So I arrested him for something, sergeant.

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

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

Having acted as police complaints advocate for Mr Bradbury, since 2012, it must be said that in all my dealings with him he is found to be charming and affable. Also, no-one I know spends more of his own time helping others. A selfless, generous individual, on any independent view. That said, his case history undoubtedly reveals other classic Yorkshire traits; plain speaking, stubbornness and, unfortunately, for West Yorkshire Police an ability to stick to his guns in the face of hostile enemy fire.

Back in 2003, Mr Bradbury had raised concerns with his local council as regards quality and frequency of services to the tax-paying public by Kirklees. Looking back, how prescient those complaints were, as his local council staggers perenially from crisis to crisis. Not content with the council’s response, he attempted to raise issues in public meetings with both paid and elected officials. Unfortunately, Mr Bradbury’s persistence, and refusal to accept nonsensical answers from public officials, and detriment to his businesses, led, ultimately, to him being banned from all Kirklees Council buildings. Including libraries, wedding venues and sports centres.

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

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

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

Mr Bradbury decided to make a video film compilation that would chart his experiences with both the council and the police and, as such, appeared outside both council and police buildings, with his camera, taking photographs and filming with purpose, and intent, of exposing the police as (he sees it) “thugs”. This, ultimately, resulted in a YouTube channel being created. It is titled ‘West Yorkshire Police Action‘ and can be viewed here.

In its first four weeks after launch, unheralded, WYPA received over 500,000 views. In the twilight of a successful and varied business career, Mr Bradbury had fallen backwards into successful film production outlet. Over 80% of those making comments were supportive of Mr Bradbury, or critical of the appalling conduct of the officers . This video clip has received over one million views alone. The damage to public confidence in the police service is incalculable:

PC Cook was working for WYP at the time of this incident. He transferred to South Yorkshire Police a relatively short time afterwards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was clearly no basis to arrest Mr Bradbury and his arrest and detention were unlawful. As the arrest was unlawful then it is clear that DC Hurd seriously assaulted Mr Bradbury. The errant detective faced no charge, or disciplinary proceedings, in the face of the clearest of evidence.

Sometimes the reasons given to arrest Mr Bradbury changed upon either reflection, or advice, from senior WYP officers.

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

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

Unbeknown to Mr Bradbury, information as to his whereabouts, and activities, had been reported to the WYP Control Room and, in consequence, Detective Constable 4613 Edwards decided to approach Mr Bradbury.

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Bradbury – Am I obliged?

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

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

Mr Bradbury – Laburnum Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Bradbury – Could I ask some questions please?

Custody Sergeant – You certainly can.

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

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

Mr Bradbury – Not

Custody Sergeant – err obviously at the at the at the

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

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

Mr Bradbury – But but I’m not obliged to

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

Mr Bradbury – Sorry that’s not correct.

Custody Sergeant – Okay well you you can agree or disagree

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

Custody Sergeant – with me as you wish

Mr Bradbury – that he mentioned terrorism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 5  Preparation of terrorist acts

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

(a) committing acts of terrorism, or

(b) assisting another to commit such acts,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is exactly what Mr Bradbury chose to do, by bringing civil claims against WYP for the no less than seven occasions he was unlawfully arrested as described above, or in very similar circumstances. Having threatened the police with litigation, Mr Bradbury’s solicitor, Iain Gould of DPP Law in Bootle, persuaded the police to the negotiating table and a sum of £13,500 in damages was secured for Mr Bradbury, plus recovery of his firm’s costs. Iain is one of the leading police complaints lawyers in the country and was also one of the first in the legal profession to report outcomes of cases on his own widely-read website (read here). 

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

*Clarification* West Yorkshire Police have two officers with rank, name of “DC Edwards”. One based in Wakefield, one in Bradford. The latter was invited to provide the given names of both, as was the police force press office, so as to eliminate doubts as to whom the detective interacting with Mr Bradbury actually was. No response was provided from either.*

Page last updated on Wednesday 27th February, 2019 at 1555hrs

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

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

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

‘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’

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