Hero police officer sues chief constable over racial and religious discrimination

On Thursday 16th January, 2020, at the Leeds Employment Tribunal centre, a final hearing into claims of racial and religious discrimination against West Yorkshire Police will open. A serving police sergeant, Umer Saeed, is the claimant. An accomplished individual, with a BSc degree in Business Administration and Management and over 20 years experience as a police officer; a large part of that in specialist roles.

The hearing is expected to last for twelve court days with some highly-charged evidence expected to be heard from the witness box. Cross-examination is likely to be a lively affair as WYP’s ‘go-to’ counsel, Olivia Checa-Dover, yet again takes the stage. She has recently represented the police in two other high profile civil court cases, featuring a Bradford doctor, Abdul Rashid (read more here) and a retired police constable, Kerry Perkins (read more here).

Umer Saeed is represented by Rebian Solicitors and their instructed barrister is Adam Willoughby of Broadway House Chambers.

As many have done before him, Saeed alleges that the ‘cover-up’ of discrimination, both against him and others in the force area, goes to the very top of the force’s hierarchy. It is anticipated that around twenty witnesses will give testimony to the tribunal, unless their witness statements are admitted into evidence in the meantime. It is customary in these proceedings for the police to turn up with a small army of lawyers, witnesses and observers, regardless of cost to the taxpaying public.

The well-informed might, quite rightly, muse as to why the chief constable did not take steps to compromise the Saeed claim, with its high potential for serious reputational and financial damage to the force. But it may well be that he was overruled by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s highly litigious chief executive, Fraser Sampson. A noted wastrel when public funds are in issue. His wider role also encompasses general counsel to the police, giving him overall control of the force’s legal department. Indeed, from personal experience, I can say that he regards the WYP Head of Legal Services with scarcely concealed disdain.

The PCC signs off all cheques for the police, of course, as part of his statutory remit. His office has not responded to a press enquiry on the subject of diversity and inclusion – and how they come to be facing the class, and scale, of allegations made by Sergeant Saeed.

Interest in the case is, undoubtedly, heightened when one takes into account the standing of Umer Saeed as a nationally known figure in Black and Muslim staff associations. He is Chair of the West Yorkshire Black Police Association, and General Secretary and a Cabinet Member of the National Black Police Association.

He is also a trained Police Federation representative and speaks four languages; Arabic, Punjabi, Slovak, Urdu. He joined the police service in June, 1999.

In February 2015, he received national prominence when he broke into the kitchen window of a burning house and saved the lives of a mother and two young children in Ireland Wood, Leeds. It was an outstanding act of bravery and Saeed had this to say of his heroism: “The smoke was acrid and I couldn’t breathe but I was focused on finding them and getting them out in one piece. It was quite a disorientating situation with the smoke alarm going off.”

His District Commander, Temporary Chief Superintendent Mabs Hussain, quite rightly commended the officer’s work: “PC Saeed clearly displayed the qualities of bravery and professionalism that we so often see from our officers and staff in situations where people are in danger.

“He could see this family needed immediate help and his training gave him the confidence to assess the situation and intervene to bring them to safety from a potentially life-threatening situation.”

Hussain has since moved onto Greater Manchester Police, in controversial circumstances (read more here), and a well placed source on his old patch tells me he has not sustained that support for his fellow BME officer over Saeed’s discrimination claims. This would surprise few close to the seat of the action at both GMP and WYP, as ‘top brass’ closing ranks at the first sign of trouble for them, either individually or as as a police force, is de rigeur. Indeed, Hussain has been reported recently as claiming that well-evidenced and highly publicised criticism of his present chief constable, Ian Hopkins, by some distance the worst in the country (read more here), constitutes ‘a hate campaign‘.

As a footnote, and by way of balance, it should be noted that, back in 2013, Umer Saeed also featured in the high profile Anthony Ramsden case, involving WYP and the thoroughly disgraced Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), following an assault at Leeds United football ground in 2011. A widescale, dishonestly grounded  ‘cover-up’ by both the police force and watchdog was, eventually, exposed.

A High Court case that followed is now an oft-cited legal authority in police complaints cases. Saeed was one of six Police Support Unit (PSU) officers giving evidence whom the force, and the IPCC, claimed ALL corrobated one another. When disclosure was eventually wrested from WYP, not ONE single statement corroborated ANY other. The judgment (read in full here) did not reflect the full transcipt of the proceedings which, at very considerable expense, Mr Ramsden took the trouble to obtain. Another demonstration of the seemingly unwritten public policy of at least some of the local judiciary that demands every conceivable accommodation be granted to West Yorkshire Police when determining matters potentially adverse to the public’s confidence in them.

No criticism of PC Saeed (as he was then) should be inferred: Even though he was the only officer who admitted striking a member of the public, in the subject area outside the Elland Round ground, with his long baton, and, therefore, the one most likely to have hit Mr Ramsden, his witness statement was easily the most frank, and credible, of the six.

I declare a professional interest, having acted as police complaints advocate for Mr Ramsden, and being adjacent to the facts throughout. I also assisted in the placement of widespread local, regional and national media coverage of the case.

Over the past ten years there has been persistent, and often very damaging, publicity over the way West Yorkshire Police treats its black and minority ethnic (BME) officers and, on the evidence of some troubling civil court cases, members of the public of colour, too.

In May 2009, the Sunday Telegraph published an article following the leaking of a dossier that was highly critical of the force’s notorious Professional Standards Department and their discriminatory handling of complaints against BME’s. This followed a series of accusations from the officials at the local branches of the Police Federation and the National Black Police Association. The WYP talking head was Deputy Chief Constable, David Crompton, later to fall into repeated disgrace as chief constable at beleagured South Yorkshire Police (read more here). He denied there was a problem.

In March 2011, PC Kashif Ahmed had all ten charges against him dismissed by a judge at Bradford Crown Court after revelations about the seriously flawed way officers had investigated the case. HHJ Peter Benson, ruling in his favour to stay the prosecution, found that there was a “very significant irregularity and impropriety at the root of the investigation” and the whole process was “tarnished”.

Judge Benson described two police witnesses, Detective Sergeant Penny Morley and Detective Constable Karen Wade who gave evidence in court during Ahmed’s application to dismiss the case, as “evasive.” He went on to say that Morley, who opened a CD document containing privileged contact between Mr Ahmed and his solicitor, had not told the truth. It is beyond incredible that Morley remained a much-favoured officer in WYP’s Professional Standards Department until ‘retiring’ late last year. Her personal friendship with ACC Angela Williams, who has publicly described Morley as ‘wonderful’, enabled her to re-start at WYP as a civilian officer immediately after her warrant card was handed in. Obviously, on this evidence, being called a liar and rubbish at the job, by a circuit judge, is no handicap in the ranks of West Yorkshire Police.

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Kash Ahmed later issued a civil claim against the police alleging a “witch hunt” against him by the PSD officers, led by another disgraced officer, DCI Steve Bennett (read more here). Having to represent himself in court against the force solicitor, experienced counsel and a small army of officers giving evidence against him, his claim, perhaps understandably, only succeeded in part and he had a sizeable costs award ordered against him.

Dr Rashid, whose civil claim is referred to in the second paragraph of this article, is a highly respected professional, of Asian origin, who also claims, with considerable justification, that he was the subject of a “witch hunt” by WYP and that, in the particular circumstances of his case, if he had been a white, middle-class doctor he would not have been subjected to the same degrading, disproportionate, disgraceful treatment. His civil claim was dismissed after a extraordinarily one-sided hearing, but he was recently given permission to appeal the decision of Mr Recorder Nolan QC, by a High Court judge. The hearing of the appeal is presently listed for 13th February, 2020 in the High Court in Leeds.

Olivia Checa-Dover unsuccessfully sought to have me removed from the press seats during the Rashid hearing, questioning my accreditation and claiming (unspecified) inaccuracies in the reporting of the case (read in full here). The other two articles flowing from that ten day court hearing stand unchallenged. One exposes a prima facie case of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by six WYP officers (read the damning details here). Miss Checa-Dover also objected, unsuccessfully, to my presence in the press seats at the hearing of the Kerry Perkins claim, telling opposing counsel that I had a “vendetta” against her. Yet another in an increasingly long line of ludicrous and unsubstantiated submissions. Unsurprisingly, that gained no traction, either. Miss Perkins has also robustly appealed the judgment of HHJ Neil Davey QC, whose decision did not appear to reflect what I heard from the press box. Indeed, one might say that Miss Checa-Dover might well have written it for him.

Dismissing the remaining parts of the Kashif Ahmed claim against the police, which had included negligence, false imprisonment and theft, HHJ Mark Gosnell said: “I fully accept that Mr Ahmed was convinced in his belief that he had been the victim of a witch hunt, but I consider the officers involved merely carried out their jobs to the best of their ability and were not motivated by any ulterior motive in dealing with the claimant.”

West Yorkshire Police then sought to bankrupt the promising young officer, who holds two law degrees and a diploma in policing. Ahmed now works in Bradford as a legal consultant. The genesis of the entire dispute between force and BME officer was over the use of a car parking space behind Millgarth Police Station, in central Leeds, to which DCI Bennett took exception. The same Bennett whom three years earlier had called a junior Asian officer into his office to verbally abuse him, including calling him a c**t, in an attempt to bully the constable into pulling back on an investigation.

That action was later to unravel in the conjoined Operations, Lamp and Redhill, into the ex PC Danny Major miscarriage of justice (read more here). An allegation has been made that Bennett perverted the course of justice in an attempt to protect PC Kevin Liston, arguably one of the worst officers to ever wear a police uniform (read more here) and the key witness against Major.

After the Ahmed and Danny Major ‘investigations’ (the term is used loosely), in which he was senior investigating officer, Bennett was rewarded with promotion to superintendent. I declare a further interest, insofar as I was the on-record complaints advocate for the Major family betwen 2012 and 2015.

A close working colleague of Bennett’s was Chief Superintendent Sarah Brown. In fact, from 2010 to 2011 she was head of WYP’s Professional Standards Department. I had significant dealings with her and found her unreliable and lacking in integrity. Like Bennett, she had also been city commander of Leeds, with its dreadful history of racism, in the earlier part of her career (read more here). Whilst in that role, and under her previous name and rank of Chief Inspector Sarah Sidney, she was at the forefront of a racial discrimination case involving Detective Sergeant Raham Khan that ultimately reached the House of Lords (the senior appellate court in those days) where a damages award to Sgt Khan, upheld in the Court of Appeal, was set aside by three Law Lords. The full judgment can be read here. Put plainly, Khan alleged that Sidney did not promote him on account of his skin colour. A matter she, of course, denied.

In March, 2011 a Bradford minority ethnic, Anwar Gillespie (whom I have met in his home), received substantial damages and an apology from WYP after the intervention of specialist police complaints lawyer, Iain Gould (read more here). Whilst racism was not alleged, Mr Gillespie told me at the time that he felt the colour of his skin was a factor in him being singled out for an unprovoked, unwarranted and brutal attack upon him, outside of his home and in front of his neighbours.

In June 2012, BBC Radio’s File on 4 reported on alleged widespread and serious racism within WYP. The least impressive of the six serving and former police officers interviewed on the programme was Temporary Chief Constable, John Parkinson. He did little, or nothing, to allay concerns. Of the six officers, past and present, interviewed by the BBC, Parkinson came across as the least impressive. Listen to the full broadcast here.

Karma was to visit Ajaz Hussain, who was the force solicitor (later promoted to Legal Services Director) who drove the Raham Khan case all the way to the Lords. In early 2012, there was a reshuffle of the top management in West Yorkshire Police and he lost his job. The roles of Legal Services Director and Force Solicitor (at that time carried out by Mike Percival) both disappeared. A new role was created and Percival was selected to fill it. Hussain then alleged racial discrimination against David Crompton and issued a claim form in the employment tribunal (read more here). The outcome of that claim has never been made public, but it did not pass without controversy and resulted in the suspension of Hussain’s ‘ACPO police friend’, Neil Rhodes, whom at the time was the chief constable of Lincolnshire Police (read more here) and had fallen foul of the duplicity of Fraser Sampson.

