More of the same

A cursory examination of this website will see that its focus is very much on policing matters: The core of its output is reporting from the press seats of criminal trials, civil claims, employment tribunals, information tribunals and consequent appeals from any of those courts.

Very often, they feature misconduct, dishonesty, or even criminality, of police officers. Exacerbated in some cases by discrepancies in disclosure of documents, organised ‘cover-ups’ or seriously unimpressive witness box testimony.

Independent, evidence-based investigations are also undertaken, particularly in alleged miscarriage of justice cases into which I am invited, drawn or retained. It is a field where I am said to have some expertise.

It is true to say that commentators on such emotive matters risk being targeted on social media, with criticism on the two main platforms, Twitter or Facebook posts the most common form. Some take to email, or even the occasional letter, to put across their views. Or, via rogue websites.

In every case under review there is a winner and a loser. Unsurprisingly, the criticism comes from the latter quarter, who simply do not accept the findings and launch bitter, abusive, highly personalised attacks, often in organised groups (‘pile-ons’ in Twitterspeak) designed only to denigrate the author, without even beginning to address the conclusion and the rationale behind it. The bad faith of such websites and posts ought to be self-evident.

As a result of adopting a singular position in two cases this year (2020), I have become the focus of a number of such attacks. Investigative journalism is not a popularity contest, but neither should it be a medium for mindless abuse. Criticise what is written, for sure, and debate it reasonably, especially if there are mistakes, misrepresentations or it lacks the necessary rigour or balance. Every author ought to welcome constuctive feedback. I certainly do.

The first case that created controversy, and triggered an organised litany of abuse, was an innocence claim by a convicted murderer, Robin Garbutt (read more here). The campaign leader was happy to engage when she learned of the extensive work holding North Yorkshire Police, and its Police and Crime Commissioner, to account over the previous five years, exclusively uncovering scandal after scandal (read the latest here). That changed when I started to ask searching questions about the tailored narrative that was being promoted, about both the murder and the case being made out, by the campaigners, for a referral of the conviction back to the Court of Appeal.

The publication of the first article (read here) , neutrally written and safely founded on a court of appeal judgment and the transcript of the trial judge’s summing up, triggered a sustained campaign of personal abuse by the murderer’s supporters, and their associates, within the miscarriage of justice community (read here). But it did lead to an immediate change in the thrust of their campaign: That Garbutt and his principal supporters had always told the truth. The article forensically set out that he hadn’t – and neither had they.

It was not appeased by the second article in which all the flaws in the police investigation leading to the conviction were articulated – and linked to other notably poor efforts by the same force in that era, to which two of them I was particularly adjacent (read here).

Approaching 500 hours has been spent on that innocence claim and there are now well over 40,000 words written about it on this website. The makings of a book and TV or podcast drama, in fact.

The abusers haven’t challenged a single piece of evidence or reasoned argument, although the murderer’s brother in law, says he could ‘teach me a few lessons in grammar’. Which is fair enough. He wouldn’t be the first to point out my clunky, laboured style of writing.

A third application to the Criminal Case Review Commission was made by the campaigners last December, shortly before I became involved. A decision as to whether it will go forward to be investigated by the watchdog is expected to be made early in 2021. The previous two applications were rejected on the merits, without warranting an investigation. My firm, evidence-based, but unpopular, conclusion is that the third will suffer the same fate. There will be no longed-for referral back to the Court of Appeal (read more here).

For months at the end of last year and the beginning of this, I’d been nagged by the UK’s best known police whistleblower, Peter Jackson, a retired murder detective (read more here) to look into an alleged scandal in Oldham concerning the Borough Council mainly, but also the local police. A division in which Jackson had served as a thief-taking sergeant in the late 1990’s

It is said, repeatedly, by a group of political activists in the town, heavily supported on social media by ‘Jacko’ as he is known, that both are actively engaged in covering up large scale child sexual abuse. A highly emotive topic and a grievous accusation to make against anyone, particularly if using anonymity as a shield, as many frequently do.

The activists, otherwise known as New Chartist Alliance, are led by Raja Miah MBE, who posts and broadcasts on social media under the style ‘Recusant Nine‘ and blogs under the ‘Welcome to Oldham‘ banner from his base in Mossley, Tameside. He has a substantial following on Facebook, a lesser presence on Twitter, a gap filled by an account with the handle, Oldham Eye. Many believe the latter is controlled, or influenced greatly, by Raja, but it is a closely guarded secret within the cult.

