more than a peurile, vacuous ruse to avoid disclosing more damaging material, particularly internal and external emails, to journalist they dislike intensely. If Ms Davison didn’t write it herself (the response was sent anonymously in breach of Code of Ethics and Authorised Professional Practice), then it went out under her departmental direction and control.

The force even refused to fulfil their obligations under FOIA and, more particularly, the College of Police’s Authorised Professional Practice, regarding the request made for an internal review of the decision not to disclose anything.

Durham has also now revealed that four other requests were received on similar subject matter and they got away without making any disclosure to those applicants.

It took the ICO seven months to reach their decision but, for them, they were scathing in their criticism of Durham and directed that the request did have to be dealt with by them and all materials prior to the investigation commencing should fall for disclosure. Some, but not all, of the disclosure has now been made and, as expected, almost the entire artifice was designed to protect one man: the thoroughly disgraced Darren Ellis.

PSNI do not escape censure either as they repeatedly, and unlawfully, intervened in the request, apparently on behalf of Durham, attempting to take it over and then refusing disclosure by way of a section 31 exemption. One is entitled to muse over the calibre, and integrity, of employees of that force engaged in their disclosure unit and, of course, the unseen hands directing them from above.

The battle over the Loughinisland disclosure continues, however, as once again, it is clear that not all the materials known to be in existence at Durham have been disclosed. A matter that is, once again, destined for both the ICO and the civil courts.

In the meantime, the public are entitled to seriously question the hundreds of thousand of pounds, and countless officer hours, squandered by Durham Constabulary (and, in two of the cases, NYP and PSNI) to simply conceal materials that will further damage their reputation as “a grubby little police force”. It is a matter so serious that it should warrant a mandatory referral of the conduct of those officers involved, from the past and present chief constables downwards, to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

The immediate past chief constable, Mike Barton, now faces an uncomfortable few weeks as the real reason for his hasty exit from the top job has been exposed by an insider. A follow-up to this article will be published during w/c 28th September, 2020, wherein those revelations will be expanded upon.

It is not a pretty picture for either Barton or his boss, the late Ron Hogg, whom, it seems, concocted the ‘spend more time in my greenhouse’ story that the local and regional media swallowed whole. Within days a national newspaper had revealed that Barton had taken on a lucrative role with a Canadian IT company (read more here). This, in addition, to continuing to pick up the pieces from his force’s failed enterprise in Northern Ireland. Both a long way from his garden in Blackpool.

Barton received a CBE on the day he required. In all truth, one is entitled to ask how he had the brass neck to accept it.

The police force press offices at Durham and PSNI, the interim Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham have all been approached for a statement.

Page last updated: Thursday 3rd September, 2020 at 1300 hours

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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 2015-2020. 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.

Supercops assert rights to secret hearings

On 28th February, 2020 a highly significant judgment was handed down by Mr Justice Murray at the Royal Courts of Justice. Surprisingly, there appears to have been little national media coverage, given the intervention of both Bloomberg and the Press Association in the proceedings.

It followed two ‘without notice’ applications made by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in May and July, 2019. The first sought an Unexplained Wealth Order and the second an Interim Freezing Order (IFO). They were both heard in private on 12th July, 2019, two days after the second application was made.

Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) were introduced pursuant to the Criminal Finances Act (CFA) 2017, in order to bolster the UK’s proceeds of crime regime and they have been the subject of much media attention since, mainly because of the vast sums of money and high value property involved.

The UWO, specifically, was the government’s response to the difficulty in bringing civil recovery proceedings where there was little information about an individual’s source of wealth and they were reliant upon assistance from other countries to provide evidence that the assets in question were the proceeds of crime.

The UWO, instead, places the onus on the subject of the order (the respondent) to explain the origin of assets that appear to be disproportionate to their lawful income.

Russian oligarchs allegedly laundering eye-watering sums of money in ‘Londongrad’ were seen as prime targets of the new legislation. Although recent press coverage appears to suggest that Director General, Lynne Owens, has conceded the fight against this particular group as ‘too big to handle’ (read more here).

The significance of the instant hearing was fourfold:

(i) It lifted an anonymity order granted by Ms Justice Laing on 4th July, 2019 in favour of the subject of the applications, Mansoor Mahmood Hussain. Six limited companies in which Hussain, better known locally as ‘Manny’ (or ‘Manni’), has a controlling interest were also listed on the application.

(ii) It named some of the leading players allegedly, or in most cases, proven to be involved in organised crime in the Leeds and Bradford area.

(iii) It set out the general principles for the making of a UWO and IFO and will stand as a legal authority on these matters unless, or until, challenged in a higher court.

(iv) It deals with the general principles for hearing UWO applications in private. That is to say with neither public nor press present.

The subject UWO Application was made by the NCA on the basis that they suspect that Manny Hussain is involved in serious criminality in connection with the activities of organised crime gangs (OCG’s) operating in the Bradford area; the criminality spanning a spectrum of serious crimes, including murder, drugs, firearms, fraud and money-laundering offences. The OCG’s concerned are known to be violent. The NCA’s case, in broad terms is that Hussain has been acting as an enabler, laundering the proceeds of the activities of a number of criminals, who are members of, or associated with, those OCG’s.

The main evidence supporting the UWO Application is set out in two witness statements, with supporting exhibits, made by Andrew Coles, an NCA Financial Investigator.

The evidence supporting the IFO Application is set out in a third witness statement made by Mr Coles, in which he also set out additional evidence of the NCA in support of the Agency’s application that the matters be heard in private.

According to the evidence of Mr Coles, 40 year old Hussain, born in Leeds, is self-employed as the director of a number of companies, purportedly engaged in property development and management. He has never been convicted of a criminal offence and has received only one, long spent, police caution, for assault and battery, administered in January 2009 by his local West Yorkshire force.

The other parties to the IFO are companies that are wholly owned by Mr Hussain and through which he controls various residential and commercial properties relevant to the UWO Application and, of course, the IFO Application. They are: (i) Laurel Terrace Limited (ii) Land88 Limited (iii) Jayco88 Limited (iv) Cubic Business Park Limited (v) 88M Group Limited (vi) 2 Park Square Limited.

The properties controlled by those companies are (i) Freehold property at 2 Sandmoor Drive, Alwoodley, Leeds, one of the most exclusive residential addresses in the city and its suburbs, the registered owner of which is Hussain. (ii) Freehold property at 3 Laurel Terrace, Armley Leeds, the registered owner of which is Laurel Terrace Limited. (iii) Freehold property consisting of land on the north west side of Paddock Hill, Mobberley, Knutsford, in the Cheshire stockbroker belt, the registered owner of which is Land88 Limited. (iv) Freehold property consisting of land on the south side of Doncaster Road, Wakefield, the registered owner of which is Jayco88 Limited. (v) Freehold property consisting of the Cubic Business Centre, Stanningley Road, Bramley, Leeds, and land adjoining it, the registered owner of which is Cubic Business Park Limited. (vi) leasehold property consisting of the ground floor flat at 101 Walton Street, Kensington, London, the registered owner of which is 88M Group Limited. (vii) freehold property consisting of 28 Park Square West, Leeds, including 13 The Stables, Somers Street, Leeds and 11 The Lodge, Somers Street, Leeds, the registered owner of which is 88M Group Limited; and (viii) freehold property consisting of 2 Park Square East, Leeds, the registered owner of which is 2 Park Square Limited.

Screenshot 2020-06-27 at 08.22.53
2 Park Square East (red door) with Leeds Town Hall in background

The latter four properties are in the exclusive legal quarter of the city, just a stone’s throw from the Crown Court.

The Cubic Business Centre is an impressive new ‘state-of the art’ building . It consists of 33 fully furnished offices all with air conditioning. There are conferencing facilities available, communal breakout areas, relax room, kitchen, shower room and also a gymnasium. There is ample onsite car parking and parking for staff and clients. They also have on site security surveillance which is manned at reception. CBC has its own website (see here).

The NCA’s case, put shortly, was that they had sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that Manny Hussain, a known associate of leading members of OCG’s, acts as a professional money launderer for a number of well-known criminals who operate in the Leeds and Bradford area, using specialist knowledge and expertise to find opportunities for his criminal associates to retain and to launder the proceeds of crime. One such way is to channel proceeds through corporate vehicles in order to fund the purchase of residential and commercial properties, principally held by, or through, companies that he controls. The NCA suspects that each of the properties listed above falls into that category.

The short history of the case is that the UWO Application was originally listed before Ms Justice Laing on 4th July 2019, to be heard in private. At that time, the NCA did not consider, on balance, that it was necessary, also, to apply for an IFO in connection with the UWO, in the interests of proportionality and taking the least invasive approach. It considered that the effect of service of the UWO, if granted, would carry sufficient weight to prevent Mr Hussain from taking action intended to thwart the UWO or any future civil recovery proceedings against him or his companies.

Following informal applications by Bloomberg and the Press Association challenging the decision to hear the UWO Application in private, the judge adjourned the hearing to 12th July 2019 in order to permit the two media organisations to make written submissions in support of the the press applications in accordance with CPR 39.2 (5).

On 8th July 2019 Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP (“RPC”), solicitors for Bloomberg and the PA wrote to the court indicating that their clients no longer wished to challenge the decision to hear the UWO Application in private and, therefore, wished to withdraw both press applications.

In its skeleton argument for the hearing on 12th July 2019, in relation to those press applications, the NCA indicated that it had spent considerable time preparing to address the issues of law and practice raised by those applications, including gathering evidence set out in the third witness statement of Mr Coles. Following the adjournment on 4th July 2019, the NCA also received information that, it considered, altered the risk profile so that an application for an IFO would now also be necessary.

Although the press applications were withdrawn, the NCA considered that they had raised fundamental issues of broad principle as to the nature and operation of the UWO jurisdiction and, in general, the need for privacy in relation to applications for a UWO to protect the integrity of the NCA’s investigation to which the UWO relates, as well as to protect the rights of the respondent to the UWO. Therefore, the NCA urged Mr Justice Russell to rule on the issue of principle raised by the now-withdrawn press applications. Firstly, addressing the general UWO jurisdiction and the need for privacy in a public judgment and then, secondly, dealing with the particular circumstances of this case in a confidential judgment to be handed down at a hearing in private.

Since the UWO and IFO were made, the existence of the UWO and the IFO have ceased to be confidential and have, in fact, been superceded by an acccount freezing order (AFO) made on 12 February 2020, following a hearing in public, by Mr Justice Supperstone. For that reason, there was no longer a need for a separate confidential judgment.

The legal framework is set out in highly forensic detail at paras 19 to 76 of the judgment, read in full here.

The privacy issues raised by the Press Applications

As made clear by Civil Procedure Rule (CPR) 39.2, the general position is that a hearing is to be open and held in public. Open justice is a fundamental constitutional principle. A hearing will be held in private only where strictly necessary to secure the proper administration of justice, after the court has satisfied itself that relevant considerations render it strictly necessary and after the court has considered any duty to protect or have regard to a right to freedom of expression which may be affected.

CPR, at section 39.2(3), sets out various relevant considerations and, for completeness, they are repeated here:
“(3) A hearing, or any part of it, must be held in private if, and only to the extent that, the court is satisfied of one or more of the matters set out in sub-paragraphs (a) to (g) and that it is necessary to sit in private to secure the proper administration of justice –
(a) publicity would defeat the object of the hearing;
(b) it involves matters relating to national security;
(c) it involves confidential information (including information relating to personal financial matters) and publicity would damage that confidentiality;
(d) a private hearing is necessary to protect the interests of any child or protected party;
(e) it is a hearing of an application made without notice and it would be unjust to any respondent for there to be a public hearing;
(f) it involves uncontentious matters arising in the administration of trusts or in the administration of a deceased person’s estate; or
(g) the court for any other reason considers this to be necessary to secure the proper administration of justice.”
Open justice is, therefore, the starting point and the default position. To the extent that there are restrictions on reporting, it is also necessary to consider Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) as incorporated into English law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

The rule of open justice is, of course, not absolute. CPR 39.2(3) stipulates that a hearing must be held in private if the court is satisfied as to one or more of the matters set out in that rule. Mr Andrew Sutcliffe QC, leading counsel for the NCA, submitted, in relation to the issues raised by the press applications, that subparagraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g) of CPR 39.2(3) each apply in this case in relation to both the UWO Application and the IFO Application.

Mr Sutcliffe also noted that the open justice principle is, occasionally, expressly derogated from by statute and submitted that the statutory material and guidance underpinning UWOs fall into this category, anticipating that UWO applications will, generally, be made without notice and determined in private.

Section 362 I(1) of POCA expressly provides that an application for a UWO may be made without notice. Again, for completeness, the revised Practice Direction provides at paragraph 11.1 as follows:
“11.1 The application [for a UWO and a related IFO] will be heard and determined in private, unless the judge hearing it directs otherwise.”
The presumption, therefore, is that the hearing will be private. In relation to court documents, the revised Practice Direction provides at paragraphs 9.1-9.3 as follows:
“9.1 CPR rules 5.4, 5.4B and 5.4C do not apply to an application under Part 8 of [POCA] (including an application for an unexplained wealth order or an interim freezing order) …, and paragraphs 9.2 and 9.3 below have effect in its place.
9.2 When an application is issued, the court file will be marked ‘Not for disclosure’ and, unless a High Court judge grants permission, the court records relating to the application (including the application notice, documents filed in support, and any order or warrant that is made) will not be made available by the court for any person to inspect or copy, either before or after the hearing of the application.
9.3 An application for permission under paragraph 9.2 must be made on notice to the appropriate officer, or (in the case of an application for an unexplained wealth order or an interim freezing order) the enforcement authority, in accordance with CPR Part 23.”

Mr Sutcliffe submitted that three important points can be drawn from the above provisions:

First, he says, it is clear that there is a strong presumption of privacy built into the UWO regime. It is not a matter of the NCA having to make an application to depart from a starting point of a public hearing. It is for those seeking to challenge the privacy and/or to obtain copies of court documents to make an application to do so.