In 2013, two police whistleblowers opened up a can of worms into how certain aspects of vital police operations were badly run and lives put at risk by their superior officers within West Yorkshire Police. One of those was a minority ethnic. They were both then subjected to a series of detriments in what appeared to be a concerted campaign to humiliate and smear them. Because of the roles that the officers undertook, for at least parts of their careers, it is unwise to do any more than make reference to the tribunal appeal finding, available in the public domain, which forensically sets out the matters in issue (read more here). It does not make pretty reading for WYP.

In April, 2014 a Bradford woman of African descent, Oluwatoyin Azeez, was viciously assaulted by a police officer who had unlawfully entered her home on the pretext of checking on her lodger. The force went to the most extraordinary, and sustained, lengths to cover up for the perpetrator, who falsely alleged that he had been asaulted by Ms Azeez. That miscreant officer, instead of being drummed out of the force, didn’t even face a misconduct meeting, let alone a criminal court. But, once more, the intervention of solicitor, Iain Gould, was pivotal. At the end of a bitterly fought three year legal battle – again irregardless of the cost to the public purse – Ms Azeez finally received a substantial damages payment and, much more crucially to her, an apology (read the full harrowing story here).

In April 2016, the incumbent chief constable, Dionne Collins, appointed an Asian police constable as the force’s Positive Action Co-Ordinator. The following month Amjad Ditta, a trained firearms officer, was alongside her giving evidence at the Home Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee.

Following publication of the Committee’s Inquiry Report, which called for “urgent and radical” action, Collins acknowledged more needed be done to increase diversity and inclusion among the workforce and said she was determined that the organisation should be more representative of its communities.

“We are currently recruiting police officers for the first time in five years and this gives us an excellent opportunity to increase our workforce not just by people from black and minority ethnic communities, but from all diverse groups, such as people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual.

“The police service has been in the media headlines a lot recently, often for negative reasons. My challenge to people who may be put off by that is, come and find out what West Yorkshire Police is about in 2016. A career with West Yorkshire Police offers genuinely exciting opportunities, but we can only properly serve all our communities by building a truly representative Force and I am determined to do that.”

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson added: “I have worked with the Temporary Chief Constable (Ms Collins) to ensure we are doing all we can to ensure communities are aware of my commitment to equality and diversity within the organisation and in the police service”.

Whilst Collins and Burns-Williamson were shamelessly uttering these shallow words, before MP’s and the television cameras, they were jointly, ludicrously and very cynically, frustrating the civil claim of Oluwatoyin Azeez. In reality, and grounded in hard evidence, what West Yorkshire Police is about is lying and covering-up – and the commitment to equality and diversity is an expensive box-ticking sham.

Eighteen months after his televised appearance in Parliament, PC Ditta disappeared without trace. With both the force press office and the chief constable refusing to answer my questions regarding his whereabouts or his reason for the removal both from his diversity role and other front line duties. He dramatically re-appeared, over two years later, at Bradford Magistrates Court charged with sexual touching. Supported by his staff association, he is expected to plead not guilty at a plea and trial preparation hearing at the city’s Crown Court on 20th January, 2020. He now answers to the name of Amjad Hussain.

In December, 2017 another race and religious discrimination claim against West Yorkshire Police was compromised on the second day of the final hearing. It is assumed that a confidentiality clause was part of the settlement. No others details are available at present, but enquiries are ongoing. Again, this is on the watch of Dionne Collins: On the one hand preaching diversity and inclusion, on the other officers having to go to court as the force continues to discriminate against them.

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At least two other WYP BME officers appeared Tribunal with racial discrimination claims during this period. Both were, regrettably, unrepresented and had their claims dismissed. One was yet another Collins favourite, PC Tayyaba Afzal, having designed the force’s specialist niqab headwear for Muslim female officers. The other was an applicant for a role as a Driver Trainer.

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PC Amjad Ditta (now known as Hussain) and PC Tayyaba Afzal pictured together in Bradford in 2017.

Dionne Collins was approached for comment. She did not even have the courtesy to acknowledge the communication.

In September, 2018, another case involving a BME officer surfaced as an exclusive on this website, later picked up from here by the national press. The officer concerned, C/Supt Tyron Joyce, was also another favourite of the now retired Collins. Joyce was peremptorily removed from his post as Chief Operating Officer at the National Police Air Service, which shares headquarters in Wakefield with West Yorkshire Police, amidst bullying claims. The complaints investigation into the allegations against Joyce was, unsurprisingly given the incompetents that populate the force’s Professional Standards Department, described as ‘a cack-handed debacle’. He also told a junior colleague at the time: “I’ve been in trouble before with PSD. They tried to do my legs, so I have to be careful what I say to staff” (read more here).

Joyce does, however, always have a trump card to play: In 2013, after the present chief constable, John Robins, (at the time an assistant chief constable) had recommended him for the Police National Accreditation Course (PNAC) it was said by Robins to Tyron Joyce; “You are now my tick in the diversity box“. That may explain why, at the end of the disciplinary process, Joyce was handed the plum chief supers role within WYP: Commander – Operational Support based at, and in charge of, the entire Carr Gate Complex on the outskirts of Wakefield.

I will be reporting from the opening of the Umer Saeed hearing. It promises to be an interesting case: A retired and highly decorated WYP officer told me recently that, whatever the outcome of the tribunal proceedings, the force may well be set back at least a decade in terms of BME recruitment as a result of the adverse publicity the case will attract. As a well-connected person of Asian origin, and one who has defeated WYP in court several times, it is taken as read that he knows exactly what he is talking about.

Finally, it should be remembered that the ‘mother’ of all tribunal claims is a West Yorkshire Police case. Angela Vento, a probationer BME officer, took her force to tribunal following serious discrimination against her in the late 1990’s. Her claim form pleaded racial and sexual discrimination, but the former allegation was dismissed at an early stage by the tribunal.

Eventually the Court of Appeal ruled on the matter and the framework for tribunal awards – and the scales of damages accounting for different levels of detriment – is still in use today. Albeit, the figures have been adjusted upwards to reflect inflation. For the legal nerds amongst my readers they may wish to check out the full CoA judgment (read here).

Page last updated at 1320hrs on Friday 15th January, 2020

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A cuckoo in the nest?

For the second time in just over a month, two days spent in the austere halls of Royal Courts of Justice gave further, and, at times, quite remarkable, insight into the inner workings of five different policing bodies: The Police Federation, a police force Misconduct Panel, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, a Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC’s) office and the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA).

The two cases are both pathfinding judicial review claims, and the issues that fell to be determined by senior judges will have far reaching implications for both the police service and the wider public. One hearing was very much low key, the other attracted wide media coverage due, in the main, to the presence in court of three high profile policing figures, almost obsessive references to an even higher profile MP (Andy Burnham) and the backdrop of the scandal surrounding the Hillsborough Disaster cover-up by South Yorkshire Police.

Andy Burnham seen arriving at Birchwood Park, Warrington to hear evidence at the new Hillsborough inquests. Alongside is Steve Rotheram MP who has also campaigned tirelessly for bereaved families and survivors.

The first claim, heard on 8th February, 2017, before Mrs Justice McGowan, was listed as Thames Valley Police -v- Police Misconduct Panel (CO/2810/2016). The substantive issue was the challenge by the chief constable of that force to a finding of the Panel at the conclusion of a gross misconduct hearing. It was submitted on the chief’s behalf, via his counsel, Stephen Morley, that the Panel had got the decision ‘badly wrong‘.

The Panel’s finding was that the officer, PC White (named as an Interested Party in the proceedings), facing a breach of order and instructions charge, and multiple neglect of duty charges, should receive a final written warning. The charges against PC White concerned various items of property, to the combined value of £10,000, that he had kept and not actioned on police databases, in one case impacting adversely on a prosecution case. Other evidential materials were also found in his locker, and bag, during a subsequent search, that were not booked in, either.

The chief constable contended that the officer should have been dismissed as a result of ‘integrity failings‘, and the fact that ‘he knew he had done wrong’ and failed to correct his actions. It is the first time since police regulations were changed in 2015 – which affected the composition of Panels amongst other innovations – that such a challenge against a Panel finding has been mounted.

The Misconduct Panel, through its lawyer chairman, declined to take any part in the judicial review proceedings on the grounds that the claim form was improperly served and, in effect, the legal action was a nullity. The defence of the chief constable’s claim was taken up by the Police Federation, on behalf of their member officer, PC White. They were represented by the formidable Alexandra Felix, a specialist criminal and regulatory barrister.  Her submissions, made with some force, could be summarised thus

(i) Dealing with police misconduct matters, including criminal offences, is a management function. ‘It is about learning and development, not punishment’. In this sense, it is set apart from other professional bodies or services.

(ii) Discipline is an operational matter and the chief constable picks the Panel – ‘it’s his Panel‘ and ‘part of the internal process‘. As such, the chief constable did not have the legal capacity to bring these judicial review proceedings.

(iii) The filing and service of the proceedings, in their present form, was a ‘procedural failure’. Civil Procedure Rule 57.4 had not been complied with. As such, the proceedings should be struck out.

There was extended discussion and argument, in which the judge took full part, concerning the meaning of ‘integrity’ and where it falls, in a police misconduct sense, in relation to ‘honesty’. Both, of course, being fundamental requirements of being a police officer under the College of Policing’s Code of Ethics.

Judgment was reserved, pending further written submissions being made by all parties to the claim. It is awaited, with considerable interest, and is likely to become a cited authority whichever way the judge finds.

It was accepted by both counsel present in court that her findings would have far reaching consequences on police misconduct matters, and the role of disciplinary panels within it. Other than the judge, her clerk, three lawyers and the Police Federation representative, I was the only other person present in Court 5 for what had been a fascinating, and highly informative, hearing. Not least, the public airing of the proposition that the powerful, and extremely wealthy, Federation had an almost unshakeable grip on police misconduct matters, concerning all ranks between constable and chief inspector, and the consequent fate of their members accused of either serious misconduct, or criminal offences. If the Fed takes up an officer’s cause, removal from the police service is nigh impossible. But, if the rank and file ‘union’ withdraws support, then the officer concerned is, almost inevitably, cast to the dogs.

To those not so familar with the labyrynthine processes of the police misconduct regulations, it is worth pointing out that it is not within a chief constable’s very considerable powers to simply dismiss a police officer . All the necessary steps, within the statutory framework, have to be followed. Whether he (or she) agrees, or not.

The second judicial review application, a much higher profile case and played out before a packed Court 3, has already been the subject of two articles on this website [1] ‘Bad on their merits‘ (preview of the hearing based on disclosed pleadings) and [2] ‘Much ado about nothing’ (a report of proceedings in David Crompton -v- Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire). 

This article focuses on the specific roles of the South Yorkshire PCC, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC) and the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association (CPOSA) in those proceedings, heard before Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Garnham, and their approach to both evidential and misconduct matters.

The Chief Inspector, Sir Thomas Winsor, is one of the key links the joins the two cases, as he was a member of the Misconduct Panel that found ACC Rebekah Sutcliffe guilty of gross misconduct in the controversial ‘Boobgate‘ scandal, but deemed that a final written warning was the appropriate sanction. Most observers, including her own chief constable, felt she should have been dismissed from Greater Manchester Police. ACC Sutcliffe has been sent out on secondment to Oldham Borough Council and is unlikely to undertake an operational policing role again.

PCC Alan Billings was, of course, listed as defendant in the case and present in court throughout the hearing, alongside his chief executive, Michelle Buttery, and Communications Manager, Fiona Topliss. it was argued, on his behalf, before the court, that he had followed misconduct procedure (in this case Section 38 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibilty Act, 2011) to the letter. Albeit, ignoring the advice of HMCIC along the way (as he was lawfully entitled to do).

