Barton beats an unexpected retreat

Earlier this week Durham Constabulary announced the retirement of its chief constable, Mike Barton, both on social media and via a press release issued to local, regional and national media. The story attracted little attention, given the controversial figure he has frequently cut.

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But this announcement took many people by surprise, not least policing colleagues whom he had told that he wanted to complete 40 years police service before contemplating retirement. That would have taken him through to at least 2020, having joined Lancashire Police in 1980. 

In a typically robust Sunday Mirror article (read here), published hours before the retirement announcement, there was absolutely no inkling that the Durham chief was about to abandon his post and the high profile, and hugely important, war on knife crime.

Born into a farming family, Mike Barton became a constable with his local force in Blackpool, where his beat included the resort’s famous Golden Mile. He was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2014.

Now aged 62, and a self-proclaimed ‘maverick’, Mr Barton agreed a five-year contract extension in November 2016 (read more here). That arrangement was intended to take him to the end of the current Police and Crime Plan agreed with his employer, the Durham Police Crime and Victims Commissioner, Ron Hogg,

For reasons that are unclear, for the present at least, the Sunderland Echo reported that Barton’s contract extension was only three years, and that ‘he had worked beyond his intended retirement date’.

News of chief Barton’s departure also came as a shock to those closely involved with Operation Lackan, a misconduct investigation into alleged dishonesty and disreputable conduct of Ian Hopkins, chief constable of under-siege Greater Manchester Police. The complainant is retired GMP superintendent, Peter Jackson. Currently, the country’s best known, and most widely reported, police whistleblower. The author of this article is, also, a deponent in those proceedings.

Mr Barton is Gold Commander of that highly vexed probe. A role he accepted at the very end of last year from Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the appointed body to deal with complaints against the region’s chief officer. At the present rate of progress, with terms of reference taking, it seeems, twelve weeks to agree, it is difficult to see Barton signing off the investigation outcome before he retires.

The question also hangs in the air as to why he took on the highly significant Manchester investigation if retirement was front of mind. His temporary replacement as chief will be present Deputy Chief Constable, Jo Farrell. Nothing in her police record, or via other open source material, suggests that she has experience of heading up such a controversial gross misconduct investigation. The major significance of that apparent deficiency unfolds as the sudden, and unexplained, departure of another chief constable is analysed later in this piece.

In these circumstances, the statement issued by his police force press office is worthy of further scrutiny: It begins by saying that the chief constable confirmed his retirement, in writing, that morning (11th March). Suggesting that he had already told his employer, verbally, that he was leaving the force. A leaving date of 7th June might imply that such a conversation took place during the previous week, on 7th March.

The usual valedictory prose pads out a substantial portion of the rest of the statement – and it is much nearer the beginning than the end where the reason for the sudden exit is given: Mr Barton wants to ‘spend more time in his greenhouse and with his grandchildren‘.

Earlier in the statement he is quoted thus: ‘There remain many challenges in policing that I would have relished tackling, but there comes a time when one should hand the baton to the next generation of talented and committed people who will bring their own style, thinking and approach’. Which is an oddity, of itself, as the National Police Chiefs Council, of which Mike Barton is a very prominent, outspoken member, openly admit there is a troubling, and worsening, dearth of senior officer talent in this country.

But above all, he said, the role as Durham’s chief constable had been ‘exciting’ and ‘enormous fun‘. His police colleagues in Durham, and possibly elsewhere, refer to him as a ‘nutter’. In the comedic sense, one assumes?

The statement concludes by saying that details of the procedure to recruit the next chief constable will be announced by the PCC’s office over the coming months. Which precludes any handover, by Barton, to his successor in the top job. The role currently attracts a remuneration of £134,400 per annum, plus the use of a pool car for private use and generous pension benefits.

This unexpected, and largely unexplained, departure is in a similar mode to that of a another experienced, long-serving, recently retired chief, the enigmatic Dave Jones, who ended his service at neighbouring North Yorkshire Police. Except that Jones did what was, effectively, a ‘moonlight flit‘. On the day his departure was announced, 9th April, 2018, after a period of annual leave over the Easter period, he put in a three month sick note and never appeared at force HQ again. NYP were then forced to seek a successor in his absence, with no smooth transition period, and the consequent cost and operational penalties.

Pertinent public interest questions put to the disgraced North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, concerning proposed action over a possible contract breach, drew the usual blank. Jones’ had willingly committed to remain at NYP until May, 2020. Turning his back on around £350,000 in salary and benefits to ‘spend more time with his family‘. His three months of sick leave was worth over £40,000 in pay and benefits.

It is worth noting, in a wider context, that Dave Jones spent the first 21 years as a Greater Manchester Police officer and was, at one stage, a CID colleague of Peter Jackson.

Mike Barton has walked away from a similarly large sum, and given much the same reason for doing so. Which, in both cases and taken at their face, appears scarcely credible.

Jones was facing a mounting series of operational problems, adverse inspection reports, quite astonishing criticism from an appeal court judge, and other serious questions about his competence and integrity posed in the media. Other possible reasons for his departure are explored in another article on this website (read here).

But Barton has, previously, faced none of the sort of relentless journalistic scrutiny which came the way of North Yorkshire Police before, and during, the Dave Jones era, and he appears to have an excellent relationship with local and national media. Basking in the glory of being rated as the country’s best police force, according to Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, and being a ‘colourful character’ to boot. Relations between chief constable and police commissioner also appear to be always positive. A situation that could not be said of Jones and his own controversial, and soon to depart, PCC.

But taking on the Hopkins investigation has brought about a different type of scrutiny, not least from this quarter, from whence, and with ample justification, Durham Constabularly is frequently referred to as “a grubby little police force” – and it is already very clear that Durham are not enjoying the oversight. Blocking posts on social media would be a particularly peurile, and futile, example. If a detective chief inspector, and a senior professional standards officer to boot, doesn’t want to hear the truth about the failings of her police force, then Victoria Martin might reflect on her Oath of Constable and whether she is, in fact, deployed in the right vocation. 

