Kerry Perkins -v- West Yorkshire Police

Please Note: An Order under Section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act has been applied to the reporting of this case. A copy has been posted in the court precinct and in the press office. Details of the restriction cannot be published, but may be obtained from the county court office. The Order has been sent to the Legal Department of the National Union of Journalists with a view to a challenge.

This court report is arranged in reverse chronological order. Latest post appears at the top. Daily updates, where possible, will be provided at lunch adjournment and after court rises at the end of each sitting day:

Tuesday 3rd December, 2019

HHJ Neil Davey QC has found in favour of West Yorkshire Police. ‘Both causes of action fail and the claim is dismissed’. He set out his reasons in a detailed judgment handed down orally in open court, taking just under an hour.

For the second time in just over two months, I’ve sat in this same court in Bradford and listened to a judge deliver ‘cherry-picked’ findings that appear to be from a different trial to the one I’ve sat through from start to finish. The other was Dr Abdul Rashid -v- WYP and the full report of that trial can be read here. That judgment is presently the subject of a permission appeal to the High Court. Manifest, and admitted, breaches of policy, procedure and, arguably, the law were all overlooked. Most incredibly, the judge accepted the proposition that the misconduct of PC Perkins (as she was then), which received the minor sanction of a written warning.

So, West Yorkshire Police remain at large, as an organisation, to cut a swathe through more or less any piece of legislation, such as PACE; CPIA; DPA; and FOIA, as they frequently do on the watch of this court reporter. Authorised Professional Practice, Code of Ethics and their own internal policies are, also, often treated with scant regard. That is a formidable, but not exclusive list. It does not serve the public interest at all well if the judiciary see, as part of an unspoken public policy, to not only ‘whitewash’ these failings, but lionise those officers at the very heart of such breaches. There may be the noble intention of ‘maintaining public confidence in the police service’ but all it does is, conversely and perversely, undermine confidence in the civil and criminal justice systems.

The bereaved families and survivors of the Hillsborough Disaster, and at least two of the journalists who attended Preston Crown Court for all or much of the proceedings, in the re-trial of ex-Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, are of much the same mind. Whilst the scale of the Bradford trial involving West Yorkshire Police, and what was in issue, is miniscule in comparison to Hillsborough, the principle is the same: The State protects its own.

No written version of the judgment, either in hard copy or electronic form, was provided to either the police lawyers, Miss Perkins’ legal team or the press. An anachronism that has no place in the present court system and smacks of laziness on the part of a judge, whom, given his fine reputation, really should have done better. Particularly, as hearing this claim is a post-retirement sinecure without the huge caseload that besets sitting circuit judges.

Central to the judge’s findings was the proposition that a ‘major criminal investigation’, involving twenty-one officers, many of senior rank, into Miss Perkins was necessary and proportionate, and that justified the covert surveillance and obtaining over a year’s worth of data from the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system. The suspected offence was claimed to be Misconduct in Public Office, one of the most serious non-violent offences on the statute book with, consequently, a very high evidential threshold. It carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. That proposition, and the evidence heard from the various police witnesses on that topic, notably retired inspector John Rogerson, viewed from the press seats at least, was nothing short of preposterous. The judge failed to note that the concept of the Misconduct in Public Office offence never featured in any of the contemporaneous, substantive, extensive, wide-ranging, police correspondence or notes, or in Rogerson’s witness statement filed and served in January, 2019. The first Miss Perkins’ legal team heard of this allegation was during Rogerson’s live witness evidence last week.

Despite this, one might think, catastrophic flaw and a generally unconvincing witness box performance throughout (he was shaking like a leaf for the last twenty minutes of it), Rogerson was accorded star witness status by the judge. Along with Karen Gayles, a retired superintendent who signed the ANPR authorisation. The latter features elsewhere on this website. The scandal outlined there, and Mrs Gayle’s role in it, lay to waste much of what she expounded from the witness box (read more here) and does not assist her reliability, or credibility. However, emboldened by that evidence she gave in Court 5 at Bradford Law Courts she may now emerge from her shell and renew her pursuit of her former colleague, Mabs Hussain, now an assistant chief constable in Greater Manchester Police, with the same rigour as she applied to Miss Perkins – and assist with establishing the truth of what appears to be a very troubling matter.

Permission to appeal the judgment, submitted orally by Sarah Hemingway on behalf of Miss Perkins, on the grounds that policies and guidance were not followed on surveillance, was refused by the judge. Ms Hemingway represented her client with commendable tenacity and, together with counsel for the police, Olivia Checa-Dover, was warmly commended by the judge for the assistance given to the court throughout the proceedings.

Costs in the sum of £1,000 were awarded against Miss Perkins. West Yorkshire Police had filed a costs budget of around £60,000 with the court. The taxpayer meets the shortfall, on top of the estimated internal costs of £100,000 that the investigation, and all that followed, has cost the police.

Kerry Perkins said after the verdict: “As a medically retired police officer with 16 years service, the judge’s one-sided assessment of the my former colleagues’ live evidence and his interpretation of the applicable law, guidance and policy is seriously troubling. The possibility, and funding, of a permission appeal to the High Court in Leeds is presently under consideration. I will not be making any further statement until that process is exhausted’.

Monday 2nd December, 2019

Court is not sitting today.

Operation Lapmoor has been referred to a number of times in these proceedings, in open court. In response to a freedom of information request made publicly, via the What Do They Know website, in September 2018 (read full correspondence here), West Yorkshire Police, after the usual stalling tactics, said they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of this investigation, relying on exemptions at Sections 30(3), Section 31(3) and Section 40(5) under FOIA.

Disclosure of the following information was sought:

1. Name of Gold Commander, or names of Gold Group.

2. Name of Senior Investigating Officer.

3. Dates upon which they were appointed.

4. Date operational codename requested.

5. Date police operation commenced, concluded.

6. Policy book, or log. Sometimes known as Blue or Gold book.

a. Date of first entry

b. Date of final entry

c. Number of actions

7. Number of officers deployed on the operation.

It is now known that there was no Gold Commander; no nationally accredited Senior Investigating Officer appointed; the investigating officer was acting inspector John Rogerson, a neighbourhood police officer; there was no policy book kept where decision makers recorded their actions and the rationales for them; the investigation appeared to commence in April, 2014 and completed with a successful appeal by Kerry Perkins against a misconduct meeting finding in April 2015; it appears that the number of officers deployed is TWENTY-ONE, the eight who gave live evidence plus Detective Superintendent Simon Bottomley, Superintendent Pat Casserley, Chief Inspector Suzanne Akeroyd, Chief Inspector Jim McNeil, Detective Chief Inspector Elizabeth Belton, Inspector Dave Bugg, Inspector Grant Stead, Inspector Ian Croft, Detective Constable Iain Harper, Reviewing officer Sarah Morris. The latter seven all worked in the Professional Standards Department either at HQ or District. Senior Human Resources officers, Helen Parkinson, Jayne Christopher, Judith Walker all appeared to be closely involved with Sergeant Astill and A/Inspector Rogerson in the investigation. In summary, there were ten senior officers involved and eleven of lesser ranks: four superintendents, three chief inspectors and four inspectors. All ranged against a part-time, female, disabled police constable who was also a single mother with two small children.

Part of the police case in defending this claim is that the Lapmoor investigation, into a fellow officer’s horse riding hobby, and dog walking, both admitted by police to be in her own time, was lawful, necessary and proportionate.

To her credit, the acting chief constable at the time, Dionne Collins, also became personally involved after a heartfelt plea from Miss Perkins. But, to be fair, it cannot be said that the chief was involved in the investigation.

