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.

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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

Operation Lamp: A Major corruption scandal

‘This report will blow West Yorkshire Police apart’.

Sounds melodramatic, but these are the words to me of a well placed insider about an investigation into the fit-up of an up-and-coming young police officer, by his Leeds Bridewell colleagues, twelve years ago.

That bombshell revelation also fits into my own sphere of knowledge. Which is much more than most, as I was instrumental in setting the Terms of Reference for phase one of the investigation, in my role as complaint advocate to the family of ex-PC Danny Major.

Danny had only one dream as a boy. To follow in the footsteps of his devoted father, Eric, as a career policeman. On my frequent visits to the Major family home I watch Danny’s young nephew play with the toy police cars that have become family heirlooms. Soon Danny’s own bright-as-a-button little boy, Matthew, will be dreaming of driving those same police cars, as he plays with them.

It is a travesty that the conviction against Danny’s name is not yet quashed and relief brought to his inspirational, hard-campaigning mother, Bernadette Major, who has never once doubted, in over twelve years, that her son was innocent.

A trusted and well-liked bobby of the old school, Eric Major retired in 2011 after 31 years exemplary service with West Yorkshire Police. Danny’s own rise through the ranks ended abruptly in 2006 – after only six years – when he was convicted of assaulting a drunken, violent teenager he was attempting to arrest in the centre of Leeds three years earlier. He was subsequently jailed for fifteen months (released after only four) but Danny, a university graduate, feels he is still serving a life sentence as he waits for the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to consider his case for a second time.

In November 2006, after three trials, Danny was convicted of actual bodily harm and common assault. He was acquitted of a second assault charge. It was alleged that on 6th September 2003, he arrested Sean Rimmington for being drunk and disorderly while on duty near Millgarth police station. The prosecution claimed that Danny kicked Rimmington twice in the ribs whilst the prisoner was handcuffed in a police van parked in the docking area outside Leeds Bridewell. It was further alleged that Danny removed Rimmington from the van by throwing him head first onto a concrete floor and punching him in the head on at least four occasions.

The Bridewell police station in Leeds City Centre
The Bridewell police station in Leeds City Centre

In the police cell within the Bridewell, the prosecution claimed that he assaulted Rimmington, by punching him five to six times in the face, causing injuries to his nose. Danny says he committed none of the alleged assaults, which either didn’t happen at all or were, instead, committed by other police officers.

Crucially, the police failed to disclose CCTV footage that could have helped Danny’s defence team. It was produced in the final days of third trial when it was too late to be used in court. The footage was subsequently presented to the CCRC, who refused to refer the Major case back to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it did not materially enhance the defence case at trial and would not be seen as new evidence, or argument.

Danny’s imprisonment was a police trade-off for, what the court heard at the second trial, the concealment of the “shambolic” state of affairs in the Leeds Bridewell custody suite. Judge Linda Sutcliffe QC was not wrong: Amongst the many failings were the falsification of an entire night shift’s custody visiting records, right under one of the CCTV cameras (belatedly disclosed to the Major family) and with running, comedy-act, commentary provided by the officer involved, PC Richard Roberts. Better known to colleagues as ‘Ivan’. A senior PSD detective commented that “there was no proactive supervision” in the Bridewell, which resulted in prisoners not booked in, cell visits not made and others taken to wrong cells. Twelve years after Sean Rimmington received a series of injuries whilst in custody, West Yorkshire Police still have no explanation for concealing the missing 13 hours of CCTV footage that would have cleared Danny Major’s name at Court. Nor have they produced any film from the other five cameras they alleged were not working on that night.

In the hours after the incident, and whilst he was at the city’s  St James’s Hospital receiving treatment for injuries inflicted by the prisoner, Danny was accused by another police officer of punching the comatose teenager thus causing his injuries. He was suspended from duty but, he says, was not overly concerned, initially. “The Bridewell has cameras everywhere,” he says. “Alarms go off if film is not in them. It is not somewhere you commit offences. When I heard the allegations I told them: ‘Just look at the CCTV cameras’. Then, my own force’s Professional Standards Department claimed that at least five cameras weren’t recording.”

It was, to say the least, an operational and mathematical improbability that so many cameras had failed on one night in and around the main custody cells in a city the size of Leeds.

The first Danny Major trial was stopped following an abuse of process submission by his defence counsel. There were a number of flaws connected to disclosure of evidential materials to the defence team by the police and CPS – and the Crown’s overall presentation of its case was criticised by the judge. At the second trial, at Bradford Crown Court, the jury heard that officers at Leeds Bridewell failed to follow even basic procedures, as outlined above. The jury was unable to reach a verdict and discharged by Judge Sutcliffe. The third and final trial also saw another circuit judge, the late Roger Scott QC again repeat the view that the custody suite was “a shambles”. He criticised senior police officers, including Detective Inspector Michael Green, and called the Rimmington custody record “a document of fiction”. Perjury, by any other name, once its contents were relied upon, by Green, under oath. Indeed, the judge went on to say further: ‘We saw an unorganised, unsupervised rabble. In my view, it requires further investigation and possible charges against a large number of officers”.