Secondly, Mr Sutcliffe submitted, these measures are not simply about preventing the removal of property by the respondent before the order can be granted. The status of a UWO application is not tied to the existence or status of an IFO application, the latter being concerned with the risk of dissipation of property. To the contrary, section 362J(5) of POCA provides that an application for an IFO must be made without notice if the UWO application to which it relates was made without notice, rather than the other way around. This demonstrates that a UWO application is not made without notice for property preservation purposes.

Cousel noted that further support for this point is to be found in the Revised Code of Practice at paragraph 38, which states in relevant part: “… In deciding whether an application should be made without notice, the appropriate officer should consider the benefit of not holding the proceedings after giving notice to all parties. An obvious and common reason would be so as not to alert the person(s) connected to an investigation that it is ongoing. On notice proceedings might enable the person to move material or information and thereby frustrate the investigation. … .”

Mr Sutcliffe submitted, further, that a UWO is, of course, fundamentally about obtaining information and documentation and not the risk of dissipation of property. This is consistent with the policy underlying CPR r 39.2(3)(a).

Thirdly, Mr Sutcliffe submitted that, as paragraphs 9.2, 9.3 and 11.1 of the revised Practice Direction make clear, the presumptive position is that the hearing of an application for a UWO will be in private and the relevant court documents will not be made available. That position is not dependent upon whether the relevant UWO application has been made on notice or not. It specifically concerns, he submitted, the need for privacy of the hearing and related court documents. The presumption of privacy thus applies equally to applications made on notice, making clear that the need for privacy is not only about the potential impact of the respondent being on notice to the NCA’s investigation, but it is also concerned with the rights of the respondent. This is consistent with the policies underlying subparagraphs (c), (e) and (g) of CPR r 39.2(3).
He acknowledged that it would not invariably be the case that a UWO application would have to be without notice and heard in private. The specific facts of each case need to be considered carefully by the enforcing authority before making its application and by the court. He submitted, however, that the starting point of an application without notice and a hearing in private, as set out in the statutory provisions and supporting material for UWOs, was driven by a clear logic and set of policies, which he summarised as follows:
i) First, where the application is made without notice (as permitted by section 362 I(1) of POCA), the jurisdiction recognises that in all likelihood, publicity would defeat the object of the hearing (subparagraph (a) of CPR 39.2(3)).

ii) Secondly, the application necessarily contains significant amounts of sensitive information, both confidential and personal, about the respondent. Subparagraph (c) of CPR 39.2(3) is also plainly engaged; but equally (if not more importantly) where the application is without notice and the respondent unaware of it, subparagraph (e) of CPR 39.2(3) is also engaged.

In relation to the second of these points, Mr Sutcliffe amplified as follows:

(i) The considerable media interest in UWOs is undeserved. A UWO is merely a tool designed to assist with information-gathering during the early, preliminary stages of an investigation, where there is a dearth of information available to the NCA. Consequently, the threshold tests for the application are relatively low. The Holding Requirement and the Value Requirement, as set out in the statutory framework, are not difficult to satisfy. As to the Income Requirement and the Serious Crime Requirement, each depends on there being reasonable grounds for suspicion and no more. The test for “suspicion” is fairly low, and may be established by reference to evidence that would fall short of that necessary to establish actual involvement in crime, as noted by the Privy Council in Hussein v Chong Fook Kam.

(ii) Consequently, a UWO application is designed (a) to assist the NCA at the very early stages of its investigation, at a time when it has relatively little information and (b) to be an information-gathering tool. The obtaining of a UWO does not mean that the NCA will necessarily proceed with a civil recovery investigation or proceed to take advantage of any further or more intrusive investigative measures available to it.

(iii) The result is that a UWO application necessarily sets out in detail the fact that the NCA suspects that: (a) if the PEP Requirement applies, the respondent is a politically exposed person who has been involved in (most likely) embezzlement and corruption; or
(b) if the Serious Crime Requirement applies, as in this case, the respondent is a person who has been involved in very serious criminality, such as, among other things, human trafficking, arms offences, drugs offences, fraud offences and money laundering offences.

(iv) The UWO application sets out the foregoing detail, together with detailed information about the respondent’s income and finances, yet this is done at a stage where the investigation, and underlying evidence, is embryonic. Some of the information will be from public sources, but much of it will be likely to have come confidentially from other authorities and agencies, as required by paragraph 178 of the Revised Code of Practice (see [40] above) and other third parties.

(v) Plainly the content of that confidential information, if made public, is likely to have a personal and reputational impact on the respondent. The notion that the press, or any other member of the public, should be able to hear of the NCA’s suspicions as to the respondent’s character and criminal involvement, and details of the amount and suspected source of the respondent’s wealth, in circumstances where the respondent is not even aware of the fact that the hearing is happening, let alone has the opportunity to seek to protect his confidentiality and reputation, is obviously unfair to the respondent; not to mention contrary to the interests of justice. Plainly, therefore, sub-paragraph (e), as well as sub-paragraph (c), of CPR 39.2(3) is engaged.

(vi) Indeed, even if the application is on notice, for similar reasons subparagraph (g) of CPR 39.2(3) would also almost certainly be engaged. There is no justification for a respondent’s character being put forward for the type of public trial by media that often follows any media interest, at such an early stage of the investigation. Indeed, were that invariably a risk, then proportionality might require in practice that the NCA would have to apply a far higher threshold test as to the evidence and certainty of guilt than the statute requires before proceeding to make an application. That outcome would undermine the intended function of the UWO jurisdiction.

For those reasons, Mr Sutcliffe submitted, it is wholly unsurprising that the architects of the UWO jurisdiction envisaged the need for, and put in place safeguards to protect, the privacy of the hearing and outcome of the application for a UWO. To the extent that it is considered necessary to go behind the reasoning of the statutory and supporting regime, he submitted, it is plainly the case that numerous triggers in CPR 39.2(3) independently apply; namely, sub-paragraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g), which cumulatively establish an overwhelming case for having the hearing of an application for a UWO in private, in the vast majority of cases.

In his submissions, Mr Sutcliffe also dealt with the question of whether the court needed to undertake a balancing exercise, considering the respondent’s rights under Article 8 of ECHR and weighing them in the balance against the rights of Bloomberg and the PA (or any other relevant news organisation) under Article 10 of ECHR. He submitted, however, that such an exercise was unnecessary in this case, given the clear application of CPR 39.2(3), which required the court to hold the hearing in private. There are other potential rights of the respondent, for example, under Articles 2 and 6 of the Convention, which would also need to be taken into account which would make the exercise not at all straightforward.

Finally, Mr Sutcliffe submitted that the NCA had given serious consideration to the question of whether a hearing in public, but with reporting restrictions in place, would be sufficient, but had concluded that that approach would be insufficient. It being the case that a number of sub-paragraphs of CPR 39.2(3) independently apply, the hearing must be in private. Reporting restrictions alone, for example, would leave the risk of “jigsaw identification”. This is not a case, he says, where the sole concern is that Manny Hussain will thwart the UWO before it is served on him. Other issues and concerns are engaged, including the potential impact on Hussain of any publicity relating to the making of the UWO.

The judge accepted and substantially agreed with these submissions. For the reasons he gives, in light of the nature and purpose of the UWO application, CPR 39.2(3) is highly likely to be engaged, requiring the court to hold the hearing in private to secure the proper administration of justice. Given, in particular, (i) the very early stage of an investigation at which a UWO application will be sought by an enforcement authority, (ii) the relatively low threshold for obtaining a UWO under section 362B of POCA and (iii) the potentially disproportionate personal and reputational impact on a respondent of the fact that a UWO has been obtained if that fact is publicised, several sub-paragraphs of CPR 39.2(3) are likely to be engaged, most notably, sub-paragraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g), particularly in a case such as this where the UWO application involves consideration of the Serious Crime Requirement. This was anticipated by the statutory framework and guidance applicable to UWOs, which makes it clear that, while close and careful regard must be had to the specific circumstances of each case, the presumptive starting point is that a UWO application will be made without notice and that the hearing of the UWO application and any related IFO application will be in private.

In this case, it was clear, for reasons given below, that the presumptive starting point applied in this case and that it was necessary for the proper administration of justice that the hearing be conducted in private. In particular, the judge was satisfied of the matters set out in subparagraphs (a), (c), (e) and (g) of CPR r 39.2(3).

The judge also agreed with Mr Sutcliffe’s submission that it is not necessary in this case to go further and undertake a balancing exercise of the type carried out by Sharp J (as she then was) in DFT v TFD [2010] EWHC 2335 (QB) at [15]-[19], weighing the Article 8 ECHR rights of the respondent against the Article 10 ECHR rights of Bloomberg and the PA, particularly bearing in mind that other ECHR rights of the respondent are also potentially engaged and would need to be considered, most notably, his rights under Articles 2 and 6 of the ECHR. The judge in this case also agreed that reporting restrictions would be insufficient. Given the conclusion on the application of CPR 39.2(3), the hearing was required to be held in private, as ruled at the time.

Supplemental reasons for ordering that the hearing be conducted in private

Mr Sutcliffe for the NCA made the following additional submissions in support of the the application that, in this case, both the UWO Application and the IFO Application should be made without notice and the hearing conducted in private:

(i) Publicity would defeat the object of the hearing, engaging sub-paragraph (a) of CPR 39.2(3), for the following reasons: (a) The NCA considered that there was a material risk that Manny Hussain might move, or arrange to be moved, information and documentation potentially relevant to a possible civil recovery investigation in advance of a UWO being made. (b) Whilst the NCA had originally considered that an IFO was not required, it reached that view on the basis that the UWO Application would be made without notice. Putting Hussain on notice of the application would likely have triggered the risk that ultimately necessitated the IFO application. Given the NCA’s obligation to consider proportionality, the NCA had considered that, if the hearing was not on notice, the judicial weight that comes with a court order would have been sufficient to dissuade Hussain from transferring any of the subject Properties once he was served with the UWO. The NCA, having considered that point following the adjournment of the hearing on 4th July 2019, assessed that the risk profile changed. Evidence in support of that view was given in Mr Coles’ third witness statement. In particular, it came to the attention of the NCA that 3 Laurel Terrace was to be transferred to a new owner, although the NCA was not able to identify the intended transferee. Accordingly, the NCA determined that there was a need for an IFO and made the IFO Application. Had the UWO Application and the IFO Application been made on notice, there is a material risk that the purpose of obtaining a UWO would have been defeated.

(ii) It would be unjust to Manny Hussain, engaging subparagraphs (e) and (g) of CPR 39.2(3), for the hearing not to be conducted in private. For reasons articulated in Mr Coles witness evidence, the NCA considered that there was a significant concern over Hussain’s rights under Article 2 of the ECHR. The organised crime gangs involved in this case are known for violence. There was a genuine and well-founded concern that publicity over the subject and nature of the UWO might give rise to a threat to Hussain’s person. So long as the UWO was not publicised (and Hussain did not personally publicise it, which he was highly unlikely to do in the circumstances), the level of threat-to-life (“TTL”) in relation to Hussain would be considered low. However, as at the point of service of the UWO, the NCA would be alert to the possible need to trigger its TTL procedures. Should the existence and nature of the UWO become widely known (and particularly, in a manner that the NCA was unable to manage or control), the TTL risk to Hussain would be likely to escalate.

(iii) The UWO Application and the IFO Application involved consideration of detailed personal and confidential information about Manny Hussain, his finances, and his wealth, engaging subparagraph (c) of CPR 39.2(3).

(iv) As detailed in the NCA’s submission regarding satisfaction of the Serious Crime Requirement, he is suspected of involvement in serious crime. It would plainly be an intrusion into his privacy for those suspicions to be aired in public, at a stage where they are no more than suspicions. A UWO offered Hussain the chance to satisfactorily explain his wealth and to maintain his good character. Publicity of the NCA’s interest would severely undermine that. For these reasons, sub-paragraphs (c), (e) and (g) of CPR 39.2(3) were engaged.

(v) The UWO Application concerned the operation of organised crime gangs in the UK. Publication of the NCA’s suspicions, and publicising the UWO Application, carried the risk of prejudicing the NCA’s wider investigation. Given that it is highly unlikely that Mr Hussain would choose to publicise the existence of a UWO, media reporting of the UWO, in any way likely to identify the subject or content of the wider investigation, could well prejudice the nature of that ongoing investigation. On that basis, subparagraph (g) of CPR 39.2(3) was engaged.

These submissions of Mr Sutcliffe, which are amply supported by the evidence set out in the witness statements of Mr Coles and the supporting documentation exhibited with them were, unsurprisingly, adopted by the court.

The tests to be met for UWO application to succeed

In relation to the Serious Crime Requirement, the NCA suspects Hussain of acting as a professional enabler and serial money launderer for a number of individuals involved in organised crime gangs, specifically an organised crime gang operating in the Bradford area operated by the Khan family, headed by Mohammed Nisar Khan, known locally as “King Meggy“, and his brother, Mr Shamsher Khan, and an organised crime gang operating across the north of England run by Dennis Slade, there being a degree of connection between the individuals involved in the two organised crime gangs.
In his evidence, Mr Coles sets out in detail the alleged and known criminal activities of a number of individuals suspected or known to be involved in serious criminality, particularly in relation to drug disputes, gang violence, armed robbery and serious fraud. These individuals include:

(i) Mohammed Nisar Khan, who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Amriz Iqbal and believed to be responsible for numerous serious assaults, including attempted murder, as well as involvement in the illicit trafficking of drugs and firearms on his own behalf and that of other organised crime gangs, with a significant record of previous convictions, largely for violence and drug-related crimes;

(ii) Shamsher Khan, who is known to the police for violence and drug-related offences, as well as obtaining mortgages by fraud and money laundering offences;

(iii) Dennis Slade, who was the head of an organised crime gang involved in cash-in-transit robberies involving firearms, which operated across the north of England, and who has various convictions for, among other things, burglary, theft, handling stolen goods and crimes of violence including assaults occasioning grievous bodily harm (GBH) and actual bodily harm (ABH) as well as suspected connection to two murders for which he was arrested but not charged;

(iv) Ms Maxine Valentine, Mr Slade’s estranged wife, who is said to have enjoyed a lavish lifestyle on her husband’s criminal earnings and who was convicted at Teesside Crown Court on 28 January 2011 on two counts of money laundering, for which she received a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment;

(v) Simon Morris, who has previous convictions for dishonesty offences, has also been implicated in Mr Slade’s fraud offending and was arrested by West Yorkshire Police in connection with a multi-million pound property fraud along with Irfan Ali, who is a close associate of Mr Mohammed Khan; and

(vi) Brian Morris, father of Simon, who also has previous convictions for dishonesty offences and was arrested alongside his son and Ali in connection with the multi-million pound property fraud referred to at (v) above.

