So I arrested him for something, sergeant.

It is said that renowned explorer Ranulph Fiennes has one stipulation about whom accompanies him on his far flung expeditions.  He is quoted thus: “I would be happy to take anyone on my expeditions, with one exception ….. people from Yorkshire”!  The characteristic Fiennes is, apparently, unable to tolerate is the Yorkshireman’s dourness and refusal to accept they are wrong.

This particular sterotypical characteristic of residents of God’s Own County might well be said of Stephen Bradbury who has recently successfully concluded a series of civil claims against West Yorkshire Police

Having acted as police complaints advocate for Mr Bradbury, since 2012, it must be said that in all my dealings with him he is found to be charming and affable. Also, no-one I know spends more of his own time helping others. A selfless, generous individual, on any independent view.

That said, his case history undoubtedly reveals other classic Yorkshire traits; plain speaking, stubbornness and, unfortunately, for West Yorkshire Police an ability to stick to his guns in the face of hostile enemy fire.

Back in 2003, Mr Bradbury had raised concerns with his local council as regards quality and frequency of services to the tax-paying public by Kirklees. Looking back, how prescient those complaints were, as his local council staggers perenially from crisis to crisis.

Not content with the Council’s response, he attempted to raise issues in public meetings with council officials. Unfortunately, Mr Bradbury’s persistence, and refusal to accept nonsensical answers and detriment to his businesses, led, ultimately, to him being banned from all Kirklees Council buildings. Including libraries, wedding venues and sports centres.

In response, Mr Bradbury exercised his rights under the Data Protection Act and filed a data subject access request with the Council. In doing so, he discovered email correspondence between senior council officials, including Senior Legal Officer, Dermot Pearson, and another council lawyer who has since passed away, setting out that should Mr Bradbury’s “extreme behaviour” continue, they would take up the offer of Chief Superintendent John Robins, Kirklees Divisional Commander, whom had suggested that Mr Bradbury could be arrested for Breach of the Peace and “locked in a cell for a couple of hours while he cools down”.

Sure enough, a short time after that email exchange, Mr Bradbury, was indeed arrested and locked up for a few hours. He was, of course, released without charge. Robins was recently promoted for a third time since that incident and now heads up the force as Temporary Chief Constable, a matter that should concern every law abiding citizen in the county, based on this account. 

It’s fair to say that Mr Bradbury, a man of exemplary character, did not ‘cool down’. He was, in fact, incensed by what appeared to be a pre-planned, but unlawful, conspiracy between the police and the council, and was not prepared to take this lying down.

Mr Bradbury decided to make a video film compilation that would chart his experiences with both the council and the police and, as such, appeared outside both council and police buildings, with his camera, taking photographs and filming with purpose, and intent, of exposing the police as (he sees it) “thugs”.

As retired chief constable Andy Trotter, Communications lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers  (now National Police Chiefs Council), advised all other chief constables in August 2010 “there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place.

Unfortunately, that very simple and direct statement didn’t get through to West Yorkshire Police, whose officers took a significant dislike to Mr Bradbury and his perfectly legitimate, but unconventional, film-making activities. Neil Wilby lodged a complaint, in 2013, with the Police and Crime Commissioner against two chief constables, Norman Bettison and Mark Gilmore, concerning their failure to circularise officers about the NPCC’s directive. It was proved that they hadn’t done as required by ACPO, but the PCC decided not to uphold the complaint and took no action.

To compound matters, Mr Bradbury was aware of his right not to have to answer any questions, or provide his name and address; a well established principle illustrated by the case of Rice and Connolly in which the then Lord Chief Justice, Hubert Parker, ruled in the following terms: That police had no power to insist upon answers to their questions, or to detain Mr Rice while they checked up on him: 

“It seems to me quite clear that though every citizen has a moral duty or, if you like, a social duty to assist the police, there is no legal duty to that effect, and indeed the whole basis of the common law is the right of the individual to refuse to answer questions put to him by persons in authority, and to refuse to accompany those in authority to any particular place; short, of course, of  arrest”.

And so, over a four year period between July 2012 through to June 2016, Mr Bradbury was involved in numerous incidents with West Yorkshire Police officers where he was variously unlawfully detained, arrested, assaulted, and on one occasion, prosecuted.

It should be pointed out that Mr Bradbury, as at 2012 was 62 years old, small in stature (5′ 2″ tall) and light-framed.