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The Leeds Bridewell “Shambles”, as described by Judge Scott in court, was the headline that covered most of the front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day.

Danny was acquitted of assaulting the teenager whilst putting him in the van on a jury count of 12-0. The jury simply did not believe his accuser, PC David Oldroyd. Danny was, however, convicted of assaulting him while taking him out of the van which, once the proximity of another police vehicle in the caged and CCTV’d Bridewell van dock is confirmed, that alleged attack becomes a physical impossibity. He was also convicted, by a majority of 10-2, of the cell assault.

The police’s key witness PC Kevin Liston has now left the force in disgrace, after committing a series of assault/drug/sex based offences before and after the trials. Liston was kept ‘clean’ by the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of West Yorkshire Police, racking up at least twelve serious crimes over a ten year period. That was the price the force had to pay for the lid not coming off the huge cover-up that was in play. Much more can be read about Liston here.

In January 2013, Greater Manchester Police was appointed to review the PSD investigation that led to Danny’s conviction. The codename is Operation Lamp and it began with Superintendent Peter Matthews as Senior Investigation Officer. From Matthews’ first visit to the Major’s home – a meeting at which I was present – the shock at what he and his fellow officer, DC Natalie Kershaw, were seeing, when viewing the evidence for the first time, was palpable.

It was an investigation that was expected to last six months, but the amount of previously undisclosed material, plus the lines of enquiry flowing from that, extended the time required for both the detective work and report writing.

Matthews retired at the end of 2013 and was replaced as SIO by an officer who had worked on the case from the outset, DCI Julian Flindle.

Both Matthews and Flindle – and indeed the rest of the Manchester detectives involved on Lamp – developed a very good rapport with the Major family from the outset, and have been impressed by the sheer scale and reach of Eric Major’s own detective work on the case, before their more formal investigation began.

There has also, clearly, been some behind-the-scenes political wrangling as phase one of the investigation was, to all intents and purposes completed in December 2014. It is expected to at the very least infer, if not expose directly, that the drive to convict, and then remove, Danny Major from the police service extended to the top management of West Yorkshire Police.

David Crompton, the recently suspended and thoroughly disgraced Chief Constable at South Yorkshire Police, was the officer who dismissed Danny at a misconduct hearing following what his mother, Bernadette, described as nothing more than a “kangaroo court”. At the time, Crompton was the infamous Sir Norman Bettison‘s Deputy and, in correspondence between the IPCC Commissioner at the time, Nicholas Long, and the IPCC’s current Senior Oversight Manager Rebecca Reed, it is clear that is was Bettison himself who made the decision to hold misconduct proceedings, before the outcome of Danny Major’s appeal against his conviction had been heard.

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Crompton (pictured above) made an excruciating ‘gaffe’ at the opening of the disciplinary hearing that revealed his mind was already made up about dismissing PC Major and the hearing, thereafter, was a sham. It is also clear from the same batch of IPCC documents, to which I have exclusive access, that the hearing itself was potentially unlawful. No appropriate notice had been served on the IPCC by the police, who were yet to determine what disciplinary measures were to be recommended in Danny Major’s case. West Yorkshire Police later claimed – and the IPCC tamely accepted – the S75 notice was “lost in the post”. The two IPCC officers who made this discovery withheld this, and other, crucial information from the Major family for five years. This revelation would appear to seriously compromise the IPCC’s Chair, Anne Owers, who sits as a non-executive director of the CCRC.

One of the most damaging effects of that delay is that the Crown Prosecution Service disposed of their files relating to the three trials that ultimately led to conviction of PC Danny Major, prior to launching of the GMP outside force investigation.

The Operation Lamp report was presented to the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, and the Chief Constable, on 11th December, 2015. Mark Burns-Williamson, who for so long frustrated the family’s fight for justice, released this press release shortly afterwards (click here).

Ex DI Michael Green, Ex-PC Kevin Liston and former West Yorkshire Police Band leading light, David Oldroyd (promoted to sergeant immediately after Danny’s conviction at the third trial) are expected to face criminal proceedings, if the report is acted upon appropriately by the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police. Another Band member at the heart of the Major scandal is Force Solicitor, Mike Percival, who has been excluded from any further dealings with the case at the request of the Major family.

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The Manchester detectives have also been liaising with the CCRC throughout the investigation and Lamp’s key findings are expected to be presented to them, shortly. The new evidence uncovered should be sufficiently persuasive for the CCRC to refer the matter back to the Court of Appeal for a second time.

Danny Major continues to be represented in his dealings with the CCRC by Maslen Merchant at Hadgkiss, Hughes and Beale, a Birmingham firm of solicitors.

In the meantime, battle is joined with the West Yorkshire PCC, and the force, over the provision to the Major family, as key stakeholders, of an unredacted report to Danny’s solicitor. Given the track record of Mark Burns-Williamson and his Chief Executive, Fraser Sampson, in repeatedly blocking this family’s fight for justice in the years prior to 2013, it is not expected to be easy. It is also noteworthy that Burns-Williamson did not contact any member of the Major family even once, in the period between the referral in January 2013 until the day the report was delivered to him almost three years later.