In his evidence, Mr Coles sets out the details of Hussain’s involvement with these individuals. Some of the highlights are:
(i) Manny Hussain has, since 2005, frequently been stopped by the police while in Mohammed Khan’s company and has been observed spending time in his company on other occasions;

(ii) Hussain frequently drove King Meggy to and from Leeds Crown Court and attended with him during the trial of Dennis Slade;

(iii) Meggy is connected to a company, Twenty Four Seven Security Services (UK) Limited, which uses one of the subject properties, the Cubic Business Centre, as its business address and displays its signage at another of the properties, 3 Laurel Terrace;

iv) Hussain travelled to Malaga with Meggy for a trip lasting less than 24 hours, purportedly to attend the opening of a nightclub there;

v) Hussain paid private school fees for Meggy’s son for a period of just over two years in the sum of just under £10,000;

vi) Hussain funded Shamsher Khan’s confiscation order in the amount of £134,000 following his conviction for mortgage fraud offences, the source of those funds suspected by the NCA to be funds held, directly or indirectly, by Hussain for or on behalf of Mohammed Khan;

vii) Slade gave the address of one of the subject properties, 2 Sandmoor Drive, the property held in Hussain’s own name, as his home address during his trial, without, it appears to the NCA, Slade having paid any rent in relation to that property;

viii) Ms Valentine has stated to the authorities that 2 Sandmoor Drive is “part-owned” with a friend, and she was regularly driven to and from Leeds Crown Court by Hussain during Slade’s trial there;

ix) Hussain provided Slade with a luxury residence, The Lodge, owned by another company, owned or controlled by Hussain, following Slade’s release from prison;

x) Hussain visited Slade regularly in prison, sending money to the prison for Slade and advancing funds to Slade’s daughter;

xi) Hussain has been a business partner of Brian Morris, the two having been co-directors of a company called BM Car Parks Limited and, potentially, in relation to another company called Ideal Properties, which makes Brian Morris a “connected person” in respect of Hussain under both Corporation Tax and POCA regimes;

and,

xii) West Yorkshire Police has shown evidence to the NCA indicating that Hussain has been involved in property business dealings with Simon Morris.

A point not heard in court was the suspicion amongst the local property developing fraternity that Slade, for a period, acted as bodyguard for Simon Morris after an incident where a shot was said to be fired through the windscreen of the latter’s car.

As a result of its investigation, the NCA have concluded that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that Hussain and his corporate vehicles, including the other IFO Respondents, which are “connected” with him, have conducted themselves in a way that was likely to facilitate the commission of:

(i) serious criminal offences within England and Wales, namely money laundering offences, by way of concealing, disguising, converting, transferring, and/or being involved in arrangements concerning, and/or acquiring, using and/or having possession of the proceeds of the above identified criminality; and

(ii) of serious offences by the persons identified above, of the underlying serious crimes respectively identified, by way of providing a money-laundering service and thereby enabling those criminals to retain the benefit of their criminality over the years, and, as a result, facilitating their continued offending.

Moreover, the NCA suspects that Manny Hussain has not merely been involved in at least one serious offence, thereby satisfying the Serious Crime Requirement, but rather plays a wider role in relation to organised crime in the Bradford area, standing at the centre of a network of organised crime as a designated “clean skin”; namely, a person with no serious criminal convictions to this name, who enables those operating the criminal activities of the organised crime gangs with which he is connected, by providing a money-laundering service. So, the NCA submits that Hussain’s activities not only facilitate the commission of individual serious crimes, but they also facilitate organised crime on a large scale, which is a further factor exacerbating the seriousness of the criminality in which it is suspected that Hussain is involved.

Having reviewed the evidence provided by Mr Coles in his first witness statement and considered the submissions made on behalf of the NCA, the judge concluded that the Holding Requirement, the Value Requirement, the Income Requirement and the Serious Crime Requirement were all amply satisfied. The remaining question, therefore, was simply whether it was appropriate in all those circumstances for him to exercise his discretion to make the UWO. He concluded that it was, for the following reasons:
(i) The statutory requirements were met;

ii) the aim of the measure was to improve the ability of the authorities to investigate and, where appropriate, recover the proceeds of crime, which is a legitimate aim;

(iii) having reviewed the terms of the UWO with counsel, the judge was satisfied that it was no wider than appropriate and that it was proportionate, with a view to enabling the NCA to determine whether to commence civil recovery or other proceedings (which in fact they did, obtaining a £1.13 million Account Freezing Order in January, 2020);

(iv) there are relevant safeguards in the legislation, for example: (a) A UWO does not confer the right to require a person to answer any privileged question nor to produce privileged or excluded material; (b) a statement made in response to a UWO may not generally be used in evidence against the respondent in criminal proceedings; (c) the statutory presumption that relevant property is recoverable property where the respondent fails to comply or purport to comply with the UWO may be avoided if there is a “reasonable excuse” for non-compliance and may subsequently be resisted if “the contrary is shown”.

In terms of proportionality, the NCA considered that it could not achieve the necessary objectives by less intrusive means. The primary alternative would have been to seek a Disclosure Order (“DO”), with Disclosure Notices (“DNs”) being issued to various third parties from whom information would be sought. The NCA had several reasons for discounting this approach:
(i) It would require identifying relevant third parties upon whom to serve DNs, whilst in this case many of the sources of funding are completely unknown (or even which solicitors acted on the various transactions);

(ii) the transactions go back further than six years, which is the usual document retention period for many financial institutions;

(iii) the use of DNs would alert third parties to the fact that the NCA is interested in the source of Manny Hussain’s wealth, which would arguably be more intrusive than a UWO;

(iv) the use of a DO and DNs would be less practical and cost-effective than a UWO in a case such as the present one where the nature of Hussain’s suspected role as an enabler and money-launderer necessarily makes the sources of funds likely to be disparate and complex.

Ultimately, a UWO would be less intrusive in its impact, the NCA said, given that failure to comply with a UWO is not a criminal offence, unlike failure to comply with a DO, unless the respondent knowingly, or recklessly, makes a false or misleading statement in their response.
As far as Hussain’s human rights are concerned, the NCA submitted that the proposed UWO pursued a legitimate aim, would be in accordance with the law and would be justified and proportionate in all the circumstances.
As far as proportionality and having regard to Hussain’s human rights are concerned, the judge accepted and agreed with the submissions made on behalf of the NCA.

In compliance with its duty of full and frank disclosure of all material facts, and to pursue reasonable lines of enquiry before making the UWO Application, the NCA noted various points “putting on its defence hat”, which were set out in Mr Coles’ first witness statement. These involved various arguments that Hussain might possibly seek to run when put on notice of the UWO, rebutting the submission that one or more relevant elements of each of the key requirements for obtaining a UWO were satisfied (Holding, Value, Income and Serious Crime). None of the points raised, in the judge’s view, had any real force. It is important to bear in mind, he said, the relatively low threshold for obtaining a UWO, but also the limited effect of a UWO and the various statutory safeguards to which he had already referred.

After the judge reviewed with counsel the form of UWO sought by the NCA, the conclusion was that the terms of the UWO were appropriate and proportionate in light of the evidence, and therefore made the UWO on the terms sought by the Agency.

Reasons for making the IFO against Mr Hussain and the Other IFO Respondents

Mr Sutcliffe made the following submissions in support of the IFO Application against Mr Hussain and the other IFO Respondents:
i) The requirements of POCA are satisfied in that the application is made by the NCA, which is the same authority that applied for the UWO, and it is sought in “the same proceedings” as those in which the UWO was made; and

ii) the NCA considers that it is “necessary” to make an IFO for the purposes of avoiding the risk of any recovery order (that might subsequently be obtained) being frustrated, for the reasons explained in Mr Coles’ third witness statement, namely: (a) The NCA had received specific information from the Money Laundering Reporting Officer of the relevant firm, that Hussain intended to transfer 3 Laurel Terrace; (b) Mr Coles was further notified by the Land Registry that an application had been lodged by the firm of solicitors in question; (c) no information concerning the application was available to the NCA, and despite a request by Mr Coles, pursuant to section 7 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, the Money Laundering Reporting Officer of the relevant firm responded refusing to provide any information about the transfer, including as to the intended transferee; and (d) a search of the Land Registry on 9th July 2019 indicated that no transfer had yet taken place.

Mr Sutcliffe submitted that this evidence demonstrated that there was a clear risk of imminent dissipation of 3 Laurel Terrace, justifying the IFO Application. Furthermore, he said, given the NCA’s suspicion that all of the subject Properties are held or controlled by Mr Hussain as forms of investment of the proceeds of crime, on behalf of third parties, then if the intent to transfer 3 Laurel Terrace was pursuant to a request from a relevant third party in order to realise funds, then if only 3 Laurel Terrace were frozen, it is likely that Mr Hussain would transfer another of the Properties in order to realise funds. Accordingly, he submitted, the NCA considered there to be a risk of dissipation in relation to all of the Properties and therefore it sought an IFO in respect of all of them.
The cumulative value of the Properties was believed to be just under £10,000,000. All of the subject Properties were then currently unrestrained. Some of them were also unencumbered, meaning that it would be easy for Mr Hussain to release equity from them, which could be dissipated quickly and with ease. All except one of the Properties was held by one of the other IFO Respondents. Accordingly, it was necessary to make the IFO (but not the UWO) against each of the other IFO Respondents as well as Mr Hussain.
Having considered that nothing significant arose by way of the NCA’s compliance with its duty of full and frank disclosure, and having reviewed with counsel the form of IFO sought, the judge was satisfied that the relevant statutory requirements for the IFO were met and that the terms of the IFO were appropriate and proportionate.

Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, at the conclusion of the hearing the court was satisfied that:
(i) it was strictly necessary to conduct the hearing of the NCA’s applications for a UWO against Mr Hussain and an IFO against Mr Hussain and the other IFO Respondents in private. That is to say, without both public and press present; and (ii) in all the circumstances, it was just, appropriate and proportionate to make: (a) the UWO sought by the NCA against Mr Hussain; and (b) the IFO sought by the NCA against Mr Hussain and each of the other corporate IFO Respondents.

Connections to other cases on this website

One of the drivers for West Yorkshire Police to continue to harass John Elam, whose miscarriage of justice case was raised in Parliament in 2014 (read more here) is their obsession with social, or other connections, to Dennis Slade. There is no such association. Seven years of the most intensive, intrusive covert and overt police surveillance should have convinced them of that. A recent success in a civil claim against the force by Elam  (full story to follow) has needled WYP further.

Former Head of the Economic Crime Unit of West Yorkshire Police, Cedric Christie, was involved in investigations into Simon Morris, a former Director of Leeds United football club, both pre- and post-retirement from the force. Cedric is believed to be at the very centre of the controversy over the conviction of his elder brother, Ralph Christie at Bradford Crown Court in 2015. From being a powerful miscarriage of justice advocate, the younger brother turned turtle and appears to have provided the impetus for his former force to convict on 3 of the 5 counts upon which he was found guilty. The jury acquitted Ralph on 14 other counts, in a number of which Cedric is believed to have also taken a hand (read more here). He is presently refusing to answer any questions on these matters.

As referred to above, Shamser Khan was involved in large-scale mortgage fraud. His conviction, and subsequent POCA recoveries involving other mortgage frauds, led indirectly to Operation Thatcham, a large scale crash for cash investigation (in which Khan has no known involvement at all). During Thatcham, a well known Bradford doctor was arrested by police as part of an alleged conspiracy to defraud. However, no allegations were ever put to him in interview and he was never charged with any offence. That arrest of Dr Abdul Rashid is now the subject of a hotly disputed, long running civil claim which could cost the police up to £5 million in costs and damages (read more here and here).

Page last updated at 1115hrs on Monday 3rd August, 2020.

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

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Photo credit: National Crime Agency

© Neil Wilby 2015-2019. 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.

Danny Major case back under CCRC review

After a pause lasting almost five years, the innocence claim of former West Yorkshire Police officer, Danny Major, is once again being considered by the Criminal Case Review Commission. He was convicted in November, 2006 of assaulting a prisoner and causing actual bodily harm following an incident that took place in Leeds Bridewell three years earlier. Concurrent sentences of 3 months and 15 months imprisonment were handed down.

New central Leeds police station opens | Calendar - ITV News

The Major family has vehemently protested his innocence ever since (read more here).

Since 2013, there has been two investigations carried out by Greater Manchester Police into the handling of complaints made by Danny’s mother, Bernadette Major. There are wide-ranging allegations of corruption involving the notorious Professional Standards Department.

The first investigation, codenamed Operation Lamp, was launched in April, 2013 at the behest of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and concluded in December, 2014. But, for reasons GMP has never explained, the report was not released until 12 months later.

A second investigation, codenamed Operation Redhill, was instigated by the incumbent chief constable, Dionne Collins, in April, 2016. The first phase appears to have now also concluded in November, 2019, absent of any announcement from either the Major family, GMP or WYP.

The criminal justice watchdog confirmed earlier this week that their investigations have now resumed:

“A second application arrived  on 14th December 2015. Maslen Merchant of Hadgkiss Hughes and Beale is the family’s legal representative. We started a review, but it became clear that we could not sensibly conduct our review while there were ongoing police investigations (Greater Manchester Police’s Operation Redhill)  in relation to the case. In November 2017 we wrote to Mr Major and his lawyers to explain that we had essentially paused the case and that we would restart our review when we could. That is to say, if facts came light that required it, or when Greater Manchester Police (GMP) relevant enquiries were complete.

