Convicted York paedophile extradited to face further charges

Former York resident, Peter Hofschröer, who was convicted of child sex abuse offences last year, has been extradited to Austria after lengthy legal proceedings which concluded last month.

A jury at Teesside Crown Court found him guilty of 16 counts relating to the downloading over 36,000 images and videos.

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Peter Hofschröer, now in the hands of the Austian authorities awaiting trial.

Judge Tony Briggs QC, in his sentencing remarks, described Hofschröer’s defence, in which he tried to blame many others including his own family, a fellow military historian and the police for the illegal images, as “quite outrageous”. He was jailed for 30 months and placed on the sex offenders register for life.

It was, originally, understood that Hofschröer left the Highgate, North London address, to which he had been bailed, on July 6th, 2017, a short time before he was due to attend Kentish Town police station and went AWOL. He had been summoned to appear there as part of arrangements to transfer him to Austria later that day .

The owner of the property, Belinda McKenzie, a child abuse campaigner, has since deleted her Facebook post relating to the ‘disappearance’ and has subsequently posted that her house guest did, in fact, surrender to the authorities on the 6th July. That was, apparently, in response to a report of a 5 year old girl being assaulted within 200 yards of her home on 9th July, 2017.

Hofschröer failed last month, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, to either stay, or overturn, an extradition Order over allegations relating to a raft of further sex abuse offences, slander, threatening a judge and firearm possession. Judgment was given against him at Westminster Magistrates Court in November, 2016.

A former associate of Hofschröer has claimed that the alleged firearm offences may concern a de-commissioned AK47 assault rifle.

Another close associate of Hofschröer’s, Andy Peacher, posted on social media that none of his other friends were aware of his whereabouts – and neither were the Metropolitan Police. Nor the solicitors instructed in the matter of his extradition. But, as with Ms McKenzie, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction in this vexed case. She is, also, currently subject to the attention of the Metropolitan Police having been the subject of a warrant that enabled the force to sieze her computer.

Other Hofschröer ‘campaigners’, including Norman Scarth, exiled in Ireland to frustrate arrest warrants in force against him, claim he is not a paedophile at all – and that downloading indecent images does not count as child sex abuse. He ended a series of tirades with “You expose yourself as a lying Quisling – and ignorant with it“.

Hofschröer was wearing an electronic tag on his ankle when he allegedly absconded. An alarm would have sounded at a monitoring station once his absence exceeded the terms of his licence. He had, previously, been recalled to HMP Preston in February, 2017 following a breach of his early release licence attached to the sentence received at Teesside Crown Court.

Despite a ban on use of social media (and email), as part of his bail conditions (and a civil injunction), Hofschröer made a posting on Facebook the night before he disappeared. Within that posting he claimed that police were among the suspects who may have hacked his ‘Justice for Grandma B’ website.

His Twitter account is still active but there have been no tweets since January, 2017.

No statement was been issued by North Yorkshire Police, despite Hofschröer’s strong connections to York: His 89 year old mother, Barbara (widely known as Grandma B) is in Haxby Hall care home, he was formerly a resident in Rosedale Avenue, Acomb – and other members of his family, against whom he bears considerable ill-will, still live in the city.

The Grandma B case was one that occupied North Yorkshire Police for a number of years: Hofschröer’s fight for justice for his mother was bitterly fought, both amongst his own family, the local council and the police. It is reported to have cost taxpayers well over £1 million and centred on a dispute over who owned the property occupied latterly by Barbara.

Two police operations were ultimately mounted against Peter Hofschröer: Operation Rome, a criminal investigation that was a notable failure to criminalise him over harassment allegations and Hyson, a civil claim in which Hofschröer elected to take no part, claiming his Article 6 convention rights were engaged. There was also a dramatic moment in court (I was present on the press bench) when he asked, via the prison to court video link, for the presiding judge to be arrested. HHJ Mark Gosnell successfully resisted the challenge to his liberty.

There was no report of Hofschröer’s alleged disappearance in the local, regional or national press. The extradition and judicial review proceedings also went unreported.

Replies to press enquiries made of the Metropolitan Police and the Bundespolizei in Austria are still awaited.

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Page last updated at 1835hrs on Thursday 3rd August, 2017

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Deceit and subterfuge underpinned PCC’s decision to fund chief’s civil claim

Much has been written elsewhere, almost exclusively by me, concerning the North Yorkshire Police investigations codenamed Operations Rome and Hyson. The satirical magazine Private Eye did, however, break mainstream media ranks and publish an article in the last week of August, 2016 [1].

The Eye piece is a scathing condemnation of the failed criminal investigation (Rome), then the civil action (Hyson), mounted by Dave ‘Knacker’ Jones, North Yorkshire Police’s chief constable, against citizen journalists who were criticising his force.

This latest article of mine looks more closely at the deceit and subterfuge that surrounded the formal decision by Julia Mulligan, the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, to use a huge amount of public funds to allow three high ranking police officers,  including Jones, one retired detective superintendent and a former Chair of North Yorkshire Police Authority in pursuit of harassment claims against two citizen journalists and a justice campaigner.

The civil court case, which is currently estimated to have cost the taxpayer £450,000 (Private Eye reckons it is higher than that), also featured four members of the Hofschröer family. Three as police funded claimants, Robert, Diane and Martin, and Peter (Robert’s brother) as defendant, with no funding.

It serves no useful purpose to rehearse here the infamous ‘Grandma B‘ campaign, mounted by Peter Hofschröer, over allegations that the other family members involved in the court case deprived his mother Barbara of the family home in Acomb, York with nefarious motive. My single contribution to this wholly unsatisfactory affair is to say that, on the face of the documents and evidence I have access to (which is not all of them, of course), the police picked the wrong side in the argument over the alleged property fraud.

The presence of Hofschröer family members on opposing sides of the claim gives the whole matter the bizarre feel of a family dispute gone terribly wrong. Whereas, the real motivation behind the civil claim was, say Private Eye, to silence the police force’s critics, once and for all. The Hofschröer family dispute just provided a convenient ‘cover story’ for that principal aim.

One of the many extraordinary aspects of the Hyson civil claim is that it was launched two months after Peter Hofschröer was arrested and held on remand, with no access to legal advice or his paper or electronic files. He has not been at liberty since and was convicted at Teesside Crown Court in July 2016 on indecent image charges [2].

Hofschröer now faces Part 1 extradition proceedings by the Austrian authorities at a Westminster Magistrates Court hearing listed for 15th September, 2016 on charges relating to stalking, child pornography and defamation under sections 107, 207 and 297 of the Austrian criminal code. It is also reported that he is appealing the paedophilia conviction, although how that could be grounded is not entirely clear, given that the trial was conducted by one of the North East Circuit’s longest serving judges, HHJ Tony Briggs QC.