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Operation Lackan is very likely to turn out to be highly toxic and Mike Barton has appointed as his Silver Command an officer who appears, on all the evidence seen so far, to neither have the requisite competencies, judgement, resilience or the temperament, to cope with what faces him across the Pennines: Investigating the chief officer of a police force beset with very serious organisational and leadership issues, at least six times the size of his own. A journey so arduous he has, on at least one occasion, required the services of both a detective sergeant AND a driver.

Darren Ellis, a civilian investigator who appears to be Barton’s favoured bag-carrier, has already been placed on written notice concerning some of the professional failings identified, so far, and reacted to reasoned, and well evidenced, criticisms with a grotesquely unprofessional, spiteful, childish response. Ellis also appears to be highly sensitive to fair, and plainly expressed, comment on social media. Even though, surprisingly, and for one who has such an extraordinarily high opinion of himself, he appears to have no presence on Twitter. He was, also, previously a close working colleague of DCI Martin (and may well still be a subordinate in her department). Which may well imply a cultural, or organisational, issue within Durham Constabularly in dealing with hard truths. 

The obsession, stoutly maintained by Ellis, of the existence of a partnership, or other influential or advisory arrangement, between Peter Jackson and Neil Wilby does him no credit. He has been told, repeatedly, by both, it simply does not exist. There is simply no evidence to support his near-frenzied repetition. 

Neither does his bizarre authorisation of the release of lengthy, and unredacted, email correspondence between complainant and police investigator, to an investigative journalist, and all the consequent breaches of the Data Protection Act.

In a previous investigation in which Darren Ellis was closely involved, as lead investigator, Durham Constabularly were criticised, for apparent lack of understanding of data legislation, by Police Scotland’s Deputy Chief Constable, Rose Fitzpatrick. In the same letter, which can be read in full here, she also noted that Durham had stepped outside of the agreed terms of reference.

The Lackan investigation, conducted with appropriate rigour, and following the evidence, will see the end of the career of Hopkins, if he hasn’t already joined the ranks of disgraced senior officers from the Manchester force who have either resigned, or retired over the past few years. These include ACC Rebekah Sutcliffe (Titgate), ACC Steve Heywood (lied to Grainger Inquiry; forged policy log entries), ACC Terry Sweeney (Operations Poppy 1, 2 and 3), ACC Garry Shewan (Operation Redbone; Operations Lamp/Redhill; £70million iOPS failure).

Sweeney’s departure, whilst facing gross misconduct investigations, including the Shipman body parts scandal, infuriated many policing commentators and, actually, led to a change in the law. The other three departed on Hopkins’ watch as chief constable. He was deputy chief when Sweeney slid out the back door of GMP HQ.

Two of their replacements are already mired in controversy, ACC Mabs Hussain (read more here) and T/ACC Annette Anderson, who is currently on a three month absence from the force, whilst attending a senior leaders’ course at the College of Policing. Hopkins is directly involved in the former and, indeed, created it. His deputy, DCC Ian Pilling is closely involved with the Anderson scandal and is also the subject of robust, well-evidenced, criticism over a series of alleged ‘cover-ups’ that have already featured, regularly, elsewhere on this website. He presently faces no misconduct proceedings, but will definitely be cited in evidence supporting the section of the Jackson complaint that deals with institutionalised deceit.

Ex-ACC Dawn Copley could also, feasibly, be added to the list of controversial ex-Manchester retirees. She became the shortest ever serving chief constable in police service history when her tenure lasted just 24 hours at South Yorkshire Police. It has been well reported that ‘Big Dawn’, as she is commonly known, and Peter Jackson, clashed a number of times, as he repeatedly insisted that an investigation should be launched by another police force concerning the ill-starred Operation Nixon (read more here).

Both Copley and Pilling are former Lancashire Police colleagues of Mike Barton, and therein at least part of the answer to the latter’s sudden departure may lie. If, as might be expected, the dishonesty complaint against his chief constable colleague, Ian Hopkins, widens to examine an institutionalised culture of deceit and ‘cover-up’ that cascades down from the top of the Manchester force. A point presciently made in one of a series of articles by The Times journalist, Fiona Hamilton, who is also likely to give witness evidence in the Lackan investigation.

On any independent view, Greater Manchester Police, absent of any meaningful oversight from those public bodies responsible, principally the Deputy Mayor and the perenially hopeless Independent Office for Police Conduct, is a ‘bandit’ police force that, to maintain public confidence, requires urgent intervention from the Home Office. Reminiscent of the dark days of the infamous Leeds City Police in the late 1960’s and eary 1970’s. In slightly different terms, The Times newspaper has twice called for a public inquiry, via its hugely influential leader column. Read by every Prime Minister since 1788.

Which poses a second question concerning Mike Barton: In the twilight of what is reported to be a long, illustrious, and decorated, police career would the Durham chief want to risk being dragged, wittingly or unwittingly. into a situation that has already stained the careers of so many other senior police officers – and likely to end several more? 

Comment about any investigation would normally, and quite properly, be reserved until its outcome is published, so as not to engage prejudice. But this particular matter is wholly exceptional, as it has almost entirely been played out in the public domain. The complainant is a very high profile police whistleblower and the misconduct complained of concerns the chief constable of the UK’s fourth largest police force. Two of the witnesses are journalists. Another one is a retired police officer, a fourth is a serving police officer. There are a large number of national newspaper articles, and publicly accessible investigation reports, concerning the Jackson disclosures, which date back to 2014. Indeed, Operation Lackan centres around one of those articles, published by The Times in June, 2018; the Hopkins response; and two follow-ups in The Times that destroyed both the police statement and one made in support of it by the Deputy Mayor of Manchester, Beverley Hughes

In my own extensive and informed knowledge, there can only be one conclusion: Hopkins has, on any view of the facts, misconducted himself and, with it, brought disrepute to the door of his force. The only matter to be determined is one of degree. Which may be the third reason why Mike Barton has decided to go.