“This second review of Mr Major’s conviction resumed at the end of November last year when GMP supplied us with a summary of its investigation. We asked for more material from the investigation and, in January 2020, GMP supplied us with extensive material in relation to phase one of Operation Redhill. We are in the process of considering that material. The Covid-19 related closure of our office in March has caused some delay as it reduced our ability to securely access some of that material, but the case is being actively considered.

“The first CCRC application in relation to Danny Major was received in 26 September 2007 (Maslen Merchant/Hadgkiss Hughes and Beale were not the representatives at that stage, but they did take over shortly after in January 2008).

“We sent a Provisional Statement of Reasons  in October 2010 (a PSOR is used when, after a review, we consider that we have not identified reasons to refer a case.  It sets out the reasons for that view and invites a response from the applicant / their legal representative if they have one – nowadays 90% of applicants do not). We consider any response before making a final decision.

“The CCRC received substantial further submissions in response to the PSOR (over a period of almost six months) and further work was conducted before we eventually issued a final Statement of Reasons not to refer on 2nd August 2011. (The CCRC is prohibited from making its statements of reasons public. However CCRC applicants can share them if they wish)”.

The final SOR ran to 62 pages with a further 11 pages of annexed material. It was signed off by John Weeden, CB. The other two Commissioners who formed the committee considering the Danny Major were Ewen Smith, a Birmingham solicitor, and Jim England. All three served their full ten year term at the CCRC.

The Major family and their legal representative were criticised for both the repetitive nature of their lengthy submissions and for introducing issues that could not go to the consideration of a referral back to the appeal court.

This echoed criticism of two of the three grounds upon which the appeal to the Court of Appeal was made. One was characterised as ‘surprising’ and another has having no merit whatsoever (read in full here).

The Major family’s first application to the CCRC ran to almost 400 pages and the watchdog narrowed its focus to:

  • The integrity of PC Kevin Liston, the key prosocution witness
  • The integrity of other officers involved in the detention of the assaulted prisoner, Sean Rimmington, and those involved in the subsequent investigation
  • The integrity of West Yorkshire Police
  • The integrity of the Crown Prosecution Servive
  • CCTV evidence at Leeds Bridewell

The CCRC enquiries, including interviews with Danny Major, his parents, officers from the Professional Standards Department at West Yorkshire Police; telephone conversations with prosecution counsel, Ben Crosland, and defence counsel, Simon Jackson QC (now a judge) and Sunny Bhalla, at the material time a casework manager at the now defunct Independent Police Complaints Commission appeared to be comprehensive. They were not challenged by way of judicial review.

This is yet another case where a notably poor police investigation, an unsatisfactory series of trials (three in all) with familiar disclosure issues, and a subsequent, sustained cover-up and closing of ranks by the investigating force to protect a corrupt police officer, may not be enough to see the conviction quashed. Particularly, if there is no confession by another officer, or officers, present in Leeds Bridewell that night.

Given the passage of time, seventeen years, and the high stakes that has to be considered unlikely. There has been no announcement of any arrests or press coverage of prosecutions during the currency of Operation Redhill, now in its fifth year. Taken together with its predecessor investigation, Operation Lamp, which took just under three years, it is believed to be the longest investigation ever into an assault in the history of the police service.

Both police forces and the Major family were approached for comment. There were no responses to those enquiries.

Page last updated: Monday 13th July, 2020 at 1730 hrs

Photo Credits: WYOPCC, CCRC

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 2015-2020. 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.

 

Appeal hearing report: Leeds High Court Dr Abdul Rashid v West Yorkshire Police

The hearing was listed to commence at 10.30am on Thursday 14th May, 2020 before Mr Justice Nicholas Lavender in the Leeds District Registry of the High Court. It got under way shortly after 10.45am after dealing with some minor technical glitches.

Pemission to appeal was granted on the papers by the same judge on 17th December, 2019 sitting in Newcastle Cown Court.

The judgment under appeal was handed down by Mr Recorder Ben Nolan QC on 20th September, 2019 at the conclusion of a ten day trial (read full daily reports here). Dr Rashid is claiming damages against West Yorkshire Police (WYP) for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention and trespass over events that took place in March 2012 when 16 police officers attended his home in Bradford at 6.15am.

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The parties were represented, respectively, by Ian Pennock of counsel, instructed by Simon Blakeley and Olivia Checa-Dover of counsel, instructed by Alison Walker, Deputy Head of Legal Services at WYP.

The background to the appeal can be read here. There was palpable tension between the two legal teams, throughout the substantive hearing, most notably concerning disclosure.

The appeal hearing was held remotely via Skype Business. Quality of transmission was generally good and proceedings progressed smoothly. Particularly, as the judge’s dexterity in dealing with an elecronic bundle filed by the Claimant which, because of its size (232MB) was slow to load, and two lever arch files, supplied by the police, improved markedly during the morning session.

Mr Pennock, on behalf of Dr Rashid, took the court to the eight Grounds of Appeal upon which his client’s case is based. There are two further alternative Grounds that would only be triggered if the appeal succeeds.

But the first part of his submissions were taken up with what he characterised as ’22 bad points’ in the police’s skeleton argument, that had necessitated a supplementary skeleton argument from him, extending to 40 pages. He lamented that ‘the sideshow’ of correcting WYP’s version of facts and evidence, from the court below (the hearing at Bradford County Court), was not at all helpful to this court. It had, Mr Pennock said, required ‘a root and branch approach’, occupying a large amount of time, and the necessity of exhibiting a large number of passages from the court’s approved transcript.

The judge made clear that, whilst he would scan read the supplementary skeleton, it was not part of his judicial function to referee such class of disagreements between competing counsel unless, of course, they went to the heart of the matters under consideration in the instant appeal.

Mr Pennock focused to a significant extent on the police’s ‘shifting goalposts’ of the reasonable grounds for arrest of Dr Rashid, of which there are five different versions as things stand. The necessity of the arrest was also the subject of extensive discussion as another of the key appeal points.

There was a moment of levity after Mr Pennock explained that the ‘eccentric’ Dr Clive Tedd, upon whom the police relied for their ‘expert’ medical advice, claims to be able to induce whiplash injuries by clapping his hands. Something he had learned by buying second hand books on Amazon. Mr Justice Lavender enquired, deadpan, if Dr Tedd ‘had clapped his hands at trial’.

The final ten minutes of the morning session were taken up by Miss Checa-Dover, on behalf of West Yorkshire Police, and continued with her client’s response to the Grounds of Appeal after the lunch adjournment. She maintains, on behalf of her client, that the judgment from the substantive hearing was adequate, sufficiently well reasoned and that Detective Inspector Mark Taylor, the main police witness came through the examination and cross-examination of his evidence “with flying colours”.

As expected, Mr Justice Lavender indicated that judgment would be reserved and handed down at a future date, yet to be determined. There was a discussion with Mr Pennock as to whether, in the event that the appeal was upheld, he would be able to substitute his own findings for those of the court below and dispose of the matter substantively as opposed to ordering a re-hearing of the case before a different judge.

UPDATE: A more complete report of the hearing will appear in conjunction with the handing down of the judgment which is now expected to be handed down during the first two weeks of August, 2020.

 

Page last updated: Tuesday 28th July 2020 at 0715 hours

Photo Credits: Bradford T&A

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 2015-2020. 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.

Licence to kill?

On 5th March, 2015 at Bradford Crown Court, Ralph Christie was sentenced to 7 years in prison at the end of a trial lasting almost 8 weeks. He had been found guilty on 5 counts of fraud by false representation relating to property business dealing on the Greek island of Crete (read more here). He was found not guilty on a further 14 counts.

The not guilty counts included those alleging money laundering and theft. The total of the sums listed on the indictment, in connection with fraud, theft and money laundering, amounted to a staggering sum approaching £50,000,000.

Born in Leeds in 1961, but domiciled on Crete since 2005, Christie has maintained his protests of innocence since the day he was convicted. He was released from prison on licence on 4th January, 2018 and, ever since, has campaigned vigorously to clear his name.

One significant success, along the way, is reducing his liability under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) from £1.4 million plus interest to £482,666 plus interest. The count on the indictment concerning an investment made by Howard Tenens plc in Christie’s land and properties has been called in to question. It now appears arguable that it should not have been put before the jury, as there was already a prior High Court court finding concerning the dealings between Tenens and Christie.

This part of the police’s Section 16 POCA application, to recover £987,000 connected to the Tenens charge, which led to him being jailed, rather than a suspended sentence, was deducted from the POCA liability by the judge, HHJ Durham Hall QC on April 26th, 2018, again at Bradford Crown Court.

In the event, Christie was ordered to pay back a total of £569,990.64, inclusive of interest, to the complainants in respect of the remaining four frauds for which he was convicted.

At the time of the original court case he was bailed to a Ripon address, although police referred to him at the POCA hearing as being ‘a Bradford man who had moved to Crete’. A point confirmed by the fact that he holds a class of Greek residency permit that can only be granted after living there for 10 years. The relevance of those matters unfolds later in this piece.

Ramona Senior, Head of the Economic Crime Unit (ECU) at West Yorkshire Police, said: “This was a complex confiscation hearing, but the Financial Investigator worked tirelessly to recover money from Christie”.

“At the centre, were the victims who lost a lot of money because of the fraud. Christie now has 3 months to pay the money back or face an additional 4 years imprisonment in default.

Ms Senior added: “The POCA Order will be robustly enforced and, if Christie fails to pay, not only will he will face a further 4 years in jail, the debt he owes to society will remain with him for life, until paid in full.”

She was silent on the reduction in the alleged value of the crimes from nearly £50 million on the indictment, to £1.4 million upon conviction, and then to £482,000 via POCA, and no questions were asked by the tame local press, who reported on the hearing, as to how this reconciled with a ‘complex hearing’ and such glowing praise for the ‘tireless’ financial investigator, Nigel Crowther. Or, how it impacted on the sentencing of Ralph Christie, receiving a 7 year prison sentence instead of a considerably lesser sentence, that may well have been suspended.

There was no mention, either, of the lengths that WYP would go to in order to frustrate Christie in his attempt to raise money in order to discharge the POCA obligation. Or, explain the final destination of funds that were in accounts frozen, or sequestered, in 2011, following their actions taken in conjuction with the Crown Prosecution Service’s David Levy and the Greek authorities. Other financial restrictions had been in force since 2009.

Christie had represented himself at the final POCA hearing, after his legal representatives withdrew at a late stage in proceedings, whereas the police had instructed a QC, Paul Reid, also involved in the diminishing claims debacle from the outset, whilst, it is right to observe, making a small fortune for himself along the way.

Operation Laggan, the bungled, meandering, six-year police investigation into Ralph Christie and his Greek property dealing, has cost the taxpayer well over £1 million; far more than will ever be recovered via POCA. If Christie is able to clear his name over the five counts upon which he was convicted, and there seems a reasonable chance he may do so, then WYP face a multi-million pound (or euros) payout in compensation to him and his investors. Probably, the largest in their history.

Cedric Christie, Ralph’s younger brother was a predecessor of Ramona Senior, as WYP’s Head of ECU, during his 30 years service with the force he had joined as a cadet. One of a number of remarkable coincidences and connections that form a labyrinthine thread through this article.

He retired in 2011 and became a vigorous, high-profile campaigner for justice for his brother, both in the press and on television; founding a campaign for election as West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner in 2012 on that very case, as part of a wider, and well justified, attack on police corruption in his home county. Arguably, the most peristently dishonest police force in the country.

On that solus anti-corruption platform, he was very nearly elected. Taking the hot favourite, the Labour Party-backed Mark Burns-Williamson, to a re-count. The author of this piece, Neil Wilby, was Cedric’s campaign manager. Burns-Williamson was, previously, the Chairman of West Yorkshire Police Authority for 9 years and through a period of some of the most grotesque failings of the police force in its history. The perennially failed PCC, a former gritter lorry driver, has provided no assistance, whatsoever, in holding the chief constable to account over the force’s failings, both in the Operation Laggan investigation and matters closely connected to it.

Just over a year later, Cedric had turned turtle and was, it appears, plotting with his former colleagues to convict his own brother, who had been on bail since 2009, with the police case against him, originally comprising of only 3 charges, now seemingly floundering. It is his elder brother’s strong contention that Cedric’s own private investigation work led to the additional counts upon which he was tried in Bradford during early 2015.

It has transpired very recently that, according to Cedric, West Yorkshire Police detectives have never been to Crete to pursue the investigation against Ralph. That appears to be borne out by conversations with property and land owners who were party to some of the transactions that led to the Bradford trial.

One plausible conclusion is that Cedric was visiting the island at the behest of WYP. A proposition he denies. It is clear, and well evidenced, however, that Cedric made visits to Crete in September/October, 2013; then in January, and April, 2014. On the latter visit, he was accompanied by Declan Christie, Ralph’s eldest son, who was acting as interpreter and local guide, being fluent in the Greek language.

The following month Cedric texted his brother to say that he was ‘going to go to the police and the courts’. At about the same time, he also issued civil proceedings against Ralph, knowing that, as he had been by this time arrested whilst on a visit to the UK, he would not be in a position to defend that claim.

The additional charges were made against Ralph in September, 2014.

During this same time period, Cedric was also meeting with another high profile miscarriage of justice proponent, Leeds property developer, John Elam. His case had been raised in an adjournment debate in Parliament at the end of January, 2014 by Gerry Sutcliffe, MP (read more here). Cedric met with Elam and Sutcliffe shortly afterwards, ostensibly to assist that campaign.

However, Cedric was covertly recording Elam and, it is claimed, reporting back to two senior police officers, C/Supt Andy Brennan and DCI Simon Bottomley (now chief superintendent). Cedric also lied about his own involvement in two covert operations into Elam, codenamed Operation Primary and Operation Teddington. Unaware that formal documents had been unearthed by Neil Wilby with Cedric’s spidery, but distinct, signature on them.