The net effect of all this, as far as the police, and the rest of the Hofschröer family is concerned, is that none of the offensive articles about which they complained have yet been removed from the internet, nine months after an injunction prohibited their publication – and the likelihood of ever collecting the costs awarded against Peter Hofschröer are almost non-existant.

Put shortly, and given his continued incarceration over the criminal matters, the civil claim against him was a complete waste of time and money.

Which brings us to the decision to spend a vast amount of public money, made by the PCC and published on her website [3], some twelve months after she was required to do so, by law.

Despite being asked a number of times the PCC refuses to explain the delay between the first of the lawyers’ Hyson invoices pouring in (July 2015) and the Decision Note being put up, unannounced, on her website fifteen months later. What follows in this article will go a long way to unlocking that mystery.

To facilitate this analysis, the text of the formal Decision Note dated 29th September, 2015 is taken verbatim from the NYPCC website and highlighted below in blue. My comments, grounded mainly in responses to correspondence with the police and the PCC’s office, freedom of information request finalisations and public accounts access disclosures, are in black type beneath each section.

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Executive Summary and Recommendation

The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is ultimately responsible for representing the public in all matters, as well as overseeing  the policing budget to ensure good value for money for the taxpayer.

Many would submit, along with myself, that allocating around £50,000 each in free legal fees to the Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable and the Head of Uniformed Services (whose combined total salaries of around £340,000 per annum plus benefits totalling another £60,000pa ) would not pass any known Value For Money test.

It should also be said that, in my extensive investigative experience, the PCC in North Yorkshire puts her unquestioning support of the police – and particularly Dave Jones – well ahead of any representation of the interests of the public. 

This Decision Notice will demonstrate that the PCC is holding the Chief Constable to account by monitoring the financial support of a specific case which is currently a matter of ongoing civil proceedings.

The one significant feature of the PCC’s tenure has been her complete failure to hold the Chief Constable to account. This was a key strand of argument from those opposing her in the PCC elections in May 2016, when Julia Mulligan was elected on a much reduced majority. The shambles surrounding this Decision Notice is a further example of that.

The PCC is satisfied that supporting the action by individuals is a lawful and proportionate use of public money and is in line with her priority of supporting victims and ensuring an efficient and effective police service. This Decision Notice will explain the scrutiny process.

In the Hofschröer case there has been one victim who stands out above all others: Disabled World War 2 veteran, Barbara Hofschröer, who was displaced from her home and now languishes in a council run care home, cut off from her chosen carer. Whilst no right thinking person could condone the appalling manner in which the campaign for justice for Grandma B (as Barbara is widely known) was run by her son and carer, Peter, at the heart of this issue is a grave miscarriage of justice.

In order to be as open and transparent as possible, the PCC publishes all Decision Notices so they are available to the press and the public.  This happens whenever a decision is in the public interest, of which there are several tests. In addition, the PCC expects the Chief Constable (CC) to draw to her attention issues which (amongst other things) are sensitive, contentious, novel or repercussive or where there is a real risk that the Commissioner or Chief Constable could be exposed to public criticism.

This Decision Notice was only published after considerable pressure was brought to bear by me, both via social media and a complaint to the Police Scrutiny Panel. Almost a full year after the PCC was legally obliged to do so.

In making this decision publicly and formally, through a published Decision Notice, the PCC will demonstrate that:

  • She is holding the Chief Constable to account by monitoring the financial support provided to a specific legal case, which is in the public interest

On any reasonable view it is difficult to see how the public interest is satisfied by granting huge benefits, by way of free legal fees, to very highly paid senior police officers over ‘hurt feelings’.

  • She is satisfied that supporting the action is a lawful and proportionate use of public money in line with her priority of supporting victims, and is in the best interests of the public purse

There are thousands of victims of serious crime in North Yorkshire who have received no financial support, whatsoever, from either the state in general, or North Yorkshire Police in particular. To allocate huge sums of money to alleged victims of harassment without violence is preposterous. Away from North Yorkshire, I draw the stark example of the families of the twenty-one victims of the Birmingham pub bombings who are desperately seeking public funding for legal representation at the new inquests. They have, so far, been refused legal aid and an appeal direct to the Home Secretary has been made. Perhaps they might get  more joy from Julia Mulligan?

She is upholding her commitment to being open and transparent.

The repeated use of the expression ‘open and transparent’ is troubling (they are underlined for emphasis). It has been proven beyond any doubt, whatsoever, that the PCC’s office is anything but. To the extent that Julia Mulligan is due to appear in Huddersfield County Court on 11th October, 2016 over her persistent breaches of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts. Much of the withheld information that forms the grounds for my claim concerns Operations Rome and Hyson.

1. Introduction and Background

Over the last seven years an individual has been involved in a complex family dispute.  Some of the allegations made have been investigated for possible criminal offences.  During the course of the investigation, members of the public and several professionals involved in the case, including former and serving police officers, have sustained alleged harassment.  The alleged harassment has included an amount of comment about their personal integrity and has been experienced through correspondence with the force and the Office of the PCC (OPCC), in formal complaints and on various social media outlets including websites and blogs.

The individual concerned was Peter Hofschröer. In an ‘open and transparent’ Decision Notice it seems odd that he has not been named. Six months after court proceedings were opened in a public hearing. Similarly, the websites referred to were Real Whitby and the North Yorks Enquirer. The blog in question was the previously mentioned Grandma B.

Criticism of North Yorkshire Police is of course accepted as fair comment and complaints are dealt with in accordance with procedures.  North Yorkshire Police strives to encourage engagement and debate with the public it serves, and in no way seeks to “close down” legitimate criticism that is helpful in improving the service response.  However, some of the comments have been so personal as to have affected the health of some of the recipients.  Police officers are used to dealing with difficult situations, they have broad shoulders and they are certainly not above criticism. 

There can be few, if any, other public bodies that are as sensitive to any criticism as North Yorkshire Police. It only encourages debate if they are able to control the agenda. Similarly, if the force is tackled on any area where their service falls below the required standard they are simply not interested in engaging with those who highlight shortcomings.

Similarly, the assertion that complaints about NYP officers are dealt with according to procedures is risible. A growing portfolio of cases to which I now have access has proved, beyond any doubt, that abuse of the complaints system by the force is on an industrial scale.

There has however been years of unwarranted harmful personal abuse that has tied up police time.  If the behaviour had been physical then there may have been a variety of different solutions to stop the behaviour and the Chief Constable has a statutory Duty of Care to look after the health and safety of his employees no matter how any distress is caused. Along with the health and safety of individuals, the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service is paramount and must be protected.  Over a considerable period of time the contact of individuals has impacted greatly on police resources in a way that is not sustainable.