Fourthly, Operation Lackan promises to be neither ‘exciting’ nor the ‘great fun’ that the Durham chief says is his more familiar experience in police HQ at Aykley Heads. Far, far from it. There is likely to be a some banging of heads against brick walls dealing with the Manchester Mayor’s office and Barton may have decided, after his experience of the Police Scotland investigation, that enough is enough (read more here).

By way of another curious coincidence, a gross misconduct investigation, carried out on behalf the the Cheshire police commissioner, into another chief constable, Simon Byrne, was one of the reasons mooted for the abrupt departure of Dave Jones. Described by John Beggs QC as ‘sub-optimal’, at the subsequent disciplinary hearing, the much-feared barrister was being uncharacteristicly over-generous. As the public hearing unfolded in Warrington Town Hall, it became clear that Jones had been out of his depth: The investigation was a shambles, almost from start to finish. He had previously told the commissioner, David Keane, that he was experienced in such matters. It appears as though he was not. What was not disclosed to Mr Keane was that Jones and Byrne had a professional association, via the Scrutiny Board of the National Police Air Service. A member of that same body, at the material time, will say that the two ex-chiefs were friends. Both Byrne and Jones were also senior ex-Greater Manchester Police officers.

By contrast, there is no doubt at all that, given a free hand, Mike Barton could, and very probably would, investigate the Hopkins allegations effectively, and report back efficiently, with appropriate findings. But the big issue is, whether his terms of reference from the Manchester Mayor’s office, where knowledge of the applicable statutory framework appears seriously limited, would have allowed him such liberty. That could be advanced as the fifth and most crucial reason. Who wants to conduct an investigation with their hands tied behind their back? But now, with Barton’s impending retirement, we will never know.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority, on behalf of the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, confirmed, in a press statement dated 15th March, 2019, that Chief Constable Hopkins would not be either suspended, or placed on gardening leave, whilst the misconduct investigation is in progress. That strongly implies that Mayor Burnham has not passed the matter over to Durham Constabulary as a ‘gross misconduct’ investigation, but a much lesser one of ‘misconduct’. GMCA has not confirmed, as yet, whether a Regulation 15 notice has been served on the chief constable. Enquiries to Greater Manchester Police press office on this subject were referred to the Mayor’s office.

Terms of reference for the investigation have now been disclosed by Durham (read here), after unnecessary delay, apparently as a result of invervention by Darren Ellis, and, put shortly, fall well short of what Ellis promised the complainant in correspondence with him and, it appears from that email chain, assurances given in the face-to-face meeting they had. Peter Jackson has emphasised two key points throughout his contact with Ellis:

– Firstly, that a term of reference be included to the effect that the investigation will ‘go where the evidence takes it’. In layman’s terms, that means if other offences, either misconduct or criminal, are uncovered during the taking and examining of the evidence, then the investigating officers would pursue those appropriately.

– Secondly, Jackson has maintained that the very public and deliberate smearing of himself, Fiona Hamilton and her newspaper by Chief Constable Hopkins cannot amount to anything other than an abuse of his position, and conduct that brings disrepute to both his own force and the wider police service. Hopkins has made no attempt to put the record straight with a correction statement and that fact simply adds an aggravating feature to the offences.

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Allowing the scope to be limited in this way, after a delay of what appears to be almost three months, does not bode well for the efficacy of the Mike Barton investigation. Neither does the secrecy surrounding his sharp exit from it.

The acquisition of further knowledge behind the Durham chief’s retirement decision, and the PCC’s enthusiastic endorsement of it, are now the subject of two searching freedom of information requests (read here and here). 

Page last updated on Sunday 24th March, 2019 at 1335hrs

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.

Picture credit:  Durham Constabulary

© Neil Wilby 2015-2019. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

More sex abuse failings uncovered in ‘House of Secrets’

Two weeks ago, the first of a series of five articles was published on this website that will shed more light on the unethical, unprofessional – and in some cases unlawful – conduct of Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, and her growing team of extravagantly rewarded senior officers, headquartered in what has previously been dubbed ‘The House of Secrets‘.

This second article re-opens the running sore of extracting disclosure from the PCC’s office and, in doing so, also re-visits two other long held concerns: Failing to hold the chief constable to account and Mrs Mulligan’s apparent distaste in addressing alleged senior police officer failings over child sexual exploitation.

A more recent concern, since he was appointed in 2017, is the ineffectiveness, duplicity and sleight of hand of her deputy, Will Naylor. That was explored in some detail in the first article in this series (read here).

On 24th January, 2019 a simple enquiry was sent by email to Naylor. It concerned matters already well ventilated in the public domain. The catalyst for the request was Mrs Mulligan’s extraordinary, and belated, claim that she had been raped as a 15 year old, together with inside information passed to me about her former chief constable. To the effect that he had, allegedly, not co-operated with the Greater Manchester Mayor’s inquiry into police failings around the Rochdale and Manchester ‘Curry Mile’ child sex abuse scandal.

That, of course, is his inalienable right. It was not a judicial, or even a Departmental inquiry, to which witnesses could be summonsed. Except that the State is funding his gold-plated pension, worth around £70,000 per annum. The reasonable expectation is, therefore, that he should have given evidence. Cleared the air. The corollary being that adverse inference may be drawn if he has not.