A redacted version of the Operation Lamp report was made available to the Major family on 29th January, 2016. Channel 4 covered the event with this loop broadcasted on their main evening news slot: click here to view. The interview with Danny Major revealed only what has been known for some years and what I have been publishing for over three years. Curiously, C4 made no comment over the concerns about the referral by Mark Burns-Williamson and the Chief Constable to the IPCC.

Burns-Williamson was expected to announce phase two of the Operation Lamp investigation early in the new year and Greater Manchester Police are keen to take on the task with the same team of detectives who completed phase one. This follow-up investigation should probe the WYP PSD and IPCC cover-up, from 2006 onwards, that prevented the Major family getting justice much earlier than 2016. Instead the referral has been made to the IPCC which will, inevitably, mean another long delay whilst the police watchdog decides how it can best step around the fact that they were an integral part of the problem ten years ago and, of course, ever since. There is also the deeply unhealthy relationship between the Wakefield office of the IPCC and West Yorkshire Police to factor in, which is not at all good news for the Major family.

In the event, the IPCC quickly washed their hands of Operation Lamp and referred it back for ‘local investigation’ and GMP have now been further tasked with investigating ‘whether, in their view, there are any criminal and/or misconduct matters to answer’ according to a statement issued by T/Chief Constable, Dee Collins. Who shares the Command Team table with two officers who must certainly have known of the sustained Danny Major ‘cover-up’ through their senior roles within Professional Standards over the years. They are ACC Andy Battle and ACC Angela Williams. The latter was involved from the outset, dealing with Mrs Major’s original complaints about the crude fit-up of her son by his own police colleagues. Battle was Head of PSD in 2011 to 2012 when PC Kevin Liston was still being ‘protected’ whilst commiting offences.

On a more positive note if, as now seems very likely, Danny Major’s conviction is quashed at the Court of Appeal he will be reinstated in the police service, by right. It his wish that he joins the Manchester force who will have done so much to help that cause.

My own view, and one, I must stress, not shared by the Major family, is that GMP should not have been given the second investigation into the shameful conduct of their West Yorkshire neighbours. They took far too long on the first investigation, without properly explaining why, and with ACC Garry Shewan in charge – a police officer in whom I have absolutely no trust or confidence – there is the ever-present risk of tainting (Shewan is pictured below). I also have good reason to believe that, whilst Shewan is keen to see the Danny Major conviction quashed at the Court of Appeal, he is not a police service boat-rocker and, in my informed view, lacks the stomach to see through a conviction of the perpetrator of the assault on Sean Rimmington in 2003. Unless and until that happens, Danny’s name will not be cleared.

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My choice for phase two of Operation Lamp would be Devon and Cornwall Police, who conducted an investigation in 2013 which was codenamed Operation Garnett (read the redacted report here). This also concerned deep-seated corruption within WYP’s Professional Standards Department dating back to 2006 and was brought about following complaints by a retired Northumbria Police officer, Supt Trevor Fordy. All Mr Fordy’s complaints were upheld by the Devon force and some of the discredited officers were common to both the Garnett and Lamp investigations. Notably, ex-Supt Trevor Kerry. As an experienced major crimes SIO, Mr Fordy’s best collar was Curtis ‘Cocky’ Warren, the infamous Liverpool drug baron who was, reportedly at the time of his sentencing, the country’s biggest ever drug dealer.

There is also the spectre of two outside force investigations and a Metropolitan Police ‘peer review’ into alleged corruption within the Professional Standards department at Manchester which, on the face of documents I have seen, may involve both Shewan and DCI Flindle.

Aidan Kielty, a former GMP Police Federation official, now turned whistleblower, made some startling revelations to the BBC on this topic in September, 2015. Read more here. His views reinforce my own, insofar as the Major case would be best served well away from GMP, once all the implications from phase one of Operation Lamp have been dealt with. Mr Kielty was interviewed as a potential witness in a recent BBC File on 4 broadcast featuring the GMP scandal, but was edited out due to time constraints. There is a curious symmetry here as it was co-producer of the GMP programme, Sally Chesworth, whose views on the merits of the Danny Major case were one of the keys in forcing the Operation Lamp enquiry to be opened. The full GMP File on 4 podcast is available here.

However, the Danny Major scandal is a story that still has some way to run, and with the sensational collapse of the high profile Dennis Slade murder re-trial in November 2015, together with the Inspector Keith Boots alleged £1million drugs theft trial due to commence in January, 2016 it leaves the beleaguered West Yorkshire Police facing three more huge corruption scandals, to add to an already bulging tally.

With the next PCC elections due on 5th May, 2016, will beleagured Burns-Williamson be sticking to his 2012 election mantra? “There is no corruption in West Yorkshire Police

Last update: Friday 29th April, 2016 at 0925hrs

Follow me on Twitter: @Neil_Wilby

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

Photo credits: Greater Manchester Police; Parliament.uk