In another remarkable coincidence, towards the end of his prison sentence at HMP Hatfield, Ralph Christie came into close contact with Andrew John Rudd, whose covertly recorded evidence played a significant part in the conviction of John Elam. Rudd, for reasons that are still unexplained, was allowed to live the high life in Marbella, driving a distinctive Bentley motor car and residing in a £2 million villa for a number of years, by West Yorkshire Police, despite an arrest warrant being in place and claiming they couldn’t locate him for almost 8 years. A task that took an Andalusian private investigator less than a day, complete with photographs of Rudd, his car, and his luxury home.

Cedric Christie also lied to senior detectives, and at least one chief constable, about his involvement with the well-known police whistleblower website, unProfessional Standards Department (uPSD). This followed Operation Vertex, an investigation into ACC Ingrid Lee, following her catastrophic ‘whitewash’ of the force’s involvement with Jimmy Savile, in which Cedric was named as one of the two complainants against Lee. Neil Wilby was the other. The investigation outcome and report, compiled by Nick Gargan, the chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police at the time, was highly critical of WYP.

Cedric was, in fact, a significant contributor to uPSD at the time of its formation – and it is a matter of record that the Twitter account @uPSDWYP was opened with the main intention of supporting the PCC election campaign. It has never emerged why he went to such extraordinary lengths to conceal that involvement.

Ingrid Lee was Cedric’s boss, and nemesis, during the latter stages of his police career, removing him from his senior post in the Economic Crime Unit and allocating him a ‘non-job’, stripped of detective status, in the Safer Leeds community liaison team. It was a spectacular fall from grace. One that made him ill – and he retired from the force in 2011 having spent a considerable part of the last 2 years of his service on extended sick leave, whilst pursuing grievances against Lee and other senior officers.

This followed the discovery by the police of an investment of £100,000, by Cedric, into Ralph’s property business in 2008. He made a profit of over £7,000 in around 3 months on that investment. Cedric denied any impropriety concerning the fortuitous arrangement and, although interviewed at Wetherby Police Station, by a senior officer, DCI Frances Naughton (now a superintendent with the North Yorkshire force), he was not formally disciplined or charged over it.

Cedric Christie then tried to divert attention from his own troubles by publicly claiming that Neil Wilby was ‘a police informant‘ and, it seems, encouraging at least one other individual, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to do the same. That person is a rape victim, the perpetrator having admitted the crime in police interview, but not prosecuted, and another with well grounded, bitterly-fought, long-running miscarriage of justice issues with both West Yorkshire Police and their neighbours, and junior partners, in a grotsque and long-running ‘cover-up’, North Yorkshire Police.

During his incarceration, and as can be seen here in this piece, there was certainly no shortage of action surrounding the Ralph Christie case in his absence.

After his early release from HMP Hatfield Lakes on 4th January, 2018 he was ordered to attend the West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Centre (WYCRC) in Wakefield the following day, where he produced his signed probation licence. It expires on 6th July, 2021. WYCRC is operated by Interserve plc, presently in serious financial difficulties. The supervising officer assigned to his case was Anne-Marie Carrott.

The main requirements of a licensee, for those not adjacent to the prison system, are:

– Good behaviour

– Not to commit any offence

– Keep in touch with supervising officer in accordance with instructions given by him/her

– Receive home visits from the supervising officer

– Reside at an approved permanent address and obtain approval for any overnight stay at a different address

– Only undertake work unless approved by supervising officer

– No travel outside of UK, except with permission

It appears, from correspondence between the two, that a good working relationship was established from the outset and maintained. Christie was licenced to an address in Wakefield where he had the permission of the owner to stay.

Because of concerns raised about his safety from retaliation by Halifax-based drug dealers, whom both Christie brothers had helped convict in two investigations codenamed Operation Godstone and Operation Facedome, West Yorkshire Police put in place risk assessments and security arrangements, at the behest of their chief constable, Dionne Collins. To whom a letter, setting out the perceived dangers and threats, had been sent by leading Bradford criminal defence solicitor, Simon Hustler.

Those safety concerns were raised again, by Christie, with Ms Carrott at WYCRC on 22nd March.

In early May 2018, Christie travelled to Greece and notified a permanent address in that country to Ms Carrott. He had been given permission to go there to attempt to realise assets on the island in order to raise funds to discharge the POCA Order.

A return to UK in October, 2018 was described as ‘a visit’ in correspondence with his supervising officer. By this time, Laura Martindale.

Ms Martindale tried to arrange a visit to the Wakefield address on 13th March, 2019. That was not progressed after she learned that permission to reside at the property had been withdrawn by its owner and Christie was still at his home in Crete.

In May, 2019 Christie received an email from the manager at WYCRC, Richard Brotton, who was about to leave his post. He copied in his colleague, Janine Pedley, who was to take over the matter, subsequently. Mr Brotton raised the conflict with his licence terms and residency in his home on Crete.

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Ralph Christie: “I will never stop fighting to clear my name”

After it was pointed out that Ralph Christie would be both homeless and jobless if he returned to the UK, correspondence from WYCMC appeared to lapse. It is a highly unusual case, where a Greek resident, convicted over offences committed on the island of Crete, is held on a prison licence in the UK. One that, no doubt, has perplexed a number of bright minds within the offender management system. It is made even more complex by the unresolved civil court case and the need to realise assets on Crete to discharge the POCA obligation.

That was the last correpondence from a supervising officer until early 2020. From the available correspondence, there were no home visits arranged, or attendances required at the WYCRC offices in Wakefield, during that period.

The reasonable inference to be drawn was that Ralph Christie was better served trying to repay the debt from his home base in Crete and, as he had caused no-one at the probation service any issues, there was no good reason to disturb that process: Necessarily slow, as the police still persist with the freezing orders they requested as far back as 2009 and other assets are, or have been, subject to other legal processes due to his protracted absence from the island.

At one point during his prison sentence, arrangements were made by the Home Office to deport Christie back to his home in Crete under the early release scheme for foreign offenders (often referred to by the acronym, ERSED). This was due to take place on 10th April, 2017. From the available documents, there appears to have been an unseen hand more adjacent to West Yorkshire, than London SW1, preventing that process from being fulfilled.

In the early part of 2020, there was an attempted reconciliation between the Christie brothers, at first in Athens, then in Crete, during which, it is said, Cedric admitted his role in the investigations that played a part in the conviction of his elder brother. A matter, Ralph says, he had always previously tried to conceal.

On 9th February, 2020 Cedric stormed out of a meeting with his brother and Geoffrey Brown, an investor in Ralph’s property business and a long-term supporter ever since, saying Ralph should be back in prison. The reason for the younger brother’s hasty departure was the revelation that his role in the conviction of Ralph, either actual or perceived, formed a significant part of the appeal documents that are in preparation for submission to the Criminal Case Review Commission.

Two days later, on 11th February, 2020 Ralph Christie received an email, out of the blue, from yet another WYCRC supervising officer, Shahid Ibrahim: A meeting was required to take place at their offices in Wakefield on 6th March, 2020.

That date is just a few weeks before an important civil trial was due to start in Chania, the capital of Crete, to settle disputes between Ralph Christie and his former business partner, the aforementioned Stephen Thomas. The latter, unexpectedly, failed appear in criminal proceedings on the island in which Christie was exonerated (read full verdict here).

That criminal trial took place in October, 2013. Thomas was the complainant and main prosecution witness. He claims that he was subjected to threats and forced to leave the island.

In spite of his evidenced status as a partner of Ralph Christie, and being the subject of very serious fraud allegations by his ex-wife, involving large sums of cash concealed from her during their divorce settlement, Stephen Thomas was not  arrested, or charged with any offences, during the Operation Laggan investigation. He was not called as a witness at the Christie trial in 2015, either, despite being the original complainant back in 2009.

His brother, Simon Thomas, is one of the victims of the Christie convictions.

Starting with the first email from Mr Ibrahim (who appears to be also employed by a company based in Bradford) until mid-March, there is a significant amount of correspondence between him and Ralph Christie. It encompasses a quite extraordinary travel odyssey that ended with Christie being arrested at Athens airport by Greek police when about to board a connecting flight to Heathrow, en route to the meeting at Wakefield. Following his release from custody at the airport, and a visit to the British Consulate in Athens, it transpires that Christie is subject to a travel ban from Greece (and Crete) until the completion of the civil trial. A matter confirmed fully by the consulate to Mr Ibrahim, both by telephone, and via email, and later by Christie’s Greek lawyers.

Christie also has pre-existing health conditions that would have rendered him vulnerable in the Corona Virus pandemic, particularly if he was returned to prison. In the face of all this, Mr Ibrahim’s response was to insist, very firmly, that the 6th March meeting in Wakefield was to go ahead. The virus, he said, was not an issue beyond washing of hands, which, to be fair to the supervising officer, was also the Government line at that time.

He did not, however, respond to emails sent by Christie on 8th and 11th March, asking for clarification in the light of the travel ban, and consequent difficulties leaving Greece, and, of course, by then, the worsening pandemic. Instead, he emailed on the day following the second email blankly stating that Christie’s prison licence had been revoked – and he was to make his way back to the UK, whereupon he would be arrested and taken back to prison. That would seem to indicate that the decision had already been made to revoke the licence, prior to the first Ibrahim email in February, 2020. The ‘meeting’ on 6th March in Wakefield was simply a convenient time and location at which to serve Christie with the notice and arrange for his arrest and detention.

Dated 12th March, 2020 the ‘Licence Revocation and Recall to Custody’ document sets out that Ralph Christie had:

– Failed to attend appointment(s) with supervising officer

– Failed to attend pre-arranged home visit(s)

– Failed to reside as approved

– Allegedly committed a further offence

– Displayed poor behaviour

– Other

It goes on to say that the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) will send a dossier, giving comfirmation of the reasons why the recall has been made, once the licencee is back in prison. Which, viewed independently, might appear a little harsh: “We’ll arrest you, put you back in prison, and then tell you why, in more detail, having just used a formulaic, scattergun approach to revoke the licence knowing that some, if not most, of the allegations have no basis in fact or evidence”.

Whatever the views about Ralph Christie, and there are, on occasions, very strong opinions at both ends of the spectrum, the fact remains that he is a white collar criminal, attempting to raise the money to repay his victims, who was of unblemished character (in the eyes of the law) prior to the 2015 trial at Bradford, and presents no flight risk. He was, for example, on unconditional police bail for 3 years, with free passage between his home in Crete and the UK – and has answered every call on his bail and never missed a court appearance.

Since the communication from Mr Ibrahim on 12th March, there has been extensive email correspondence with the aforementioned Janine Pedley. She is always responsive, professional, patient and courteous, if not a little exasperated, in her dealings with Ralph Christie.

She has also forwarded the file on to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in Petty France, London. Christie has previously had extensive dealings with NOMS regarding the controversy over credit for time served on remand, prior to conviction. The upshot of which is that the prison service has defied recommendations from two different circuit judges and added 84 days rather than deducted them. A total penalty of over 5 months. Ralph Christie, not unreasonably, maintains that in those circumstances he should have been released on licence in 2017 with his licence expiring at the beginning of 2021.

In answer to Christie’s requests for particulars of the allegations against him, Ms Pedley simply says, in an email dated 14th April, 2020: “Your licence was revoked because you were not given permission to leave the UK indefinitely¨.

That is very different to what is stated on the formal Revocation of Licence. It also chimes with enquiries made of West Yorkshire Police, who say that there are no complaints recorded on their crime systems that have been made since the issue of his licence and Christie has, certainly, not been contacted by them in connection with any allegations, or received any intimation from any person, or lawyer representing them, that such a complaint would likely be forthcoming.

There are no missed appointments at the WYCRC offices, apart from the very recent one on 6th March, 2020 or missed home visits, apart from the one on 13th March, 2019, which was not pursued by the supervising officer. That is clear from examination of email trails of all correspondence between the various supervising officers and the licencee.

Those same email trails reveal a cordial relationship between the parties at all times and it is difficult in those circumstances to reconcile such conduct with an allegation of ‘bad behaviour’.

On strict reading of the licence there has been a breach, there can be no argument about that. But, in the exceptional circumstances that prevail, on any number of legal and moral premises, it might seem to the man in the street that justice, fairness, the public interest and the public purse might all be better served by an amended licence, rather than a revocation. That would also reconcile with the Ministry of Justice’s aim to try to reduce the prison population during the pandemic.

Who will win the tug of war over Ralph Christie’s liberty remains to be seen. He cannot leave Greece and, even if no travel ban by the courts was in place, in the present circumstances of the virus pandemic it would not be advisable to do so, for the foreseeable future. The containment of Corona Virus will also determine the resumption of the civil court proceedings which appear to be the key to unlocking many of the doors presently barred.

This is, clearly, a story with some way to run. Indeed, very shortly after publication of this article, Christie received a letter from the PPCS, following several requests, setting out the formal position, absent of reasons or evidence, regarding the recall to prison.

(i) Be of good behaviour and not do anything which could undermine the purposes of the licence period;

(iii) Keep in touch with the supervising officer in accordance with instructions given by the supervising officer

This, again, is different to the Licence Revocation and, of course, not the same ground(s) as that given by Ms Pedley in earlier correspondence. Christie, meanwhile, is trying to raise funds to challenge the decision.

The eagle-eyed will also have spotted that, most curiously, there is no reason (ii).

It has now been clarified by PPCS that the recall was for 28 days, after which the Parole Board could consider re-licencing Ralph Christie. All of which, one might say, was an awful lot of work, for a considerable number of people, to put in danger not only the licencee but prisoners, prison officers, probation officers with whom he might come into contact after six hours in two aeroplanes during the journey back to the UK from Crete.

Questions have been put to the Ministry of Justice, the CPS and, of course, West Yorkshire Police. Any responses will be posted in a later update.

Cedric Christie was given specific right of reply.

“This article was published before the expiration of the period you gave me to reply. However that does not particularly concern me.

I do not consider that I have lied in either of the circumstances you have described.

There are also some points you make in the above article about Ralph’s case that imply that I’ve been mischievous in his regard. I do not agree. I have information and documents that I believe would support my view. It is my personal opinion that the WYP investigation into his Cretan financial affairs was inadequate.