The three officers concerned here are Chief Constable Jones, Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick and Chief Superintendent Lisa Winward (since promoted to Assistant Chief Constable). The harassment, according to the claim’s particulars and their own witness evidence, comprised of emails and articles on two websites. It is very doubtful that the two chief officers saw the emails and even more doubtful that they read the articles on what are two niche websites. Indeed, the pleadings made it clear that a lot of the ‘harassment’ complained of required a Google search by a team of expensive lawyers, working on their behalf, building a case.

The Chief Constable took the decision to proceed based on clear advice from a leading Barrister.  Based on that advice, the Chief Constable took the view that civil litigation was a necessary step to exercise his duty of care to members of his own organisation and to protect members of the public.

The leading barrister is Simon Myerson QC, who had also been advising on the spectacularly failed criminal investigation, Operation Rome. It is unclear why, in an ‘open and transparent’ Decision Notice why such a high profile lawyer would not be named. He had already appeared in court in the matter twice by the time the Decision Notice was published.

The decision by the Chief Constable to fund legal action to support individuals – both former and serving officers, and others connected with the case – attempting to prevent further alleged harassment was considered at great length.  Legal advice was proactively sought. 

Alongside that formal legal advice, both the PCC’s and Chief Constable’s Chief Finance Officers were consulted and provided their professional opinion.  Financial regulations were also checked. 

The External Auditors have also scrutinised the rationale and confirmed that North Yorkshire Police has the powers to undertake the actions that it has.

An employer has a statutory duty of care to the employees of the organisation.  Responsibilities include matters of health and safety and well-being.  Supporting this case seeks to addresses this.  Along with this duty on the employer there is a legal power and duty upon the PCC to maintain an efficient and effective police force for the area.  Supporting this action seeks to contribute to this in relation to the significant time and resource that has already been spent on this matter.

As is often the case in legal proceedings, most of the cost is frontloaded as evidence has had to be filed at the beginning.  This Decision Notice is being considered before the proceedings move towards any possible further hearings.

Two hearings had already taken place at Leeds High Court and a third hearing was already listed, before the Decision Notice was published. On 9th February, 2105; 25th June, 2015.  and 27th November, 2015 respectively

The position at this time is that the defendants can now decide whether to contest the case brought.  If they do so, a final hearing timetabled by the Judge would then be required.  It is of course hoped that a lengthy hearing can be avoided by the defendants agreeing to proposals made.

By the time the Decision Notice was issued it was clear that the two journalists were not going to go down without a fight and that a lengthy and costly legal battle was inevitable.

The final cost of the civil case will depend at what stage the case is finalised. Any early settlement will avoid a contested final hearing.  So far (to the date of this report), external legal advice and representation in the civil proceedings has cost £162,406. Most of the cost is frontloaded in this type of proceedings, as evidence has had to be filed at the beginning.

An estimate for the anticipated costs was made before the start of the proceedings and was estimated at around £202,000.  This is set against the cost of over £400,000 which the matter had already cost the force in dealing with the activities of those against whom the civil claim is made.  There was no apparent end to the case without positive action and other solutions had already been exhausted, which was a key factor in determining the course of action through the civil court.

It must have also been clear at that time that the estimate for the legal costs was going to be well in excess of the £202,000 estimate referred to in the Notice. The claim of £400,000 being the cost of dealing with the ‘activities’ of the defendants has been proved beyond any doubt to be far-fetched in a highly forensic article I wrote on the subject earlier this year. Read ‘409,970 reasons not to trust North Yorkshire Police’ [4].

In addition, the victims of the alleged harassment need to be able to seek relief from the alleged harassment they have felt and the PCC felt it appropriate to support them as victims in these proceedings.

A freedom of information request has been submitted to the PCC’s office to establish how money other victims of crime have been granted access to police funds to pursue civil claims.

2. Other Options Considered

It is for the Court to find, on consideration of evidence put before it, whether the issues and behaviour concerned have amounted to legal harassment of the individuals concerned. However, North Yorkshire Police felt obligated to take positive action to try to protect its staff.  Therefore it was decided to support the officers to commence civil proceedings as individuals.  In addition, as all solutions in the criminal arena had been exhausted for other claimants, a decision was taken to combine all actions of all individuals concerned from the start.  This was considered to be the most operationally and administratively effective solution saving both financially and court time (and therefore further public money) to combine all actions of the individuals concerned from the start.  It is hoped that the final outcome will reduce the distress felt by all those party to the action.

Citizen journalist Nigel Ward was included in the action despite none of the police officers (serving or retired) having any evidence against him, whatsoever. The Hofschröer family and their social worker had none either. That meant eight of the nine claimants had nothing against Mr Ward. Yet, the police officers held him in the claim until June, 2016 before discontinuing their claims and agreeing to pay Mr Ward’s costs. At the final hearing, Mr Ward was also awarded his costs against the ninth claimant, Jane Kenyon-Miller. This is likely to add over £100,000 to the police bill and raises huge public interest and misfeasance questions about the funding, by the police, of an action that, in the end, amounted to a wealthy public figure trying to crush a penniless pensioner into silence over her dodgy business dealings.

3. Contribution to Police and Crime Plan Priorities

The action supports the Policing Priorities in the Police and Crime Plan.

This statement is a nonsense. There is nothing at all in the Plan that supports senior police officers being granted huge sums of public money to pursue journalists over alleged harassment. Especially, after the CPS had twice ruled against the police on charging decisions over those same allegations.

4. Implementation and Resourcing Implications

The proceedings will continue in line with Directions made by the Court and regular meetings will be held to monitor progress and plan for different outcomes depending on any Orders or Judgment.

A freedom of information request has been made concerning the notes of those meetings. The decision to proceed to trial in a one versus one situation was very high risk for the police – and so it proved. The officers involved in that decision should be named and shamed.

5. Consultations Carried Out

Professional consideration and advice has been provided by: 

Department
Office of the PCC
Financial Services
Local Policing
Human Resources
Joint Corporate Legal Services
Corporate Communications

 5. Compliance Checks

Financial Implications/Value for money: 

Comments of the Commissioner’s Chief Finance Officer
Prior to any expenditure being undertaken on the work to support funding this case the PCC CFO and CC CFO were consulted and their authorisation sought to spend public money in the way proposed. As PCC CFO, and therefore advisor to the PCC on financial matters, it was my opinion at the time, and continues to be my opinion that the organisation has the ‘power’ to incur expenditure in this way based on 2 reasons from a financial perspective.