Some preliminary work was done whilst I was still ‘locked down’ in Catalunya, the foot slog started as soon as I got back towards the end of July, 2020. What I’ve discovered since has genuinely sickened me and has generated a series of articles, beginning with this one (read here). But they expose the frailties of those alleging the child sex abuse ‘cover-up’, not what I was asked to look into. About which, very little viable evidence has been produced. Despite repeated requests to Raja and those associated with him.

What has concerned me the most, apart from the lack of meaningful evidence, has been the highly personalised, often abusive attacks on a number of politicians, public officials and experts in their field, such as Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway, whose review of the Rochdale and Rusholme (South Manchester Curry Mile) child sex abuse scandal was universally acclaimed (read official report here). Apart from within the upper echelons of Greater Manchester Police, past and present, and leaders at Manchester City Council, who were genuinely shocked at the scale and extent of the investigation undertaken and, of course, the grotesque failings of both public bodies that were uncovered as a result of the diligence and expertise of the two investigators.

Raja Miah’s proposition that Newsam and Ridgway have turned up in Oldham to carry out a whitewash is as deeply offensive as it is plainly ludicrous. But the Recusant One has much to fear from it, as part of the remit of the investigation is to look into claims he has made about a widescale, multi-agency cover-up.

For emphasis, Oldham is a town with serious socio-economic issues and a council that, too frequently, leaves itself wide open to criticism with poor decision-making. In my own knowledge, and a matter reported on previously, taking on a disgraced former senior police officer, Rebekah Sutcliffe, in what appears to be a ‘non-job’ and increasing her annual salary from £109,000 to £120,000. The fact that she is a friend and contemporary of the same council’s chief executive, Dr Carolyn Wilkins, simply adds to the skin-crawling discomfort.

But how badly, or otherwise, councils are run is not my field of operation and the analysis of those problems is left to others. A point I made repeatedly to Peter Jackson and, at the outset, to Raja Miah. It remains the case today.

The question of whether the council running the East Lancashire mill town is any worse than its neighbours on either side of the Pennines is a moot point. But what can be stated with certainty, both Rochdale and Kirklees (encompassing Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley, Mirfield), all mill towns with significant minority ethnic communities did, in the past, actively engage in grotesque covering up of industrial scale child sex abuse. As was the case in Halifax, Bradford and Keighley. I first wrote about the cover-up of the latter two towns in 2013, focusing on the role played by West Yorkshire Police at the time, who openly opposed any reporting of the scandal and, in fact, managed to delay a Channel 4 exposé for almost a year.

From that time onwards, I was the only journalist asking questions in Huddersfield as to why, after an exposé in 2008/2009 by one of the town’s MP’s, Barry Sheerman, also at the time Children’s Minister in the last Labour Government, both the council and the police silenced him. It is true to say that I was actively obstructed by the local newspaper, the Huddersfield Examiner, in my enquiries. It was a topic that that political editor at the time did not, seemingly, want to involve herself in; she was ‘too busy’.

The same newspaper gleefully reported on a libel finding made against me the following year, a grotesque mistake that cost £60,000 in damages, plus substantial costs and interest, and then soon afterwards only reported an interlocutory hearing of a claim the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had brought and at which I was neither present, nor represented. A claim that was, ultimately and successfully defended, and in which a compromised settlement was reached on terms favourable to me. A number of the allegations made at that first hearing were not repeated later in the proceedings, simply because there was no evidential base to them. But two of the main objectives – to smear and undermine credibility – had been achieved.

The IPCC, who spent almost £150,000 on this enterprise, insisted on those settlement terms being part of a confidential annexe to the consent order and, therefore, not capable of being reported. All the parties to that claim have moved on and I remain one of the police watchdog’s sternest critics. In 2018, they changed their name, yet again, to Independent Office for Police Conduct as the IPCC ‘brand’ had become so toxic.

The libel case concerned an association I had made with a Leeds police officer who became a good friend of the now-notorious BBC celebrity, Jimmy Savile. That police officer was a colleague of one of my best police contacts in that era, Cedric Christie. They had worked together at Chapeltown Police Station.

That same whistleblower assisted me in forcing an outside police force inquiry, Operation Vertex, into a ‘whitewash’ report, signed off by ACC Ingrid Lee, into WYP’s failings in allowing the celebrity and charity fundraiser to offend for decades on their patch. Operation Newgreen was completely dismantled by my investigation and inside knowledge. The investigation into Newgreen was carried out by the chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Nick Gargan, who was highly critical of both the construction and reported outcome of WYP’s ‘investigation’.

Shortly afterwards, ACC Lee was encouraged by the then chief constable, Mark Gilmore, to make a rare neutral transfer to SYP, to serve out the remainder of her career.