It is for the police to establish that arrest, and use of force is lawful, and it soon transpired that on every occasion that West Yorkshire Police officers arrested Mr Bradbury (and different officers were involved in all seven incidents), not once could they prove that his detention, or arrest, was lawful either because detention and/or arrest lacked lawful authority, or because of the manner of arrest which invariably involved violence of varying degrees. 

On occasion, officers sought to arrest but failed, in breach of Section 28 of PACE, to advise Mr Bradbury that he was under arrest, or tell him the reason for the arrest. 

On other occasions, officers did seek to comply with Section 28 and advise Mr Bradbury that he was under arrest and sought to rely upon a variety of offences:  Breach of the Peace, Public Order and Anti Terrorism  and yet on the facts, no such offences had occurred .

One example is what happened on the afternoon of 31st January, 2013 when Mr Bradbury was outside the northern extremity of WYP headquarters, on the public highway, but close to the exit barrier from the car park.

At the time, Mr Bradbury was in possession of a handheld digital camera and a Go-Pro digital mini camcorder, resting on his chest.  A vehicle passed through the exit barrier, driven by DC Shaun Hurd.  As the vehicle of DC Hurd approached, Mr Bradbury took a series of photographs of the car.  DC Hurd drove through the exit barrier stopped his vehicle and then alighted, asking what Mr Bradbury was doing.  Mr Bradbury responded that he was minding his own business and doing nothing wrong. 

West Yorkshire Police’s Detective Constable Shaun Hurd assaulting Stephen Bradbury and unlawfully arresting him. WARNING: Some may find violent content distressing.

As Mr Bradbury was stood recording the unfolding events, DC Hurd turned towards his vehicle, removed a digital camera and took a photograph at close proximity of Mr Bradbury.  As Mr Bradbury explained that he in turn would photograph the lollipop sucking detective, DC Hurd moved towards him and attempted to snatch the camera from his grip.

Mr Bradbury was then taken hold of by DC Hurd and told that he was under arrest for conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace.  DC Hurd forced Mr Bradbury up against an adjacent brick wall, with his arm held tightly up behind his back. 

Mr Bradbury challenged DC Hurd as to the reason for his arrest, specifically what basis there would be to suggest a breach of the peace. DC Hurd (perhaps unaware that the arrest was being recorded) suggested that it was because Mr Bradbury had attempted to get into his car, which was manifestly untrue.  Mr Bradbury, quite correctly, denied this to be the case.  DC Hurd then falsely suggested (on more than one occasion) that Mr Bradbury had put his camera inside of his car.

Another officer, Detective Inspector Damian Carr from the force’s Professional Standards Department, then arrived on the scene and, after a private conversation with DC Hurd, Mr Bradbury was de-arrested and permitted to go on his way.

DI Carr, of whom, it is fair to say, had a chequered history in his role as a PSD officer, made no attempt to hold DC Hurd to account, either on the day or, subsequently, throughout an elongated complaints process.

Was Mr Bradbury guilty of causing a Breach of the Peace?

Breach of the Peace is a common law concept which confers upon police officers the power to arrest, intervene or detain by force to prevent any action likely to result in a Breach of the Peace.

A Breach of the Peace will occur whenever harm is done, or is likely to be done to a person, or in his presence to his property, or, whenever a person is in fear of being harmed through an assault, affray, riot or other disturbance.

An arrest may be made where a Breach of the Peace is being committed, or has been committed and there is an immediate need to prevent a further breach, or where the person making the arrest has a reasonable belief that a breach will be committed in the immediate future.

The courts have held that there must be a sufficiently real and present threat of a Breach of the Peace to justify the extreme step of depriving of his liberty a person who was not at the time acting unlawfully.

While a constable may exceptionally have the power to arrest a person whose behaviour is lawful but provocative, this power ought to be exercised only in the clearest of circumstances and when he is satisfied on reasonable grounds that a Breach of the Peace is imminent.

There was clearly no basis to arrest Mr Bradbury and his arrest and detention were unlawful. 

Sometimes the reasons given to arrest Mr Bradbury changed upon either reflection or advice from Senior Officers.

On 7th December, 2012, Mr Bradbury was again situated at the rear of West Yorkshire Police headquarters, on the public highway, a short distance from the car park.