This is patently untrue. Work was in train on Hyson as soon as Rome ended in July, 2014. The earliest recorded discussions taking place over funding was three months later, in October 2014. There are also significant breaches that have been exposed, by freedom of information requests,  over procurement regulations in force. Solicitors and barristers were awarded contracts for over £200,000 without any tendering protocol being observed. Requests for sight of the Single Tender Access documents, upon which the police later relied as an explanation, have fallen on stony ground.

The first reason is that an employer has a statutory duty of care to their staff in matters of health and safety and well-being, which is something that supporting this case looked to address. The second reason is that the PCC has a legal power and duty to maintain an efficient and effective police force for the police area. Given the amount of time and resources that has been spent on this matter previously, an estimate of which is set out within this Decision Note, then to protect the effectiveness and efficiency of the Force and to enable scare resources to be directed to the most appropriate areas of policing then the power exists to spend the money in the way outlined within this Decision Note.

It has been demonstrated beyond any doubt that the figure of £400,000 relied upon for expenditure on Operation Rome – and used as justifaction for spending £200,000 on Hyson – was largely an invention.

As mentioned elsewhere, legal advice has been sought and received in relation to the power of the organisation to spend public money in this way which supports the views of the statutory officers employed by the PCC and CC. In addition to this the External Auditors for North Yorkshire Police and the PCC have looked separately into this matter, to satisfy themselves that the organisation had the power to spend the public’s money in this way. While their formal opinion has not been received on the 2014/15 Statement of Accounts it has been communicated that they are satisfied that the ‘powers’ that the organisation has relied upon to incur this expenditure are lawful.

The External Auditors, Mazars, were not even aware of Operation Hyson until I raised it with North Yorkshire Police during the public accounts access period in July, 2015. Exactly a year after the first invoice connected to Hyson was raised by Simon Myerson QC. Mazars have not produced any evidence of independent legal opinion concerning the lawful ‘powers’ of a chief constable authorising himself £50,000 of free legal fees.

Comments of the Chief Constable’s Chief Finance Officer
I am in full agreement with the remarks made by the Commissioners Chief Finance Officer. 

I have submitted a freedom of information request to North Yorkshire Police seeking all meeting, briefing notes, internal and external emails connected to the decision (and the rationale behind it) by the force (and the PCC) to fund the civil action.

Legal Implications:
External expert legal advice has been sought (which is legally privileged) and there has been significant consideration of the ‘vires’ (lawful power) to use public money to support the funding of this case.  The T/Force Solicitor and Head of Legal Services is satisfied that this report does not ask the PCC for North Yorkshire to make a decision which would (or would be likely to) give rise to a contravention of the law.

It has been proved conclusively, by me, that the PCC received no independent legal advice concerning ‘vires’ – and none was ever sought. At first, Force Solicitor, Jane Wintermeyer, falsely claimed to me, in writing, that legal opinion had been sought on 13th January, 2015. She later retreated from that position and said the opinion was given in conference with Simon Myerson QC on 15th October, 2014. Myerson has never been instucted by the PCC on this (or any other) issue – and neither has any other solicitor or barrister according to a freedom of information response.

Human Resources Implications:
Welfare provision has been considered throughout in relation to those directly affected, due to the duration of this case, ongoing assessments should continue as part of our duty of care as an employer.

No medical evidence was adduced at any stage in the claim to support the proposition that the three serving police officers have been affected in a way, beyond hurt feelings, that would justify the spending of public funds to the tune of £450,000.

Public Access to information
As a general principle, the Commissioner expects to be able to publish all decisions taken and all matters taken into account when reaching the decision.  This Notice will detail all information which the Commissioner will disclose into the public domain.  The decision and information will be made available on the Commissioner’s website.

This is patently untrue. This was a Decision Notice that should have been published in October, 2014 when the decision was allegedly made to dip into the public purse to fund this legal free-for-all. It was admitted to me, in writing, by the North Yorkshire Police Force Solicitor that there was no intention to publish a Decision Notice about this grotesque waste of public money without a formal complaint being made to the Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel concerning its absence. The failure to publish placed the PCC in breach of The Elected Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) Order 2011.

In summary, it can now be seen that this Decision Note was a lame attempt to cover over a number of defects in due process and slack accounting procedures at the very least.

During my investigations into the Hyson case I have been variously and regularly been obstructed, lied to, smeared and even threatened with legal action by either the Force Solicitor, or those working on her behalf.

The Chief Financial Officer failed to comply with her disclosure obligations under the during the public accounts inspection in 2015.

The ‘open and transparent’ Police Commissioner consistently refused to answer questions over the funding – or even whether she had read the particulars of claim or statement of case – during proceedings by citing potential prejudice. Then, incredibly, airily dismissed fifteen public interest questions put to her in an open letter published on both this and the North Yorks Enquirer websites [5]. She went further and, incredibly, asked me not to repeat that costs had been awarded against Jane Kenyon-Miller and the other eight claimants. Nothwithstanding the fact that I was in court when the draft orders to that effect were agreed between counsel for the parties and nodded through by the presiding judge.

It is not known, as yet, whether, Mrs Mulligan and ‘Knacker’ as the satirical irreverently refer to her chief constable will be suing Private Eye over the article. Using public funds, of course.

This is a story that still has some way to run and if those officials, elected or employed, who have treated both the public and the law with utter contempt may well find that their seeming sense of invincibility will be shattered in a way they might not have considered possible. A study of section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 might well be prescriptive.

 

Annotations

[1] Private Eye, August 2016: ‘Police 5 – North Yorkshire Boors’.

[2] York Press, 11th July, 2016: ‘Historian who had 36,000 indecent images gets two and a half years’

[3] North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, 29th September, 2015: ‘Decision Notice 011/2015 – Formal support and explanation from the Police and Crime Commissioner regarding funding of ongoing civil litigation action (sic) to protect officers and members of the public against alleged personal harassment’.

[4] Neil Wilby, 20th March, 2016: ‘409,970 reasons not to trust North Yorkshire Police’

[5] Neil Wilby, 29th July, 2016: ‘Open letter to Julia Mulligan’

Page last updated on Monday 5th September, 2016 at 0845hrs

© 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.

Cost of silencing police force critics now approaches £1 million

Tuesday 9th February marked the first anniversary of the initial hearing of a civil harassment claim that is known, curiously, as Hofschröer and others –v- Hofschröer and others. On the face of it, a family dispute gone wrong concerning title to a property formerly owned by a deceased father and an ailing mother.

But behind that domestic façade lies three other matters of significant public interest:

Firstly, this dispute principally concerns the widely publicised ‘Grandma B’ case in which both North Yorkshire Police and York City Council have been criticised heavily over the treatment of disabled World War Two veteran, Barbara Hofschröer. Her son, Peter, has been fighting for justice, on behalf of his mother, since 2008.