The request for information from the Deputy PCC was expressed in the following terms:

“You may recall that, at the last PCP meeting I attended, at Selby Civic Centre in January 2018, it was brought into public knowledge, by Cllr Peter Dew, that a complaint had been raised against the then chief constable [Dave Jones]. At the time, and my notebook records this, Julia told the Panel that there would be a robust, thorough investigation. The PCP minutes (see attached) do not reflect that, but I am sure that the tape recording of the meeting will.

“I am told, by a policing source, that there was a disapplication and no investigation by the PCC took place into Mr Jones’ alleged knowledge of child sex abuse and the shutting down of police investigation(s) by senior officers within GMP. No further mention of the matter is recorded in subsequent PCP minutes. Cllr Dew, of course, left the Panel last year over Julia’s unpleasant behaviour towards him, which further obscures the issue.

“In summary, and please forgive the convoluted route, can you please tell me [1] on what date a recording decision was made regarding the complaint raised by Cllr Dew in the PCP meeting against Mr Jones, and [2] the outcome?

“It is not possible to distil such knowledge from the scant information provided on NYPCC website.

https://www.northyorkshire-pfcc.gov.uk/how-can-we-help/complaints/complain-chief-constable/

The reply from Naylor, after the standard delaying tactics, was short and to the point:

“In response to your questions about the response to a Chief Constable complaint (sic), I am unable to share that information with you. We publish the overall number of complaints against the Chief Constable (current and past), and actions taken thereafter. We do not, and do not intend to, go into the detail of each of those with about (sic) individuals who were not part of that complaint.”

This email was sent by way of reply:

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As of 22nd February, 2019 that email had been ignored by all the recipients. Not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement. A polite reminder, sent to Jane Wintermeyer, on 15th February, 2019 urging her to deal with the matter, at her earliest convenience has also remained unanswered.

In the meantime, other enquiries had revealed a troubling chain of events. It was discovered that the complaint against ex-chief constable, Dave Jones, had been made on 8th December, 2017 by Anthony Nixon, a retired solicitor and North Yorkshire resident. It followed the refusal by Jones to respond to a letter sent to him, by Mr Nixon, following the airing of the seminal BBC documentary series, Three Girls. 

Mr Nixon holds the view, shared by a number of others, including some very high profile Greater Manchester Police whistleblowers, that Jones, Head of the Criminal Investigation Division of GMP at the material time, may know more about the shutting down of complaints of child rape, within his operational area, than he is prepared to admit. Put shortly, the allegation is that either Jones (and others) was complicit, or he was incompetent and negligent in his duties with the most awful consequences for hundreds of victims in Rochdale and on the Manchester ‘Curry Mile’.

On 29th March, 2018, Dave Jones, less than three months after the complaint against him was aired at the Police and Crime Panel meeting by Cllr Dew, did what is described in Yorkshire as a ‘moonlight flit’. He was not seen again on duty after that date. He had booked annual leave until 9th April, 2018, then gave notice of his retirement on that day. In the same moment, he went on sick leave until the end of his notice period, 9th July, 2018. He collected over £40,000 from the taxpayer during that short time. Not a word has been heard of him since.

PCC Mulligan has never explained why she, at first, gave two misleading accounts over her chief constable’s shock exit and has not, since, pursued Jones over breach of the service contract he signed, that should have kept him in post at NYP HQ until 2020. A freedom of information request I made to her office confirms that no legal action was taken against him.

The reason she has given for Jones’ disappearance is that ‘he wants to spend more time with his family’. Giving up at least £350,000 in salary and benefits to do so. The reader is invited to draw their own conclusion as to the plausibility of that arrangement.

An underperforming chief constable, who failed miserably in the running of almost every single operational area of his police force, in the five years he was in post; had little regard for the law or other regulatory strictures; overspent his budget by over £1,000,000 in each of his last three years in post; scarcely faced a single word of criticism from the elected official, whose primary functions include setting the budget for the police force and holding the chief constable to account: PCC Julia Mulligan.

Conversely, and perversely, she made excuse after excuse after excuse, each more implausible than the last, to explain away a lengthy series of catastrophic failings. The only recorded criticism that can be traced is over the rating of North Yorkshire Police as ‘inadequate’ over the recording of crime. This finding was made by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in March, 2018. 

Whether the complaint against Jones, by Mr Nixon, was a factor in the unexpected departure of Jones is still a matter of speculation, but the likelihood of that is diminished by the discovery that, on 26th January, 2018, a letter from the PCC’s office was received by Mr Nixon. It was signed off by Fraser Sampson, the chief executive, and set out the reason why the complaint against Jones would not proceed: Essentially, claims Mr Sampson, the complaint was a repeat of another made in 2015, over much the same matters. It ignores completely the issues raised by the complainant that could only have come to light since 2015.

There is another troubling feature, insofar as the four year investigation, relied on by Sampson (Operation Span), to dismiss the second of Mr Nixon’s complaints, did not cover either the relevant period, or the GMP senior management, of which Jones was, of course, a key player. An even more concerning aspect is that Span was a joint enterprise between the disgraced Independent Police Complaints Commission and GMP’s notorious Professional Standards Branch, the latter charged with investigating their own officers. Unsurprisingly, in spite of 1,000’s of preventable criminal and very serious offences of child rape, trafficking and exploitation, not one single GMP officer faced misconduct proceedings.

It has transpired that Mr Nixon was completely unaware, until I told him very recently, that his complaint had been raised in the PCP meeting by Cllr Dew, a retired North Yorkshire Police officer who served for 30 years, from 1971 onwards. Mrs Mulligan, Fraser Sampson and Will Naylor were all present in that meeting, but neglected to keep Mr Nixon informed. Indeed, there was no communication at all between him and the PCC’s office betwen his complaint being made on 8th December, 2018 and the Sampson decision letter seven weeks later. A recording decision should have been provided to Mr Nixon within 10 working days to comply with the applicable statutory framework.