Pursuing his film-making ambitions, Mr Bradbury was engaged in taking photographs of police officers and vehicles.

Unbeknown to Mr Bradbury,  information as to his whereabouts and activities had been reported to the Control Room for West Yorkshire Police and in consequence, Detective Constable Edwards decided to approach Mr Bradbury.

DC Edwards requested an explanation for the activity of Mr Bradbury which the latter, quite rightly, refused to give. When Mr Bradbury then attempted to walk away, the bullying detective proceeded to grab him by the arm to prevent his movement. DC Edwards stated that Mr Bradbury would be conveyed to a nearby police station, without confirming that he was under arrest or the reasons for the arrest.

DC Edwards proceeded to escort Mr Bradbury to  the local police station.  Upon his arrival, Mr Bradbury  was produced before the Custody Officer, Sergeant Knight, who had met him previously

The interaction was recorded on the custody CCTV camera.  The following is a transcript of the conversation between Mr Bradbury, the arresting officer and the Custody Sergeant.

Mr Bradbury  – Could you tell me for what reason I’ve been arrested, you haven’t err explained.

Police Officer – To establish who your details are cos you haven’t told us who you are.

Mr Bradbury – Am I obliged?

Police Officer – To establish who you are and what you’re doing.

Police Officer – Sergeant I’ve arrested this man cos he was stood outside the back door of Wood Street not Wood Street Headquarters.

Mr Bradbury – Laburnum Road

Police Officer – Taking pictures of vehicles exiting the premises and people exiting the premises and I’ve approached him and asked him why, he’s refused to answer and he’s refused to give me details.

Police Officer – I don’t know if he’s a member of an organised crime group or terrorist or whatever.

Mr Bradbury – Let me take me coat off it’s getting warm.

Police Officer – So I arrested him for something, sergeant.

Custody Sergeant – Ok, right, do you want to just give me a second out back for a moment please.

(and with this the custody sergeant escorted DC Edwards away from the spotlight of the camera into a back room where no doubt he challenged the detective as to what had occurred outside and, it is strongly suspected, coached DC Edwards to provide a more ‘reasonable’ basis for arrest than ‘terrorism’. Indeed a few minutes later, both sergeant and the arresting officer returned and all became clear ………..)

Custody Sergeant – Right the officers hmm told me the circumstances with regards to you being brought to the police station, the fact is that you’ve been arrested for breach of the peace okay.  Hmm

Mr Bradbury – Could I ask some questions please?

Custody Sergeant – You certainly can.

Mr Bradbury – Right how do you come to breach of the peace when I’m stood there not err I’m sure these people have realised that I’ve not uttered one word of bad language.

Custody Sergeant  –  No not in not in here sir no but

Mr Bradbury – Not

Custody Sergeant – err obviously at the at the at the

Mr Bradbury – Is this man accusing me of using bad and threatening behaviour outside?

Custody Sergeant – No, you’ve been err argumentative and obstructive with obviously there was there was a breach

Mr Bradbury – But but I’m not obliged to

Custody Sergeant – there was some concern that there be other offences err as well so initially the officer brought you in for a breach of the peace.  I’ve checked with the……..

Mr Bradbury – Sorry that’s not correct.

Custody Sergeant – Okay well you you can agree or disagree

Mr Bradbury – he mentioned okay well I’d like it recorded please

Custody Sergeant – with me as you wish

Mr Bradbury – that he mentioned terrorism.

Custody Sergeant – “Yes that’s no problem I’ve made enquiries with the Counter Terrorism Unit hmm they’ve err confirmed with err for me that there’s err no hmm incidents that of note where you are linked to terrorism or anything like that , there’s no offences that they’re hmm they would like to speak with you about so therefore with regard to any criminal side at all there is no criminal offences that you’re here for.” 

Mr Bradbury was promptly released from custody, as it was clear that even the alternative justification for his arrest – ‘Breach of the Peace’ – was without any foundation. 

Following a subsequent investigation into the incident, DC 4613 Edwards ‘clarified’ his version of the arrest circumstances.