Perhaps some communication may resolve the above aspects”.

The further communication is keenly awaited, particularly in respect of the, as yet, unanswered matters relating to his private investigations in Crete and his view that his brother should be back in prison.

 

Page last updated: Thursday 14th May, 2020 at 1825 hours

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A ‘car crash’ of a judgment

On 20th September 2019, Mr Recorder Ben Nolan QC handed down his judgment in a £5 million civil claim brought by Dr Abdul Rashid against West Yorkshire Police. It followed a Bradford County Court liability hearing lasting two weeks, during which evidence was heard from three police officers repesenting the defendant. The claimant, a well-known Bradford GP and medico-legal practitioner also gave witness box testimony.

The claim concerns wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and trespass over events that happened in March, 2012 during a police investigation codenamed Operation Thatcham. It, ultimately, resulted in the conviction of 45 men over what have become known as ‘cash for crash‘ fraud offences.

A terrifying pre-dawn raid, in a middle class suburb of Bradford, saw eighteen police officers turn up at the doctor’s home where he, his wife and three young children were asleep. Other squads of officers had been despatched to his two surgeries and other business premises. It was alleged he was part of a conspiracy to defraud, relating to the cash for crash claims, although no particulars were ever put to Dr Rashid in thirty-five hours of police interviews, across a seven month period. He was never charged with any offence.

Interview records show that the questioning of the doctor, by purportedly experienced detectives, was largely infantile and almost entirely pointless. The police simply had no evidence of criminal offences, but were down a rabbit hole without an escape route. Not least, because there is no incentive for any medico-legal practitioner to commit fraud: He (or she) is paid by an instructing lawyer, whether an injury insurance claim succeeds or not – and irrespective of the content of the doctor’s report. A point that seemed completely lost on the police.

Dr Rashid was eventually released from police bail in June, 2013. The justification for the arrest or, in legal terms, the reasonable grounds for suspicion of the offence for which he was arrested, lie at the very heart of the matter.

Notable for his absence from the civil court proceedings was the arresting officer, DC Mark Lunn, described in court as ‘a bad apple’, and about whom much has been written elsewhere (read here, here and here). The police, via their barrister Olivia Checa Dover, had told the court at a pre-trial review, seven months earlier, that they were ‘unable to locate’ DC Lunn – a matter later denied at the substantive hearing. The detective (the term is used loosely) was, in fact, working for the police watchdog, the discredited and now dissolved Independent Police Complaints Commission (re-badged in January 2018 as the Independent Office for Police Conduct), just 300 yards from police HQ, in a job actually facilitated by those who said they couldn’t locate him.

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Mark Lunn, whom the police were ´unable to locate´

An account of that pre-trial hearing, before HHJ Neil Davey QC, can be read elsewhere on this website by clicking here and has stood unchallenged since that time, including by the police to whom right of reply was offered.

A comprehensive day-by-day account of the final hearing can also be read on this website by clicking here. West Yorkshire Police tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the author of this piece reporting on those proceedings in an attempt, not only to frustrate open justice (routine for them), but, more crucially, to prevent public exposure of the rotting effect of the ‘bad apple’ officer, culminating in what appears to be a shocking conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, by six of their officers in the same barrel, that has left an unpleasant stench hanging over the large number of Operation Thatcham convictions.

At the conclusion of those proceedings in Bradford Law Courts, conducted in a palpably toxic atmosphere throughout, Recorder Nolan dismissed the claim in controversial circumstances. Not least, because of the bitter and long-running battle over disclosure, or, more to the point, the lack of it, by the police. The handling of those matters, viewed from the press seats at least, appeared to fall short of the standards one might reasonably expect of an alert, fair-minded judge. It also must be said, by way of balance, that it is a feature of many civil or tribunal claims (and in some notable criminal trials) involving West Yorkshire Police; the latitude the force is frequently given from the bench, and a tame local media, simply encourages their bad practices.

A permission appeal to the High Court by Dr Rashid was, unsurprisingly, filed by his lawyers soon afterwards. It was granted on the papers (without a hearing) on 17th December, 2019 by Mr Justice Lavender. Not a common occurrence in such matters.

A full appeal hearing is listed for 14th May, 2020 before the same judge, sitting in the Leeds District Registry. It is, however, more than likely, in the prevailing SAR-COV-2 crisis, that the hearing will take place via video conference.

The written judgment of Recorder Nolan, typed, unusually, in 16pt with generous margins top and bottom, runs to 14 pages. It is littered with schoolboy syntax errors; headed ‘judgement’ not ‘judgment’; pages are not numbered; it is undated; and carries no unique case reference or details of the parties’ representation. It even includes an exclamation mark at the end of one sentence, unprecedented in the author’s experience, encompassing many hundreds of court judgments. Likewise, the sight of a barrister being addressed only by his surname is, similarly, unheard of.

All of which gives it an amateurish look: Surprisingly so, for a part-time judge who has been at the Bar for 49 years and, plainly, has a very high opinion of himself – and one not at all slow in derogating others, both in his courtroom and on social media. A memorable example being that hard-won press cards, hologrammed and with photo ID embedded, authorised by the National Union of Journalists and the National Police Chiefs Council, are “handed out to anybody“.

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There was no perfected copy of the judgment provided to the press and it was not published electronically by the court. So, this piece is grounded in what was handed, by the court clerk, to the two members of the press present at the time.

By the tenth, and last, sitting day, the claimant’s legal team knew what to expect. A hearing where one party, and their counsel, appeared to be favoured throughout was not going to end well – and so it proved.

But, it was not just the judge’s decision to dismiss the claim that caused dismay; that was already built into the claimant’s expectations. It was the perplexing way the background narrative was rehearsed, and the equally puzzling finding of fact, that gave rise to very considerable concern. As did the judge’s consequent rulings on the applicable law.

It is well-established case law that parties to a civil claim should be able to understand why they succeeded or failed. Indeed, it can be a ground upon which an appeal can, in some circumstances, be upheld.

In interview after the trial, Dr Rashid, a highly intelligent and accomplished individual with an acquired, if reluctant, knowledge of civil law and procedure, was, it is fair to say, completely bewildered. As was his legal team, Ian Pennock of counsel (the barrister simply referred to as “Pennock” in one section of the judgment) and his instructing solicitor, Simon Blakeley.

Moreover, taking the daily court reports as a starting point, it seems as though the Nolan judgment concerned a different trial altogether. Those reports, amounting to almost 12,000 words, stand unchallenged by both the police, and the judge, despite dark, but unspecified, mutterings during the trial.

The handed down judgment, most regrettably, gives the appearance of a pre-formed decision with threadbare, and in places, inexplicable or, indeed, a complete absence of cogent analysis or reasoning. The background narrative, and consequent fact finding, also appears to leave too many crucial issues unresolved and bizarre, apparently unsupportable, conclusions on at least two of the central matters: The credibility of the principal police witness and the diligence (and record keeping) of the Operation Thatcham investigation.

More crucially, to those adjacent to the applicable statutory framework, the judge appears not to have turned his attention to the state of mind of the arresting officer and each of his alleged reasonable grounds for suspecting Dr Rashid of committing the offence, for which he was arrested, and attached to them his reasoning for finding in favour of the police. That, one might say, was his primary function as sole arbiter of this claim.

From the press seats at least, the claim largely turned on the evidence of one police officer: Detective Inspector (DI) Mark Taylor. A sergeant at the time of the arrest of Dr. Rashid and the supervisor of the errant former detective constable, Mark Lunn.

Having previously served as a custody sergeant, DI Taylor was part of the Kirklees-based Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) recovery team. Lunn was seconded to that team from his previous role as a beat officer in Huddersfield and, later, that town’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

As reported contemporaneously, DI Taylor’s evidence underwent a remarkable transformation between examination on his evidence-in-chief by Miss Checa Dover and cross-examination by Mr Pennock. From a witness giving ready answers, with quite remarkable recall of detail from events 7 or 8 years previously, to a hesitant police officer constantly having to think carefully about what he was saying, and who answered thirteen times in the mode of ‘don’t recall, don’t remember, don’t know, can’t answer that, got that wrong’. Despite having been very closely involved in the police’s defence of the civil claim for almost three years before he gave his testimony in court – and in other connected regulatory proceedings, in which the police were the prime movers, since 2012.

In answer to Mr Pennock’s probing, he frequently had no explanation as to why many of the key documents that would have assisted the claim of Dr Rashid had either gone missing, been destroyed or were concealed from the claimant. Particularly, those that were effectively under his control, if the judge’s version of his role in the case is to be taken at face value. These include his own pocket books, day books, email trails, weekly reports to his superior officers, meeting notes, seized materials, copies of warrants and their supporting documentation (At the pre-trial review it was heard in legal submissions that DC Lunn’s emails were no longer available on the police’s ‘Cloud’ data storage. The judge at that hearing did pointedly observe that someone must have taken pro-active steps to remove them).

During cross-examination, DI Taylor was unable to direct the court to any document in the trial bundle – running to twelve densely packed lever arch files – where the reasons for a decision to arrest Dr Rashid are set out, and properly recorded, in accordance with authorised police practice. He did, however, concede, in evidence, that for such a major decision affecting a high profile and well-established local doctor he would have expected them to be recorded in the investigation’s policy log at the very least, together with pocket books or day books of those involved in the decision, meeting notes and his own weekly reports. It is a specific requirement under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984 (PACE) that notebook records are kept of actions preceding, during and after arrest of a suspect. DI Taylor, the supervisor of the arresting officer in Dr Rashid’s case, is unable to explain where those specific records are – or why they were not retained. Or, indeed, if they were ever made.

The court also heard that DI Taylor was centrally involved in the presentation, by West Yorkshire Police, of no less than five different versions of the ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’ that underpinned Dr Rashid’s arrest. The first, in May 2017, being in answer to the filing and serving of the claim form, by way of their formal Defence; the last one during the trial, at the request of the judge whom, presumably, like most others present in court, was bewildered at the constantly changing police landscape. The second version was in an Amended Defence filed in July 2018 when it became clear that the original Defence was unlikely to resist the claim; the third and fourth differing versions were, respectively, DI Taylor’s witness statement dated December 2018 and his oral evidence from the witness box at trial nine months later.

One of the three remaining grounds cited by DI Taylor as the support for the decision to arrest the doctor, in that witness box testimony, from a list that at one time comprised twenty-one purported reasons, concerned a matter that only became known to the police over five months after the arrest. The other two were (i) an appointments list found in the vehicle of a person arrested in the first phase of the crash for cash investigation, but not subsequently prosecuted, and (ii) the alleged inadequacy of Dr. Rashid’s medico-legal reports. Those two grounds alone, says the detective, are sufficient to resist the claim of wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

Examination of the trial bundle now reveals a different ground advanced by DI Taylor that is not in either of his witness statements or his court testimony. In an email to the Ministry of Justice he states baldly: ‘The main thrust of our fraud case: Was the doctor [Rashid] doing anything different to other professionals’.

The fact that all five (or now six) police versions of the reasonable grounds for suspicion are different is an important point; one that an independent reviewer might consider strikes at the heart of both the police force’s probity, and DI Taylor’s own credibility as a witness in these proceedings, yet is completely absent from the judgment. There is no reference to them at all, including the fact that the twenty-one shot West Yorkshire Police machine-gun had been reduced to just two weak blows on a pea-shooter.

Furthermore, on at least three occasions in the witness box, DI Taylor gave oral evidence that directly contradicted written evidence of his own that was to be found in the trial bundle. They were not minor points either, they were central to the police’s defence of the claim. It is more difficult to conclude that this class of historical revisionism was the product of innocent mistakes, or memory aberrations, given his remarkable powers of recall on his first day giving evidence.

Fortunately, for Dr Rashid, when taken to a compromised Third Party Disclosure Order (in successful proceedings wherein the decision of the General Medical Council to suspend the doctor from medical practice, at the instigation of DC Lunn, was quashed) which confirmed, many months after his arrest, that West Yorkshire Police confirm that [Dr Rashid] was not arrested on the basis of a specific allegation made by an individual outside, or within, West Yorkshire Police, DI Taylor, as Lunn’s supervisor, agreed that was how he understood the position to be. He was the disclosure officer in those GMC proceedings and, as such, attached to the persistent smearing of the doctor, by the police, then and ever since.

He could not, however, explain to the court why the note of a meeting, recorded on the policy log as taking place on 19th January, 2012, at which he claimed he was present, did not feature his name amongst the list of attendees posted by DC Lunn. That ‘team’ meeting was to assume high importance in the judgment, by way of deflecting Lunn’s central role in the arrest. DI Taylor claims that the grounds for Dr Rashid’s arrest were discussed there, even though the log only records that the decision to proceed was maintained. That strongly infers there was at least one other meeting, about which there appears to be no entry on the policy log, or entries in day books, or post-meeting email notes, or follow-ups. There was also conflicting testimony from DI Taylor as to whether the meeting was held in Batley or Bradford.

This January 2012 meeting appeared to be the only area of his cross-examination where DI Taylor’s powers of recall were revived. Distinctly remembering detail of a meeting with a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer, Julian Briggs, whom, on his own admission, he either met, or spoke to on the telephone, almost every single working day during that era. Quite remarkably for a meeting of such purported gravity, no-one at that meeting, it seems, made any record of the grounds of arrest of Dr Rashid. Including the CPS lawyer. Or, if they did, the police chose not to disclose them. Another, one might say crucial, point absent from the judgment.

Under questioning, it emerged from DI Taylor that the policy log itself was a key part of the general shambles that threaded through the running and supervision of Operation Thatcham. DC Lunn, on the evidence and with his shocking disciplinary record, was an unwelcome cuckoo in the POCA nest at Batley Police Station. Curiously, as a lowly, inexperienced, self-aggrandising detective constable, with a history of unlawful arrest complaints against him, albeit unsubstantiated, and a stranger to the department, DI Taylor allocated Lunn an office of his own. In the face of him still being on a written warning over a previous internal police finding of misuse of the force’s computer systems.