It does not go to the evidence, or the determination of the Kerry Perkins claim by the judge, but one might argue that WYP hid behind three FOIA exemptions and a misconceived public interest test to conceal from view yet another of their investigations that didn’t even meet the basic tenets of approved professional practice. Another recent and glaring example was Operation Thatcham (read more here).

Conversely and perversely, a freedom of information request seeking almost exactly the same information was answered in its entirety (read more here).

Again, it does not go to the evidence in this claim, and the incidents occured well after the material times in the claim, but John Rogerson’s brother, David, who works in the same police staion at Havertop, near Normanton, featured in this widely shared scandal (the YouTube clip has received approaching 1 million views). Many officers at Normanton refused to identify David Rogerson, including his brother and a number of PSD officers, prior to an information being laid at Kirklees Magistrates Court for an alleged assault on a member of the public in the police station precincts in full view of the CCTV cameras. The district judge issued a warrant against Rogerson, he was summonsed and a trial date was fixed. The Crown Prosecution Service, under relentless pressure from both the Police Federation and PSD, took over the case two days before the trial and discontinued it on public interest grounds. The private posecution had met the evidential part of the Full Code Test. The full story can be read here.

Friday 29th November, 2019

Having heard all the evidence in the claim, the last live testimony having concluded on Thursday aftenoon, closing submissions were heard by the judge, HHJ Davey QC, from counsel for both parties. Sarah Hemingway representing the Claimant, Kerry Perkins, and Olivia Checa-Dover appeared for the Defendant, West Yorkshire Police. Judgment will be handed down in open court next week.

During the evidence, HHJ Davey will have formed his own view on the credibility of witnesses and the reliability of the facts as presented on behalf of Miss Perkins and the police. Eight serving or retired officers gave evidence for the Defendent and one retired police officer, who was also a Police Federation representative, gave evidence for the Claimant.

Ms Hemingway submits that it remains a fundamental right in this country to go about one’s business free from state surveillance, unless such action can be lawfully justified. Furthermore, one’s personal data must not be unlawfully processed and private information must not be misused. Safeguards protecting such principles must be effective in any democratic society.

The court is being asked to make findings on two issues in this case: (i) whether there has been a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 in relation to a police investigation into the private life of Miss Perkins, a part-time police officer, following a horse-riding accident in September 2013; and (ii) whether the police misused her private information.

It is noteworthy, submits Ms Hemingway that it has not, at any time, throughout the investigation into her hobby, or since, been asserted by the police that Miss Perkins was horse riding when she should have been at work. This is an activity that was always done in her own time outside of agreed working hours.

It should be noted that further evidence as to the extent of the police investigation into Kerry Perkins has only come to light at trial this week. Firstly, she was not aware that retired inspector, John Rogerson (who gave evidence on Tuesday and Wednesday), had attended at her children’s school, or telephoned the school, to make enquiries about her children. This was understandably upsetting for the Claimant, given her valid concerns about the impact of this investigation on her children. Secondly, the subject matter of the Public Interest Immunity evidence given by two surveillance officers had a considerable impact on her, given that she thought that the police had been absolutely clear, following an number of data requests and conduct complaints, that there had been no other forms of surveillance done on her. Thirdly, the lead surveillance officer’s evidence (heard on Wednesday) that he had entered onto the private land behind her home, in the early hours of 10 June 2014 and in order to identify her vehicles, while she and her two young children were sleeping in the house, without any lawful authority to do so, has caused further upset.

This case, Ms Hemingway went on to say, appears to be ‘exceptional’ in that no officer giving evidence this week has been able to say with any real certainty that they know of any more than one other misconduct investigation that has involved such methods of surveillance on a serving police officer. James Carter (who gave evidence on Wednesday) of the force’s Central Authorities Bureau went so far as to say that there may have been one case every 4 – 5 years, revised to 3 – 4 years, but was unable to give any specifics. The consequence, therefore, of any finding in favour of the Claimant is unlikely to extend beyond the specific facts of this case, given its highly unusual features.

The police have a duty to maintain an efficient and effective police force, consequent to sections 39 and 39A of the Police Act 1996. Ms Hemingway submitted that suspected breaches of the Code of Ethics must be dealt with by way of an investigation, but only to the extent that any formal investigation is lawful and necessary for a legitimate purpose and is not excessive. The investigation in this case was initiated (by Rogerson) due to concerns that Miss Perkins was suspected of horse riding and driving more than she professed to be able to. In relation to horse riding, Miss Perkins never sought to hide the fact that she had got back in the saddle after her accident and rode, occasionally, in her spare time when she felt up to it. She had posted pictures about it on Facebook (a social media wesite), with some of her Facebook friends, quite naturally, being police colleagues. She stabled her horses at the same place as her friend Inspector Lynne Proctor. And when approached by a local community support officer, Ken Short, she openly told him that she was out on her horse. A statement about this was, eventually, taken from PSCO Short in October 2014. 11. Had Miss Perkins been asked by Sgt Astill (now inspector), Detective Sergeant Bainbridge (now chief inspector), Rogerson, or any other officer, she would have told them that she rode her horse. Yet, each police officer, when cross-examined, admitted they had not sought to take make that obvious, and reasonable, enquiry. Indeed, Ms Hemingway recalls, Rogerson contended in his evidence that he would not have even contemplated doing so, as he ‘would have needed to gather as much information as possible as part of the investigation in order to put all the evidence to Miss Perkins and ask questions under caution’. Other witnesses, including Mr Carter, and retired superintendents Simon Whitehead (who gave evidence on Wednesday) and Karen Gayles (who gave evidence on Thursday), operated on the assumption that she must have been asked, but had not given an answer.

It was further submitted by Ms Hemingway, the police’s own Occupational Health Unit provided a medical opinion (by Dr Williams, Force Medical Advisor) that, “When her symptoms allow, there is no medical reason to debar her from pursuing this activity” and went on to advise “In periods when Kerry is subject to a flare-up of back symptoms I anticipate that horse riding would not be advised, nor indeed possible in the event of a flare-up being severe”. However, that simple request for OHU advice was not made by Rogerson until at least five months after the investigation began. Counsel added to this point by saying that, had these simple initial steps been taken at the outset, it would have negated any reason to conduct an investigation for the purpose of establishing whether Ms Perkins was horse riding, where she kept her horses or whether a back injury would necessarily preclude her from horse riding. Miss Perkins accepts, had those enquiries been made and she had refused to answer, then that would, of course, have been a different matter. But it is submitted that the police cannot reasonably justify such an exceptional Professional Standards Department misconduct investigation, as did take place, in the absence of such attempts to obtain information in a less intrusive manner. In relation to driving, Ms Perkins maintains that she had always explained when questioned that she had good days and bad days as a result of flare-ups of her back condition and that made it difficult for her to commit to commuting to Castleford on every duty day. She explained that she could drive on a longer journey if having a good day but would be limited if having a bad day, which she was unable to predict. Ms Perkins disputes that she ever said that she could not drive any distance, which is how it was presented to other officers involved in the investigation by Mr Rogerson. It is submitted that the UPP process was the most appropriate way to deal with any concerns that the police had about Ms Perkins’ return to her regular part time operational role at Castleford. Nonetheless, even if it was necessary to conduct any formal investigation into her driving abilities, any such investigation, which may well have involved checks on the PNC for DVLA and MID information and reference to ANPR must have been conducted in compliance with the DPA and common law. It is submitted that there were significant contraventions in this case.

Such checks about car details and insurance details were done on both vehicles belonging to Miss Perkins as part of the Rogerson investigation, providing basic data required for Operation Lapmoor (under the Covert Activity Policy) and the ANPR data trawl and analysis.

Ms Hemingway says the answers to the three specific questions is, therefore, contingent upon the learned Judge’s finding in relation to the ANPR and surveillance issues.