In response to a call regarding a man stood at the rear exit photographing vehicles leaving the police car park, he walked to the barrier and saw Mr Bradbury holding a compact camera. The detective (the term is used loosely) claimed he approached Mr Bradbury, identified himself and asked what he was doing.  Mr Bradbury refused to provide an answer and asked what it had to do with him, DC Edwards explained.  Mr Bradbury again refused to account for his actions whereupon DC Edwards told him he was under arrest unless he provided an explanation and his details.  Again, Mr Bradbury refused.  DC Edwards then advised Mr Bradbury he was under arrest for offences under the Terrorism Act 2006.

On challenge, DC Edwards explained that he did not know under what specific section of the Terrorism Act he had arrested Mr Bradbury, but that it was on suspicion of the preparation of a terrorist act.

This is covered by Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006 which provides as follows –

Section 5  Preparation of terrorist acts

(1) A person commits an offence if, with the intention of—

(a) committing acts of terrorism, or

(b) assisting another to commit such acts,

he engages in any conduct in preparation for giving effect to his intention.

(2) It is irrelevant for the purposes of subsection (1) whether the intention and preparations relate to one or more particular acts of terrorism, acts of terrorism of a particular description or acts of terrorism generally.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.

As will be noted, this is a very serious offence which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. To my mind, it is utterly ridiculous that Mr Bradbury was arrested under this law. Section 5 of the Act is intended to encompass such activities as travelling abroad to Syria to join jihadist groups, financially supporting terrorist organisations such as ISIS, or involvement in a bomb plot.

It was utterly draconian to attempt to utilise this section of the law to justify the arrest of Mr Bradbury for what was in reality the non- offence of “refusing to answer an officer’s question”, or indeed “infringing the officer’s sense of power” which I suspect was what was really motivating DC Edwards, rather than any genuine belief that he was, in Mr Bradbury, confronting a ‘terrorist’. I think this is confirmed by the custody sergeant’s apparent attempt to get DC Edwards to change his ‘script’, as to the reason for arrest, to something that did not seem so obviously outrageous.

There is in fact an offence under Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 which is designed to prevent the eliciting, publication or communication of information about members of the armed forces or police, where such information is designed to assist an act of terror. However, the Metropolitan Police’s own guidelines on this law state very clearly that “It would ordinarily be unlawful to use section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities” , unless there are further grounds for suspecting that the photographs were being taken to provide assistance to a terrorist.

There is also a power under section 43 of the 2000 Act which allows officers to stop and search anyone who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist; this would certainly have been a less draconian action for DC Edwards to have taken against him (a simple search rather than an arrest) but he chose not to do so; and it is suggested that this was because he did not really think Mr Bradbury was a terrorist at all, but was just looking for a reason to arrest a man who was – in the officer’s eyes – being ‘disobedient’  or ‘disrespectful’ to him.

In my view, it is absolutely right that Mr Bradbury should take a stand against such egregious behaviour as demonstrated by DC Edwards. Individual liberty – and the right not to have to ‘produce your papers’ when challenged by a police officer, or to refuse to answer an officer who is questioning you because he doesn’t like your face (as it were) – is one of the hallmarks of British democracy, as opposed to a dystopian police state such as existed in Eastern Bloc countries not so very long ago. 

The stretching of powers granted under the Terrorism Act to encompass the harmless if eccentric – even, perhaps, bizarre and annoying – behaviour of individuals such as Mr Bradbury is something which we must absolutely guard against, lest it become a matter of routine for the police to use ‘terrorism’ as a catch-all excuse to arrest anyone they don’t  like, who hasn’t committed any specific ‘proper’ offence; although this is a much more extreme example, look at a country like increasingly authoritarian Turkey where anti-terrorism powers are used as a matter of routine to justify the arrest of opponents of the government (including journalists and lawyers).

The powers of arrest granted under the various Terrorism Acts must not be taken lightly; and we all, as citizens, journalists or lawyers, have a duty to ‘police the police’ if individual officers attempt, either deliberately, or because they don’t fully understand the law,  to misuse those powers.

This is exactly what Mr Bradbury chose to do, by bringing civil claims against West Yorkshire Police for the no less than seven occasions he was unlawfully arrested as described above, or in very similar circumstances. Having threatened the police with litigation, Mr Bradbury’s solicitor persuaded WYP to the negotiating table and a sum of £13,500 in damages was secured for Mr Bradbury, plus recovery of his firm’s costs.

What will probably prove of even more value in the long term, is the lesson the police have, hopefully, learned from this and other similar actions police action lawyers have brought on behalf of their clients – not to overstep their powers of arrest, and to ensure that their officers keep their tempers in check, and properly understand the law of the land which they are charged with upholding.