In fact, on 15th January, 2019, as he was perfectly entitled to do, Mr Nixon made a complaint against Mrs Mulligan over her failure to respond to his complaint against Jones. He did, however, make that complaint to the IPCC, who by then had attempted to disguise their dreadful reputation with a name change to Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), rather than to the Police and Crime Panel, who are the ‘Appropriate Authority’, in terms of the legislation, for dealing with such matters.

Nevertheless, the IOPC forwarded the complaint to the PCP for them to deal with. The fate of that complaint, and the troubling manner in which it was dealt with, is the subject of a further article, yet to be published. Put shortly, the PCP did not even record the complaint against Mrs Mulligan, even though she has been criticised by Panel members, on a number of occasions, over her office’s handling of correspondence and dealing with complaints.

Mr Nixon maintains, and it is a strong argument, that without them being made aware, by the IOPC and then, in turn, the PCP, of the consequent complaint against Mrs Mulligan, his issues concerning Dave Jones would have been ignored altogether by both the PCC and Mr Sampson.  With, or without, the intervention of Peter Dew.

The Nixon hypothesis is supported strongly by the fact that no report to the PCP, over the fate of the complaint against Jones, was made at the meeting in February, 2018. Or, at any subsequent meeting. Cllr Dew has, helpfully, confirmed that he was not informed, either. He was aware that a matter raised by Mr Nixon had been referred to the IPCC (IOPC) at the time, but was, quite understandably, not clear as to either the substance, or its outcome. Particularly, as he resigned from the PCP in July 2018 before Mr Nixon’s IPCC/IOPC/PCP matter was settled.

It is fair to say that the failure to record Mr Nixon’s complaint, which taken at its face, and after filtering out the hyperbole, appears to have merit, was brushed under the carpet by PCC Mulligan. She plainly hoped that the matter would be forgotten about. As it very nearly was.

The allegations, in any event, decayed when Jones left North Yorkshire Police. The sex abuse victims in Rochdale and Manchester, and the police whistleblower who first brought the matter to light, Maggie Oliver, incensed at the outcome of Operation Span, were undoubtedly let down once again. This time by a police commissioner who portrays herself, quite wrongly in my own personal, and professional experience, as a victims’ champion.

This was not the first time child sex abuse victims were let down by senior officers within North Yorkshire Police and Julia Mulligan. The antics of both, as a large number victims of such abuse at the hands of former BBC celebrity, Jimmy Savile and ‘Mr Scarborough’, Peter Jaconelli, was painstakingly uncovered by two citizen journalists, Nigel Ward and Tim Hicks, contributing to the North Yorkshire Enquirer website, simply beggared belief.

The two journalists were subject to a £1 million pursuit by the police, enthusiastically funded by Mrs Mulligan, in order to silence the Enquirer’s stinging criticism of the force and the PCC whom, between them, had found not a single Jaconelli or Savile victim. The police, and its commissioner, went to extraordinary lengths to deflect rebuke, despite the fact that the two infamous perverts had offended, unchecked, for decades in North Yorkshire. There appears to be little, or no, trace of support for those victims and a reluctant, mealy-mouthed apology was eventually squeezed out of the now retired assistant chief constable, Paul Kennedy.

Dave Jones, chief constable at the time, remained silent on the topic, apart from leading the disgraceful criminal, then civil, action against the journalists (read more here). Others notably involved as claimants in that private civil action, fully paid from the public purse, were Jones’ deputy, Tim Madgwick, who is now, incredibly, Chair of York Safeguarding Board and, even more incredibly, the present NYP chief constable, Lisa Winward.

The Jaconelli and Savile ‘cover-up’, by the force and its beleagured PCC, repeatedly alleged by the Enquirer, is serious enough of itself. Many thousands of words have been written about the scandal by Messrs Hicks, Ward and other media outlets. Viewed in the light of what now may also be a second alleged ‘cover-up’ involving child sex abuse and North Yorkshire Police, or, at least its most recent ex-chief, and the PCC, and the well-publicised and catastrophic failings of the force’s Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit (PVPU), also glossed over by Mrs Mulligan at the time (read more here), a deeply troubling pattern emerges.

On any view, it does not sit well with her own positioning as a victims’ champion. Nor does it chime with her recent ‘stage-managed’ claim to have been raped, as a 15 year old, and relating it to the desperate fate of the child sex abuse victims in Rotherham and the ‘Me Too‘ campaign. Absurd, given that all those victims have, very bravely, named their attackers and supported prosecutions, where appropriate.

A story, according to a very reliable source, that was published by the Yorkshire Post as a quid pro quo for that newspaper burying reports over Julia Mulligan’s association with convicted kidnapper, Mujeeb ur Rehman Bhutto. She is alleged to have asked a member of her PCC staff to trawl through her personal Facebook account and delete all references to Bhutto. A Conservative campaigner, and donor, that Mrs Mulligan now claims was just one of three hundred people working on her campaign to become an MP in 2010.

This Bhutto/Mulligan exclusive was published by the Northern Echo (read full story here), two days before the Post’s public relations exercise, and produced what is described by an insider as a ‘nuclear reaction‘ from the short-fused police chief. She had previously told a select group of journalists (which, of course, excluded myself) that she had been sexually assaulted in her earlier life, but asked them not to publish any details.

The police commissioner’s rape claim – and her insistence that it is not investigated and the alleged rapist not brought to book – is the subject of another searching article that will be published on this website in the very near future.

Julia Mulligan, Fraser Sampson, Jane Wintermeyer and Will Naylor have all been offered right of reply. As has the Police and Crime Panel.

Only Mrs Wintermeyer has responded: “No comment, thanks”

Page last updated on Wednesday 27th February, 2019 at 1030hrs

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 2015-2019. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

‘Open and transparent’ Police & Crime Commissioner stonewalls questions over public misconduct hearings

There are few words in the policing lexicon that crop up more often than ‘open’ and ‘transparent’. Some luminaries, such as North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Julia Mulligan, use it so often that they actually begin to believe in the myth.