Secondly, two citizen journalists who write for the website news magazine, North Yorkshire Enquirer, are also defendants in what appears to be an attempt to silence them from publicising the shortcomings of the police, and other public authorities. The two scribes, Tim Hicks and Nigel Ward are best known for their work exposing scandals involving the late Peter Jaconelli, for many years the face of the seaside town of Scarborough, and the country’s most notorious sex offender, Sir Jimmy Savile.

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Thirdly, this civil action has been publicly funded on the authority of Julia Mulligan, the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire (NYPCC). This move, which many believe is unlawful, and a grotesque waste of public money, has allegedly cost taxpayers a sum approaching a million pounds already.

There are nine claimants listed on court papers accessible to the public. They have been identified as three serving police officers and six civilians (one retired police officer, a former Police Authority chair, a former Council social worker and three Hofschröer family members). The direct legal funding this group has received already is believed to be in excess of £300,000 or £33,333 each, give or take small change. The precise figures have been requested from both the police, and the NYPCC, but they have elected to break freedom of information law rather than disclose the latest invoices from their lawyers. An earlier disclosure put the lawyers’ fees at £164,919 up to mid-September, 2015 (Read FoI outcome here).

The three serving police officers involved in the harassment claim are the Chief Constable, Dave Jones; the Deputy Chief Constable, Tim Madgwick and Head of Uniformed Operations, C/Supt Lisa Winward. The retired officer is ex-Supt Heather Pearson and the former NYPA chair is Jane Kenyon-Miller (pictured below alongside Mr Madgwick). A very powerful group indeed, who have allegedly already spent £450,000 internally in trying to stem the flow of criticism against their police force, by pursuing a criminal ‘investigation’ codenamed Operation Rome. The Crown Prosecution Service twice rebuffed approaches by North Yorkshire Police to permit charges to be made against Mr Hofschöer and Mr Hicks. Mr Ward was not, at any time, interviewed or even contacted by police in connection with this matter.

KENYON_MADGWICK

On 20th January 2015 civil court papers were, ostensibly, served on the three defendants without any prior notice. The Court’s own strict rules demand that such a step is taken under what is known as pre-action protocol. Clearly, this requirement was not followed and there is no explanation yet available why the police, the NYPCC and their legal team chose to act in such a way. On any independent view, it had the appearance of an ambush.

By this time, Peter Hofschröer was on remand in HMP Wandsworth having been arrested by North Yorkshire Police detectives outside the magistrates court in York on 4th December, 2014 whilst trying to file papers against other members of his family that he believed would protect the interest of his mother. He claims, quite reasonably, that court papers concerning the civil claim made by the nine defendants – including his brother, sister-in-law and nephew, did not reach him prior to his transfer from Wandsworth to HMP Hull.

In Nigel Ward’s case, the court papers were sent to the wrong address and left on the doorstep outside an empty property for forty-eight hours, accessible to public inspection. North Yorkshire Police, surprisingly, did not refer themselves to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over this calamitous data protection breach, including personal data concerning their own two most senior officers. Mr Ward has, quite correctly, reserved all rights concerning the unlawful disclosure of his own personal data.

At the first hearing in Leeds High Court on 9th February, 2015 the claimants sought an interim injunction against the two journalists – and Mr Hofschröer – that effectively ordered the defendants to take down articles published about the nine claimants, and prevented each of the three defendants from contacting the claimants by phone, email or in person. It was a draconian move, and the police-funded claimants were represented at court by two barristers, Simon Myerson QC and Hannah Lynch. These legal heavyweights were instructed by leading Leeds law firm Ford and Warren (since taken over by Weightmans).

This second phase of the North Yorkshire Police action, codenamed Operation Hyson, was launched following advice given to them by ‘a leading, specialist barrister’, believed to be Mr Myerson (pictured below) after Rome had fallen.

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The two journalists were both represented by London human rights barrister, Ian Brownhill, instructed by Nottingham solicitors, Bhatia Best. Recruited at very short notice, the lawyers performed a minor miracle in reading a huge volume of paperwork, and preparing a defence, over the weekend before the first hearing.

The outcome of that court hearing was in two parts: An interim injunction was granted against the absent, and unrepresented, Mr Hofschröer and a consent order was sealed by the judge, His Honour Mark Gosnell, which effectively maintained the status quo between the claimants and the two journalists. It meant, in real terms, that none of the articles complained about, by the claimants, were taken down by any of the defendants, including Mr Hofschröer who has no access to a computer whilst held in jail.

Mr Brownhill had also raised the issue of ultra vires that, in layman’s terms, means there is serious doubt in his mind about the legality of public funding being used, by the police, to finance civil litigants in a harassment claim.

Subsequent hearings over Operation Hyson took place at Leeds Combined Court, before HHJ Gosnell, in June and November, 2015. The matter was transferred from the High Court to the County Court at the first of these hearings, at which directions were given to all parties in preparation for a trial that was scheduled to begin on 7th December, 2015. At the later hearing – which was listed as a pre-trial review – summary judgment was granted in favour of the nine claimants against Mr Hofschröer after he elected not to take part in the proceedings citing breaches of his Article Six convention rights. This left the two journalists as the remaining defendants in the claim. The judge ordered that the December trial date be vacated and a further case management hearing to be listed for 20th January, 2016. HHJ Gosnell also advanced the view to counsel representing both sides that every effort to settle the matter should have been made by that date.

The January hearing, conducted in the judge’s chambers by telephone conference, resulted in no settlement being reached and, as a consequence, a trial window opened by HHJ Gosnell between April and July, 2016 with a time estimate for the final hearing of seven days. This is to allow an additional period for the claimants to file further evidence in support of their claim against the journalists, a year to the day since they issued proceedings. The Court have recently confirmed that the trial is set to open on 20th July, 2016.

A trial of this duration is likely to place a further burden on the taxpayer of around £100,000, given that there is no reasonable prospect, based on recent legal precedent, of the litigation achieving its two-tier objective. A harassment finding for each of the nine claimants against each of the two remaining defendants, is the first hurdle. Only if that threshold is reached could the court consider that an injunction against two journalists was the appropriate remedy.

A press statement concerning the outcome of the January 2016 hearing was requested, from the PCC and the Chief Constable, during a recent Police Scrutiny Board meeting held a few days afterwards, but the opportunity was declined by both police chiefs. The reasons for doing so bear no examination (see Scrutiny Board podcast here).