The court also heard that two press releases, issued after the Hillsborough inquest jury determinations, were not the catalyst for former chief constable’s suspension (the main limb of Crompton’s claim). But, rather, the straw that broke the camel’s back. There are many, including me, who believe Dr Billings, accepted on all hands as a decent, honourable man, should have stepped in sooner.

Since he was elected in October, 2013 there must have been deep concerns about the constant adverse publicity that Crompton brought to his force over such as his notably poor handling of the Rotherham abuse scandal, and the infamous Cliff Richard/BBC farrago, over which the pop star is now claiming in excess of £1 million damages [3]. For example, the embattled police chief suffered a series of severe maulings at the hands of the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee (see the 3rd September, 2014 session below, courtesy of The Needle Blog).

The chairman of that committee concluded, after hearing the evidence by David Crompton, that it was incompetence on a grand scale on the part of South Yorkshire Police.

The appearance of CPOSA in the Crompton claim comes by way of legal costs support for the former SYP chief constable. To the independent-minded observer this is a huge investment for, potentially, very little return. The claim was brought on the premise that if a decision to, firstly, suspend the disgraced chief constable then, ultimately, force his resignation, was quashed, it would ‘restore his damaged reputation‘. Which relies entirely on the premise that David Crompton’s reputation was not irreparably destroyed BEFORE he was suspended. On any reasonable view, it was in tatters, and ‘Disaster Dave‘ as he was dubbed in the national press in 2014, had, indisputably, been under constant media (and Parliamentary) attack from his very first week in office in April, 2012.

Very few people are aware that, at the time of his appointment to head up South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton was under investigation by the IPCC, who were managing an investigation by one of his former forces, Greater Manchester Police (GMP), into misconduct and racism allegations made by former West Yorkshire Police Legal Services Director, Ajaz Hussain. Crompton, as far as I can trace, has never spoken publicly about this. The officer investigating the Hussain complaints, David Whatton, had been a GMP senior officer colleague of Crompton’s between 2002 and 2004. Whatton, on any reasonable view a perverse choice of investigating officer, ultimately cleared Crompton of wrongdoing.

The proposition, therefore, appears to be that CPOSA will rally round a chief officer, however incompetent and discredited he (or she) appears to be. Given that it is an organisation that has, over the years received an extraordinary, and controversial, amount of public funding [3a] then such unconditional support is very troubling indeed.

Chief constables, and their deputies and assistants, are expected to set the highest possible standards and, to the man (or woman on the Clapham omnibus, it would seem entirely improper that they should they provide mutual aid to those that don’t cut the mustard. In this context, it was a suprise to me, at least, that a former chief constable I hold in high regard, Neil Rhodes, was alongside David Crompton for almost all of the two day hearing. In a curious twist of fate, Rhodes was also CPOSA friend to Hussain which had led to another high profile court drama in 2013 [3b].

Tom Winsor is, plainly, a busy man. He did, however, find time to spend the entire two days of the Crompton claim in court, following proceedings assiduously – as one would expect of a successful, and highly experienced, regulatory lawyer. Indeed, as claim and counter-thrust was made in submissions, by counsel for the various represented parties, it became clear that the Crompton case was not about the former SYP chief, at all. It was brought as a means for policing bodies to continue to police themselves, as they have done for almost two centuries. Sir Thomas is the cuckoo in the nest – and he is not at all content to eat scraps from any elected official’s table. Particularly, one who may be minded to remove a chief constable against his specific advice which, it was advanced on behalf, should be regarded as akin to statutory guidance. His criticism of the decision making, and capacity, of Dr Billings, the PCC in question, pulled no punches.

But is Sir Thomas, himself, above criticism in this matter? Definitely not, on the basis of submissions made to the court on his behalf: There are four key issues that invite scrutiny:

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Sir Thomas Winsor, who took over as Chief Inspector in September, 2012 had previously made his name as a highly regarded lawyer and reforming rail regulator

(i) His HMIC inspection of South Yorkshire Police in June 2015 rated the force as ‘good’. A peer review in May 2016, managed by the College of Policing and the interim chief constable, Dave Jones, and involving a number of experts in their specialist fields, found serious failings in the management and operational effectiveness of the force [4]. The disparity between HMIC’s findings and the peer review is, so far, unexplained. It was not directly tested in court, although it formed part of the written submissions made on behalf of the PCC. In another curious turn of events, just two weeks after the court hearing concluded another HMIC inspection saw SYP heavily criticised.

(ii) It was asserted, without any evidence, supporting information or details of source, that public confidence was NOT adversely affected by David Crompton’s running of the police force in South Yorkshire. Contrast that with ample, and highly informed, feedback from a large number of elected representatives (MP’s, MEP’s and councillors) in the locality, and the public who interacted either with DrBillings personally, or via his office. Plus an almost weekly round of stinging media criticism of the force, and one might take the view Dr Billings was in a much better position to take a stance on this issue.  Indeed, it was his emphatic view that confidence in his chief constable had almost ebbed away when the decision was taken to suspend him. Even the Home Secretary of the day, Theresa May, knew the game was up for Crompton and South Yorkshire Police. It was, therefore, nothing short of astonishing that, from his London office, Sir Thomas could deem otherwise. A fair-minded observer might take the view that his motivation for doing so ought to be examined independently.

(iii) The proposition was advanced, on his behalf, that Sir Thomas had a ‘bird’s eye view‘ of the performance of police forces and, therefore, by default, chief constables. There seemed no good reason to single out Crompton for opprobium. Which, given the beleagured South Yorkshire chief’s well chronicled list of failings, turns attention to how bad some of the other chief constables must be, if Crompton is not ranked below them. It may also explain why so many chief officers have left the police service, in disgrace, over the past five years. Often retiring to avoid disciplinary sanction.

(iv) Much was made in court of the fact that Crompton had broadcast an apology, on behalf of his disgraced force on 12th September, 2012, the day of the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report. Reinforced, it was said by another apology on the day of the jury determinations at the new inquests. It was claimed, in court, on behalf of both Crompton and HMCIC that he had not resiled from those apologies. That was, quite simply, incorrect. Crompton’s true feelings and views about the Hillsborough Disaster – and the role of the Liverpool fans in it – were exposed in the national press following disclosure of emails sent both internally to other South Yorkshire Police officers and, externally, to other senior policing figures, notably Sir Norman Bettison and Sir Hugh Orde. Crompton challenged the Panel Report as one sided, and wanted to set up a PR offensive to counteract the bereaved families fight for truth, then justice [5]. Sir Thomas Winsor, and his his legal team, were silent on this point. Did he not know, or was it just another Crompton flaw that he was, conveniently, prepared to overlook?

The sum of all these parts is that HMIC, and their Chief Inspector, are not all they crack up to be. Others have raised well evidenced doubts concerning the police force inspections they carry out and, particularly, their lack of rigour. But that is not the chief concern: As a watchdog, with a crucial role in maintaining confidence in those charged with the public’s safety and security, how can Sir Thomas sit there, stony faced, and allow unevidenced assertions, and in some parts, what may be considered as untruths, about the policing abilities of, and the public confidence in, David Crompton to be presented as fact?

Another unspoken factor may have been the career record of Sir Dan Crompton, David’s father, which ended with service as a leading light in none other than Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. Crompton senior’s own adverse views on Hillsborough, and those bereaved families campaigning for justice, are also well known and for which he has steadfastly refused to apologise since they were first made public in 2013 [5].

Running a protectorate for the incompetent is, presumably, not what Her Majesty the Queen would have had in mind when she touched Tom Winsor’s shoulder with her sword in September, 2013. The revelations on the Strand, on two sunny days at the end of March, 2017, may yet be scrutinised, a short distance away along London’s riverside, before an MP’s Select Committee.

Page last updated: Thursday 13th April, 2017 at 1405hrs

[1] Neil Wilby – ‘Bad on their merits‘  24th January, 2017

[2] Neil Wilby – ‘Much ado about nothing’  29th March, 2017

[3] Neil Wilby – ‘David Crompton – The South Yorkshire Years’ 27th April, 2016

[3a] Yorkshire Post – Payouts to legal fund of shamed top officers set for axe 22nd January, 2013

[4] Daily Star – ‘Hillsborough Email Smear‘ 24th February, 2013

[5] uPSD WYP – ‘Sir Dan Crompton’  16th June, 2017

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

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

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

Much ado about nothing?

An employment dispute that began in a glass fronted office block close to the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield, was, eventually, played out in the hallowed halls of the Royal Courts of Justice on London’s Strand eleven months later.

It was no ordinary job, however, and the offices were those shared by the South Yorkshire Police (SYP) and its Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). The Chief Constable of the beleaguered force was David Crompton and he was suspended from duty, by the PCC, Dr Alan Billings, on the afternoon of 27th April, 2016.

crompton-and-billings
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, endorses his chief constable, David Crompton, within minutes of being elected to office in October, 2013.

Crompton ultimately resigned on 29th September, 2016 at the end of a process empowered by section 38 of the Police and Social Responsibility Act, 2011 (the Act).

At the time of his suspension, Crompton had already set his date for retirement from the force – which was planned to be 30th November, 2016.

A rolled-up permission and substantive judicial review hearing opened on 28th March, 2017 before Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Garnham. David Crompton is the Claimant, the PCC, Dr Alan Billings, is Defendant and there are two interested parties: Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC), Sir Thomas Winsor, and the Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel for South Yorkshire (PCP).

Dr Billings was present throughout the hearing, as was Sir Thomas and David Crompton. The latter was accompanied by his wife and daughter, together with retired Lincolnshire Police chief constable, Neil Rhodes, who was there in his capacity as Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA) ‘friend’. CPOSA are funding the claim through a contributory insurance scheme.

Rhodes is no stranger to these type of proceedings and successfully overturned a controversial suspension by the then Lincolnshire PCC, Alan Hardwick, in 2013.

Submissions were heard, for most of the first day of the hearing, from counsel for the claimant and HMCIC (Hugh Davies QC and Clive Sheldon QC respectively) which amounted to much the same thing: The decision of the PCC was taken in haste, not properly thought through, was defective in process, failed to apply due weight to HMCIC’s findings and undertaken with a political, rather than a policing, agenda.

Further, the PCC chose to ignore the recommendation of HMCIC which, it was advanced, on his behalf, a considered, objective and expert review of the section 38 process that the PCC had set in train.

As such, the decision by the PCC to, effectively, dismiss the chief constable was born of ‘political imperative rather than objectivity’, ‘disproportionate‘ and ‘irrational’. He had also taken account of ‘irrelevant considerations‘ when later justifying the decision. It was further argued that the decision under challenge infringed on David Crompton’s Article 8 convention rights as it impacted on his family and future employability. Mr Davies had earlier described him as ‘a highly effective chief constable‘.

There were no allegations made by the PCC, against his chief constable, of breaches of Standards of Professional Behaviour which apply to all police officers.

A declaration by the court that the actions of the PCC were unlawful is sought by the claimant. Which, it is said, would go some way to restoring his ‘damaged reputation‘ [1].

In the submission of Mr Sheldon, the events that led to the suspension centred on the jury determinations at the new Hillsborough inquests – and two SYP press releases that followed. The second press release included the words ‘other contributory factors‘ as causes of blame for the stadium disaster. Much attention is focused on the meaning and intent behind those words. He said, with some force, that accountability – as called for by Andy Burnham – did not necessarily mean that ‘heads should roll‘.

When asked (not for the first time) by Lady Justice Sharp where – with a wide discretion of decision making – the boundaries were, Mr Sheldon submitted that ‘the correct test was the old-fashioned Wednesbury approach on reasonableness‘. There had, he said, been no damage to effectiveness and efficiency of the force as a result of the chief constable’s leadership, and common law recognises that the Wednesbury test is dependent in each case on the facts. Mr Sheldon also stated, with some emphasis, that ‘There was no loss of public confidence in South Yorkshire Police‘.