(1). In respect of ANPR was processing done lawfully? The written authority was not clear and did not in fact, lawfully, authorise the ANPR data collection, unless the court accepts the evidence of John Rogerson that he was conducting a major investigation into Misconduct in Public Office (which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment). Mrs Gayles’ evidence was that such a major investigation was never mentioned by Rogerson during the briefing and, given that such a purpose was not mentioned in his witness statement or in any other relevant documentation, it is submitted that it is unlikely that was the stated purpose of the application. The fact that PSD felt urged to make enquiries as to whether ANPR searching can be used in a misconduct investigation indicates that the law was not clear. Moreover, the answer to that question was ‘There is no definitive answer which states ‘yes’ or ‘no’ specifically in relation to using recorded ANPR data in a misconduct investigation’. The local WYP policy provides that ANPR can be used in the investigation of crime. It does not refer to investigations into alleged breaches of the code of ethics, or any non-crime related investigations. The Home Office National ANPR Standards states access to data must be solely law enforcement and investigation purposes. Such investigations to fall within three main categories: Major investigations, serious investigations, priority and volume investigations. Mrs Gayles stated that she considered this case to fall within that third category, which includes ‘non-crime issues such as anti-social behavior, vehicle excise offences, road traffic offences and missing persons’. That document does, however, make reference to investigations into alleged breach of the Code of Ethics. It is the only place in the document, or any other relevant policy, that does so and it is unclear how that fits with the three main categories set out above. Nor does it specify the age of the data to be mined as a result of the authority. The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice covers ANPR data. It is submitted that, contrary to Guiding Principles, the rules were not sufficiently clear on who can gain access and for what purpose, when the national standards were considered in conjunction with the local policy and the applicable authorisation form.

(2) Was the processing of data done for a legitimate aim? John Rogerson stated (repeatedly) that the aim of obtaining the ANPR data was in order in investigate Miss Perkins for a major crime, namely Misconduct in Public Office. That was the box that was ticked on the relevant form and, he says, that was the thrust of the briefing he gave to Mrs Gayles, the authorising officer. Mrs Gayles refutes that a major investigation into Misconduct in Public Office was ever discussed in the briefing. Instead, she proceeded on the basis that the investigation was in order to establish whether there had been discreditable conduct/dishonesty on the part of Miss Perkins. However, she accepted undr cross examination that the authorisation form does not reflect that purpose.

(3) Was processing of the data done adequately, relevantly, not excessively? Even if the police can properly rely on the investigation into alleged breaches of Code of Ethics, there is no indication as to how much data (for example, age of data) can be accessed – that box in the table on the (wrong, out of date) form used by Mrs Gayles was left blank. She stated that as authorising officer it would be open to her to determine the age of data to be collected and she would ensure that the scope of the request was proportionate. She authorized the amount of time requested by Rogerson, that is to say, more than one year. It is submitted that, in the circumstances of this case, it was not proportionate to harvest over a years’ worth of data, in any event, but certainly not dating back to a date prior to the injury that occurred on 1st September, 2013. Principle 3 of the Data Protection Act, which is addressed specifically in the WYP local policy on data protection, advises ‘When police computers are designed, consideration is given to information to be held and any forms to be used in collecting it. So long as you stick to information the computer is designed to hold, it would be difficult to argue it is excessive or not relevant’. It is submitted that the relevant form in this instance did not provide for ANPR data collection of over one year in relation to misconduct investigations because it was not considered in developing the local policy and as such the authorisation was not relevant to the data that was collected. It is further submitted that the data, once collected, was then improperly disclosed as part of a misconduct interview on 6th November. 2014.

OPERATION LAPMOOR/ CAP ‘Reconnaissance’ by Rogerson on 29th April, 2014. Whilst  Rogerson initially stated that he had ‘driven past PC Perkins’ home address’, when questioned it became clear that he had parked outside Ms Perkins’ home to observe for a unspecified amount of time, he had then driven to her children’s school (though could not recall whether he attended the school to make enquiries about her children or had telephoned the school), and he had also driven around the area in an attempt to locate the riding stables. It is submitted that enquiries made at the school were unlawful as it constituted collateral intrusion upon the private lives of her young children.

Surveillance on 10th June 2014:

(1) Was processing done lawfully? Ms Hemingway submits that, in this case, the CAP did not indicate with sufficient clarity the scope and manner of exercise of the discretion conferred on the police to conduct surveillance and to store data pertaining to Miss Perkins’ private life. According to Mr Carter’s evidence, the CAP has since been amended, by the police, in order to make it clear. It is submitted that Mr Whitehead did not understand the policy, in particular the distinction that has been made by the police in that Directed Surveillance should come under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) regime. This is not clear in the CAP policy and he, unwittingly, made an authorisation under the CAP for ‘Directed Surveillance’. It is submitted on behalf of the Claimant that the domestic legal framework, outside the RIPA framework, falls back on to the DPA 1998. In the specific circumstances of this case, it was entirely unclear in reference to the policy under what circumstances the police could resort to such covert measures, which do on the face of it appear to engage Directed Surveillance. The CAP is neither legally binding, nor directly publicly accessible. It, therefore, follows that the interference in this case was not in accordance with the law and thus an Article 8 violation. In such circumstances, it also follows that the interference was in breach of the DPA principle of being in accordance with the law. Furthermore, it is submitted that the process of applying for authorisation under the CAP was not even done in compliance with the force’s own procedures. Mr Carter’s evidence was that PSD investigations under CAP are ‘Level 2’, along with major investigations. Such a level of authorisation would require an Authorising Officer to make the decision as to whether to grant authority on an objective basis in a quasi-judicial capacity. However, in this case, for reasons specific to this case, it was decided that District Superintendent Whitehead would authorise the CAP.

(2) Was processing done for a legitimate aim? The ostensible aim of the police, in conducting the Lapmoor operation, was in pursuant to the duty to maintain an effective and efficient police force, which is of course a legitimate aim. Steps taken in that regard, such as the Unsatisfactory Performance Process (UPP), would, no doubt, be justifiable under that stated aim. However, there is evidence in this case that the purpose in setting up Operation Lapmoor went beyond that legitimate aim. The purpose in this case was set out to some extent in the email from Detective Inspector Grant Stead (who did not give evidence) to Stuart Bainbridge (who gave evidence on Wednesday), dated 4th October, 2014. It was suggested that it would be an ideal opportunity for observation training to be utilised, for a successful operation to be used as an example to how to get the message across to the wider force, and to illustrate how PSD assist District with such matters. Such objectives fall outside of the ‘legitimate’ aim and illustrate that the investigation was not motivated solely by a desire to address the specific issues arising in Miss Perkin’s case.