There are also the substantial internal costs incurred by the North Yorkshire Force Solicitor, Jane Wintermeyer, and her staff, to consider. Marshalling nine claimants and instructing the two Weightmans solicitors dealing with the matter, over a period of fifteen months, would not come cheap. Mrs Wintermeyer also canvassed other high profile public officials, including Rebecca Reed, a senior manager engaged with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), prior to the issue of proceedings in order to add substance to the North Yorkshire Police’s Rome and Hyson investigations.

During the January 2016 case management hearing, the issue of ultra vires and abuse of process was raised again by Mr Brownhill. He was told by HHJ Gosnell that the question of whether this claim falls to be determined as vires or ultra vires, is in his view, an arguable case. But, not one that would be heard before him in the County Court. A separate public law challenge would have to be mounted in the Administrative Court. One of the defendants, Mr Ward has confirmed that this process will soon be in train.

The Police and Crime Commissioner originally claimed to have sought ‘independent legal advice’ on the vires issue on 12th January, 2015 (read her formal statement here) but has, so far, not disclosed the invoices from her solicitor and counsel that would prove that point, following a freedom of information request. Mrs Mulligan was prepared to break the law rather than either disclose the information, or admit it doen’t actually exist. Her latest claim is that the advice was not provided in writing by the ‘leading barrister’ involved in January 2015, but given verbally in a meeting on 15th October, 2014. A meeting at which it is known Mr Myerson was present, by reference to his invoice sent to NYP that covers the day in question.

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Mrs Mulligan (pictured above with Chief Constable Jones) undoubtedly faces a difficult few weeks ahead as both the merits of Operations Rome and Hyson, the subsequent civil court trial, and the source of it’s funding, come under intense scrutiny during the forthcoming PCC election campaign.

Since this article was first published on 7th February, 2016 information has been obtained about a referral from the Parliamentary Committee for Public Accounts to the National Audit Office concerning the legality of the decision to spend public money financing private claims (read more here).

The press officers for both North Yorkshire Police and the Police Commissioner have been offered the opportunity to comment but none has been forthcoming, so far.

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Page last updated on Sunday 1st May, 2016 at 0945hrs

© 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: Twitter (@SCynic1), North Yorkshire Enquirer and Office of Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire

 

Liar, Liar. Pants on fire.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, or IPCC for short, is an organisation that has been extensively, and justifiably, criticised since it replaced the thoroughly discredited Police Complaints Authority in 2004.

In February 2008, over a hundred lawyers who specialise in handling police complaints resigned from its advisory body, citing various criticisms of the IPCC including a pattern of favouritism towards the police, indifference, rudeness towards complainants, and complaints and appeals being rejected in spite of apparently powerful evidence in their support.

In 2011, a falsely grounded press statement, authorised by Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne (pictured below), concerning the shooting of Mark Duggan by armed police officers on a Tottenham street, was considered by some to have contributed to the confrontations with the police that ultimately led to what are now known as the London Riots. Looting and burning on an unprecendented scale also spread to other major cities in the UK soon afterwards. The IPCC publicly apologised for ‘misleading journalists’ six days after the violence erupted (read BBC report here).

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On television, in national newspapers and in Parliamentary committees the conclusion today is still much the same: Slow, inadequate, poor decision-making and apparent bias. In 2013 the Home Affairs Select Committee said the IPCC was ‘not fit for purpose’ as the so-called police watchdog.

There are many other people, particularly justice campaigners all around the country, who have a negative view of the IPCC and its workforce.

Now I can exclusively reveal that there are other serious, and deep seated, problems within the IPCC which include alleged misuse of official funds. running into six figures.

From September 2014, until the matter was settled in December 2015, I was the subject of a High Court action, brought and funded by the IPCC, in which it was alleged that I harassed three of its employees.

The IPCC alleged that articles written and published by me on the uPSD police whistleblowers website – and messages broadcasted on the Twitter social media website referring to those articles – had caused their employees ‘distress and alarm’.

The legal proceedings against me were issued, on behalf of the IPCC, by a Leeds firm of solicitors, Cohen Cramer. An odd choice for a Home Office funded Commission, given a Solicitors Regulation Authority finding which condemned both the law firm and one of its senior partners, Mr Michael McDonnell, for unlawfully conducting litigation (read more here). The choice of lawyer within that firm to act for the IPCC was even more bizarre: Miss Emily Slater whom, it seems, had also been publicly pilloried by a Master at the Royal Courts of Justice for the manner in which she had conducted libel litigation. She acted for the claimant, who lost the case and had costs awarded against him (read more here).

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Apart from Master Eastman’s criticisms, Miss Slater (pictured above) had attracted some shocking national newspaper headlines of her own (click here) which cannot have escaped the attention of either the IPCC, or their lay claimants. Simple enquiries about the capabilities in, and likely conduct of, a harassment claim by Miss Slater could also have been easily gleaned in the public domain. Such as this stinging criticism from HHJ Robert Owen QC in another case that Cohen Cramer ‘lost’ (read the approved judgment extract here). Another losing legal case for Miss Slater, and her firm, was a libel action against the Metropolitan Police in which two high court judges separately found the claim to be grounded more in hope than substance (read the full judgment here).

By way of balance, I have tried to identify cases in which Miss Slater may have enjoyed even partial success but, so far, I have found no such trace.

From the outset, the IPCC’s legal action against me attracted attention in the press, and amongst the legal profession, mainly as a result of some quite startling allegations made by the three claimants. One of whom, C1, appeared as a very late substitute only five days before the interim hearing, with their name scribbled over that of another IPCC caseworker, Mr Mohammed Ejaz, who abandoned his own claim without any explanation. No pre-action protocol was followed by Cohen Cramer, and the IPCC, in respect of the appearance of the new claimant in the claim, which set the tone for a number of later breaches of Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).

Given that I had only ever written positively about Mr Ejaz, it appears to be a reasonable deduction that his claim was withdrawn because it was completely without merit. He refused an opportunity to explain his abrupt departure from the case when approached by me, in writing, to provide a witness statement.

There was evidence  which attempted to link me with improvised explosive devices and threats to kill made by a member of the public of whom I had never even heard, let alone interacted with. These unevidenced assertions were later withdrawn, once I had made contact with the alleged ‘bomber’ and taken an evidential witness statement from him. Suffice to say, such a device never existed.

The findings of HHJ Richard Parkes at the interim hearing did not make good reading for me, my family, friends and fellow justice campaigning supporters and the Huddersfield Examiner made a meal of it the following day by publishing a salacious, gratuitously damaging article to which I have never been offered a right of reply.

The sharp-eyed would also have noted, that I did not appear and was not legally represented at the interim hearing. This was because I had only been given 15 hours notice that the hearing was going ahead at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (180 miles from my home), two days after I believed I had come to a reasonable, provisional settlement with the IPCC. It had all the appearances of a legal ambush, seemingly orchestrated by Miss Slater and, presumably, given the green light by her IPCC paymasters.