Page last updated on Wednesday 13th February, 2019 at 1955hrs

Picture credit: Stephen Brabury; West Yorkshire Police in Action YouTube channel

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

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© 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.

If at first you don’t succeed

At the beginning of October, 2018 an exclusive article on this website foretold the retirement of the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police (read here).

Dee Collins did not respond to a private message sent to her, as she had done previously when the topic first surfaced earlier in the year. But the WYP press office reluctantly confirmed the previously concealed fact that she was joining the College of Policing, to oversee a three month training course at their Ryton headquarters, beginning in January, 2019.

The press office, again after being pushed, also confirmed the exclusive news that John Robins would take over temporary command of the force, together with the details of the senior office re-shuffle that would follow.

They denied she was retiring. But pressed a second time on the basis of the strength of the intelligence that she was, there was no response. Instead a lengthy statement was given, by Collins, to Bradford’s Telegraph and Argus, one of a number of ‘tame’ local newspapers in West Yorkshire that is content to provide an all in the garden in rosy public relations service on behalf of the area’s police force.

The T&A article (read here) included this gem: “Although I will be working out of Force, I will keep a keen eye on what is happening in West Yorkshire and contrary to rumours I have seen circulating on social media, I will be returning to my post following secondment!”

At the time, a well-placed BBC source was of the view Collins would ‘return from the College in April, 2019, say her goodbyes, and retire in May’. Other police sources, close to a number of senior officers, said the chief would not return after she left in December, 2018. All those sources are usually well informed.

She would reach 32 years service shortly after the Ryton trip and could choose to leave with a huge lump sum and a yearly pension in excess of £80,000.

Also, the chief constable role in one of the country’s largest police forces has, in all truth, proved beyond her. It would be a sensible time to exit before her personal standing diminishes amidst a further wave of negative publicity for WYP. She survives in the job, largely, because of a woefully weak, and compromised, police commissioner who provides zero effective oversight. Mark Burns-Williamson and Dee Collins are well matched, of that there is no doubt, but the evidence shows that is not to the benefit of West Yorkshire precept payers.

As an experienced police officer, the latter ought also to be aware of the perils of relying on a PCC that applies Grecian 2000 to his hair, usually a reliable indicator of a man who is not what he seems to be. The vain Burns-Williamson appears to have ceased the practice since it was drawn to the wider public’s attention on social media.

That apart, being an amiable, praise-showering, selfie-loving individual and a diversity, equality champion in the wider police service, doesn’t cut it when the force is engulfed in scandal after scandal that Collins appears, or claims, to know nothing about. But deploys precious police resources smearing, and attempting to criminalise, her critics – and spending grotesque sums on PR stunts, and pointless campaigns, to paper over the cracks.

One of the policing command units over which she is routinely effusive is Kirklees. She recently promoted one ex-Divisional Commander to temporary chief (Robins), another to assistant chief (Tim Kingsman) and the most recent (Steve Cotter) to head the prestigious Leeds Division. Yet, Huddersfield is now officially rated the worst place to live in UK. Gun and knife crime are out of control, and lawless gangs give the town the look and feel of The Wild West. Top that off with industrial scale child rape, and trafficking, in the town that WYP, in concert with the local council, chose to cover up and the disconnect between Collins’ blue sky world, and reality, may be readily apprehended.

Regrettably, much the same can be said about WYP’s Bradford Division.

Her flawed judgement of the strengths and weaknesses of other subordinates is also concerning. Regular promotions for such as Robins, Nick Wallen and Osman Khan, both now chief superintendents in key roles, Mabs Hussain, now a controversial ACC appointment at Greater Manchester Police (read more here) bear this out. She also has Angela Williams in her command team, as an ACC, who doesn’t, it is said, have the full confidence of the rest of her fellow senior managers. These are the highest profile examples of a larger number that set alarm bells ringing.

In the event, Robins took over as West Yorkshire Police chief at the beginning of December. The reason for the discrepancy in their press office statement has not been made clear.