(3) Was processing done adequately, relevantly, not excessively? In any event, Ms Hemingway submits that the nature of the covert surveillance operation was disproportionate in the circumstances. In emails sent to and from John Rogerson on 10/6/14 and 12/6/14 respectively [E:21-22], it is clear that a little research on open source material / google search was sufficient to find the information sought and rendered operation Lapmoor unnecessary. Such a reasonable step to ‘investigate’ such a matter was not done. Such information had been available on open sources, yet instead a decision had been made to obtain a broad ranging authorisation for covert surveillance, involving not insignificant policing hours (including the time it would have taken otherwise busy police staff and a senior officer to consider and draft the appropriate paper work, plan the operation, allocate the resources as well as over 9 hours of police hours in conducting the surveillance on 10/6/14). 42. On any reasonable analysis, it is submitted that such a step was disproportionate and excessive in the circumstances. Information obtained from friends and associates 43. Speaking with friends/ associates at the riding club constituted an interference with Ms Perkins’ Article 8 rights private life. Such steps were excessive and unnecessary given that such information could have been obtained from the outset by simply asking Ms Perkins. Information regarding Ms Perkin’s health and disability 44. This information constituted sensitive personal information under the DPA 1998 and as such had to comply with at least one of the conditions in schedule 3. It is accepted that information relating to Ms Perkins’ health and disability were required in order to make an assessment and assist her back to work, part of which would have included providing a suitable workspace (lumbar support chair and riser desk), albeit that took over a year to source. 45. It is contended that the police were not entitled to medical records from the GP in order to make an assessment in relation to a misconduct investigation. Rather, the reports from OHU and the report from the GP received on 10/11/14, attaching the MRI scan report, was sufficient for the purposes of the misconduct proceedings. 46. Such information in relation to Ms Perkin’s condition however was distributed to an excessive amount of personnel within the police force, in particular during the course of the CAP application. If the learned Judge finds that Operation Lapmoor was unnecessary and / or disproportionate in the circumstances, then it follows that the information relating to Ms Perkins’ health and disability that was distributed by way of emails and reports for the purposes of the investigation was equally unnecessary and disproportionate. What is the extent of the private information obtained and was it misused? 47. Ms Perkins accepts that the information she posted on her facebook page and the information about her competing at a horse-riding event on 22/2/14 do not constitute private information.

MISUSE OF PRIVATE INFORMATION In relation to the questions the judge needs to answer regarding misuse of private information, Ms Hemingway submits that they are: 1) Whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy? 2) If yes, how should the balance be struck between rights of Miss Perkins and duties of the police? In answering this second question, the judge was invited to take into account the following factors: a) Attributes of Miss Perkins b) Nature of activity c) Place it was happening d) Nature and purpose of intrusion e) Absence of consent f) Effect on Miss Perkins g) Circumstances in which, and purpose for which. info came into hands of the police h) Public interest. The judge was invited to apply the latter test to all categories in the schedule, as agreed between both counsel. In this case, Miss Perkins was horse-riding in her own time, a leisure and sporting activity which can gives rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, as in the cited authority of Hannover v Germany, wherein Princess Caroline of Monaco brought a claim against the German media that had published photographs of her engaging in leisure activities. On the occasions that Miss Perkins did ride, it was mainly on private farm land near her home. It is accepted that there is no reasonable expectation of activities relating to public events that are likely to be reported in different forms of media. That concluded Ms Hemingway’s submissions

Miss Checa-Dover, on behalf of the police, summarises her client’s position to the effect that the investigation into Miss Perkins was lawful, compliant with the Data Protection Act, 1998 and her reasonable expectation of a right to privacy. The chief constable, through her, also contends that the Claimant’s data was processed lawfully and that the misconduct investigation, into alleged breaches of the Code of Ethics, was lawful, necessary and proportionate in order to maintain public confidence in an efficient and effective police service.

The reader is reminded again that the burden of proof in this claim is for the police to prove the lawfulness and proportionately of their actions.

Thursday 28th November, 2019

First witness was retired sergeant, James Carter, who now works as a civilian in the force’s Central Authorities Bureau. His evidence, under cross-examination by Sarah Hemingway, counsel for Miss Perkins, covered complex and, sometimes, conflicting and confusing areas of law and policy, relating to investigatory powers, directed surveillance and covert policing activity. The court heard that Mr Carter had worked in the Bureau for around 10 years, reporting to an officer called Lynton Patz who manages the bureau, and that he was able to assist with the classification of the seriousness of surveillance between Level 1 (lesser crime) and Level 2 (serious crime and Professional Standards investigations) and the difference between ‘directed surveillance’ and ‘surveillance’, in a policing context, and how both were balanced against data protection and Article 8 Convention rights that lie at the heart of this case. Mr Carter told the court that he had actually filled in the Covert Activity Policy application form relating to the surveillance on Kerry Perkins, the Claimant in this case. The applicant was Inspector John Rogerson from whom the court heard quite extraordinary evidence on Tuesday and Wednesday. He had given Mr Carter a verbal briefing and there were no records of notes or documents that supported the application, the court heard. Mr Patz had reviewed the application form and approved it. Ms Hemingway asked Mr Carter why no written application was made by Rogerson, he stated he was ‘not sure that a written memo, in form of email, wasn’t received from him’. No such document has been disclosed to the Defendant’s legal team. The court also heard that this CAP authorisation is one of only two Mr Carter has dealt with against a police officer in his ten years in the Bureau, whom, to his knowledge of the activities of all the other members of his team, dealt with them once every four or five years. He agreed with Ms Hemingway that such action was ‘exceptional’. It also emerged in evidence that he couldn’t recall a discussion with Rogerson regarding enquiries being made directly of PC Perkins (as she was then) regarding her horse riding. He did recall, however, being told she was ‘unco-operative’ over her medical condition. His own policy, as an experienced police officer and Bureau official, he told Ms Hemingway, was to look for less intrusive means of obtaining data, evidence before authorising a CAP.

Next in the witness box was retired superintendent Karen Gayles, who features prominently elsewhere on this website (read more here). In the light of her evidence to the court that article now assumes higher relevance. The court heard that Mrs Gayles was the officer who authorised Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) surveillance on PC Perkins and the harvesting and processing of data from that computerised system for at least 12 months across three counties. Under cross-examination it emerged that Mrs Gayles had relied only on a verbal briefing from an officer whom had plainly, on his own evidence heard in this court earlier in the week, become obsessed by criminalising Miss Perkins; used the wrong form for the authorisation; did not accept that such use made the authorisation unlawful; ticked the box for ‘major criminal investigation’ despite maintaining repeatedly it was ‘a misconduct matter’; at first relied on the premise that the justification for the surveillance was volume or urgent crime, later resiled to alleged breach of Code of Ethics (misconduct by another name); this was the only authorisation she ever made for ‘misconduct’ in her career; authorised at least 12 months of surveillance and would have been prepared to authorise it for 5 or 6 years as a means of ‘being fair to Kerry’; did not know that the vehicles to be surveilled were insured for multiple drivers and, therefore, the objective of the surveillance could not possibly be achieved; did not ask if less intrusive means of surveillance were available; claimed reasonable adjustments had been made for PC Perkins regarding her disability; did not retain her day book as she was required to do under force policy; could not recall if there was an entry in that day book relating to the authorisation; made no notes or minutes of the briefing with Rogerson; did not accept that there were no safeguarding processes in place to check the validity of her actions (or inactions); asserted that her motivation for a ‘robust’ approach to the authorisation, and the proving of misconduct, or otherwise, was ‘austerity’; wrongly claimed that PC Perkins was earning £25,000 per annum. Throughout the cross-examination, Mrs Gayles forcefully repeated that the authorisation was ‘necessary and proportionate’, was lawful and complied with policy.

The last witness to give evidence in this claim was the second surveillance officer known to have attended at Miss Perkins’ home on 10th June, 2014. He cannot be named, for legal reasons, and is referred to here as Detective Y. Most of his evidence was heard in camera; the only question raised in public session was whether he knew of a third vehicle that may have attended at her home on that morning. He said he ‘couldn’t remember’.

Testimony from the three West Yorkshire Police witnesses today completed the evidence in this trial and the case for the defence.

It does not go to the determination of the issues in this trial, but of far wider public concern and a troubling feature, almost throughout this hearing, has been what appears, at close quarters, to be the general conduct and selective memory of serving and retired officers giving witness box evidence, on oath. This particularly applies to the two surveillance officers: Why would a police force continue to deploy specialist, expensively trained officers where core competencies have to be obeying lawful orders; good, clear recollection of events; and accurate recording and/or note taking.

