Crash landing as helicopter boss returns to work

Following the exclusive published on this website last month – and subsequently picked up by the national press – more startling revelations have come to light.

After a period away from his office, reportedly on sick leave, Chief Superintendent Tyron Joyce returned to work at West Yorkshire Police headquarters in Laburnum Road, Wakefield, on Monday 15th October, 2018.

WYP HQ is also the administrative base for the National Police Air Service (NPAS), of which Joyce is Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Last month, Joyce was given notice of a large number of complaints made against him by NPAS staff. He was, at the time, reportedly denied access to his office and police computer systems. Captain Oliver Dismore took over as temporary COO.

Joyce’s return to work was not at all welcomed by some members of NPAS staff, particularly those who had made complaints against him. They had been promised by officers in WYP’s Professional Standards Department (PSD) that, if Joyce returned to work in police HQ, it would be in a location remote from them.

The return to his office had been agreed between PSD and the Superintendents’ Association, who are providing both professional and pastoral support to Joyce.

Complaints about Joyce’s proximity were made to Captain Dismore by NPAS staff involved in the misconduct allegations. Dismore, in turn, made representations to Deputy Chief Constable, John Robins. The latter has had portfolio responsibility for PSD since 2014.

On Tuesday morning, having been tasked by Robins, Assistant Chief Constable Angela Williams went to Tyron Joyce’s office and asked him to leave. A confrontation ensued between the two. The upshot is that Joyce is now working remotely from his staff.

Both WYP and NPAS were approached with a series of questions concerning what has been reported by a police whistleblower. Neither WYP, nor NPAS, even provided an acknowledgement. Both press offices have previously declined to confirm that C/Supt Joyce was under investigation, or what class of misconduct was alleged.

The Superintendents’ Association responded promptly with a statement from Victor Marshall, Professional Standards Co-ordinator:

We are supporting a member who is under investigation for alleged misconduct.

We await full details of the allegations“.

Under the overall control of Robins, WYP PSD has staggered from crisis to crisis, over the past four years. On any independent view, and, from the limited details known to date, the Tyron Joyce investigation is another cack-handed debacle.

The complainants are angry; Joyce is not having the benefit of a fair, impartial, well-managed disciplinary process and his professional body is, quite plainly, frustrated at the lack of specification of the complaints.

Little wonder that whistleblowers are coming forward, in increasing numbers, as they lose any remaining faith in the leadership of both the force and NPAS. Interestingly, Dee Collins is in charge of both.

In another exclusive article on this website, her intention to retire early next year is forecast (read here). The force, and Ms Collins, have repeatedly refused to confirm, or deny, that it will be April 2019 when she goes.

It cannot come one day too soon for a force conspicuously absent of visible leadership and, seemingly, bereft of the requisite ethical and professional standards.

Page last updated on Sunday 31st October, 2018 at 19.50

 

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 2015-2018. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chief constable set to take flight?

A well-placed source says West Yorkshire Police chief constable, Dee Collins, is set to retire.

Rumours have been circulating for some time, but it seems that Ms Collins will pass day-to-day control of the force to her deputy, John Robins, at the end of this year.

It is said that the chief will complete her police service at the College of Policing headquarters, in the early part of 2019, as Course Service Director for the next cohort of strategic command candidates. Read more here.

The incumbent deputy chief constable (DCC), John Robins, will take over as temporary chief constable, with ACC Russ Foster promoted to T/DCC and Chief Superintendent Mark Ridley also promoted, to assistant chief constable.

Ms Collins was appointed as WYP chief constable in November, 2016. She was the only candidate for the post. During her tenure, the force’s tarnished reputation has been further damaged by a number of high profile scandals. There are at least three more in the making. All concerning matters on her watch.

She also holds the post of Air Operations Certificate Holder at the National Police Air Service (NPAS). Her effectiveness in that role was again called into question recently, following the, as yet, unexplained departure of the Chief Operating Officer, Tyron Joyce.

In November 2017, NPAS was the subject of blistering criticism by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) who described the management of the service as ‘inept‘ and its financial model ‘unsustainable‘. The NPAS response to Matt Parr‘s withering report is due next month (November 2018). A NPAS insider suggests that the answers are unlikely to satisfy HMIC.

West Yorkshire’s Police Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, chairs the NPAS Strategic Board. He was also responsible for appointing Dee Collins as chief constable. His second failure in a row in selecting a police leader, as the Mark Gilmore debacle cost the county’s precept payers around £750,000.

Burns-Williamson is understood to be facing problems of his own, as a major media organisation is said to be presently conducting an enquiry into alleged serious wrongdoing by the PCC’s office. It is understood to concern the hot topic of non-disclosure.

Both the chief constable, privately, and the police press office were approached for comment. The latter responded promptly. They confirmed the chief’s posting to the College of Policing, DCC Robins taking day to day control of the force in January, 2019, but deny she is retiring. The reader is, accordingly, invited to make up her, or his, own mind. Dee Collins did not reply.

In doing so, it should be noted that Mark Burns-Williamson has not published a Decision Notice regarding the change of leadership on his PCC website. He is required to do so by law (Elected Local Policing Bodies [Specified Information] Order, 2011).

The PCC’s office has not been approached. Their press officer, Dee Cowburn, routinely ignores such requests.

BBC Look North, in a short package put out on Friday 5th October, 2018, adopted their routine role as a public relations facility for WYP and the PCC. The state broadcaster confirmed that Dee Collins was going to the College of Policing on secondment and that John Robins was taking over control of the force. Other highly newsworthy matters in this article were, unsurprisingly, not followed up.