Other disclosures obtained via freedom of information requests reveal a further curiosity: The College of Policing are at pains to avoid the term ‘secondment’ for the period Collins will be acting as Course Service Director for the 2019 cohort of the Strategic Command Course (SCC). She is on a ‘flexible attachment’ they are at pains to say. Which appears, taken at its face, to be a device designed to avoid entering into a formal Central Service Secondment agreement. The sharp-eyed will have noticed that the chief constable described it as a ‘secondment’ in her gushing quotes to the T&A. In fact she refers to ‘secondment’ twice. So there can have been no mistake. Especially as Mike Cunningham, the chief executive at the College also refers to ‘secondment’:

“To have a Chief Constable of Dee’s standing in this role reinforces the importance of the course in the development of the future most senior leaders of the Service. I would like to thank both Dee for this commitment and Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, for supporting Dee’s short secondment to the College of Policing to deliver the course.”.

No mention there of her becoming WYP chief constable because not one other senior police officer in the country could countenance working for PCC Burns-Williamson after the Norman Bettison and Mark Gilmore debacles, in which both former chiefs complained bitterly of betrayal by their PCC. one in a book and the other at the Royal Courts of Justice.

The SCC is an essential stepping stone for officers wanting to progress from chief superintendent to rank of assistant chief constable. Mabs Hussain was a successful candidate in the 2018 version.

Some might say Director of the latest renewal of the testing two module course is a perverse appointment for one who took four attempts to pass her sergeant’s exams and five applications (she says three) to progress from ACC to deputy chief. But, as it appears she was the only candidate for the SCC supervisory role, and a feverish, happy-clappy networker, maybe it is not so strange, after all?

It is, also, worth recalling that Collins was the only candidate when appointed to chief constable at WYP, and Hussain was the only candidate for his new posting at GMP. As was his new chief constable, Ian Hopkins.

A College of Police spokesperson has provided this response to a request seeking confirmation as to whether the WYP chief freely applied for the job of her own volition, prior to the closing date of 10th August, 2016, or was encouraged to ‘apply’ afterwards in absence of any other candidates. An increasingly recurring, and troubling, theme in policing circles.

“There was an open and publicly advertised application process for the role of Course Service Director for the 2019 Strategic Command Course. Chief Constable Dee Collins submitted her application prior to the original closing date and was successful. We are delighted to have a Chief Constable of Dee’s standing and experience to lead the course.”

Looking at the letter inviting applications from Mike Cunningham, disclosed by way of a freedom of information request made by Mr Edward Williams, via the What Do They Know website (read in full here), it could not be described as ‘open and publicly advertised’. It appears to have been sent to the 40, or so, eligible chief constables in the UK. No-one else.

The good news, however, is that the College are reimbursing WYP in full for her salary costs, benefits, expenses and overtime whilst she is deployed there. A question that PCC Burns-Williamson declined to address when the issue of the departing chief constable was put to a meeting of his Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel on 9th November, 2018. It also seems that neither the Panel Secretariat, nor any of its Members, were aware of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which was, allegedly, signed three weeks before on 19th October, 2018.

“The Panel saw the benefits of the Chief Constable working in this role and the learning that she will bring back to West Yorkshire as positive”, said a PCP spokesperson. “There was no specific question asked of the PCC regarding the Chief Constable’s remuneration”.

Backdating correspondence, documents is a persistent, and highly disconcerting, habit within WYP and the PCC’s office, so no reliability can be attached to the date on the MoU, absent of disclosure of collateral documents.

Dee Collins has been made aware of this issue many times, and has even indulged herself on one occasion, but does nothing whatsoever to address it. As she fails to do with so many other ethical, professional transgressions of her favoured clique. Which does sit easily with her appointment as Course Director of a group of future police leaders.

It is not known, at present, if Dee Collins retains her other key position as Air Operations Certificate Holder with the troubled National Police Air Service during her flexible attachment. Her head-in-the-sand management style was largely responsible for the recent, and highly publicised, removal from post of the NPAS chief operating officer (read more here). Another exclusive broken on this website.

NPAS was also the subject of scathing criticism in a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in November, 2017. It cited ‘inept management’ as a key issue to be addressed. The two most senior figures in NPAS are, unsurprisingly, Collins and Burns-Williamson.

A request for confirmation of Ms Collins’ continued tenure has been made to the NPAS press office. Aresponse is still awaited.

Page last updated on Saturday 21st December, 2018 at 2020hrs

Picture credit: Wakefield Express

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

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

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

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

Black woman in fear of local police forced to leave Bradford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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