Although not a party to proceedings, the name of Andy Burnham, MP and Shadow Home Secretary, was mentioned more than any other by counsel. He had called for accountability from SYP following the findings of the new Hillsborough inquests. According to counsel, the chief constable was the main target of criticism. The significance of a telephone call from a male bereaved family member, and prominent Hillsborough campaigner, to Dr Billings, just ten minutes before the PCC suspended his chief constable, was also raised in court.

The advocate for the PCP, Adrian Phillips, made brief submissions to the effect that the Panel saw their role as peripheral to these proceedings, they were neutral on its outcome and, accordingly, their decision should not fall for scrutiny by this court. He also, helpfully, explained to the court the statutory composition of a scrutiny panel and how it came to be, in an area such as South Yorkshire, that the Labour Party would be almost entirely dominant. He rejected the proposition, advanced by the claimant, that the Panel’s decision was born of political bias.

Jonathan Swift QC spoke eloquently, and persuasively, on behalf the PCC. The main thrust of his submissions, which took up almost the entirety of the second day of the hearing, was that the decision taken by Dr Billings (to conclude the section 38 process by asking CC Crompton to resign) was one that was reasonably open to him to make, by way of his statutory responsibilty to hold the chief constable to account under section 1 of the Act. He also maintained that all necessary processes had been correctly followed, including the required consultations with HMCIC and the PCP.

In rejecting one of the claimant’s (and HMCIC’s) main thrusts of argument, Mr Swift said that their was no statutory requirement for the PCC to give special weight to the views of Sir Thomas. He had considered those carefully and, in his discretion, had rejected those views.

He also invited the court to view the decision to suspend the chief constable through a wider lens, that brought into view an increasing discontent with the running of the police force in South Yorkshire. Particularly, in the months prior to the announcement of the Hillsborough inquest verdicts. Most notably, with the ongoing controversy of the handling of the aftermath of the Jay Report.

It was not, Mr Swift advanced, a spur of the moment decision, triggered by events in Parliament during an exchange between Mr Burnham and the then Home Secretary, Theresa May.

There were also submissions from Mr Swift concerning both the timeliness and merits of three of the decisions challenged by the claimant:

(i) To suspend the chief constable

(ii) To reject the advice of HMCIC and continue with the section 38 process

(iii) To refer the matter to the PCP

In respect of the remaining decision – to finally ask the chief constable to resign –  Mr Swift agreed that permission for judicial review should be given to the claimant as the matter was, quite plainly, arguable. But, at the same time, invited the court to dismiss this fourth ground on its merits.

Mr Swift curtly also dismissed the alleged breach of Article 8 as being without merit.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Lady Justice Sharp told the court that judgment will be reserved on both the permission and substantive issues. The judgment is unlikely to be handed down before May 2017.

It is estimated that the two day hearing, with four legal teams representing the various parties, will end up costing either David Crompton’s insurers, or the South Yorkshire taxpayer, in the order of £150,000. And for what, the reader might legitimately ask? It seems, on the face of the submissions, that the claim was brought with two purposes in mind: To restore the reputation of David Crompton (there is no financial remedy either sought, or available, via this legal process) and to give HMCIC the final word in future section 38 processes as to whether a chief constable is dismissed, or not.

A preview of the court case, first published in January, 2017, in which the arguments of all parties is examined in some detail can be read on this website: ‘Bad on their merits‘ [2]

Page last updated Saturday 8th March, 2017 at 2055hrs

[1] Neil Wilby May 2015 – David Crompton: The South Yorkshire Years

 

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.

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

 

‘Bad on their merits’

In April 2012, David Crompton stepped out of the shadow of Sir Norman Bettison and took up the post of chief constable of South Yorkshire Police (SYP). It is a matter of public record that, after being rejected in the first round of applications, and interviews, by the South Yorkshire Police Authority, he walked into the job because no-one else wanted it when the post was, subsequently, re-advertised. The only other officer shortlisted was Stuart Hyde, who took up a post with Cumbria Police instead.

David Crompton had been a controversial deputy chief of troubled West Yorkshire Police (WYP) since 2006 – and the much criticised Bettison resigned from that force in October, 2012 when faced with gross misconduct charges. Hyde, incidentally, was also a former WYP senior officer, having served there between 1997 and 2003. He later spent a lengthy period suspended whilst serving at Cumbria. An investigation report did find breaches of procedure, but Hyde was cleared of gross misconduct, misconduct and criminality shortly before retiring.

The Crompton police career had started in 1982 with another perpetually disgraced force, Greater Manchester Police, following the footsteps of his father, Sir Dan Crompton [1].

That career ended ignominously with his forced resignation from SYP on 29th September, 2016 – and marked the end of a turbulent period during which he was never far from heated debate.

Some of the low spots being his responses to the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report in September 2012; the publication of the Jay Report in August 2014 into the extent and nature of decades of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham; the Cliff Richard home search debacle earlier in the same month and the appearance before a Parliamentary committee that followed; and his response to the IPCC’s June 2015 publication of their scoping report into criminality and misconduct during the infamous Battle of Orgreave.

But his nemesis was, finally, to be the verdicts of the jury at the new Hillsborough inquests nearly four years after the Panel’s findings. Notably, that the fans of Liverpool Football Club bore no responsibility for the death of 96 of their fellow supporters in the stadium disaster on 15th April, 1989. That flew in the face of Crompton’s own entrenched views on the matter, as revealed in emails sent by him, and subsequently published in the national press, following a freedom of information request made by fellow investigative journalist, Jonathan Corke.

The controversy over Crompton’s reaction to the inquests verdicts – and two press statements he made on successive days in April 2016 – is still rumbling on and is set to be played out in the hallowed halls of the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ) on London’s Strand. A two day hearing is listed for 28th and 29th March, 2017.

On 7th October, 2016 a judicial review (JR) permission application was filed at RCJ, on behalf of David Crompton, by Adam Chapman a former Treasury solicitor who is now a partner and Head of Public Law at Kingsley Napley (this firm also represented Bettison at the time of his resignation and for a period afterwards). The documents in support of the claim form run to over 1,000 pages and challenge four decisions made by South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Dr Alan Billings under Section 38 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011 and, by which, the PCC first suspended his chief constable and then, ultimately, required him to resign.

crompton-and-billings
David Crompton with Dr Alan Billings following his election to PCC in October, 2014. Within minutes of being elected Billings was praising his chief constable in a BBC interview.     Photo credit: BBC

The statement of grounds has been drafted by well known police regulatory lawyer, Hugh Davies QC, and they take issue with the rationality and proportionality of the PCC’s decisions that, sequentially, led to the final sanction of, effectively, dismissal from his chief constable post. It also sets out four considerations that the claimant contends to be irrelevant in the decision making process: The conduct of the new Hillsborough inquests; the College of Policing led Peer Review conducted into the state of SYP after Crompton’s suspension, child sexual exploitation and the possible investigation into Orgreave.

Declaratory relief and/or a quashing order over the four decisions is sought, together with costs of the action.

It is set out that declaratory relief in this action would go some way to restoring the ‘grossly unfair’ destruction of the reputation of David Crompton, after what Davies says is some 30 years police service (it appears, by my reckoning, that he has over 34). The pleadings are, curiously, silent over the number of other high profile and well rehearsed failings that have, cumulatively, led to the demolition of his good standing as a police leader. They do advance the oblique proposition, however, that the PCC’s actions may have been influenced by ‘ill-informed public opinion‘.

The claim is heavily dependent on three documents produced by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor, during the Section 38 process and in which the Police Commissioner is variously, and in parts, heavily criticised. They can all be viewed here: [2]

Indeed, joined as an Interested Party (IP) to the claim, Winsor has instructed Clive Sheldon QC and Christopher Knight to draft summary grounds in support of Crompton’s claim. These address the following areas: The wider importance to policing of the claim; the Section 38 process; the alleged irrationality and disproportionality of the PCC’s decision; and the rationale concerning the participation/role of HMCIC.

The submissions conclude by saying that the judicial review application should proceed to a substantive hearing, by way of permission from the Court, as it is ‘of real significance to David Crompton and of wider significance to the functioning of the police service of England and Wales’.

The sub-text is that Tom Winsor has taken exception to Dr Billings’ willingness to ignore HMIC’s input into the decision-making process that, ultimately, led to David Crompton’s removal. On any reasonable interpretation, Winsor would welcome a common law finding that would rein in the powers of PCC’s and, in effect, give him (or his HMCIC successor) the last word on whether a chief constable should be removed, or not.

But, that niggle aside, the submissions are meticulously set out and will, no doubt, be helpful not only to the court, but to those of us who are interested both in the deeper workings of police misconduct regulations and processes – and an important insight into the mindset of one of the nation’s most important ‘watchdogs’ who oversees just the one very specific part of them.

A robust defence to the claim has been mounted by the Police Commissioner and is being marshalled by Virginia Cooper, Litigation and Regulatory partner at Bevan Brittan (best known for her recovery of huge sums of public authority funds following the collapse of Icelandic banks). Summary grounds have been drafted by Jonathan Swift QC (assisted by experienced junior counsel, Joanne Clement).

It is, of course, entirely a matter for the court to assess the overall merits of the respective arguments put forward by the two main protagonists in this action, but one cannot fail to be attracted by the crispness of the presentation of summary grounds by counsel for the PCC: Particularly striking is the phrase employed in the curt dismissal of the claims concerning the first three of the decisions under challenge: ‘Bad on their merits‘. So much so, it has been adopted as the headline for this piece. The PCC’s position is that only the final decision (to formally call for resignation) falls for public law challenge. Counsel also maintain that ‘proportionality’ is not a recognised ground for judicial review.

There is also the moot point that the JR application concerning the first decision (to suspend Crompton) was filed outside of the three month time limit. Administrative courts are generally strict on this deadline and it may well be that part of the claim falls at the first hurdle. At first blush, the argument advanced on behalf of the claimant for late service does not strike the informed observer as particularly persuasive.

Apart from the arguments as to whether one, or four, decisions should be open to challenge by the claimant, the essential thrust of the PCC’s case is that the decision he made – and subsequently sanctioned by the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel (PCP) – was one fairly and properly open to him to make. Which is, of course, for those familiar with public law challenges, a routine public authority defence in judicial review proceedings.

Counsel deals with the HMCIC’s three contributions to the Section 38 process on the basis that he must take those into account, but is not in any way bound by them.

The evidence-free proposition by Tom Winsor that confidence in South Yorkshire Police had not been adversely affected by the second of Crompton’s two post-Hillsborough inquests press releases is also countered, firstly, by reference to local and regional feedback to the contrary. Secondly, by reference to pronouncements in Parliament by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, who was blistering in her condemnation of the second Crompton media offering.

may-as-crompton-suspended
Home Secretary Theresa May tears into South Yorkshire Police over their response to the verdicts delivered by the Hillsborough inquests jury                                                              Photo credit: BBC TV

Former Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham, also features strongly in pleadings from claimant, defendant and HMCIC (as first interested party). It was Burnham who called, in Parliament, the day after the Hillsborough inquests verdict, for SYP heads to roll over the controversial manner in which the police case had been presented at the Warrington courtroom. Most particularly, by the defence team of the SYP match commanders David Duckenfield, Roger Greenwood and Roger Marshall, and in whose cause the traditional lines of blaming drunk, ticketless and non-compliant Liverpool football plans was relentlessly, and ferociously, pursued by their ‘attack dog’ counsel, John Beggs QC [3].

The other named interested party is the aforementioned PCP but the lawyer who acts for the Panel’s host authority – Rotherham Borough Council – has indicated that they will, for now, adopt only a ‘watching brief’. Mainly, in the interests of proportionality and constraining legal costs funded by the public purse.