I was, however, able to attend the judgment hearing at the same court two weeks later at which it was pronounced that an interim injunction had been ordered against me. The effect of which, I was to take down the articles about which the IPCC had complained and also remove the tweets that referred to their three employees. Before the judge handed down his findings, I was approached by counsel for the IPCC, Matthew Richardson (pictured below) outside Court 14, the historic and highly ornate Lord Chancellor’s Court. Matt is an affable chap, perhaps better known as the former General Secretary of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and his opening remarks to me were surprising to say the least: ‘We need to make this go away‘. My response was similarly plain. I was prepared to have any articles in dispute put to the IPCC press office (or legal team) for comment, or objection, and amend them if they could show any of the facts underpinning the articles had no foundation. A stance I maintained, on a point of principle, until the matter was settled fifteen months later.

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In the meantime, senior management of the IPCC allocated around £125,000 of public funds in their attempt to bring proceedings against me and, of course, Mr Hofschröer. A man I have never spoken to, but with whom I had a small amount of correspondence some years ago when I first became aware of what is now the well known ‘Grandma B’ scandal involving his mother, Mrs Barbara Hofschröer.

In Mr Hofschröer’s harassment case, brought against him by the IPCC , Cohen Cramer finally brought matters to a conclusion in February 2016 against a defendant who had no access to either his electronic or paper records since his arrest and detention – and had declined to take part in the proceedings since June 2015. The eventual finding against Mr Hofschröer followed a ‘failed’ summary judgment application, heard before HHJ Mark Gosnell at Leeds County Court in November last year. I was in court to hear this particular application in my capacity as a reporter. It was, by any measure, a comical exhibition of legal incompetence on the part of the troubled Leeds law firm: Trying to convince a circuit judge that sending notice of an Application to an inmate of HMP Hull, by first class post three days before the hearing was, in legal parlance, ‘good service’ never had a realistic hope of succeeding despite the valiant, and persistent efforts, of counsel. The argument advanced that the overriding objective of the litigation (CPR1.1) would be best served by circumventing notice of proceedings on the defendant was novel, to say the least

Having been referred to in generally unflattering terms in that same summary judgment application made by the IPCC against Mr Hofschröer, two other journalists, Timothy Hicks and Nigel Ward, along with myself, submitted witness statements and exhibits which directly challenge some evidence in that claim.

Following my appearance before HHJ Parkes at the Royal Courts of Justice there followed a stream of correspondence from Miss Slater, which became ever more bizarre as her IPCC lay clients sought removal of every reference to them ever written and published on the internet. However innocuous and whether, or not, I was author or publisher. This included tweets broadcasted by national newpaper journalists and justice campaigners. Such as this one from Sunday Times reporter, Tom Harper:

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Or the many that had been tweeted by nationally known justice campaigner, Michael Doherty, a relentess critic of the IPCC. Indeed, it was submitted by my defence team, in evidence, that Mr Doherty had more recorded interactions with the IPCC – many of them in adverse terms – than myself, yet the IPCC had pursued me through the courts, and not him. Indeed, Mr Doherty’s principal criticisms of the IPCC: covering up child abuse and being the IPCC’s ‘hatchet woman’ are still there on the internet for all to see today. As are those of a number of other IPCC critics in a similar vein. Perhaps, I was perceived as the softer target given my precarious health. Or, Mr Doherty’s much greater public persona deterred them?

Even in full knowledge of those health issues, Cohen Cramer’s Miss Slater conducted an intimidatory, oppressive stance throughout – presumably on instructions from the IPCC – and even threatened to have me arrested and detained by the police for not removing the tweets highlighted above, and a number of other tweets and articles in a similar vein over which I had no control, whatsoever. Miss Slater also lied in correspondence between us in an attempt to withhold the source of the claimants’ funding. Incredibly, she denied that the IPCC was, in fact, footing the bill on behalf of their employees, despite the fact that her retained counsel, Mr Richardson, had openly confirmed to me before a witness, at the Royal Courts of Justice, that the police watchdog was financing the claim.

This was a low point for me. Having been rushed to hospital three times under blue lights in the preceding six months and, awaiting remedial surgery, I was not in good health. Furthermore, I did not have the financial resources to engage lawyers in an action in which the IPCC appeared to have given their three employees a blank cheque, in order to prevent me writing about them. I was defending myself as a litigant in person and it was, quite obviously, not a level playing field and the IPCC were kicking me all over the park.

But the rules of the game – over which the IPCC and Cohen Cramer thought they had complete control – were set to change dramatically. Galvanised by the unflinching support I received from those closest to me – and from others around the country – the task of unravelling the case constructed by the IPCC’s chosen ones began. In January 2015, I served my witness and defence statements on the IPCC, and their lay claimants, and also witness statements from seven other journalists and campaigners who had all been involved in close, and very unsatisfactory, dealings with the ineffective police watchdog. These included Mr Doherty, and other high profile figures such as Janet Alder and Bernadette Major.

It certainly appeared to be the tipping point for Emily Slater: She and Cohen Cramer parted company and, according to information given to me, she had moved abroad to Vienna. Miss Slater no longer shows up on a search of the Law Society’s solicitor database (see screenshot below) and, until she removed her LinkedIn profile a few months ago, was seemingly unemployed.  Another high profile victim of Miss Slater’s unethical approach to her professional calling, Lincolnshire businessman Mr Stuart Brown, reported on his weblog that she had been dismissed by Cohen Cramer at the end of January 2015 (read more here), a claim the law firm denies.

Mr Brown, in a remarkable turnaround, has recently served harassment proceedings on Cohen Cramer which centre on the behaviour of Emily Slater during litigation which was, in the words of HHJ Owen “an oppressive use of the legal procedure” and “conducted with unnecessary aggression”. A case in which I will be providing witness evidence on his behalf.

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At a case management hearing before Mr Justice Warby at the Royal Courts of Justice in March 2015, the IPCC, their lay claimants and their lawyers did not fare well. By this time, Miss Slater had been replaced by a Cohen Cramer partner, Mr David Hall. Their first-choice barrister, Matt Richardson, had also been replaced by Mr Guy Vassall-Adams, who appeared uncomfortable throughout the hearing about the case he was being asked to present. Through the generosity of my family I was able to engage lawyers to represent me on the day. My counsel, Mr Ian Brownhill, persuaded the judge to transfer the case to Leeds High Court – against the strong protest of the IPCC’s lawyers – which was much more local for myself, all three claimants, most of the other witnesses and Cohen Cramer. The only reason the IPCC wanted to have the matter heard in London was to cripple me financially and put off most of my witnesses from attending a final hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on the grounds of time and cost.