It was revealed in court that Detective Y had received a ‘de-brief’ from Detective X about the latter’s evidence (given on Wednesday afternoon) before the former appeared in the witness box (on Thursday afternoon). At the time of the briefing, Detective Y said he did not know he was to give live evidence, although he had filed a witness statement and was on the original list of those officers expected to appear at the hearing.

Wednesday 27th November, 2019

Proceedings resumed at 10.45am with retired detective inspector John Rogerson continuing his evidence after a dramatic afternoon in the witness box yesterday afternoon.

He was questioned by counsel for the Claimant, Sarah Hemingway, on a number of matters relating to his characterisation of the alleged misconduct Kerry Perkins as ‘a major criminal investigation’. He confirmed that he had told the authorising officer, Superintendent Karen Gayles, of his view on the scale and type of the operation, but such an assertion did not appear anywhere in his witness statement. When it was put to him, he denied that he had ‘shoehorned’ this into his evidence yesterday to fit the contemporaneous documentation. He had no answer to the point that a major criminal investigation, according to national policing policy, would require a nationally recognised and PIP Level 3 accredited Senior Investigating Officer (read more here). The judge, HHJ Neil Davey QC, crystallised this point: WYP’s Professional Standards Department had assessed the matter as misconduct, Mr Rogerson thought they (PSD) had got that wrong and it was a major criminal investigation.

He also confirmed to the court that he had no experience, or knowledge, of the ACPO Code of Practice in relation to accessing the Police National Computer for information extracted from the DVLA or the Motor Insurance Database. Or, indeed, had he ever seen West Yorkshire Police’s own policy document relating to this issue. His strong view was that all his actions relating to the covert surveillance of a junior colleague on his team, including the harvesting, storage and processing of ANPR data across three counties and for over a year, were necessary, proportionate and fell within the ambit of a proper policing purpose. Even though it is an agreed fact in that case that the subject vehicles were insured for multiple drivers.

John Rogerson signed off his evidence by asserting, with some force, when questioned by counsel, that an intrusive and far-reaching investigation into their mother, a serving police officer, over whether, or not, she was driving a horsebox or walking her dog, that he classified as a major criminal investigation, would have impact on two young children or breach their Article 8 Human Rights: “I didn’t see that then, and I don’t see it now. Why would an investigation into a parent have an impact on children?”

Evidence was then heard from Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Bainbridge. It was drawn out in cross-examination by Ms Hemingway that a written assurance given by Inspector Grant Stead to Kerry Perkins turned out to be untrue. It concerned a request regarding his independence and impartiality in connection with an investigation into complaints raised by Miss Perkins. Stead assured her that he had no previous involvement in any misconduct matters pertaining to her. He was, it was heard, the PSD officer who managed the covert surveillance on her and communicated with Mr Bainbridge, his immediate subordinate, by email, on this particular point.

The court also heard that Mr Stead had told the surveillance team headed by Mr Bainbridge that there was to be no mobile surveillance. That instruction, the court heard, was ignored and the two operatives under Bainbridge’s command carried out mobile surveillance, for which one of the two operatives, who will be referred to in these reports as Detective Y, was even not trained. The objective was to find the location of the stables where Miss Perkins kept her horse. When asked by Ms Hemingway if the officers investigating her, Sergeant Astill (as he was then) and Inspector Rogerson (from both of whom the court has already heard) could simply have asked her where the stables were, rather than an expensive, resource intensive policing operation, he said: ‘Possibly, yes’. The court heard that the information the police required regarding the stables was obtained by a Google search undertaken shortly after the initial surveillance activity, which was, the court heard, carried out at the wrong time of day and when Miss Perkins was on police duty.  Mr Bainbridge maintained that the surveillance operation against her was necessary and proportionate. He said that Inspector Rogerson, an experienced Professional Standards detective sergeant before he was promoted to neighbourhood inspector, had tried different ways to obtain the information and failed. He did not elaborate on that but it was heard that they did not include asking Miss Perkins, or an internet search. Mr Bainbridge told counsel that he didn’t ask his former PSD colleague where the riding stables information came from when the authority to carry out surveillance was cancelled by a superior officer. The court heard that Mr Bainbridge made no notes pertaining to this surveillance  in his pocket note book, as he is required to do under Police Regulations.

The next witness cannot be named for legal reasons. He is referred to here as Detective X. Part of his evidence was heard in camera. The report on his evidence will be necessarily brief to avoid the possibility of jigsaw identification. Detective X couldn’t explain to Ms Hemingway, when questioned, why mobile surveillance was carried out against specific written orders from Inspector Stead, or why he went at the opposite end of the day to that discussed between senior officers and recommended by Inspector Rogerson. He also couldn’t explain why his surveillance partner was deployed although not trained for what he was asked to do and no notes of the operation were made in his pocket book. He told the court that he did not know that he had been deployed on private land, in a location identified by Inspector Rogerson, for which he did not have authority. He did agree with counsel when asked about the requirement to assess the necessity and proportionality of what he was doing but could not answer when asked about the experience and training of his fellow operative, DC West.

The last witness of the day was retired chief superintendent, Simon Whitehead. The court heard that he was the senior officer who had authorised the Covert Activity Policy (CAP). His career had included a spell in PSD as a chief inspector. When asked by Ms Hemingway if he took CAP authorisations seriously he said, ‘Yes’, but then said he had made no notes of the process in his day book, as required and he had received only a verbal briefing from Inspector Rogerson, whom, the court heard, did not produce a single document in support of his request for authority and, similarly, had no written record of the meeting. Mr Whitehead’s understanding of the central issue was that Miss Perkins couldn’t perform operational policing duties but was horseriding as a hobby. Alleged dishonesty was never raised as an issue with him by Rogerson. However, he described the horseriding as ‘significant allegations (sic)’ that could ‘adversely affect the reputation of West Yorkshire Police’. He told the court that he had considered an authority under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) but it was not a criminal investigation, a point clarified by the judge. He also said that he had performed the balancing act over Article 8 rights and proportionate action and the scales came down on the side of intrusive surveillance. This was shortly after he told the court that he would have expected Sergeant Astill to have asked PC Perkins where her stables were. He had not checked that was the case before signing off the CAP authority. Mr Whitehead could not assist with the question of whether CAP was a policy that applied across the wider police service and he wasn’t familiar with the statutory framework. In answer to Ms Whitehead, he told the court that he didn’t recognise the West Yorkshire Police Data Protection policy to which he had been directed in the bundle. He agreed that unlawful processing of data would reflect badly on West Yorkshire Police and harm their reputation.

Tuesday 26th November, 2019

Proceedings under way at 11.20am. The judge allocated a later start than usual to allow counsel from both parties to continue discussions, carried over from yesterday afternoon, aimed at crystallising the status of the data and information still under consideration in this trial. It is worth repeating that this is a ‘liability only’ trial.

On a point of housekeeping, permission was granted by the court for Matthew Stringer, a witness on behalf of the Claimant, Miss Perkins, to rely on his second witness statement, filed at the beginning of November, 2019. His first witness statement was dated 14th December, 2018.

A retired South Yorkshire Police constable, and former Police Federation representative, Mr Stringer is the first witness to give live testimony in this case. Much of his evidence had fallen away as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) is no longer in issue in this claim. With regard to the alleged helicopter surveillance, denied by the police, that had troubled Miss Perkins so much, he advanced the view that ‘there was no smoke without fire’. Reference was made by Mr Stringer to known misuse of police aircraft by his SYP colleagues and the judge clarified that he was alluding to the infamous case of flying over people sunbathing in their back garden. Counsel for the Defendant characterised that part of his evidence as reckless and made without access to the full facts. Mr Stringer, in response said his evidence was given with an honest perspective. He also told the court that he had never come across covert surveillance of a fellow officer in all his years as a Fed rep.