Dermot Pearson, the Council’s senior lawyer has, however, in a measured response, invited the court to note that ‘the claimant is not asking the court to adjudicate on the lawfulness of the PCP  recommendation, or the conduct of its procedures’. He goes on to submit, on behalf of the PCP, that there is no good reason why the court should scrutinise the actions of the PCP – and gives an allegation of risk of bias by way of the political composition of the Panel (All Labour Party councillors save for one independent Member), short thrift.

The Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA) has been approached regarding the source of funding of David Crompton’s claim. It is estimated that the services of his lawyers has cost somewhere in the region of £20,000, so far. The costs to the PCC were noted at the time of filing the defence as over £17,000. HMIC’s costs are likely to be in the order of £7,000, so far, as there appears to be no instructed solicitor. These costs, to all parties, will rise sharply, of course, at the end of what is likely to be at least a two day hearing.

Judicial review applications are normally determined by a single judge on the papers.  If permission is refused at the first stage then the losing party can apply for an oral renewal, which takes place in open court, normally within a short time afterwards. If permission is given for judicial review a substantive hearing takes place. In this particular matter, the hearing will be presided over by two judges: Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Garnham.

Whichever way the court’s decision falls, this is a controversy that will very likely run for some time yet. Fuelled to some degree by the findings of the same two judges at a hearing at the beginning of the month, at which an application from representatives of five bereaved Hillsborough families (Dorothy Griffiths, Barry Devonside, Becky Shah, Wendy Hamilton and Charlotte Hennessy) to be joined to the action, as interveners, was rejected. It was submitted, on their behalf by barrister, Kate Stone, that the families could assist the court by giving evidence concerning the way SYP evidence was presented at the new inquests.

A costs order was also made against the families, reported to be in the region of £28,000. Crowdfunding has been set up in an attempt to alleviate the burden [4].

Page last updated Monday 27th March, 2017 at 1015hrs

[1] Neil Wilby May 2015 – David Crompton: The South Yorkshire Years

[2] Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary 29th September, 2016 – Section 38 South Yorkshire Police

[3] The Guardian 26th April, 1989 – Hillsborough: Deadly mistakes and lies that lasted decades

[4] Liverpool Echo 1st March 2017: Hillsborough familes told ‘YOU must pay ex-chief’s legal bill’

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.

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

 

 

Stories untold: A Disaster of a book

I thought long and hard about writing this piece.

Over the past four years I have made friendships that I deeply cherish amongst the bereaved families, survivors and vanguard campaigners of the Hillsborough Disaster – and I would never, ever contemplate putting that camararderie at risk.

On my visits to Warrington to hear sittings of the recently concluded inquests I was welcomed by them, sat with them, ate with them and shared the terrible anguish of images on TV screens in court that those present will never be truly able to put out of their minds.

I was also sat amongst the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) group when the Norman Bettison circus came to town and he gave his own version of events from the witness box .

The dilemna, therefore, was: Do I review a book published by one of the bête noirs of the police actions that followed the Disaster that will inevitably re-open scarcely healed wounds? Or, leave it shunned for the short shelf life it is likely to have, before its appearance in the remainder bin.

It was through my own battles with Bettison’s police force that I first came into contact with the Hillsborough campaigners (a phone call in 2011 to Yorkshire-based Trevor Hicks). He had been a person of very obvious interest to them for two decades; I first wrote to Norman Bettison in July, 2009 to tell him something was deeply wrong with my home force in West Yorkshire. He was chief constable from 2006, until the aftermath of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report claimed it’s first high profile victim in October 2012. His Deputy throughout almost all that time was David Crompton. He, too, was eventually claimed by the outfall from the Hillsborough. This time, it was the way South Yorkshire Police had conducted themselves at the inquests that led to his suspension in May 2016, then resignation in September, 2016.

The consensus amongst those with whom the matter has been discussed, at some length, is that I am well placed to find holes in the Bettison story. Although, the fact that the book is published at all is a surprise. Sheila Coleman sums up the feelings of so many in this quote given to the Liverpool Echo: “I think it’s wholly inappropriate that he’s publishing a book whilst the Director of Public Prosecutions is still giving consideration to criminal prosecutions”. Bettison bizarrely contends: “This book might be the only way in which my own account of the Hillsborough aftermath will ever be heard. By the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as by the public.”

Changing the narrative

I have now read the 355 pages of the book twice. Firstly, cover to cover without a break. Then in a more studied mode and armed with marker pen. It is a well written tome, of that there is no doubt. Bettison is an educated, erudite and articulate man and he writes very much as he speaks. The book does, however, read more like a statement, or a report, than an autobiographical account. It’s several purposes appear very clear to me:

  • To create a lasting narrative, principally it seems, for the consumption of family and friends, concerning his role in the aftermath of the disaster – and one that aligns with his oral evidence given at the inquests.
  • To sweep away much of the organisational criticism that still attaches to South Yorkshire Police and land most of the opprobrium at the door of just four officers (David Duckenfield, Paul Middup and two Bettison doesn’t name whom were responsible for leaked information to the press, leading to The Sun’s infamous ‘The Truth’ front page).
  • To attack those that have given testimony against him, such as Clive Davis and John Barry. Or been, in his eyes, either partly, or largely, responsible for his fall from grace. These, surprisingly, include mild rebuke for Professor Phil Scraton, but at the other end of the scale his most poisonous attack is reserved for Deborah Glass, formerly of the IPCC, and a number of her colleagues still engaged with the police watchdog. For better or worse, it will leave the IPCC badly wounded if Bettison’s account of breathtaking incompetence and sloth is left unchallenged. Others to suffer badly are Maria Eagle MP, West Yorks PCC, Mark Burns-Williamson, and his chief executive, Fraser Sampson.
  • To reinforce his own view that he was one of the finest police officers ever to pull on a uniform. It remains a forceful, shameless, insensitive and excrutiating self-eulogy throughout. One shudders to think how the first draft manuscript would have read. Just a shred of humility may have assisted him both within policing circles and, more crucially, amongst those foolish enough to shell out £18.99 for what amounts to ill-judged propaganda.

It is decidedly not, as it says on the front cover, ‘The Untold Story’. Or, as the publisher’s blurb says: “This personal account describes how the Hillsborough disaster unfolded, provides an insight into what was happening at South Yorkshire Police headquarters in the aftermath, and gives an objective and compassionate account of the bereaved families’ long struggle for justice, all the while charting the author’s journey from innocent bystander to a symbol of a perceived criminal conspiracy“. Far, far from it. Neither does it fulfil the billing in the Preface of ‘openness and transparency’ (that utterly meaningless but perpetual line of policing spin). Or, the ‘nothing concealed’ labelling. That is arrant nonsense, for the reasons I set out in some considerable detail in this article.

It should also be borne in mind that, in his evidence to the inquests at Warrington, Bettison either answered ‘I don’t recall‘, or ‘No‘ to questions on the lines of ‘Do you recollect/remember, over TWENTY times. Is the reader of this book, therefore, expected to accept that these ‘untold’ revelations were either withheld from his evidence, or he has had some miracle restoration to the left side of his brain in the ensuing few months?

Hillsborough Untold MASTER jacket.indd

Subliminal thread that still smears the fans

It is beyond argument that Norman Bettison has never once lifted a finger to help the twenty-seven year fight by bereaved Hillsborough families, and the survivors of the caged hell that was pens 3 and 4 on the western terraces. Firstly, for the truth. Then, latterly, for justice. His ‘compassionate account‘ is, therefore, both unwelcome and paints him in an unattractive, self-serving light. Passing himself off as an ‘innocent bystander‘ in a force so deeply corrupt as South Yorkshire Police is also self-defeating and will, inevitably, backfire on him.

There is also this subliminal thread that runs through the book that places the traditional smears in the mind of the reader without them being stated head-on. The mention of Heysel, as early as page 10, sets the tone for that line of Bettison inculcation. The sly references to late arrival, touts, swaps, drunkenness – and the unruly behaviour of a small minority at the rear of the crush in front of the Leppings Lane turnstiles (he doesn’t make the important distinction of whether that is 0.1%, 1% or 10%*) inserted innocuously through successive chapters. (*The correct answer is 0.1%).

The contemporary audio-visual clips, and the 450 photographs, shown endlessly in evidence at Warrington is the true test, and one upon which the jury answered at the seminal question 7: Was there any behaviour on the part of the football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles? The jury answered ‘NO’, yet Bettison makes no reference to that point or, indeed, any other mention of the 14 – 0 verdict delivered by the nine battle-fatigued men and women who were left sitting at the end of the most gruelling test of endurance, and character, in British legal history. A nod to them might have softened the narrative a little.

Yes, of course, there are some interesting personal insights, pen portaits and caricatures and, in some places (surprisingly few as it happens) information that is not known to those campaigners and journalists who have variously read, or heard, all the inquests evidence and are familiar with the vast database contained within the Panel website, the texts of both of the Taylor Reports (interim and final) and the Stuart-Smith Scrutiny.

These new insights (to me at least) include Bettison being responsible for the headcount in pens 3 and 4, from a montage of photographs put together in preparation for the Taylor Inquiry; Comparison of command officer styles from the ‘military, shouty, authoritarian‘ police chief of the 70’s and 80’s to the ‘lily-livered, laissez-faire, dilettantes‘ of the 90’s and beyond; The mealy-mouthed praise of the late Brian Mole whom, we learn, was nicknamed ‘Soames’ after a ‘dapper, smooth, self-righteous‘ character from the Forsyte Saga TV drama. Bettison also contends that Mole was ‘not much favoured in HQ‘, particularly after the prank that, indirectly, led to the experienced match commander being stripped of duties on the fateful day.

On a wider view, the Bettison interpretation of the physical difficulties, and psychological effects, of the Bradford City Fire Disaster happening at ‘home’, as it were, versus the Hillsborough Disaster happening ‘away’ from Liverpool, was as interesting as the book got. But, even here, Bettison doesn’t burden his readers with the knowledge that, in the past year, the police force that he formerly commanded has been referred to the IPCC over its investigation of the aftermath of the Bradford fire. He also, curiously, refers throughout to Sheffield as a town, rather than a large city.

The cameo – and I place it no higher than that – striking me as the most odd in the book was the extraordinary revelation that Bettison had been a keen supporter of the Reds since he was eight years old. Playing keepy-uppy in his full Liverpool kit that had been bought as a Christmas present. Ergo, he couldn’t possibly hold a grudge against Liverpool fans, as he was one of them. The counter-arguments I advance to the concept of him being a Liverpool supporter are fourfold: Firstly, what was he doing sat in South Stand amongst Notts Forest supporters in 1989? Secondly, why was he not at the 1988 semi-final taking place a short distance from his home between the same two teams. Thirdly, why was this secret affiliation not mentioned as a key point in his contemporaneous witness accounts? Fourthly, and crucially, a declaration of that lifelong interest to ACC Stuart Anderson, when told he had been selected to join the Wain team should have, effectively, disqualified him from that process.

The love of Liverpool, as a city and a place to live, work and socialise, now also belatedly professed by Bettison, can be categorised similarly to his latent support of the Reds. It has emerged, by my own reckoning, only as part of a charm offensive to win over its citizens and, more particularly, bereaved families, survivors, campaigners and journalist critics. It could be paraphrased thus: ‘Look at me, lads and lasses, I’m one of you at heart. The wife cooks me a pan of scouse at least once a week‘. He misses the point, maybe, that only 37 who died were from Liverpool, although another 20 were from Greater Merseyside and the crusade for truth and justice is, and always has been, inextricably linked to the city.

The real truth is that, after only three years in post at Merseyside Police, he was hankering after leaving this great city. He was offered, and accepted, a post with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), but the move was called off after an argument with the Home Office over salary and pension. That, more accurately, sums up the narcissitic Bettison’s true love: Himself.