There are few words in the policing lexicon that crop up more often than ‘open’ and ‘transparent’. Some luminaries, such as North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Julia Mulligan, use it so often that they actually begin to believe in the myth.

The latest example cropped up only yesterday with a story run by the usually police-friendly York Press [1]. The thrust of the piece is that a reporter from their sister newspaper, The Northern Echo, was denied entry to a police disciplinary hearing due to open at police HQ at Newby Wiske, near Northallerton.

Up pops Mrs Mulligan and immediately pledges to “put transparency at the heart of this process”. Conveniently forgetting that it is already a statutory requirement to do so under Police (Conduct) Regulations [2].

But that is only half the story. Misconduct hearings against North Yorkshire Police (NYP) officers alleged to be in breach of Standards of Professional Behaviour [3] fall under the remit of their Professional Standards Department (PSD). It is a part of NYP’s operations that has come under stinging criticism over the past few years. Not least from myself in other articles on this website.

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Prior to the current proceedings, involving gross misconduct allegations against Inspector Sarah Sanderson (with whom I had a brief and uncontroversial professional interchange in August 2012, just before her promotion to T/Chief Inspector), there has only been one other misconduct meeting heard in public involving a NYP officer. This was the widely reported ‘I love weed‘ case involving ex-PC Simon Ryan [4].

Having accidentally discovered it was taking place whilst researching for another article, I actually registered via the NYP website for the Ryan hearing, although as a press card carrying journalist it galled me to do so.

A response came two days later from an unidentified PSD officer (no name, no collar number which is, of itself, a breach of the Code of Ethics) who informed me that ‘a seat had been allocated‘.

There were also other myriad conditions which were set out at this weblink [5]. The sum of it was, there were no facilities at all for reporters, and they were also being asked to leave the building every time the hearing adjourned. Which for proceedings of this type is usually frequently.

I asked PSD by email if a small room with just a table and some chairs could be provided, so that reporters could do their job. An anonymous responder (again) informed me: “I’m afraid that we do not have the available space in order to facilitate your request“.

No catering or drink facility was to be provided to attendees at the hearing – press or otherwise – and I didn’t get as far as asking about toilet facilities.

For my part, I decided that three 140 mile round trips, at my own expense, with no guarantee that my two battery powered devices would last the day without infusion of mains electricity, added to the prospect of flask and sandwiches in the car, and trying to work my laptop on my knee during the hearing, was not at all an appealing combination. I concentrated on other work and hoped one of the local or regional newspapers, who covered NYP matters, would report on the proceedings.

In the event, the hearing only lasted two days and only Tom Wilkinson from the Press Association was in attendance. As such, he still holds the distinction of being the one journalist ever to attend a NYP misconduct hearing.

Unless there is an entirely different approach taken towards the press, after Mrs Mulligan has spoken to the Chief Constable, then Tom might hold that record for some time yet. It is also interesting that he hasn’t ventured to Newby Wiske Hall for a second time.

The PCC and the chief could make a start by changing the venue from Newby Wiske Hall for a start. If it doesn’t have the requisite facilities then why hold hearings there? A question that has been put to both Mrs Mulligan and Dave Jones.

In the interests of ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’ neither even responded to the email seeking comment. Two questions were put to both police chiefs:

1. Why are card-carrying journalists required to register to attend disciplinary hearings?
2. Why is Newby Wiske Hall used as a venue when it is plainly unsuitable?
Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions as to whether they are in the public interest and it was reasonable of Mr Jones and Mulligan to stonewall them.

 

Page last updated: Wednesday 21st September, 2016 at 1750hrs

[1] York Press 19th September, 2016: ‘North Yorkshire PCC will speak to Chief Constable after reporter refused entry’.

[2] Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012.

[3] North Yorkshire Police: Ethics and Standards.

[4] BBC News 14th June, 2016: ‘I love weed hat PC Simon Ryan sacked from North Yorkshire Police’.

[5] North Yorkshire Police: Misconduct hearings.

 

Photo credit: Northern Echo

 

Chief Constable and Police Commissioner face court action over persistent data and information breaches

County Court claims have been filed naming Julia Mulligan, the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire and her Chief Constable, Dave Jones, as defendants over persistent breaches of both the Data Protection Act, 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.

The court action in both cases has been taken out by investigative journalist, Neil Wilby.

Recovery of costs of the time spent dealing with both the PCC’s office, and the police force’s Civil Disclosure Unit, over their failure to comply with the law over two data subject access and eleven freedom of information requests is claimed.

One information request made by Mr Wilby took 373 days before a response was given. The request simply asked for the number of sergeants in the force with the surname ‘Smith’.

A court order compelling the Commissioner and the Chief Constable to lawfully dispose of the data and information requests within 14 days is also sought.

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The PCC’s acting Chief Executive, Simon Dennis, initially instructed Joint Corporate Legal Services, which serves both the police force and the PCC’s office, to respond to the claim.

Acting Force Solicitor and Head of Legal Services, Jane Wintermeyer, confirmed receipt of those instructions from the PCC and intimated that her department would also deal with the claim against the Chief Constable, once it has been served on him by the court.

Mrs Wintermeyer also says: “The Civil Disclosure Unit are (sic) continuing to deal with the  outstanding Subject Access Request, FOI’s and Reviews and will revert as soon as they can”. Which is, on any reasonable view, a frank admission that the PCC and the force are operating outside of the law in dealing with Mr Wilby’s requests.

However, following objections raised by Mr Wilby to both Mr Dennis and the Chief Constable, Mrs Wintermeyer was replaced by an outside firm of solicitors. Leeds law firm, Weightmans, has filed the acknowledgement of service with the court. The protest against the involvement of Mrs Wintermeyer was grounded in the fact that she is presently the subject of two serious, and unresolved, conduct complaints.