That completed the case for the Claimant. The court having adopted her witness statement as her evidence in chief and there being no cross-examination required by the police.

The Defendant opened its case with evidence from a serving West Yorkshire Police inspector, Mike Astill, who was the first witness for the Defendant. He was a sergeant working in the Castleford neighbourhood policing team at the time Kerry Perkins suffered her back injury in February, 2013. He confirmed that she had an unblemished police career. Under questioning from her counsel, it emerged that Mr Astill was her line manager, and one of the driving forces behind disciplinary measures that were instituted whilst she was still under the care of both her own doctor and the police force’s occupational health unit. He agreed with counsel that reasonable adjustments for Miss Perkins’ injury, such as a lumbar support chair and a riser desk were not made for over a year. Asked about an email he had sent to colleagues that opened with ‘Kerry is a problem child and top of my hit list’, he denied that was a signal of his intention to make life difficult for Miss Perkins and remove her from his team. When questioned about why he chose to deliver a formal disciplinary notice at 9.30pm to Miss Perkins’ home, where she lived alone with two young children, he couldn’t explain why he chose that hour to complete the task. Mr Astill also said that ‘it was not his finest hour’ when he wrote derogatory comments about Miss Perkins in an email sent to Chief Inspector McNeill. It also emerged in cross-examination that the core allegation that led to those disciplinary proceedings was the fact that she could ride a horse, but not commute to the police station near Castleford, from her home in South Elmsall, on a daily basis. A secondary allegation was that she had been seen walking her dog. Mr Astill could not explain why that process commenced when it ran counter to the findings of two doctors, one of whom was employed by the police.

The second police witness was retired detective inspector, John Rogerson. He was the neighbourhood inspector at Castleford at the time the dispute arose with Miss Perkins and, it soon became evident, the other driving force behind the proceedings being taken against her and the covert, but seriously intrusive, surveillance that formed part of those actions. Under careful and forensic questioning from Sarah Hemingway, it emerged that Mr Rogerson, absent of the medical facts and none too careful about how he went about it, became obsessive about proving that there was serious wrongdoing attached to the horse riding hobby of one of his junior officers, given that, although on duty, her injury meant she was unable to commit to a significant daily journey to a station remote from her home. He variously claimed that it could amount to gross misconduct, potentially leading to dismissal from the force, or the criminal offence of misconduct in public office that carries a maximum prison sentence of life imprisonment. Conversely, it emerged that a Professional Standards Department reviewing officer questioned whether, in fact the horseriding was an issue at all, but Mr Rogerson ploughed on regardless. When seeking formal authorisation from a senior officer for covert surveillance he ticked the box marked ‘Major Investigation’, normally reserved for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, infanticide, terrorist activities, kidnapping. Asked by counsel if he maintained that position in the case of Miss Perkins, her back injury and horse riding, Mr Rogerson confirmed that he did. The surveillance that was authorised at his request is now known, from the evidence, to include checks on the school of Miss Perkins’ children; undercover officers stationed at the rear of her house; contact with neighbours and riding school colleagues; aerial photographs of her home; monitoring of her social media accounts and ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) across three counties without time limit. He maintained all this was necessary to ‘build up a picture of her lifestyle’ and was necessary and proportionate to aid the disciplinary proceedings. Mr Rogerson flatly rejected the question by Ms Hemingway that there were much easier ways to obtain the information he was seeking, almost all of via open source.

The court adjourned at 4.50pm with Mr Rogerson’s evidence part heard.

Monday 25th November, 2019

The trial opened today in Bradford Combined Court Centre to decide a civil claim brought by a retired police officer against her former employers, West Yorkshire Police. It is expected to take up seven court sitting days with judgment scheduled to be handed down on Tuesday 3rd December, 2019.

The Claimant, Kerry Perkins, who lives in the Pontefract area and served 16 years with her local force as a police constable, before retiring on medical grounds, claims that the Defendants seriously breached her data protection and privacy rights. The police are resisting the claim.

Miss Perkins is represented in court by Sarah Hemingway of counsel, instructed by John Hagan of DPP Law. WYP are represented by Olivia Checa-Dover of counsel, instructed by Prue Crossland of the force’s Legal Services Department.

The claim will be heard by HHJ Neil Davey QC, who has returned to judicial duty having retired in June, 2019 from full time service on the bench.

In the first instance, this is a trial of breach only. The Claimant seeks damages from the Defendant for personal injury, but matters of causation and quantum will be dealt with seperately, if the judge finds in favour of Miss Perkins on liability.

The claim arises out of an investigation conducted by the police into the private life of Miss Perkins after it came to light that she had resumed horse riding, despite the fact that she was on restricted duties at work as a result of a back injury.

As part of that investigation, West Yorkshire Police collected information about Miss Perkins from various sources, including DVLA and Motor Insurance Database, from the Police National Computer (PNC), social media and by directly contacting her friends and associates at various riding stables and clubs.

The police also authorised Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) analysis and a Covert Activity Policy (CAP), in order to assess whether she was falsely claiming that she was injured, or unfit for routine policing duties as an operational officer. It was considered by senior officers in the Professional Standards Department that proof of such alleged deceit may amount to discreditable conduct.

In the light of some of the information obtained by the police, misconduct proceedings were initiated and Miss Perkins was eventually issued with a written warning. A minor sanction that decays after 18 months, if there are no other misconduct findings during that period.

Miss Perkins has always maintained that horse riding was not inconsistent with her inability to return to regular duties. This belief was supported by both the Force Medical Advisor and her own doctor.

Miss Perkins disputes the purpose, proportionality and lawfulness, of the methods used by her colleagues to investigate her private life and, thereafter, retain and process her personal data. She initially believed that, as part of the internal investigation, she had been surveilled by police helicopter, and by undercover officers in cars that she had noticed, in suspicious circumstances, near the stables and in other locations close to her home.

The police vehemently deny the use of covert surveillance, admitting only a single episode, on 10th June 2014, and they have produced a number of officer statements to support this position. In light of that, and following the completion of the pre-trial disclosure process, Miss Perkins has withdrawn those elements of her claim, whilst maintaining that she did genuinely believe that such covert activities had taken place and for which she kept detailed event logs with a large number of entries on each.

Eight witnesses, including some very senior serving and retired officers, are due to give live evidence on behalf of the force. The total legal costs of both sides are expected to be in the order of £150,000.

In the course of a brief court day, the court heard submissions from counsel on three preliminary issues:

Permission to amend particulars by the Claimant’s, concerning sensitive personal information pertaining to Miss Perkins, openly accessible on police computer systems, was refused on the ground that the proposed amendment came too late for the police to properly address the issues raised.

Counsel for the police submits that there are concerns over the two witness statements of Matthew Stringer, a former Police Federation representative, who will give evidence on behalf of Miss Perkins: It is now agreed that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act does not apply to this claim and, as such, there are ‘unhelpful, irrelevant, inadmissible paragraphs’ in Mr Stringer’s evidence. HHJ Davey took the view that the statements should remain in the bundle and the matters raised by Miss Checa-Dover could be dealt with by way of cross-examination or in closing submissions.

During discussions prior to the commencement of the hearing, counsel for both parties were able to narrow the factual disputes in the claim. It is now agreed that Facebook data obtained from the social media account of Miss Perkins, during the internal investigation, did not constitute a privacy breach.

Counsel for the police told the court that, as such, Miss Perkins may no longer have to give live evidence in these proceedings.

Page last updated: Tuesday 3rd December, 2019 at 1900 hours

Photo Credits: Kerry Perkins

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

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

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

Will ‘sex in sauna’ officer slip off disciplinary hook again?