The Devil is in the detail

Looking at the book through a wider lens, what does come across as striking to me, at least, is the inconsistent manner in which content is presented. Where it suits the overall Bettison narrative, there is almost an excess of minutiae. In other places the reader is left, time and again, with the thought that important detail has been omitted by Bettison that he either knew, or could have very easily found out, if he is the ace thief taker/detective he would have everyone believe.

– Bettison in his witness account in May 1989 says he parked at the junction of Niagara Road and Claywheels Lane from where he walked to the football ground. There is no such junction, as it happens; Niagara Road is a service road that spurs off Beeley Wood Road. In the book he does not give the location of where he parked his car. The untold story is that he may have used the car park of the infamous Niagara Police Sports and Social Club. As did a number of other senior officers on the day. Bettison, it would appear, as he does in a other areas in the book, seeks to avoid mentioning controversial locations and individuals. There is another train of thought entirely – and that is Bettison did not park in, or near, Claywheels Lane at all. But at nearby Hammerton Road police station and walked to the game from there and returned by the same route, largely via Middlewood Road.

– In the book Bettison states that his account was prepared ‘in several sittings over seven or eight days’ after 17th April, 1989. It is a matter of record that his account (actually marked as a report) is dated 3rd May, 1989. What is described as his witness statement is dated 2nd June 1989 (often one simply became the other as they were typed onto the incident room HOLMES database). There is no reference to any pocket book (PNB) entry that he should have made when he put himself on duty at Hammerton Road at around 4pm on day of disaster and, again, when he was released from duty some twelve hours later at the gymnasium (or if we are to believe the statement at the time he joined Merseyside Police, sixteen hours). Those basic duty entries are an essential requirement for any policeman. The fact that it appears he chose, an an experienced, process-orientated, upwardly-mobile officer, not to make any entries concerning either what he had witnessed from seat NN28 in the South stand, which he himself identified as a major incident at 3.06pm, or his contact with what he describes as deceased casualties, on his exit from the ground, simply defies belief. In any properly run police force it would be a disciplinary offence. It also goes to the hypothesis that Bettison didn’t take that route to, or from, the ground at all.

– Bettison doesn’t make clear in the book whether that he filled in a police questionnaire before writing up his account. He did complete one and should, of course, declared his status as a supporter of Liverpool Football Club on that form. But he chose not to and doesn’t expand upon it in the book. The rest of the questionnare is absent of detail, particularly relating to timings. Another untold story?

– His account of the reason for leaving the ground has, crucially, changed from his first, contemporaneous, witness statement to the book. He, emphatically, says he left the ground to phone his wife in his statement. His arrival at nearby Hammerton Road police service was simply to facilitate that purpose after finding only phone boxes with queues around them, along the one mile journey. That has now been modified in the book to include the parallel thought that he could assist in the aftermath of the tragedy by reporting to the police station and relieving strained resources. Reading book and statement side by side paints an unattractive picture and, largely, undermines all what follows.

– The failure to identify the scouse-accented South Yorkshire Police officer who went to hospital as continuity officer, accompanying whom Bettison believed was a deceased casualty in his late 20’s or early 30’s, at the south west corner of the ground. How did the casualty get there at that early stage? How did the ambulance know to go there when the other police officers and the St John’s Ambulance officer attending the man, and one other casualty with an arm injury, had no radios, according to Bettison. Another untold story? Or several of them, in fact. I am, as they say on the TV, helping police (and the IPCC) with their enquiries.

– The failure to note whether there were ten, or twelve, casualties whom he described as deceased at the rear of the West Stand close to the River Don. It is not the difference between 100 or 200. Especially, if you are the self-proclaimed, quick-witted, multi-tasking, ace detective with an eye for detail that Bettison says he is. The books note that the majority were ‘in the recovery position’ but can’t specify how many. Crucial evidence for any investigation that followed, yet he has never been interviewed about it. There were in fact eleven bodies laid there, a fact I have subsequently established from the witness statement of the officer in charge of continuity at the temporary mortuary in the gymnasium, Inspector John Charles. The same number is also referred to in Brian Mole’s statement. Bettison then came across Chief Inspector Roger Purdy, but did nothing more than nod to him, without mentioning the RV point he says he had set up in the south west corner of the ground. He then hastened his exit and, en route, he says, mobilised some officers from Purdy’s serials to form a cordon preventing access to the scene where the bodies were located. Without identifying himself as a police officer. It does, as I have always contended, give the appearance of a rat leaving a sinking ship.

– In Bettison’s witness statement he claimed that ‘more than enough officers were doing everything they possibly could’ once the football match had been stopped by Supertindendent Roger Greenwood‘s belated intervention at 3.06pm. Bettison, unsurprisingly, doesn’t venture to repeat that in the book. Or, more crucially, correct it. The inquests established beyond doubt that a heroic minority were ripping at mesh, helping fans over fences, passing casualties out of the pens chain gang style, carrying them out through the tunnel, or attempting resucitation. Tragically, far too many of the rest either froze, were misdirected by senior officers or couldn’t raise an effort to help the hundreds of Liverpool fans desperately trying to stop death touching their fellow travellers.

– Bettison, although critical of cages (pens), barrier configuration and the policy of segregation over safety, persists with a line that the police only lost control of the crowd outside of the Leppings Lane turnstiles at 2.45pm. The inquests established beyond doubt that effective control had slipped away from the police by 2.20pm and all vestiges of control had gone by 2.30pm. He also makes several references to the beach ball being patted around in pen 3 to support his own view from the South Stand that the pens were not abnormally overcrowded and he ‘sensed no danger’ at that point. The last person known to have touched that beach ball was Jason Kenworthy at 2.40pm. He was stood with three teenaged friends who died in the crush. The families of those three, which include Barry Devonside, will be horrified at the inference Bettison seeks to make.

–  Bettison also puts a veiled construction on the circumstances of the removal of barrier 144 near the mouth of the tunnel. He says an unnamed chief inspector asked the club and their consulting engineers to ‘review’ its positioning. The inquests heard that the police requested the removal of the barrier. The officer to whom Bettison refers is John Freeman (at the time of the Disaster a Superintendent) and the omission of his name is both startling and alarming. ‘The Freeman Tactic’ was one devised by that officer, during his time as a match commander at the Sheffield Wednesday ground, to close the tunnel entrance to the pens as they became full. References to the Freeman tactic were removed from statements prepared by the Wain team for the Taylor Inquiry.

– Another pointless attempt at justification of the police’s actions on the day comes with the lengthy Bettison narrative over delaying kick-offs. A simple check of the inquests evidence of Kenneth Dalglish lays that to waste. As does the fact that the kick-off at a FA Cup semi-final at the same ground in 1987 was delayed due to crowd congestion. Many Leeds United fans had experienced crushing in the Leppings Lane turnstile area and central pens before and during the match.

– Analysis of the questionnaire and statement of Chief Inspector Les Agar (who is mentioned on page 41 of the book) reveals other inconsistencies with Bettison’s version regarding timings and who did what. That concern is amplified when also compared with the account of DC Bob Hydes (of catching Yorkshire Ripper fame) and what he did during his two visits to the gymnasium.

Dramatis personae

There are also the gaps in the ‘untold story’ that appear, on their face, designed to either downplay the role, or avoid scrutiny, of Bettison’s former colleagues in the upper echelons of policing. I give just four examples out of many:

– What was the substance of the email messages between Bettison, David Crompton and Sir Hugh Orde on the day of the publication of the Panel report and in the ensuing hue and cry?  West Yorkshire Police refused my freedom of information request on the topic many moons ago and this was Bettison’s opportunity to unlock the mystery. We know, because my journalist colleague, Jonathan Corke, eventually secured release of the emails between Crompton and Orde that the line being taken between those two that the families version of ‘the truth’ was not acccepted and was to be lobbied against. There is also no mention of the calls or text messages Bettison said he couldn’t have made, whilst in Sussex, that were later traced through analysis of his phone records.

– It is established beyond doubt that Bernard Hogan-Howe was managing the accommodation and pastoral care of relatives of missing persons at the boy’s club opposite Hammerton Road police station, from early in the evening until he went off duty at around 3.30am. Bettison appears to have put himself in charge of a temporary missing person’s bureau shortly after arriving at that police station. Bettison refers only to an inspector taking charge at the club which was, of course, the current Met Commissioner’s pip at that time. Hogan-Howe’s name is conspicious only for its absence from the ‘untold story’.

– The odious John Beggs QC also rates a mention late in the piece. But, in the context of his services being procured by the Police Authority in their bid to oust him from his role as chief constable of West Yorkshire Police in September and October, 2012. There is not a single word of criticism of Beggs’ relentless and unedifying antics at the inquests in Warrington, at which the drunk, ticketless, non-compliant line of questioning was pursued relentlessly on behalf of the police’s two match commanders. Prolonging the inquests and adding hugely to it’s cost. Not just in monetary terms but, much more crucially, in the emotional attrition ladelled onto to families and survivors sat in the galleries at either end of that vast courtroom. Over the duration of the inquests, I saw the physical and mental effects that was having. I also witnessed, for the only time in my lengthy career as newspaper publisher and journalist, Queen’s Counsel incandescent with rage once they had left the calmer confines of the courtroom. The source of their disquiet was Beggs’ conduct and blatant lies told by South Yorkshire Police officers in oral evidence.

– The input of HMIC is relied upon to sterilise Bettison’s account of the interview process that led to his appointment as chief constable of Merseyside. The HMIC officer involved was Sir Dan Crompton, father of the hapless David. Bettison has not sought to explain, or apologise, for Crompton senior’s appalling, deeply damaging and distressing remarks made at the time about the Hillsborough campaigners, whom were described as “vexatious, vindictive and cruel” to oppose the controversial appointment in their city. Bettison, with all his newly-avowed compassion towards the sufferers does not seek to denounce this outrageous slur. As with Crompton Snr, Crompton Jnr and now Bettison, it seems there is no need to correct those words, or profusely apologise for them.

– Of the few mysteries still remaining to be unlocked concerning the Disaster, and the one that probably interests me the most, is the whereabouts of David Duckenfield between finishing the match briefing at around 10.30am until having lunch in the gymnasium at 1.30pm. Bettison offers no clue as to the disgraced chief superintendent’s whereabouts. The inquests evidence from Duckenfield is that he couldn’t recall what he had been doing between the end of the early morning briefing and arriving in the police control box at 2pm. Or, in fact, where he had been. Another untold story.

Bettison’s anointing of his chief constable at the time, the late and highly autocratic Peter Wright, the cerebral deputy chief, Peter Hayes and, in particular, Terry Wain, may not have been calculated to vex, annoy and harass the bereaved, and the survivors of the Disaster, but that will be the inevitable effect. It is established beyond doubt that Wright and Hayes were at the heart of the thoroughly dishonest injustices perpetrated against the coal mining pickets at the Orgreave coking plant, just four years before the Hillsborough Disaster. Bettison’s unstinting praise of both further underscores his own fallibilty and completely undermines the credibilty of the rest of the book. As does his wholehearted endorsement of the heavily criticised Stuart-Smith Scrutiny. Similarly, his lack of any criticism, whatsoever, of the mini-inquests conducted by Dr Stefan Popper, one of the biggest, and most hurtful, travesties of justice in the modern era, does Bettison no credit at all.

The missing word

The eight letter word O-R-G-R-E-A-V-E does not appear on any of the 355 pages of Bettison’s book. It is a remarkable omission. The legal teams representing the Orgreave campaigners have put the view, most forcefully and persuasively, to the Home Secretary that the full truth and justice over Hillsborough cannot finally come unless there is a full independent investigation, or inquiry, into the events surrounding the miners’ strike which came to a head in the summer sunshine on June 18th, 1984. Bettison plainly does not agree, and that part of the contemporaneous, and highly relevant, history of South Yorkshire Police remains untold.