The involvement of Weightmans has already proved controversial. Their senior partner, Nick Collins, who is handling the claim had, in early skirmishes, made the quite astonishing assertion that ALL of Mr Wilby’s freedom of information requests were classified by both North Yorkshire Police and the PCC’s office as “vexatious”. He has since withdrawn the allegation, confirmed that NONE of the requests were in fact vexatious, and offered a retraction and an apology. He claims that he was NOT acting on instructions from the police or the Commissoner’s office when making this outrageous and offensive claim – and that he simply made it up himself.

Unperturbed, the errant lawyer then ventures into the area of “vexatious” data subject access requests. Data access is governed by S7 of the Data Protection Act and the concept of a “vexatious” request under the Act would test even the most experienced data practitioners. There is certainly no legal precedent that is readily accessible and, despite being invited to provide one, Mr Collins has so far declined to do so.

As Mr Wilby has only ever made one data request each to North Yorkshire Police and the PCC – neither of which are finalised appropriately several months later – it is difficult to see where Mr Collins is going with this inference.

There has, however, been no retraction of another wild, unevidenced assertion by Mr Collins to the effect that the “large” number of information requests made by Mr Wilby (a total of nineteen in two years by an investigative journalist to two different data controllers) was a significant factor in causing 500+ other requests per year to be finalised outside of the statutory period. Made all the more incredible by that fact that published data shows non-compliance was at its worst before Mr Wilby made his first of those requests in September 2014.

To top that all off, Mr Collins asserts that his clients have not broken the law: In the face of the most compelling and overwhelming evidence. He is refusing to say whether he is acting on instructions from the police, and the PCC, in order to make such claims or, as with the false ‘vexatious’ submission, he has simply made this up himself, as well.

But the biggest difficulty of all faced by Mr Collins is that he has signed Statements of Truth, below the two Defence documents filed on behalf of the Chief Constable, and the Police Commissioner, that are both palpably false. It would also be difficult to persuade a judge that he had an honest belief in their truth, given what he has alleged and then later admitted.

He is presently the subject of a complaint to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority – and Mr Wilby has invited the court, in his Reply to Defence, to apply sanctions against Mr Collins under Civil Procedure Rule 32.14 which deals with false witness evidence (see below).

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All these shenanigans, which have also included peremptory, dark threats as to the financial consequences to Mr Wilby of not abandoning the claims, have already cost the North Yorkshire precept payer a sum estimated to be in excess of £20,000. Weightmans were invited, as a matter relevant to the issues in dispute, and to the proportionality of their defence, to state exactly how much has been charged. They have, so far, declined to do so. Indeed, they didn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge the email bearing the request.

Poor communication, and lack of candour, by Mr Collins is a recurrent feature of Mr Wilby’s interaction with him, which reflects poorly on the professionalism of that law firm. That is also, it seems, reflected higher up the Weightmans food chain. In an increasingly tetchy interchange with their partner responsible for regulatory matters, James Holman, the firm refused to tell Mr Wilby, even when pressed on the subject, whether Mr Collins faced sanction internally over his conduct. In those circumstances, the working hypothesis has to be that there is nothing of this nature in the offing.

Mr Holman also insisted that having to be nudged for a response over a complaint of this seriousness did not constitute discourtesy. Mr Wilby has, sensibly, agreed to disagree with him.

Weightmans have, however, pledged to co-operate with the SRA’s investigation into the conduct of Mr Collins.

Freedom of information requests were made necessary to establish how much is being spent on defending these claims, by the police and the PCC, via their big city lawyers. Full details of both of these requests can be read here and here. The information requests also sought to establish which senior NYP and NYPCC officers are giving instructions to Mr Collins. Which, in itself, was expected to be revelatory. No information has been forthcoming. The original requests were the subject of an internal review prior to the matter being referred as a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Some weeks ago, in an effort to resolve matters, Mr Wilby suggested that the total sum sought, in both of his claims, for his loss of earnings and disbursements (the grand total of £385), be donated to a charity of the Chief Constable’s choice. That, so far, has proved unacceptable to the profligate Chief, and his Commissioner, as a means of settling the matter.

There is also an issue with the form of words concerning the declaration of the court, sought by Mr Wilby, to the effect that the police and the PCC have both acted unlawfully, and the future remedy for such conduct. The fact that both the police and the PCC have continued to routinely break the law SINCE court proceedings were issued only serves to exacerbate the issue.

Interestingly, a complaint made by Mr Wilby in July, 2015 concerning Mrs Mulligan’s failure to hold the Chief Constable to account over Freedom of Information Act failings was NOT upheld by the Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel for North Yorkshire (PCP).

Between April 2012 and June 2015, NYP’s Civil Disclosure Unit failed to determine 1,558 (One thousand five hundred and fifty eight) freedom of information requests within the statutory 20 working day period. These figures, although known at the time by Mrs Mulligan, were not disclosed to the PCP in her formal response to Mr Wilby’s complaint. That matter will be re-addressed at the conclusion of the present court proceedings. Alongside a complaint from another journalist, Nigel Ward, who has an unfinalised information request dating back to 22nd February, 2015. Yes, 2015.

Mrs Mulligan now also has the unenviable record of a 100% failure rate over compliance in finalising data access requests. Over the past three years, there have also been a staggering 103 non-compliant data access requests finalised by the force. That might be a tough one for the PCP to find a workaround, when that fact is put to them formally about their ‘open and transparent’ PCC.

At a hearing on Monday 10th October, 2016, in  Huddersfield County Court, applications by the two policing chiefs to (i) transfer the claims to Leeds County Court before HHJ Gosnell (ii) strike out the claims or, (iii) alternatively, grant summary judgement in their favour were all dismissed.