The Kirkless Divisional Commander in 2009, John Robins, is now WYP chief constable. I repeatedly pressed his predecessor, Dionne Collins, to refer the matter of the police ‘cover-up’, brought to light by Mr Sheerman, a sitting MP, to the IPCC (now IOPC), as had happened in Rotherham over failings of South Yorkshire Police officers. She refused point blank.

On the credit side, from the time she became temporary chief constable, investigations into child sexual exploitation across the force area began in earnest and, at the latest count over 70 Asian men, mostly of Pakistani heritage, have either been convicted or face criminal trials.

Some might say, therefore, given those antecedents, and a reputation for robustly challenging police wrongdoing, that it is no surprise that I was pressed to look into the murk hanging over Oldham and the persistent allegations of a cover-up by Greater Manchester Police, local council leaders and at least one Member of Parliament.

To close one particular circle, I had introduced Peter Jackson to Gail Hadfield Grainger on the same day this piece to camera (view here) was aired by ITV on their Granada Reports programme in August last year. They maintain contact by telephone and Peter frequently, and quite properly, cites the killing of Anthony Grainger as a glaring example of wrongdoing by his former employers. Indeed, his GMP catchphrase is ‘Rotten to the core‘ coined by Gail’s barrister, Leslie Thomas QC, during the public inquiry that replaced the inquest into Anthony’s death.

Gail gives pastoral support to Samantha Walker-Roberts, a survivor of child sex abuse in Oldham and an active campaigner, having waived her legal right to lifetime anonymity. Maintaining the work, often fronted by her lawyer husband, Steven, who sadly died earlier this year. Together, they lobbied on behalf of abuse victims, giving evidence at public inquiries into grooming, making representations to parliamentary select committees and bringing about subtle but important amendments to existing legislation. The friendship between Gail and Samantha led to the former facilitating a meeting between myself and the latter.

Regrettably, apart from a lengthy, highly personalised torrent of abuse directed at me, Raja Miah and his supporters have also attacked both Gail (read more here) and Samantha (read here), the latter repeatedly having personal details unwrapped either on Facebook or in his increasingly deranged weekly podcast.

In the face of a series of damning revelations about Miah, the class and scale of abuse referred to above, and knowing there is worst yet to come, the aforementioned Peter Jackson, who presents himself as a paragon of virtue and truth, not only maintains his support for ‘Raja’s Rabble’ (read more here) but has actively chosen to attack and undermine me on social media to further both of their causes.

That is entirely a matter of personal choice for ‘Jacko’, of course, and the band of fickle ex-GMP officers who have also withdrawn their support, en masse, to show solidarity with their errant former colleague.

But, outside their own particular bubble, and on any independent view, it shows exceedingly poor judgement and will, most certainly, not deflect me from completing the Oldham investigation and thoroughly expose Raja Miah – and the damage and disgrace he has brought to a town in which he doesn’t even live or work. Of that they can be very sure: Investigative journalism is not a popularity contest – and never was.

Page last updated at 0730hrs on Saturday 24th October, 2020.

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Page last updated at 1110hrs on Friday 23rd October, 2020.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. 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.

There’s no excuse for abuse

These days, in almost every public sector building, business or shop premises there is a notice displayed prominently that says, more or less, ‘we will not tolerate abuse of our staff’. It’s a sign of the times, if the terrible pun can be excused.

It’s the same on public transport – and the illustration I have chosen is seen on buses and trains across parts of the North West.

The rule is quite rigidly enforced and some organisations do not hesitate to call the police. Barring offenders from subject premises is usually automatic. Rightly so.

Abuse of journalists has become an increasing problem over the past few years and my trade body, the National Union of Journalists, which doubles as a professional body, has run a campaign of sorts almost every year since 2014, to try to limit the distress and alarm these attacks cause. Details of the latest NUJ crusade can be read here.

In Oldham, now part of the Greater Manchester region, but forever East Lancashire to some, the problem of abuse of journalists, and other public figures such as MP’s and council officials, appears particularly acute. Surprising, on one ground at least, as the police force in the town constantly promotes campaigns against abuse and hate. But appear very slow to stem the flow from the very worst offenders.

There is no doubt at all about the main source of what is a relentless torrent of highly personalised, harassing abuse: Bradford-born, Raja Miah, now an infamous Oldham political activist, who openly defies the law. His persistent output on social media is highly concerning, both in tone and content, returning to the same narrow topics over and again, straying well beyond fair commentary or legitimate criticism.