In April 2012, Chief Inspector Elizabeth Belton of West Yorkshire Police achieved national notoriety as the ‘Sex in the sauna’ cop.

The incident resulted in a punch-up between Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse and Ms Belton’s husband, Sergeant Chris Beddis and was splashed on the front page of the Yorkshire Post newspaper. National newspaper coverage soon followed [1].

This steamy tale was one of a number of exclusive pieces upon which I worked with the award-winning investigative journalist, Rob Waugh. Another major scoop was the outing of convicted paedophile, Mick Vause, who, at the time, was a long-serving detective constable in the force’s perenially disgraced Professional Standards Department [2].

Following the sauna debacle, Ms Belton, a graduate of Brigshaw Comprehensive School on the outskirts of Castleford, took on extra duties which included responsibility for the Standards Unit for North East Leeds, signing off investigations into complaints made by members of the public.

She also chaired misconduct meetings with officers whose fell foul of police regulations. West Yorkshire Police clearly didn’t see the irony in either of those two situations.

Mr Whitehouse retired in 2016 from his job as Director of the National Police Air Service (NPAS), having transferred out of his role as Divisional Commander of the North West Leeds Division, based at Weetwood, shortly after the sauna incident. NPAS are currently mired in their own sex scandal as lurid allegations emerge of South Yorkshire Police officers using an aircraft to film members of the public having sex, or sunbathing naked.

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A Professional Standards Department (PSD) source has also revealed that the police helicopter has, allegedly, been used on covert surveillance of at least one fellow officer. It is also said that the necessary authorisation to do so was not lawfully obtained. This impropriety would involve criminal prosecutions of those responsible – and a bigger story than the ‘sex in the sky’ farrago. There is no suggestion that Whitehouse knew of the deployment of the aircraft for this purpose. The information to hand suggests that the helicopter crew were deployed on ‘pre-planned operations’ tasked by PSD. Many flights are involved.

Ms Belton has said on social media that Ian Whitehouse definitely did not know about this misuse of police resources.

At the time of the ‘sex in the sauna’ scandal, West Yorkshire Police and their Police Authority, after the damaging story reached the press, focused on trying to root out my ‘whistle blowers’ rather than imposing either criminal, or disciplinary sanctions upon either Whitehouse, Ms Belton or the unfortunately cuckolded Mr Beddis.

The decision not to pursue the three officers was taken by Deputy Chief Constable John Parkinson (who retired from the force shortly afterwards after a brief, but troubled, spell as chief constable) and nodded through by the current Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson.

Instead, an enquiry, believed to be headed up by another chief inspector, Jim Dunkerley, was later launched against me to try to uncover police whistle blowers – and stem the flow of information that was leading to damaging press, radio and TV coverage of misconduct within the force. There was also widespread opprobium brought about by the launch of the uPSD whistleblowers website [3] and, particularly, on social media as scandal after scandal surfaced.

Allegedly based in an outbuilding in the car park at HQ, and reporting to Deputy Chief Constable John Robins, the investigation is believed to have involved intrusive surveillance and RIPA authorisation. A matter always denied by the force when I have pressed them on this.

In a face-to-face encounter with his Command Team colleague, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle at police HQ in 2015, I was asked to leave the inner sanctum of the Laburnum Road, Wakefield building on the basis that I was a ‘security threat‘. Invited to add substance to his claim, Battle declined to do so.

The uPSD website has been subject of repeated denial of service attacks over the past two years. The perpetrators have a very high level of technical sophistication, according to the webmaster and a security specialist consulted over the issue (he provides services to police forces as a retired intelligence officer).

In March 2017, Liz Belton hit the headlines, again, for all the wrong reasons. It was revealed, in a series of national newspaper stories, that she had been placed on ‘restricted duties‘ following a complaint over an alleged racist remark made at a detectives’ three day Christmas celebration.

By this time, she was a senior investigating officer (SIO) in West Yorkshire Police’s elite Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET) and was leading the cold case enquiry into the historic, and high profile, murder of Wakefield teenager Elsie Frost in 1965, as well as a probe into the murder of 27-year-old Nicholas Dean Williams, who was found murdered in his home in Stanley, near Wakefield.

It was a blow to the Frost family, who are known to have built a good, and fruitful, relationship with the SIO. It is also well known, locally, that this was regarded by DCI Belton as a seminal case in her career and she was very hopeful it could be solved.

Just a week later, it was revealed that the West Yorkshire Police press office had, not for the first time, misled both the media and the public: Ms Belton had, since a Regulation 15 notice was issued in January 2017, alleging gross misconduct, been arrested in a pre-dawn raid on her family home. She was detained on suspicion of two criminal offences: Misconduct in public office and police computer misuse. She was suspended whilst those criminal investigations continued.

According to a well placed source, a section 32 search was also carried out after the arrest, that included vehicles and outbuildings, as well as Ms Belton’s house. It is believed that she was taken to Huddersfield police station and held there all day.

Given what is at stake both for the force and, more particularly the officers concerned, it has to be assumed that officers with exemplary records, and the necessary investigative competency and rigour, have been deployed by the chief constable. Otherwise, the twin pillars of reassurance, and public confidence, would crumble.

In July, 2017 Chief Inspector Belton appeared in the dock at Leeds Magistrates Court along with two other police officers. PC Judith Mulligan and Sergeant Mohammed Gother. They are all charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Allegations relate to an investigation into a burglary at PC Mulligan’s home in 2013, in which it is claimed that the victim, an officer who began her service 27 years ago at Morley Police Station, was shown a photograph of suspects ahead of an identification procedure

Ms Belton is also accused of seven offences of breaching data laws. It is said that she misused police computers knowingly, or recklessly, obtaining personal data in relation to four named individuals.

A plea and case management hearing took place in August, 2016. Two subsequent hearings were listed in March and April 2017, and then vacated at short notice due to disclosure issues.

All three police officers deny the charges and a trial is set for 11th September, 2017 before the Recorder of Leeds, His Honour Judge Peter Collier. The accused are all on unconditional bail.

In the usual course of events, a pre-trial review (PTR) would be listed by the court around six weeks before the trial start date. As of 24th July, the court confirmed to me that no Order concerning a PTR had been made. This may well be connected to the long-running police/CPS disclosure issues that have, so far, dogged the process.

The September trial concerns only the perverting justice charges. No date has been set for the data breach hearing.

Mr Gother has now retired from the force, having completed 30 years service. A fourth officer, PC Chris Davey, a neighbourhood patrol officer based at Pudsey police station – and a subordinate of Sergeant Gother at the time – was also arrested in the early morning raids, and detained as part of the same investigation, but no charges were laid against him.

A source close to the gross misconduct investigation into Chief Inspector Belton, the subject of the first round of press coverage in March 2017 [4], claims that there was reluctance from a number of officers present at the Lake District Christmas junket to give evidence against a fellow officer. This included the well-liked junior detective at the centre of the ‘racism’ furore, PC Bud Wasti. 

It is understood that PC Warsi was not the complainant against Ms Belton, in any event. The officer mainly involved was the aforementioned DCI Dunkerley, together with another senior officer, Superintendent Mark Ridley (since promoted to chief super and Head of HMET).

After this article was first published an informant came forward and advanced the proposition that two senior officers (both of superintending rank) had ‘suggested strongly‘ to PC Wasti that he was to become ‘a victim‘. That does not give the impression that an investigation was being conducted at the necessary levels of independence and procedural rigour. If this allegation – and it is no higher than that at present – were found to be true, then the entire misconduct investigation would be tainted.