There was no cover-up

This is the most remarkable passage in the book and plainly expected to reach only a narrow, mostly uninformed, readership. Bettison paints a picture of the Wain Report being scrupulously prepared, by the team of which he was a pivotal part, with a single purpose in mind: To assist the police QC, William Woodward, in presenting submissions to the Taylor Inquiry and prepare counsel for what the police’s own witnesses might say in their oral evidence.

Over the years Bettison has consistently downplayed his role in the Wain team as ‘peripheral’ and ‘junior’. Similarly, in his consecutive role after being chosen as the chief constable’s eyes and ears at the Taylor Inquiry. In his oral evidence to the inquests at Warrington, the only light relief over four torturous days came when Bettison claimed that he was the ‘Butty Boy’ for the lawyers when they took their lunchtime break from proceedings – and he was despatched to Marks and Spencers for the sandwiches. He has not repeated that claim in the book, but supplanted it with the startling revelation that a man so humbly positioned took it upon himself to prepare, and send by fax, to Bill Woodward, an unsolicited overview of his own findings from listening to the entire 31 days of Inquiry evidence at Sheffield Town Hall. For better or worse, influenced or not by Bettison’s input, it remains a fact that Woodward’s submissions to the Inquiry contained no paragraph where blame was accepted by his clients, South Yorkshire Police.

Bettison’s book in seeking to label the cover-up  as ‘mythical’ not only offers no explanation for these crucial elements of it, he doesn’t mention them at all:

– Sampling blood alcohol levels of deceased, including children as young as 10yo

– Questioning bereaved families over alcohol consumption

–  Criminal record checks on the deceased

– Theft of CCTV tapes from football club control room

–  Removal of logs from police control box in West stand

– Instructions given to officers not to make entries in pocket note books (PNB’s)

–  Evidence gatherers and operational support units sent out looking for evidence of bottles and cans (and carafes) that had contained alcohol. Both around the ground and over the outlying road routes between Sheffield and Liverpool

The above all happened within hours of the Disaster. Those below were perpetrated as the cover-up mentality became more developed:

– Instructions to officers to write out undated ‘accounts’ on plain paper, rather than provide conventional S9 Criminal Justice Act statements, which carry a perjury warning

– Statement tampering that removed criticism of police operations (not closing the access tunnel to the West stand central terraces, faulty radios, displacement of serials etc) and ineffectiveness of senior officers

– Intimidation by West Midlands Police officers of key witnesses

– Keyword interrogation of HOLMES computers to identify and distil evidence relating to drunkenness or unruliness of fans

More recently, it became apparent that swathes of evidence had not been disclosed to the Independent Panel by South Yorkshire Police in 2009 and, in point of fact, the IPCC were still searching police premises for evidential materials as late as last month. That would tend to go further to the evidence of a ‘cover-up’.

Bettison claims to have followed the inquests every day and read the transcripts. If that is true, then all the above elements of the South Yorkshire Police cover-up were examined in great detail by counsel for the inquest, and those representing the families and the interested parties. Yet, still, it seems, Bettison wants to run the no cover-up narrative. He can expect little sympathy from a largely hostile media on that score. The BBC’s Evan Davis destroyed him within seconds in this seconds over his claim of being a “peripheral” part of the police cover-up:

The Mirror’s Brian Reade has described Bettison as a “duplicitious snake” and Channel 4’s Alex Thomson cornered him with a line that will enter broadcast journalism folklore: “Who made the changes, the statement fairies?” The Guardian’s David Conn has written a measured, but exoriating, piece ‘Hillsborough: Sir Norman Bettison is seeking to deny the truth’. The Liverpool Echo has carried a series of withering pieces that include the accusations that Bettison is ‘Evil and arrogant’ and ‘Patronising, pompous and self-serving.’

The Best of the Rest

Three other soon to be published articles will cover the remaining parts of the book that touch more on the events surrounding Bettison’s ignominous exit from the police service in 2012, rather than any untold story of the disaster. These will add important context to his ongoing battles with the IPCC – and other peripheral issues such as the Platinum Theft allegation, Bettison’s explanation for it and the very recent decision by South Yorkshire Police to lie to me over requests for information concerning that alleged theft. It is already swathed in further controversy as John Mann MP has rounded on Bettison accusing him of rubbishing the reputation of the wrong former police officer in the book, describing him as “a vindictive former police officer, himself sacked for dishonesty and sent to prison”

Mann is quoted in the Yorkshire Post as saying: “His character assassination on an unnamed South Yorkshire Police officer may well come back to bite Bettison. If he has knowledge of the source of the allegations then this can only have come through a criminal leak from within the police. If he has guessed wrongly at the source, which I strongly suspect, then he has launched an unwarranted and vicious attack on the wrong person and that has consequences. I will be pressing the IPCC on this matter”.

The IPCC have announced that they have no issues with the book as far as their own criminal investigations are concerned.

Now this really does start to have the look and feel of ‘The Untold Story’. Except it won’t come to light in Waterstones. Their buying decisions, they have told Alex Thomson, are based on ‘the quality of the book’ and they have rejected Bettison’s debut effort.

It is not unrealistic to hope that the publishers will soon withdraw the Bettison book, on the basis it now stands entirely discredited.

 

Page last updated: Saturday 19th November, 2016 at 0845hrs

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Madgwick goes for Gold

North Yorkshire Police’s longest serving Command Team officer is Timothy Madgwick. He was promoted to ACPO rank in 2009. Three years later he was leading the force after the departure of disgraced chief constable, Grahame Maxwell [1].

Elevation to the top job completed an astonishing, meteoric rise through the ranks for Madgwick that saw five promotions in ten years, following a spell as staff officer to the then chief constable, David Kenworthy and, later, a chief of staff role with Maxwell shortly after the latter had joined NYP from the troubled South Yorkshire Police. Maxwell had spent the previous twenty three years at two other deeply corrupt police forces: Cleveland and West Yorkshire.

Kenworthy, awarded the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) in 1996, whilst serving with Avon and Somerset Police, has held a post as one of fifty Deputy Lord Lieutenants in North Yorkshire since 2004. The Lord Lieutenant is, of course, The Queen’s personal representative. Establishment frippery at its most prolific. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to deduce that the regally connected Kenworthy may have had a hand in the nomination for an award of the same gong to his former protegé, and near Easingwold neighbour, last year.

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As the same medal is held by the likes of the aforementioned Maxwell – and other shamed chief constables with connections to Yorkshire, such as Sir Norman Bettison, Sir Stephen House, David Crompton, Meredydd HughesDavid Westwood, Mark GilmoreSean Price and York-born Nick Gargan, it is not worth the rag to which is attached. There are certain to be other bemedalled chief officers outside of God’s Own County, who have shamed the police service, for those with the time to search.

Mark Gilmore is hoping to salvage his damaged reputation in civil proceedings against his police commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, that are currently lodged with the High Court.

At the time Tim Madgwick took over as temporary chief in May 2012, his predecessor and mentor, Maxwell, had told the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), during a gross misconduct investigation [2], that “he could do what he wanted because he was the Chief Constable”. Looking at the number and scale of controversies that had dogged the force over the previous ten years that was obviously the mindset of the force’s leaders and those closest to them. Few being closer, of course, than the high-flying Madgwick.

Six months prior to his elevation to the top job, an investigation had been launched by NYP in which Madgwick had been appointed Gold Commander by Maxwell. This was codenamed by the force ‘Operation Rome‘ and is one that has been dogged by controversy from its early days. Much has been written about the probe already, including on this website [3] and [4], and, for the last twelve months, there has been a running battle between myself and a police force obsessed with covering up the truth.

Rome was an investigation of such mind-numbing mediocrity that the public has every right to see the audit trail of the decision-making, in an operation that the force themselves claim cost over £400,000. The mandatory lessons learned reporting should also be made public, even though in this particular case, on present evidence, there appears to be just one: Don’t trust Tim Madgwick with anything more complex than operating a dashboard-mounted speed camera.

In the near three years that the investigation lasted, it appears there were just three suspects and the alleged criminal activity was harassment without violence. One of the suspects, well known citizen journalist Nigel Ward, was never interviewed and no harassment warnings (PIN’s) were issued. Another citizen journalist, Tim Hicks, was interviewed at Fulford Road police station in York, but harassment scarcely featured in the police questioning. The detectives seemed much more concerned with protecting the reputation of NYP and preventing articles being written about the force. The suspect’s London solicitor, David Niven of Penningtons wrote to NYP’s Head of Legal Services, Simon Dennis, after the police interview in the most scathing terms [5].

Dennis, on whose watch the Maxwell debacle (and a number of others) unfolded and who now works for the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, is also roundly criticised elsewhere on this website [6]. Including over the way he has handled complaints about Madgwick.

Following the investigations into alleged harassment by the heavyweight Operation Rome team, two seperate evidence packages were sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for charging decisions. Both were rejected by the CPS. Given the relatively low evidential threshold for this type of offence that is noteworthy failure by NYP.

The latest skirmish between myself and the force in the quest for the truth over the Rome debacle was a freedom of information request submitted in August, 2016. Answers were sought to these five questions:

1. Name(s)/rank(s) of Gold Commander of this operation.
2. Name(s)/rank(s) of Senior Investigating Officer(s).
3. Policy log (sometimes described as the policy book)
4. Final investigation report
(it is accepted that items 3. and 4. will be redacted to protect exempted personal information).
5. All documents connected with collection, classification and codifying of financial information that produced the alleged final investigation cost of £409,970.

NYP’s answer to the first question has already been incorporated into this piece, but poses several more queries as a result: Why was an assistant chief constable (as Madgwick was at the time) involved leading an investigation of this type? When he became chief constable, albeit temporarily, why did he continue in the role? In September, 2012 Madgwick gave a witness statement in the investigation alleging how he was a victim of harassing emails and on-line articles and images. At that point why did he not, properly and in accordance with all known approved policing practice, recuse himself from any further involvement in the investigation? The friendship of Madgwick with the police authority chair at the time, Jane Kenyon, another key figure driving the harassment allegations, should also have been sufficient reason for Madgwick to walk away. Miss Kenyon, regularly ridiculed in the satirical magazine Private Eye [6], and Madgwick’s wife Delia also have an association, previously undisclosed, through St Hilda’s School in Whitby, dating back to 1996.

KENYON_MADGWICK

The stunted answer to the second question also poses even more questions: It is now disclosed by NYP that there were not one, but two SIO’s. A detective superintendent and the head of the professional standards department. The force has refused to name them. They claim it is ‘personal information’. From other materials I have obtained in the course of my own investigations into Operation Rome I can say, with a reasonable amount of certainty, that the officers concerned were Detective Superintendent Heather Pearson (better known as a murder investigator) and Steven Read, a former assistant chief constable who, curiously, held the role as Head of PSD as a post-retirement, jobs-for-the-boys civilian. Which begs the obvious question: why were two officers of this seniority, working under the strategic command of a temporary chief constable, investigating harassment without violence allegations?

Pearson was later to be a recipient of an estimated £50,000 of free legal fees, provided by the force (along with Madgwick), in pursuing the same three suspects through the civil courts. Read, for reasons unknown, declined the force’s offer of the same benefit. It was also Pearson who portentiously told Hicks on 27th July, 2012 that she would bring civil action (beyond her police powers as it happens) on behalf of senior officers named in an article about the expenses scandal that was eventually to prove the downfall of Maxwell. Others named in that article included Madgwick, over police expenses allegedly claimed in pursuit of one of his many laudable hobbies and interests, the Special Olympics Group Board. Hicks, apart from his amateur journalism role, is also a chartered accountant, and certified fraud examiner, so is likely to know much more than the man in the street about such things. For their part, ‘open and transparent’ NYP stonewalled every legitimate enquiry made to establish the legitimacy of the claims.

The third and fourth questions produced a blank refusal. Relying, mainly, on the premise that releasing the policy log and investigation report would assist criminals in avoiding detection and give away police operational secrets. The reader is invited to bear in mind (again) this was a harassment without violence investigation in which the complaints centred around emails and articles published on the internet (as were a number of the emails). One of the purposes of the freedom of information request was to obtain an admission that these documents actually exist. Their response does this. However, until such times as they are disclosed – albeit in redacted form – I remain sceptical.