The policy log created by DC Lunn did not, incredibly, form part of those same police systems and was not linked to either their force-wide servers or the more local Infoshare network. He could add, amend, delete any entry on the Word document and no-one would be any wiser. Operation Thatcham was, to all appearances, a one man maverick operation that breached any number of authorised police practices, management of police information protocols, codes of conduct and, very arguably, was operated outside data protection laws.

DI Taylor told the court Lunn had been ‘recommended’ to his POCA team, but he did not say by whom. It was not explained, either, why this major investigation did not fall under the remit of one of the specialist criminal divisions in West Yorkshire Police under the supervision of a qualified Senior Investigating Officer (SIO). [In response to a post-trial freedom of information request, West Yorkshire Police made a number of palpably false responses concerning these matters in order to further conceal Thatcham’s procedural shortcomings].

Although presented by the police as the officer in charge of Operation Thatcham, in an attempt to downplay the role of the discredited DC Lunn, DI Taylor gave conflicting evidence over the number of suspects arrested in the first phase of the investigation. He told Miss Checa-Dover it was ten, when it was put to him by Mr Pennock that the actual number was thirty-eight, it was conceded, reluctantly, that he ‘got it wrong’.

Thatcham was the biggest fraud investigation in the history of West Yorkshire Police with ninety one suspects arrested in total. DI Taylor, as noted elsewhere, had been involved in regulatory and civil proceedings against Dr Rashid for seven years, in matters arising from it. Yet couldn’t answer correctly a simple, basic question concerning the operation.

Mark Taylor’s dual role of supervisor of the discredited arresting officer in the criminal matter, then sole disclosure officer, conflicted but apparently unsupervised, in the civil claim, should have given rise to concern amongst those anxious to maintain public confidence in the civil justice system. But the seriously alarming catalogue of disclosure failings, with implausible explanations, or simply no explanation, attached to most of them, did not appear to cause any anxiety to the judge at all. Indeed, his verbal attack on Mr Pennock, on the last day of the trial, when the issue of disclosure failings was raised, yet again, was as unnecessary as it was unpleasant.

These were, in essence, the disputed disclosure points which should be read with these two comments from the judge very much in mind; (i) ‘I don’t want to deprive Mr Pennock of material which he quite rightly wishes to use’, (ii) ‘I don’t want this case to go wrong by dint of  disclosure error’ and also the admission from DI Taylor that he was ‘exhibits officer trained’:

– The reasons for arresting Dr Rashid do not, or no longer, appear in the operational policy log. No audit trail relating to that document has been filed and served by the police.

– The Word document setting out reasons for suspecting Dr Rashid of criminal offences, given to Dewsbury Magistrates’ Court by way of a formal application for search warrants of Dr Rashid’s premises, is not retained on the police server.

– DI Taylor’s workbook, covering, according to his own evidence, twelve significant police investigations during that period, and, more crucially, recording the reasons for arresting Dr Rashid, was missing. As is that of every other officer involved, including the arresting officer, DC Lunn.

– The police have not produced the weekly e-mail reports, from DI Taylor to his superiors, setting out the reasons why they wanted to arrest Dr Rashid. He told the court that they still exist and could be accessed via the force’s Enterprise Vault.

– During the phase one arrests in Operation Thatcham copies of scripts that were to be used by personal injury claimants, during their consultations with doctors, were seized. When both Mr Pennock, and then the judge, asked DI Taylor where they were, and why they had not been retained, there was an interjection from Miss Checa-Dover who asserted that ‘it has been years since the criminal prosecutions had ended [in fact, April 2014] and the civil claim issued [in fact, letter before claim issued December 2015].

– Appointment diaries seized by the police from other medico-legal practitioners involved in ‘crash for cash’ claims are missing. DI Taylor told the court, ‘they are no longer in the police’s possession because it’s [the criminal trials in Operation Thatcham] gone through the statutory appeals process’. He could not explain to the court, when asked by the judge, why, when the requirement is to retain such materials for 6 years, they were no longer available. He did confirm that a CD disc for each of the doctors’ diaries had been exhibited at the trial.

– Not one contemporaneous record of the reasons given for the decision to arrest Dr Rashid can be located anywhere in the many police records where one should find them or, indeed, where it is a serious breach of Police Regulations not to find them.

– The police seized Dr Rashid’s phone and laptop. From those devices they extracted text messages (SMS). They disclosed only part of those text messages (oddly enough those that might fit the police narrative). The PC and phone had been ‘wiped’ when eventually returned to him. DI Taylor, or the police lawyers when asked, have provided no plausible explanation beyond a haughty ‘we can’t disclose what we don’t have’.

– DI Taylor’s evidence in the witness box concerning both his own philosophy as an experienced detective and, more crucially, wider police force policy: ´If it is not recorded, it didn’t happen’.

Mr Pennock submits that these provide a more than a sufficient evidential base to advance the proposition that the police records had been ‘sanitised’ to remove (or conceal, or an admission that they never existed) all the contemporaneous reasons for deciding to arrest Dr Rashid. A plausible, indeed likely, reason is that the police subsequently believe such reason(s) to be insufficient to justify that arrest and, as such, resist the civil claim.

However, none of his highly questionable evidence, or witness box testimony that was not in either of his witness statements (very often fatal to the credibility of a live witness), or the list of disclosure failures, either of, or involving, DI Taylor, appeared to trouble Mr Recorder Nolan even slightly. Indeed, his judgment, incredibly, records him as ‘a truthful, reliable and extremely professional police officer of the highest calibre’. He embellishes that claim by asserting that ‘his evidence was wholly corroborated by contemporaneous evidence’ and, to top off, gives his ‘firm view’ that ‘this [Operation Thatcham] was a well-run, closely-monitored, highly competent criminal investigation’.

Mr Recorder Ben Nolan QC

It is, set against the evidence heard first hand in court, contemporaneous reporting and, for certainty, a review of the section of the transcript covering DI Taylor’s testimony, a passage in a judgment that is as astonishing as it is shocking. Even without taking into account the number of times he had to be ‘rescued’ or led by either the judge himself, or Miss Checa-Dover, when stuck for answers to questions put to him by Mr Pennock. Indeed, Dr Rashid’s lawyers submit that on at least three different occasions the judge appeared to stray into giving evidence himself.

The only conceivable explanation being, that if an objective conclusion had been drawn from DI Taylor’s variable and selective memory, and his contradictory, frequently unimpressive evidence; his troubling supervisory failings in the criminal investigation; and his highly questionable role as disclosure officer in the civil proceedings, then he would have been found as a witness whose reliability was open to serious question and the defence of the claim dangerously, and probably fatally, undermined.

Recorder Nolan, in the face of an invitation from Mr Pennock, also drew no adverse inference from the absence of the arresting officer from the proceedings, saying ‘although he is in name the arresting officer his importance to the case has been overblown’. An inexplicable finding given that it was drawn out in evidence that DC Lunn was the only officer working full time on Operation Thatcham during its first year, and, more particularly, the period leading up to the arrest of Dr Rashid, and, of over 200 entries on the investigation’s policy log in that timespan, the definitive record of decisions, rationales, actions and outcomes, every entry except one was made by that same officer. A policy log, under authorised police practice, is required to be the domain of the SIO, usually at detective chief inspector or superintending rank.

More crucially, the records of the trial clearly reveal that DI Taylor had conceded, very early in his cross-examination, by Mr Pennock, that Lunn was ‘the main man’.

DC Lunn was also, unusually, the author of the operational orders that were drawn up in connection with two different planned arrests of the doctor. DI Taylor said in evidence these orders would have been approved by a senior officer at chief inspector rank, or above. But couldn’t point the court to any written document evidencing such approval, although he asserted that the approval would not have been by telephone.

On any view, this was a one man band operating well outside conventional police constraints, with minimal and ineffective supervision. Indeed, the court heard that, in an email to a superior, Lunn described himself as ‘Team Thatcham’ in answer to a complaint about his conduct – and in a way that appeared to suggest that his pivotal role gave him a shield against any disciplinary action over any complaint from a member of the public.

The judgment is also absent of discussion, analysis, reasoning and reasons in relation to whether, or not, DC Lunn’s unauthorised, pirate activities as a private detective to the insurance industry; or an inadequately explained payment of £183,000 by a motor insurance company to that same serving police officer, via a bogus company, around the time of his arrest of Dr Rashid; the associated leverage to obtain the ‘scalp’ of a high profile medico-legal professional to promote both DC Lunn’s and motor insurance company interests; and, the startlingly deliberate decision by senior officers involved in Operation Thatcham, and three Professional Standards Department (PSD) officers to engage in what appears to be a prima facie conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, by keeping DC Lunn’s ‘extra-curricular’ activities secret from the criminal defence teams in the ‘cash for crash’ fraud prosecutions.

There is also no evidence that a thorough, proportionate investigation was ever carried out by the police, or the IPCC to whom the matter should have been mandatorily referred, into the whereabouts of that £183,000, or whether Lunn was acting alone, or in concert with other police officers, over monies that give off the strong whiff of an inducement to extend his powers beyond what was, necessarily, lawful. The judge again strays into error with his finding that, by leaving West Yorkshire Police in August, 2013, Lunn “jumped before he was punched (sic)”. It is clear from the trial bundle that disciplinary proceedings had concluded with ‘words of advice’ and DI Taylor’s testimony, during the hearing, is that he left because he had been sent to work back on the beat and was unhappy about no longer having detective status.

Even though in almost every other civil claim of this class he would be the very first port of call, DC Lunn never even provided a witness statement in the these proceedings, and West Yorkshire Police have gone to the most extraordinary lengths to conceal both his true role in the Thatcham investigation and the full extent of his own misdemeanours – and those, it appears, of many others involved in this case. In Lunn’s case that included lying in a post-arrest report about ‘patient records being strewed about the doctor’s home and car’. A matter that both the judge and DI Taylor found very uncomfortable to deal with when when taken to the evidence by Mr Pennock that there was no such occurrence.

The police were, and still are, condoning that alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in order to do so. At least one person, convicted via the tainted Operation Thatcham, has complained to their PSD about the conspiracy, since the conclusion of this civil claim, and the police have sought to disapply the requirement under the Police Reform Act to investigate this very serious matter.

The IOPC (formerly the IPCC), the notoriously toothless ‘police watchdog’, with so much to lose themselves, have also chosen to further break the law by not ‘calling in’ the investigation as a Recordable Conduct matter arising out of civil proceedings. They stonewall any questions about their shielding of the corrupted ex-DC Mark Lunn for over three years in their Wakefield office. The Home Office similarly block any press enquiries on the topic.

Returning to the Nolan judgment, Dr Rashid and his lawyers point to some of the matters that the judge sought to highlight in the background narrative that did not appear to have the necessary relevance to the matters to be determined in this trial or carried disproportionate weight. For example:

– Reference to a company named NK Business Consultants Ltd, and a payment of a £825 administration fee by Dr Rashid to that company, when the police had no knowledge of either the company, or the payment, until alerted by Stuart Davies of the Ministry of Justice on 17th August, 2012, over five months after the arrest. The fact that NK never appeared on the policy log supports that fact. [The judgment goes so far as to say that the payment to NK raised ‘intense suspicion’ pre-arrest based on DI Taylor’s witness box evidence].

– The appointment of his 19 year old nephew as a director of a company Dr Rashid has formed.

– A tenant of Dr Rashid who runs a claims management company, completely unrelated to the organised crime group featuring in Operation Thatcham, or any fraudulent claim, from the downstairs shop premises of the doctor’s private medico-legal offices above (thus keeping his private practice completely separate from his NHS surgeries), is suspected to be his brother. DI Taylor had confirmed in his testimony that ‘there was nothing unusual in this’.

– The police claim that Dr Rashid’s reports are of a poor standard [relying on an ‘eccentric’ doctor who admits to the police he ‘is no expert’ and just happens to be a friend of DC Lunn’s mother] and the scale of fees charged for the reports [which DI Taylor conceded in evidence were consistent with the market rate in the personal injury arena].

– Whilst being questioned about Dr Tedd, DI Taylor conceded that despite the entry on the policy log that the doctor was a family friend of DC Lunn, he knew nothing at all about the relationship until asked about it by Mr Pennock during the trial. ‘It´s actually news to me, even at this late stage’ said the officer purorted by West Yorkshire Police to have been running Operation Thatcham.

– How quality of medical reporting became a police matter rather than a regulatory issue [The GMC in a protracted four year investigation found nothing untoward with the reports].

Conversely and perversely, Dr Rashid and his legal team might well contend, taking the contemporaneous reporting, and their own legal note-taking during the trial, as guides, that much more relevant points were either omitted from the judge’s discussion of the case, or understated as to their relevance within the factual matrix:

– The police were told pre-arrest, by a number of personal injury specialists, that the way in which Dr Rashid runs his private medico-legal practice was not uncommon and the impact that would have on any of the alleged reasonable grounds for arrest or, indeed, its necessity. This was also confirmed by DI Taylor in oral testimony as was the fact that the police had omitted to disclose this in trial documents.

– The refusal of the police to call the arresting officer to give evidence of what he considered the reasonable grounds to be. Or for him to provide a witness statement when at the material time he was working, as a public servant, and for the police watchdog no less, in very close proximity to WYP HQ.

– The failure to preserve, or disclose, one single document where the reasonable grounds for arresting Dr Rashid could be expected to be contemporaneously, and expressly, recorded.

– The alleged failure to apply for an arrest warrant for Dr Rashid at the same time that they applied for a search warrant [In earlier preliminary hearings the police had told the court that there was no arrest warrant, a position they appeared to resile from at the final hearing].

– The failure of the police to produce evidence they seized, showing block appointments, appointment duration, fee charged, standard of reports, payments made and to whom, by other doctors. Especially, those in claims that were ultimately proved to be fraudulent.

– The fact that it is common ground that Dr Rashid never reported on any of the numerous proven fraudulent claims, or the fact that the police cannot prove and refused to disclose, any evidence that could even form a basis to say Dr Rashid had actually reported on a claim even suspected of being fraudulent.