It has also been alleged that during a very lengthy drinking session, a female officer, not Ms Belton, lifted her dress in the public area of the hotel, and revealed a pair of very skimpy, designer brand (according to the exhibitionist) knickers. Whilst that might be considered perfectly normal  behaviour in some social circles, it could be construed unseemly when you are known to be part of a large group of West Yorkshire Police employees occupying a significant portion of an upmarket Lake District hotel?

This officer, it is said, was not the subject of any misconduct proceedings or even informal words of advice. Which, given the furore caused nationally by the Greater Manchester Police ‘Boobgate‘ scandal, might strike the reasonable minded, independent observer as concerning.

In any event, it certainly sounded as if the detectives’ party went with a swing, reminiscent of the Wakefield CID days of yore.

The Belton probe was downgraded to misconduct after the first round of witness statements had been taken. The racism allegations were not proven. The usual sanction in those circumstances is ‘words of advice‘ or, in the police vernacular, a ‘standards awareness meeting‘.

It is also also understood that the internal investigation fell short of the required standard on a number of other levels, including failure to sieze CCTV and other documentary evidence from the Red Lion in Grasmere; and interview independent, non-police witnesses who were on hotel premises at the time.

This ‘investigation’ was, according to another well placed source, carried out by Chief Inspector Simon Bottomley and Detective Sergeant Penny Morley. Both, to my certain knowledge, work in the force’s discredited Professional Standards Department, and have featured in a number of investigations of which I have close knowledge.

In 2010, Mrs Morley was found by a judge, His Honour Peter Benson, at Bradford Crown Court, to have lied in her evidence during a voir dire and, as a result, stopped a criminal trial concerning another West Yorkshire Police officer, PC Kashif Ahmed, as an abuse of process [5].

It is claimed by Mrs Morley, that no disciplinary proceeding, or criminal prosecution, was mounted against her following a three year investigation, involving many officers, and a collapsed trial that was reported to have cost the taxpayer over £500,000.

I recently had her removed from one investigation, where I act as complaint advocate. Her unwillingness to consider CCTV, Go-Pro Film evidence of alleged assault and criminal damage, led to an information being laid at Kirklees Magistrates Court by the victim and a warrant being issued against the perpetrator, Acting Inspector David Rogerson: Dealing with an officer, such as Mrs Morley, who lied in a a criminal trial is not something either the complainant, or myself, was willing to countenance.

Mrs Morley’s husband, Jon, is a retired police officer cum civilian investigator (by a curious twist of fate employed in HMET). A situation which must create certain tensions, both professionally and domestically, when one of them is a proven liar. Her close friendship with another well known PSD miscreant, Superintendent Steve Bennett, certainly caused tongues to wag at the time of the Ahmed case, especially after she escaped sanction for her perjured evidence. But allegations of any improper relationship came to nothing.

In 2013, Mr Bottomley had an adverse finding made against him, by his own PSD colleagues, concerning mis-handling of evidence and breach of a legal undertaking. Since then he has been at the forefront of an alleged force wide cover-up over the John Elam miscarriage of justice [6]. A matter presently being considered by the Criminal Case Review Commission.

Mr Bottomley has also been responsible, in a field of plenty, for one of the worst complaint investigations I have ever seen concerning a filmed assault on Huddersfield businessman, Stephen Bradbury, and, in yet another ‘cover-up’ farrago, attached himself, outwith the relevant statutory framework, to a ‘love triangle’ investigation into Police Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

In December 2015 I sought, but failed, to have Mr Bottomley removed from any involvement in Operation Lamp, the Greater Manchester Police investigation into the infamous PC Danny Major ‘cover-up’ by PSD [7]. His presence, in my entrenched view, taints the process and I recused myself from it a short time afterwards.

Simon Bottomley was also involved in beating off whistleblower submissions made by a management rank detective, with 30 years exemplary service, over well-rehearsed concerns about the provenance of the investigation into the a murder of a male in Headingley, Leeds and flaws in the investigation of the murder of another male, in the Leeds Road area of Bradford, that led to the conviction of three Asian men. The latter case is known by campaigners as the The Bradford Three [8].

The whistleblower’s identity is known to me. He claims he is in fear of his life after the disclosures made in meetings with Mr Bottomley and the SIO on the Bradford Three investigation, ex-Chief Superintendent Andy Brennan. The latter exited the force, under very strange circumstances, shortly afterwards and re-surfaced as Head of CEOP at the National Crime Agency.

The same whistleblower supported the miscarriage of justice campaign around the John Elam case. As part of his specialist role within the force, the whistleblower had been involved on that investigation in a significant role.

It is not known whether either Mrs Morley, or Mr Bottomley, was involved in the criminal investigation that followed the dramatic arrests and searches of homes, police premises and equipment that has led to the impending court case. That would, no doubt, be revealed at trial if it were the case.

So it seems, for a second time, at the very least, Ms Belton has escaped disciplinary sanction after high jinx involving other senior officers. It is believed that Ian Whitehouse was also present at the HMET party.

In a dramatic turn of events, news reached me, from a number of police sources, that on Friday 7th July, 2017 the force had circularised all officers with information to the effect that DCI Elizabeth Belton had ‘resigned’. Which, in all the circumstances, would be extraordinary under the new Police Conduct Regulations, specifically framed to prevent officers leaving the police force when facing gross misconduct disciplinary proceedings, or criminal investigation. There are special exemptions to those Regulations, but it is not known if these were engaged.

It is a move by the DCC Robins, as Command Team PSD portfolio holder, that is certain to attract a great deal of controversy. It also begs the question as to why a senior officer would ‘resign’ over misconduct matters that are largely unproven and likely to be disposed by way of words of advice?

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The Red Lion in Grasmere. Scene of a controversial 2016 West Yorkshire Police Christmas party.

A counter-allegation by Ms Belton of sexual assault, by a senior male detective (whose identity is known to me), at the same Christmas party, has been recorded as a crime but the present status of that investigation is not known. But, as actus reus was in Cumbria, it is assumed that the county police force there is handling the investigation.

There has also been a employment tribunal claim issued by Elizabeth Belton against West Yorkshire Police over alleged sexual discrimination. This pre-dates her arrest, or the misconduct investigation. It is believed that this action may be connected to a promotion board for a vacant Superintendent post. The aforementioned Jim Dunkerley was also an applicant. It appears that neither got the job.

Ms Belton could not be contacted for comment on the misconduct or tribunal matters.

The force press office issued a terse one line statement: “As proceedings are legally active  in this case, we are unable to comment further“. They refused to be drawn on the apparent contradiction in the Regulations concerning the ‘resignation’ (or retirement) of Ms Belton.

The Police Commissioner’s press officer, Dee Cowburn, did not respond to a request for comment.

The force’s chief constable, Dee Collins, has recently issued a press statement, along with Mark Burns-Williamson, saying some of her officers are ‘exhausted‘. A three day drinking and partying spree by her top detectives might add some context to those remarks.

____________________________________________

Page last updated 1950hrs on Monday 7th August, 2017

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

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

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

[1] Yorkshire Post: [Exclusive] ‘Probe after steam rises at police gym’ 19th April, 2012′

[2] Yorkshire Post: [Exclusive] ‘Ex-detective admits string of child porn offences 9th June 2012’

[3] uPSDWYP: Home page

[4] Daily Mail: ‘Murder detective placed on restricted duties after ‘making a racist comment at her force Christmas party’, 25th March, 2017

[5] Telegraph and Argus: ‘Bradford police officer tells of his relief’, 11th March, 2011

[6] Hansard: Adjournment debate – Gerry Sutcliffe MP, 28th January, 2014

[7] Neil Wilby: ‘Operation Lamp – A Major corruption scandal’, 29th April, 2016

[8] uPSDWYP: ‘The Bradford Three’, 12th March, 2014