Ends

Page last updated: Saturday 6th October, 2018 at 1910 hrs

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2018. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Police helicopter boss goes off the radar

Over the past two decades, airborne capability for the police service has become increasingly important in the fight against ‘cross-border’ crime.

Helicopters are run on a shared basis, across 43 forces, under the National Police Air Service (NPAS) banner.

Operational headquarters of NPAS is situated in Wakefield city centre and there is an air base within West Yorkshire Police’s £100 million complex at Carr Gate, Wakefield. There are fourteen other police aircraft bases around the country.

NPAS is the first truly National Police Collaboration created under a Lead Force model and is widely regarded as a major accomplishment in that context.

Much of the credit for the initial success of NPAS is down to a retired WYP chief superintendent, Ian Whitehouse, who undertook extensive due diligence from August 2011 and managed the complex Programme to create the service. He then became Accountable Manager, from January, 2013 until his retirement in March, 2016. Effectively building a class-leading airline, from scratch, against a backdrop of having to migrate to new European regulations.

C/Supt Whitehouse retired from WYP, and NPAS, after losing confidence in his chief constable, Dee Collins, who also holds the role of Air Operations Certificate Holder in NPAS. Whitehouse and Collins, by a quirk of fate, actually trained together at Durham, at the start of their police service. Whitehouse from West Yorkshire and Collins from the Cleveland force. Collins had also been East Midlands lead for NPAS before joining WYP from Derbyshire Police in early 2014.

Many who know both are surprised that Collins outranked Whitehouse at the end of the latter’s police career. There cannot have been many chief constables in history who failed their sergeant’s exam four times, and then later fell into the chief’s role without a single candidate in opposition.

Following the retirement of Ian Whitehouse, the vacancy as NPAS Accountable Manager was filled by a WYP supertintendent, Tyron Joyce. The title of the role was also changed to Chief Operating Officer and there was also a promotion to chief superintendent. Joyce had previously worked under Whitehouse, within NPAS, as National Programme Manager.

Within weeks of Joyce’s promotion, however, problems with staff began to surface at Carr Gate. Dee Collins was aware of the very serious issues, but continued to back her new appointment. To do otherwise would disrupt her ‘diversity’ narrative.

The culmination was, some eighteen months later, Joyce was served with misconduct papers by WYP’s Professional Standards Department (PSD) earlier this month (September, 2018). It is believed that there are, at present, eleven allegations with, potentially, twenty more to follow. He has not been in post at NPAS since that time, and is now prevented from accessing police force computer systems until the disciplinary process is completed.

Both the force, and NPAS press office, have refused to confirm that the alleged misconduct features bullying. Or, that two civil claims made by complainants have been compromised by way of a financial settlement. At least three other named members of staff are believed to have made complaints. A national newspaper, following up on this exclusive article, claims that Joyce is “obsessed with political correctness and minority issues”. Openly referring to staff in his “abrasive style” as “male, pale and stale”.

Joyce’s stock phrase is said to be: “I will manage terrorists out of my organisation”.

A questionnaire sent to NPAS staff, by the force, may lead to more. Viewed objectively, the way that document is framed could lead to arguments of unfairness by those representing Tyron Joyce at any future proceedings.

The chief constable has also been made aware that Joyce, a former Cambridgeshire and Metropolitan Police officer, who joined WYP in 2008, received words of advice from his line manager over conduct towards staff in 2013. She has refused to comment.

A retired officer has come forward to say that, in a meeting with Joyce, the latter said: “I’ve been in trouble before with PSD. They tried to do my legs, so I  have to be careful what I say to staff”. The retired officer found him pleasant and polite, in spite of the contentious subject in issue.

A source close to Joyce insists that any, or all, misconduct allegations are emphatically denied. He believes the complaints are motivated by malice from staff he criticised for poor performance. Support is being provided to him by the Superintendents’ Association.

His competencies listed on his LinkedIn profile include coaching of BME and female officers. He completes 28 years service as a police officer next month (October 2018).

He is presently on sick leave. Assurances have been sought privately from the WYP chief constable that appropriate welfare, and safeguarding, arrangements are in place for Tyron Joyce and his family. Specific concerns were raised. Ms Collins has not responded.

The post of Accountable Manager/Chief Operating Officer is presently filled, during Joyce’s absence, by NPAS Director of Operations, Oliver Dismore. According to Dismore’s LinkedIn profile he took over the role, temporarily, earlier this month (September 2017).

Deputy chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, John Robins, whose command team portfolio includes the force’s troubled PSD, is reported to be furious about the information ‘leaks’ concerning this matter.

One of those leaks concerns an allegedly racist remark made by Robins to Tyron Joyce (a BME officer), in 2013, when he is said to have described his support for Joyce, on a senior officer national accreditation course, as ‘a tick in a diversity box‘. His chief constable has refused to confirm whether this matter has been referred, as part of a mandatory reporting obligation, to the Independent Office for Police Conduct for an investigation decision.

Police Aviation News, in their October edition, say that ‘various sources have alleged that the base problem is wholesale bullying highlighted by rampant political correctness. In the wake of the [Cheshire chief constable] Simon Byrne bullying allegations, it seems that too many sections of NPAS are riddled with both’.

Page last updated: Saturday 6th October, 2018 at 1325 hrs

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 2015-2018. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Black woman in fear of local police forced to leave Bradford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When reputation management trumps safeguarding risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over to you, Ma’am.

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 08.37.54

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] uPSDWYP: Home page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Neil Wilby: Barium too hard to swallow

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

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

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