The district judge found that there was a case to answer on the alleged breach by the chief contsable; an admission of breach by the police commissioner. It was also a finding that the matters concerning the information requests fell away, as their had been no formal application to allow in amended particulars, filed and served on 1st September, 2016, that went beyond the police chiefs’ defence grounded in S56 of the Freedom of Information Act. The judge did make the point that it was open to Mr Wilby to make a new claim against either police chief (or both), grounded in breach of duty, negligence and discrimination, rather than a breach of the Act per se.

The present claims against both the Chief Constable and the Police Commissioner were listed as back-to-back final hearings on the following morning before the same judge. They were represented by junior barrister, Sophie Mitchell, of St Paul’s Chambers in Leeds.

As on the previous day, Ms Mitchell did not distinguish herself. At the applications hearing she had attempted to hand a 16 page skeleton argument over to both the judge, and Mr Wilby, six minutes before the hearing. It was not accepted by either.

At the substantive hearings, Ms Mitchell produced a thick volume of legal authorities, of approximately 200 un-numbered pages, as the hearing was about to start. Whilst that was not, in itself, fatal to the administration of justice, the very late service – and unsatisfactory composition – of the trial bundle was. It had not reached the judge having only been despatched from Weightmans late on the previous Friday afternoon.

Mr Wilby was able to retrieve two sizeable lever arch files from his neighbour’s house (to where they had been delivered by the postal service on Saturday afternoon) at 7.30pm the previous evening. It is unclear when Ms Mitchell received her copy of the trial bundle but she claimed, to the astonishment of most of those present in the courtroom, that she hadn’t read it. In particular, Mr Wilby’s witness evidence around which the whole trial centred. At that point, the judge allowed a short adjournment for Ms Mitchell to read up on the case.

When court resumed, Ms Mitchell attempted to cross examine Mr Wilby over materials upon which the defence relied, but were not exhibited in the trial bundle. It was clear that proceedings could not continue in this fashion. The judge, accordingly, stood both of the cases down and made Orders for case management and re-listing.

The performance of both Mr Collins, in terms of the preparation for the trial and Ms Mitchell in how she prepared and advocated for her clients, both fell some way short of the professional standards that courts and litigation opponents can rightly expect. On this subject the last word goes to well known York-based governance adviser, Gwen Swinburn, who attended the adjourned final hearings:

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The Chief Constable, Mrs Mulligan and Mr Collins have all been approached for specific comment on this article. None of the three even had the courtesy to acknowledge the email carrying the request.

Mr Holman was also approached and his views have been taken into account when detailing the interaction with him, concerning the complaint against Mr Collins. He has asked Mr Wilby not to contact him further.

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Page last updated Thursday 13th October, 2016 at 1435hrs

© 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.

 

Protected: Crompton and Jones: Two of a kind?

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Letter to North Yorks Enquirer

Sir

The Hillsborough inquests verdict is the biggest story around at present with the conduct of South Yorkshire Police exposed as appalling beyond comprehension.

It has ended the career of my long term adversary, David Crompton, and he deserves every ounce of opprobrium and contempt that will come his way. I hope some of my own articles – such as this one https://neilwilby.com/2016/03/01/david-crompton-the-south-yorkshire-police-years/ – helped him on his way.

I spent a fair amount of time in that airless, featureless converted office block in Warrington that was prepared as a temporary coroner’s court to hear the new inquests. To listen to the same old lies peddled relentlessly by police officers sickened the bereaved families, the survivors of the Disaster, their legal teams and the journalists reporting from court. We will never know in detail what the jury thought of this repulsive conduct, but the verdicts they delivered spoke volumes.

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There is a link here to the good people of North Yorkshire because their Chief Constable, Dave Jones, is facing mounting criticism about how he runs his own police force. A contemporary of David Crompton at Greater Manchester Police where they were both chief superintendents, at the same time in the early years of this century, gives a clue as to what might follow for CC Jones.

North Yorkshire Police has been under scrutiny by me for over a year now and what I have found has shocked me profoundly: Since the launch of the uPSD website (www.upsd.co.uk) I had laboured under the belief that their big city neighbours, West Yorkshire Police had more integrity issues than the other two Yorkshire forces put together. Now that view is subject to revision.

A propensity by a police force such as North Yorkshire to break the law, calculatingly and relentlessly, in areas that are easily visible to the enquiring mind of investigative journalist does not bode well for those matters that require a little more digging out. NYP simply do not regard themselves as bound in any way by the Freedom of Information Act; the Data Protection Act; the Police Reform Act; IPCC Statutory Guidance; Code of Ethics or Police (Conduct) Regulations. The police flout them with impunity and – seemingly – with the tacit approval of those at the top of the management pyramid.

There is also this worrying culture of poor communication. Ask a difficult question and you are almost guaranteed not to get an answer. Or, if you do eventually get an answer there is a fair chance it will be untrue. This does not sit easily with the Chief Constable’s script on his force being ‘open and transparent’.

Equally worrying is the attitude of NYP towards its critics, which is a hair trigger response that involves denigrating and smearing – and in extreme cases spending huge sums of public money trying to silence journalists via the courts.

The North Yorkshire Police habit of senior officers helping themselves to public funds has also resurfaced under the regime of CC Jones. He and two other senior officers – DCC Tim Madgwick and C/Supt Lisa Winward – are the beneficiaries of approaching £100,000 of free legal fees to fund a private civil court claim. This is a scandal that goes beyond the financial transgressions of the infamous former NYP chief officers, Grahame Maxwell and Adam Briggs.

It was Lord Maginnis of Drumglass who uttered these words in Parliament in 2011 about North Yorkshire Police: ‘That particularly dubious constabulary that merits careful investigation

I have taken the Noble Lord’s words to heart.

Yours etc

 

Neil Wilby