The fifth question received a similarly ludicrous response. NYP claim that they cannot disclose the requested documents, and audit trail of investigation costs, that was, at best, a contrived, back-of-the-envelope job produced with a pre-ordained figure in mind. Claiming that such documents could be protected by legal professional privilege has no basis in fact or law. As with the policy log and investigation report, I remain sceptical as to whether the documents actually exist and put that forward as a realistic hypothesis as to why they cannot be disclosed. Interestingly, the officer who allegedly compiled the figures, Force Solicitor Jane Wintermeyer, also heads up the department that deals with NYP’s FOI requests. She is another with connections to the Easingwold area.

A challenge to the unanswered questions, by way of an internal request, has been submitted to NYP [7] and will, doubtless be followed by a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). My submissions to the ICO will include this quote from Chief Constable Dave Jones and Police Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, in December, 2013 when issuing a statement concerning the efforts to procure repayment of monies allegedly owed to force by Grahame Maxwell and his former deputy, Adam Briggs:  “It will be the first time North Yorkshire Police will have published a report of this nature, and is in stark contrast to the old way of doing business and keeping reports like these under lock and key.”

The sharp eyed may have noted in my request for internal review that reference was made to the NYP civil disclosure unit (or much more likely Mrs Wintermeyer) putting FOI requests concerning Operation Rome (and the follow up Operation Hyson) into ‘special measures’ – and asking requesters to provide ID. Some of my other requests/internal reviews on Rome (and/or Hyson) are months overdue, which appears to bear that out.

In the meantime, Tim Madgwick will no doubt be treating his Twitter followers to his view of himself and North Yorkshire Police which range, generally, between ‘amazing‘, ‘great‘ and ‘fantastic‘. For my part, I will plod away, quietly and methodically, determined to get to the bottom of this shambles and expose the culpability of those involved in it, their propensity for deceit, and the true motive behind pursuing this Operation Rome beyond all sense or reason.

The last words for now go to Dave Jones. This is what he said at the time of the award of the QPM to his colleague: ‘Tim has led teams through some of the most serious incidents North Yorkshire Police has dealt with in recent years in an exemplary way‘.

 

Annotations:

[1] Daily Mail, 17th May 2012: Disgraced chief constable who tried to help relative get a job is given £250,000 golden goodbye

[2] Independent Police Complaints Commission report, May 2011 ref 2010/005240

[3] Neil Wilby, 14th February, 2015: Complete capitulation follows fall of Rome

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

[5] Penningtons letter to North Yorkshire Police, 9th August, 2012

[6] Neil Wilby, 6th September, 2016: In the Eye of the storm

[7] WhatDoTheyKnow, 8th August, 2016: Request Neil Wilby to NYP ref 350296-9eeb 1fd1

 

Page last updated Tuesday 13th September, 2016 at 1650hrs

© 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.

Operation Barium too hard to swallow?

On 7th July, 2009 I wrote to Sir Norman Bettison, then Chief Constable of my local police force. He was offered intelligence over the misconduct of a number of his junior officers and a newspaperman’s instinct that all was not well within West Yorkshire Police.

Shortly afterwards, I received a telephone call from his staff officer at the time, Chief Inspector Christopher Rowley. Recently, and controversially, appointed to disgraced South Yorkshire Police as an assistant chief constable (read more here).

It matters little that CI Rowley’s call was a fob-off, delivered in an unattractive manner. It was to lead, indirectly, to a challenge never before faced by a police force: Scrutiny by investigators, not part of any official oversight body, who were to determined to show the true face of a police force that considered itself completely unaccountable to anyone.

At the time of my letter being sent to Bettison, one of his gilded protégés was Mark Gilmore. He was one of five assistant chief constables in a Command Team that was to become almost entirely  discredited: Bettison’s career ended in ignominy as he became engulfed in a number of scandals, with his role in the Hillsborough Disaster aftermath being much the highest profile.

Bettison’s deputy chief constable was none other than David Crompton. Also widely known as ‘Disaster Dave‘ and for whom Hillsborough was also to prove his nemesis (read more here).

Two other of the disgraced chief’s assistants, John Parkinson (later to succeed him as temp0rary chief constable) and Geoff Dodd, were to retire from the police service with clouds hanging over them. Dodd was connected to the framing and jailing of a promising young police constable and, after the Operation Lamp investigation into that miscarriage of justice was completed, but before the report was published, he sailed into the sunset clinging to his gold plated pension. Parkinson was also deeply involved in the PC Danny Major cover-up, amongst a significant number of other misdemeanours, about which more can be read here.

My first interaction with Parkinson was in May 2010, as he was portfolio holder for the notorious Professional Standards Department in West Yorkshire Police. Just under two years later I wrote to him and promised I would drive him out of the police service, based on the evidence I held. He probably laughed it off at the time, but a year later he was gone.

Mark Gilmore, having been recruited in 2008 by Bettison from a sinecure as staff officer to ACPO president Sir Hugh Orde, was given a special projects role in the procurement and delivery of profit for investment (PFI) schemes at WYP. Bettison was, at the time, vice president of the now-defunct ACPO.

A number of new divisional headquarters around the county and a massive project at the force’s operational support and training centre at Carr Gate, near Wakefield were built as a result of the PFI financing. The total sums involved have been reported in the local press as totalling £300 million, yet the company appointed to facilitate the financing appeared to be carrying a net current deficit of several million pounds.

There is a well-grounded suspicion that the PFI schemes are a ticking timebomb as far as future debt is concerned. As soon as time and funding allow, this is to form the subject a separate forensic investigation by me.

In July 2011, Gilmore was appointed as deputy chief constable to another big city force. He joined another Bettison protégé who was chief constable of Northumbria Police, Sue Sim. Recently in the news as a whistleblower exposing concerning practices amongst senior officers in her former force (read more here). Bettison and Sim worked together at Merseyside Police, during the former’s controversial reign in Liverpool.

It is not known, at this stage, whether Gilmore was intended to be one of the subjects of his former chief’s scathing and wide-ranging criticisms. Incredibly, it is West Yorkshire Police who have been sent to investigate Mrs Sims’ complaints.

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Less than two years later, Gilmore was back at West Yorkshire Police having been crowned as chief by the newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Mark Burns-Williamson.

Sources close to the process suggested at the time that Gilmore had defeated John Parkinson, Mark Milsom, an ACC with WYP and most famous for running a BMW X5 police car through a red traffic light and into the side of a bus in Leeds city centre, and Phil Gormley, at the time chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary, a formet Metropolitan Police assistant commisssioner and, presently, chief constable at Police Scotland.

The largely invisible Gilmore was later to controversially refuse to prosecute Milsom over the ramming of the bus in City Square, saying after a lengthy investigation that “it was not in the public interest“. A decision that was to leave most West Yorkshire folk, and many of the front line officers in their police force, entirely bemused (read more here).

The very few policing commentators who were aware of the shortlist could only stand shocked at the decision to select Gilmore ahead of Gormley. Burns-Williamson, who prior to his appointment had been Chair of the police authority for ten years, appeared to place emphasis on the fact that Gilmore was a known entity – and his experience in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was particularly relevant.

Those in the know had an entirely different perception: Gilmore knew where a whole pile of WYP corruption bones were buried and it was felt that Burns-Williamson didn’t want anyone from ‘outside the circle’ poking around and asking questions.

I wrote an article that was first published on the uPSD website at the end of April 2013 that set out in some detail the extent of the alleged ‘cover-ups’ to which Gilmore was, at the very least, a passive party (read more here). It was a formidable list. For his part, Burns-Williamson was content to continue as though none of this corruption existed. Indeed, his oft-repeated mantra during the election campaign that brought him to power in 2012 was that “there is no corruption in West Yorkshire Police”. He didn’t repeat it in the campaign in May, 2016.

It took just fourteen months before his PCC, so effusive at the time of his appointment, had to remove his ‘chosen one’ from police HQ. Mark Gilmore was suspended from duty in June, 2014. This move was prompted by a PSNI investigation into the awarding of police vehicle contracts in Northern Ireland.

Seven men were arrested by detectives working on the case at the time and questioned on suspicion of offences including bribery, misconduct in public office and procuring misconduct in public office. Gilmore was not one of those detained. In a statement he insisted that “I have conducted myself with the honesty and integrity expected of someone in my position and have 31 years unblemished professional record”. He presented himself at a Belfast police station, voluntarily, for an interview under caution.

He added: “I have fully co-operated with the investigation and will continue to do so. I hope to work with the Police and Crime Commissioner to bring about a quick and positive resolution to this matter so I can return to serving the people of West Yorkshire as soon as possible.”

The criminal investigation was concluded a year later with no charges being laid against Gilmore. His suspension was lifted by Burns-Williamson, but he was immediately placed on gardening leave. The effect was, more or less, the same. Gilmore was barred from West Yorkshire Police premises and could have no contact with any of the officers over whom he, notionally, had command. The criminal investigation was replaced by a misconduct probe led by Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques of Lancashire Police. It was codenamed Operation Barium. The terms of reference and cost for that probe are currently the subject of a freedom of information request.

The cost at this point to the taxpayers of West Yorkshire of funding two chief constables was in the region of £200,000. Burns-Williamson sought to deflect criticism by concocting a role with the National Police Chiefs Council (formerly ACPO in all but name) whereby Gilmore was supposed to be occupied by the implementation of an intranet system for the chief officers involved with the Council.

Bradford councillor, Michael Walls, a member of the police scrutiny panel said at the time: “It seems improper that the West Yorkshire taxpayer is funding an officer on a very significant salary, to undertake work benefitting the residents of London”. Which wasn’t quite accurate, but the sentiment was well meant.

Burns-Williamson, meanwhile, was deaf to the criticism and appeared to be clinging grimly on to the hope that Gilmore would be cleared by the Barium probe and he could return to police HQ.

On 9th August 2016, almost 26 months since he was suspended, Gilmore announced he was retiring from the police service and would not be returning to the West Yorkshire force, irrespective of the outcome of Operation Barium.

As ever with Burns-Williamson, there is a troubling deceit about such matters and it now revealed that the report was delivered by Lancashire Police on 26th July, 2016 to the Commissioner’s office. A spokesman says that the PCC plans to publish the report ‘as soon as practicable’, but fails to clarify why that cannot be immediately. It also remains unclear, at present, as to whether Operation Barium’s remit covered Gilmore’s involvement in the highly lucrative PFI building contracts.

The Chair of the police scrutiny panel, Alison Lowe, a close Labour party ally of Burns-Williamson, says he is currently on holiday and that she didn’t expect to be briefed by him until the next panel meeting in September. She didn’t even know that the report had been in Burns-Williamson’s hands for the past two weeks. Which, given my own extensive experience of dealing with Cllr Lowe’s hapless panel, is entirely in character. She added that she felt that Gilmore’s retirement was a “good thing”. But made no mention of the huge burden placed on the taxpayer for the previous 26 months amounting to a sum in excess of £600,000.

The last words, at least until the Barium report is put under the x-ray, goes to Mark Polin, Chair of the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA). He said in May, 2016: “Mark Gilmore remains committed to working alongside the police and crime commissioner to serve the communities of West Yorkshire”.

Mr Polin added “We are disappointed at the length of time the investigation has taken, which follows satisfactory resolution of the Northern Ireland and IPCC investigations, and Mr Gilmore looks forward to this matter being resolved as soon as possible.”

It is understood that CPOSA’s insurers have been underwriting Gilmore’s legal fees in defence of any contemplated actions against him. Mr Polin was not so forthcoming when contacted for comment this week.

 

Page last updated: Sunday 14th August, 2016 at 0855hrs

© 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 credit: Huddersfield Examiner