– All the transcripts of Dr Rashid’s audio tapes, taken during patient consultations, are entirely consistent with his subsequent reports. The judge might have anxiously considered whether tape recording these interactions was consistent with alleged wrongdoing. If he did, it was omitted from his verdict.

– The fact that West Yorkshire Police knew pre-arrest that a number of other doctors actually reported on numerous proven fraudulent claims, and at least one of those doctors reported on all 14 fraudulent claimants in a completely fabricated ‘accident’ wherein all were said to have been in the same mini-bus, yet did not suspect that doctor of complicity with those fraudulent claims.

– There is no reference to the use of scripts by personal injury claimants or the fact that the police offered a ludicrous explanation for their absence from the trial bundle.

– The lawfulness of alleged reasonable grounds for arrest to be determined on a communal basis between a team of officers against the alleged reasonable grounds having to be held and believed by the actual arresting officer alone.

– Assuming there were reasonable grounds to suspect Dr Rashid of the stipulated offence, the law requires the police to also prove it was ‘necessary’ to effect an arrest. They already had search warrants for all Dr Rashid’s premises (obviating the need to arrest him to invoke powers of search). DI Taylor’s evidence in court was  that he had no reason to suspect Dr. Rashid would not co-operate with them and would have voluntarily attended for questioning. The priority, he said, was obtaining access to his mobile phone.

– The failure by the police to put even one specific allegation to Dr Rashid during 35 hours of interview over a five month period subsequent to the arrest.

– The immediate revelation, within six hours in fact, to the GMC and local Primary Care Trust of the fact that Dr Rashid had been arrested, the grotesque exaggeration of the alleged offences for which he was arrested and the avoidance of required protocol by DC Lunn, and his supervisor DI Taylor, and the circumventing of the WYP Force Disclosure Unit, who would normally undertake such sensitive matters involving regulated professionals. [The extraordinary and unauthorised missives from DC Lunn asserted to the PCT the commission of very serious offences as fact, even before one question had been put to Dr Rashid in interview. They were never, subsequently, corrected].

– The police repeatedly failed to identify any actual fraudulent claim or even suspected fraudulent claim, that Dr Rashid was even involved in.

– None of the medico-legal practitioners who were proved to have reported on fraudulent claims within Operation Thatcham, or indeed on a wider view, were arrested. This included Dr Ayoub whom had reported on the ‘headline’ case in that investigation, a bogus mini-bus crash that resulted in 14 fraudulent claims.

Other mistakes, ambiguities, under- or over-statements in the judgment include:

– No mention of the number of officers attending at Dr Rashid’s arrest (16) or its timing (6.15am).

– Dr Rashid’s release from bail in June 2013 came after a review of their original decision not to charge by a more senior lawyer, requested by the police, not after ‘a review of the evidence’.

– The false, improper and malicious notification to the GMC by DC Lunn is simply noted by the judge as ‘in the course of the investigation WYP notified the GMC’

– The judgment is silent on the point that Dr Rashid’s suspension was quashed by the High Court in September, 2012 after a senior judge presiding in that review, HHJ Mark Gosnell, had observed that ‘the police evidence against him was sparse’. Evidence gathered and put to the court by DI Taylor.

– Judgment records that the Insurance Fraud Bureau ‘assisted with’ Operation Thatcham which is a position from which their press office resiled when asked.

– The judgment asserts that one of the ‘crash for cash’ organisers, Nadeem Khaled, was a Director of Advanced Claims (UK) Ltd. That was not heard in evidence and, in any event, has no grounding in fact – as a simple check at Companies House reveals.

– The judgment repeatedly refers to Concept Accident Management Ltd as ‘Concept Claims’. It also asserts that Khaled was ‘replaced as a director’. It is a matter of public record that he never was an officer of any description in that company.

– A Lamborghini car leased from a finance company in Portsmouth was described as being ‘of dubious provenance’. It was the driver about which there were police and Ministry of Justice concerns, not the vehicle.

– The driver of that vehicle, Fouad El Habbal, was said in the judgment to be 19 or 20 years old. It is a matter of public record that he was 21 years old at the time of his arrest (born May 1990).

– The judge describes the prestigious 4 star Cedar Court Hotel as ‘a budget hotel’.

– The judgment states that CPS lawyer, Julian Briggs, ‘was present on earlier occasions when the team had met’. That, put shortly, was not the evidence of DI Taylor.

– The judgment makes no mention of DI Taylor’s unequivocal evidence that ‘the policy log was compromised‘ by the lack of time, date, entry identification (usually by author’s initials) and its remoteness from police systems.

– A passage in the judgment concerning how the nefarious activities of DC Lunn first came to the attention of senior officers also falls into error. The judge’s acceptance of DI Taylor’s account of events, against the factual matrix and another of the detective’s losses of memory is concerning to say the least.

– The judgment refers to pre-arrest interview notes (that were, strangely, undated and with no author identified): Because they refer to events that only came into the knowledge of the police many months later, they were plainly post-arrest notes.

– During the proceedings the judge referred to a payment by Dr Rashid to a solicitor as a “backhander” (in Yorkshire, and probably elsewhere, a term for a bribe). That is not how the GMC characterised it during their lengthy investigation into Dr Rashid, nor was any such suggestion, oblique or otherwise, heard in evidence from the police officers. The solicitor has never been subject of complaint, application or arrest over that payment.

– The judgment refers twice to the number of Operation Thatcham convictions as 48. That was not heard in evidence and no source is quoted. West Yorkshire Police, by way of a freedom of information request, say the number was 45.

That is a long and troubling list and readers are invited to form their own view as to what might, in the interests of fairness and balance, have been an appropriate level of care, attention and impartiality from the bench and, more crucially, might reasonably be included in the judgment of Mr Recorder Nolan, or excluded, and the impact on his decision to dismiss the claim. His almost complete absence of note-taking, throughout the trial, may have contributed to this catalogue of errors.

There are also similar misgivings from Dr Rashid and his legal team as to how the law was applied to the judge’s finding of fact. They will be dealt with more fully, in a separate article, after Mr Justice Lavender has unpicked the competing arguments and made his decision.

Mr Justice Lavender

Whatever the outcome of the this appeal by Dr Rashid, neither the police, for the manner in which they routinely conduct civil or tribunal litigation, or the judge who was, arguably, prepared to overlook too many of their shortcomings and sharp practices, emerge with credit. The latter, in the twilight of what appears to have been a distinguished legal career, might well, in future, take a leaf out of the book of the Recorder of Bradford, HHJ Jonathan Hall QC, when presiding over court proceedings. An exemplar in how to conduct any hearing.

UPDATE: Ben Nolan QC is presently the subject of an ongoing complaint concerning an offensive post he made on the social media platform, Twitter. Read more here.

Page last updated: Wednesday 13th May, 2020 at 0900 hours

Photo Credits: Twitter (@F10BENQC); Serle Court Chambers

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 2015-2020. 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.

 

 

The Melsonby post office murder – Timeline

The murder of Diana Garbutt in 2010, by her husband Robin at the post office they ran in Melsonby, North Yorkshire, is a case that has recently attracted widespread media coverage. Convicted a year later at Teesside Crown Court, Garbutt has continued to protest his innocence. The trigger for the recent press and television activity was a third application to the miscarriage of justice watchdog, the Criminal Case Review Commission.

On this website there are four articles about the case, published since the beginning of April 2020, and comprising almost 20,000 words. It is the deepest, independent open-minded dive yet into this troubling crime.

~ ‘Don’t do anything stupid we have got your wife’ (read here)

~ ‘That particularly dubious constabulary merits careful investigation’ (read here)

~ ‘A regrettable lack of professionalism’ (read here)

~ “Fourth time lucky?’ (read here)

This timeline is intended to both underpin those articles and give the reader a first-time opportunity to have a compact view of who did what, where and when.

Surprisingly, there is no such narrative on the website of the campaigners who support Garbutt’s claims that he is a victim of a grotesque miscarriage of justice.

If any reader has any other substantive information that would enhance the timeline it would be gratefully received. Contact can be made via this link.

1965: Robin Joseph Garbutt born on 7th August, 1965 in Tholthorpe, near Easingwold. His mother, now Joyce Brook (née Wilson), gave evidence at the murder trial some 45 years later. His father, Joseph Garbutt, lived in Clifton, York at the time of the murder.

1969: Diana Michelle Kiefer was born in July in East Suffolk. She was daughter of William Kiefer, a sergeant in the United States Air Force, and his English wife Agnes (now Gaylor).

1993: Diana marries Robert Hunter. She was a serving Army officer at the time. The ceremony took place in Surrey.

Screenshot 2020-04-10 at 22.17.54
Allerton Castle, scene of the wedding of Robin and Diana Garbutt

1999: Robin meets Diana at a party at a friend’s house. They start dating afterwards.

2001: Diana moves in to live with Robin at his house in Huby. At the time Robin is a manager for an autoelectronics company, Yorktech.

2003: In April, Robin married Diana, 4 years his junior, at Allerton Castle, near Harrogate having bought Melsonby Village Stores and Post Office a few weeks earlier.

Mrs Garbutt served in both Women’s Royal Army Corps and 2nd Close Support Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps between 1990 and 1997 and, later, for G4S transporting prisoners to and from Leeds Crown Court.

2005: Business and property put up for sale. Diana said to be disenchanted with postmistress life’. Robin, who started work in the shop at 4.30am daily, had, on at least one occasion, told Diana, who rarely rose before 8.30am, ‘to get off her fat arse and help.’

2008: In December, Diana was “intimate on a settee” with John Illingworth whilst the couple stayed with friends at a house in York. Robin had gone to bed earlier.

2009: First reported robbery took place on 17th March at the post office. Around £11,000 was said to have been stolen from the safe by two masked, armed robbers. There were no witnesses and the police investigation was short-lived.

In that same month, Diana was in an “evolving relationship” with Kevin Heapey, her cousin’s husband, and they kissed at a family party. The affair ended Mr Heapey’s marriage. She was also spending a lot of time with fellow villager, Craig Hall. Exchanging explicit private messages and regularly going for nocturnal mountain bike rides.

Expensive holidays to Paris, Amsterdam; weekends away in Northumberland, York and at Bolton Abbey twice, were taken during the year. They both also had a love of good food and fine wine. Diana was an accomplished cook. She had also made a trip to Glastonbury music festival to see Bruce Springsteen perform.

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 08.49.06
Robin and Dianne Garbutt in happier times

Diana moots the idea of leaving Robin and renting a room elsewhere in the village. The couple undergo counselling at RELATE; they were working on the physical side of their relationship because Diana had a high libido and wanted more sex. Mr Hall confirms the Garbutt marriage was going through ‘a rough patch’.

Work starts on new kitchen in the living quarters adjacent to the shop, this project chosen instead of installing CCTV inside or outside the premises. Campaigners say the Garbutts asked Post Office Ltd for extra security and the request was declined.

2010: Book trip to USA to see Diana’s sister and grandmother a cost of £3,000. Paid in cash. Diana signs up for a page on the Badoo dating-focused social networking site, where she said she was looking to meet ‘a guy 35-50’. She visited the site three times in the 24 hours before she was murdered, including being logged on around midnight.

Diana is murdered on 23rd March; Robin is arrested on 14th April after previously assisting police as a significant witness; charged on 16th April; remanded in custody at committal hearing 19th April; Diana’s funeral 7th May; plea hearing 24th June; released on bail following pre-trial hearing on 27th Septemember; murder trial scheduled for 4th October is adjourned due to irregularities regarding the discovery and scientific testing of the murder weapon.

2011: Murder trial opens on 21st March; Robin’s bail revoked on 12th April immediately after he has given his evidence in the witness box. Jury returns guilty verdict on 19th April and the murderer is sentenced to life imprisonment. The jury found that, on the evidence, Robin’s story about the armed robbery was untrue. Appeal lodged with Criminal Division of Court of Appeal on 11th November.

2012: Court of Appeal hearing on 15th May, but is dismissed by three law lords after reserving judgment. They reason that the conviction is ‘safe’ and underscore jury’s finding that the armed robbery could not have taken place.

2015: First application made to Criminal Case Review Commission for a referral of the case back to the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. The grounds are not known and the Statement of Reasons for refusal, issued by the watchdog, are not in the public domain. There is no reference to them at all on the campaigners’ website.

2017: Second application to CCRC. No grounds or reasons for rejection are known. Again these details are not revealed by the campaigners or alluded to in any way.

Neither of the first two applications reached the threshold to merit an investigation by the CCRC.

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 18.49.59
Jane Metcalfe – justice campaigner for Robin Garbutt

2018: Described in the local press as ‘a long-term friend’, Jane Metcalfe appears to join the Robin Garbutt justice campaign towards the end of the year and emerges as its principal spokesperson and presenter. Previously, the campaign was fronted by Robin’s sister, Sallie Wood and his brother-in-law, Mark Stilborn. Sallie is quoted in a press statement as saying she ‘will stop at nothing’ to clear her brother’s name.

2019: Third CCRC application submitted on 5th December. This time the campaigners have gone public with their grounds. Although there is no unequivocal statement from the campaigners, they can just about be pieced together from studying an ‘exclusive’ article in The Metro, a free London-based newspaper; and two other media platforms: The Justice Gap and Private Eye, the iconic satirical magazine.

2020: In July, the Garbutt legal team of solicitor Martin Rackstraw and barrister Jim Sturman QC submit what is described as an Addendum to the third CCRC application. It is said to comprise materials relating to the Post Office Horizon scandal.

The Garbutt campaigners are hoping that their determined media campaign will pressure the CCRC into triaging their case as urgent. Some reviews by the criminal justice watchdog have been taking up to 7 years to finalise. The suspicion is that the Garbutt case will take much less time to determine. A decision on whether the CCRC will launch an investigation into the matters raised by the new application is expected to be communicated to his lawyers at the end of 2020 or early in 2021.

This timeline will be updated with any new developments as they occur.

Page last updated: Sunday 27th September, 2020 at 1425 hours

Photo Credits: Allerton Castle.

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 2015-2020. 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.