During this hearing Mr Vassall-Adams’ complained to the judge that I had harassed the IPCC’s employees that very morning by tweeting this on the social media website:

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This is a graphic illustration of not only legal bad faith, but the petulance and poor judgment with which I have been confronted in all my dealings with Cohen Cramer and the IPCC, both throughout their conduct of the case – and since. As a highly regarded media and information lawyer, regularly heard on The Strand defending the freedom of speech of large newspapers groups, Mr Vassall-Adams should have cause to reflect upon making a submission, albeit on instructions, to the effect that me saying to a friend “Thanks, Michael. En route to RCJ. Will call you later” constitutes harassment.

In any event, Mr Vassall-Adams subsequently returned the brief to the IPCC’s lawyers and was replaced by the third barrister to be acting in this increasingly vexed action, Mrs Sara Mansoori, who hails from the same Matrix International chambers.

At the case management hearing the judge gave Directions that, effectively, required the IPCC to start their claim again and that all their costs, up to and including the case management hearing could not be recovered by the IPCC, even if the claim ultimately succeeded against me. My lawyers calculated that ‘penalty’ to be at least £25,000 of public money wasted on protecting Crown servants, sanctioned at the very top of the IPCC by their Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone (pictured below).

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Following partial release of information by the IPCC that I requested under the Freedom of Information Act at the conclusion of the case (click here), it is now apparent that the amount of money lost by the end of the March hearing was nearer to £50,000 than my lawyers’ estimate of £25,000. On the face of those figures, it would appear that Ms Longstone, and her senior IPCC cohorts, were already in deeper financial water than either my legal team, or I, realised at the time.

After the case management hearing, new particulars of claim were duly issued by the IPCC’s lawyers, but were met with a robust defence drafted by my own counsel. The allegations of harassment against me were systematically rebutted and the claim reduced to what, in my solicitor’s view, was nothing more than ‘a storm in a teacup’. The libel allegations that were an earlier feature of the IPCC’s pleadings – and also referenced in a letter openly published on the internet (click here) by their now departed Chief Operating Officer, Nick Hawkins (pictured below) – had now inexplicably disappeared. Some might infer from such a change of direction that the IPCC were avoiding a legal fight grounded in whether, or not, the articles published about their three lay claimants were true. It is assumed that Mr Hawkins, given both his working proximity to Ms Longstone and also the tone and content of the letter in his name, would have also been supporting the IPCC’s action against me and the funding of it. He left the IPCC, in September 2015, after just one year’s service.

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At about the same time Cohen Cramer also confirmed, in writing, that the IPCC’s lay claimants were no longer relying on their first or second statements. Which was not at all unexpected, given the way they had been torn apart by the defence evidence. But my legal team and I waited, and waited, and waited, for the third statements to be filed at court and served on me. Eventually, the statements of two of the three claimants were emailed to my lawyers less than two weeks before the trial was listed to be heard (7th December 2015) and more than six months after they were directed to do so by Mr Justice Warby. The third claimant did not file a revised statement at any time.

As a result of this late service of evidence, Cohen Cramer were forced to go cap in hand to the court in Leeds and ask the judge, at the pre-trial review, to make a retrospective Order to allow the statements of their clients into the claim.

It should surprise no-one that, of the many slurs in their various witness statements against not only me, but also against some of those for whom I act as complaint advocate and others with whom I have had only passing acquaintance, not one single document was adduced by any of the three lay claimants to support the IPCC’s allegations. Anyone who could be linked with me, however tenuously, was fair game for the smear campaign being funded by the IPCC.

There were also a number of incredible claims about the impact of the alleged harassment, but not one shred of medical evidence to support it.

Similarly, for anyone who has had dealings of any length with the IPCC, there was the familiar ducking and diving over disclosure. They breached their obligations under Part 32 of the CPR Rules, and there was an unresolved Part 18 Request still pending at the time the matter reached a settlement. I simply asked for the materials that supported the fanciful  assertions made by the claimants. I was entitled to see these, but they were not produced. Or, confirmation given to me that such documentary evidence did not actually exist, so that my lawyers could apply for the claim could be struck out. Any experienced litigator (or judge) knows that contemporaneous documents are the first port of call when assessing witness credibilty. The obvious conclusion to draw from that is Cohen Cramer and the IPCC’s lay claimants simply did not want to go there and have theirs tested.

The two teams of lawyers, respectively acting for the IPCC, and myself, eventually agreed on terms for settlement on the day the trial should have started, after a torturous few days of negotiation. I was determined to go to trial and have the matters raised in evidence fully ventilated in open court. It was like a bad smell hanging over me.

The prospect of having the IPCC’s lay claimants on the witness stand and subjected to cross examination by a formidable human rights barrister, not only having the organisation’s honesty and integrity questioned in public hearing, but also the reputation of the whole organisation they worked for coming under severe scrutiny was one that held significant attraction for me – and to the other witnesses who were prepared to travel far and wide to give evidence on my behalf.

The final settlement of the claim was in terms very favourable to me. The interim injunction was removed; there was no admission (or finding) of harassment and I gave an undertaking to the court and to the claimants; and the right to continue to publish articles about the IPCC and its employees was preserved. In respect of any articles that name the IPCC’s three lay claimants, I am required to give them sight of the articles first and invite each of those named to give their consent. Such consent to be not unreasonably withheld, if the articles are true and the evidence behind the articles stands up to legal scrutiny.

There was another part of the settlement that the IPCC were absolutely insistent did not reach the public domain, so I am unable to disclose that particular point at the present time. But I can say the ‘secret’ agreement was also very much to my advantage, without breaching the confidentiality clause. It is also noteworthy that enforcement proceedings had to be threatened against the IPCC, by my lawyers, before they complied with that particular term of the agreement.

On any independent view, the IPCC strategy to oppress and stifle my right to report on corrupt practices, using huge amounts of public funds, has failed. It is a situation that I will continue to address by whatever legal means are available, if the IPCC continue to shield dishonest employees and allow them to prosper from their misdemeanours: Those options include laying an information concerning a private prosecution at Wakefield Magistrates Court – a mere 100 yards from the IPCC’s own offices – if such a step becomes necessary

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The grim exterior of Wakefield Magistrates Court -a short walk from the IPCC’s office

Mr Hall of Cohen Cramer and both the IPCC’s press office and their Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone, were all approached for comment on this article prior to publication. The IPCC press office said they would not be commenting. Ms Longstone did not acknowledge or respond to my email. A remark that also applies to Cohen Cramer’s Mr Hall.

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Page last updated Saturday 16th April, 2016 at 1035hrs

© 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: IPCC, Private Eye, Law Society