The strapline with which he defiantly signs off posts under his Recusant Nine banner is: ‘DO NOT FEAR THEM. DO NOT FEAR ANY OF THEM’. He claims that his previous outlet, Medium, was subject to censorship, but it is unclear to what extent other than, quite likely, to remove offensive, harassing or defamatory material.

There are three journalists currently in his sights, it seems: Nationally-known political editor and commentator, Jennifer Williams, who works for the Manchester Evening News (MEN), but whose byline also appears in a number of national newspapers; Charlotte Green, still based at the MEN where she was previoulsy based, but now a BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporter covering Oldham and Tameside councils; and, more latterly, myself.

Jennifer, who is also a television pundit and newspaper reviewer, is regularly attacked over her perceived inaction regarding the alleged scandals at Oldham Council.

What is not widely known is that the MEN commissioned an investigation into Raja Miah’s business background, and particularly his much criticised stewardship of free schools in Manchester and Oldham. At its conclusion, and given what would be revealed, the MEN hierarchy decided, on health and safety grounds, that the risk of the type of personalised backlash that this would very likely generate against their reporter, post-publication, it was not worth the risk. The article was shelved and the cost of it, in effect, thrown away.

Raja Miah denies any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, over £2 million was siphoned out of the schools, for which the record-keeping falls well below the accepted standard. He was ‘blacklisted’ by the government

The Manchester Evening News did provide coverage of the scandal when it first broke, which resulted in a complaint to the newspaper industry regulator. It was peremptorily dismissed Read in full here) and it was plain, by comparing his submissions to the Department of Education report on the same subject, that Miah had sought to mislead the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Charlotte’s sin is said to be ‘biased’ reporting of Oldham Council meetings and ancillary business. Objectively reviewed, there appears to be no evidential basis for such criticism. Although relatively young, she is fully trained and qualified – and has significant experience of court reporting. As I know well, that is a hard school of knocks. It becomes ingrained to only report what you hear, the consequences of doing otherwise are severe.

The third and now, it seems, main target is the author of this piece and since publication of the first of four articles on 5th October, 2020 (read here) there has been what can only be described as a relentless torrent of highly personalised smears posted, or broadcast, on all of his various outlets: Welcome to Oldham website, podcast and Recusant Nine Facebook page. Aided and abetted by a small army of anonymous, low or no follower foot soldiers, who pop up at all points on social media, now dubbed ‘Raja’s Rabble’.

Most regrettably this has impacted on two others, Gail Hadfield Grainger (read more here) and Samantha Walker-Roberts (read more here), whom he has identified as being associated with me, professionally. He also resumed his grotesque and very public attack against Cllr Arooj Shah. The fact that Gail and Cllr Shah are friends, having first made contact 5 years ago, appears to send the Recusant Miah off the scale. Particularly, as it is widely known that Gail and I have also become friends since first meeting last year.

Taken together, the mindless denigration of these five females gives off more than an unpleasant whiff of mysogyny. A suspicion he dismisses out of hand.

One of Raja’s key lieutenants operates under the pseudonym “Rocky Skelshaw” and is an ever-present wherever her hero, and leader, happens to be posting. Repeating and exaggerating the increasing ludicrous output from those quarters. Seemingly oblivious that Miah is presently the subject of at least two police investigations over his highly speculative, heavily politicised rants and that may well become her fate in acting as amplifier in his echo chamber. One of his other highly vocal sidekicks, Tracey Gibson, recently deleted her social media accounts on my advice.

“Rocky” was outed yesterday as another Diggle resident, Kerry Skelhorn (read in full here) after her own intemperate outbursts, over the past weekend, included berating a well known child sex abuse survivor from the Oldham area on a Facebook community forum and, of course, the standard harassing and defamatory posts that are the Recusant trademark.

She now faces civil action and a package is being prepared for the police. A statement has been requested from her employer, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to establish whether the core values of the charity are consistent with those of their Conservation Officer.

It is very surprising, from a journalist’s standpoint, that the unlawful activities of such as Raja Miah, Miss Skelhorn, and a significant number of others, with either personal or political axes to grind against some or all of such as local MPs, the council, the police, the Mayor, in maintaining this vile hate campaign, have not been the subject of more immediate and robust action. A matter I am taking up myself, in measured terms, with Detective Chief Inspector James Faulkner, a senior officer based at Oldham Police Station, who has been adjacent to the facts for some time. We start off from a healthy position, as the only previous interaction produced an impressive response from both him and his divisional colleagues over a safeguarding issue.

Greater Manchester Police press office has been contacted for comment.

Page last updated: Wednesday 28th October, 2020 at 1015 hours

Photo credits: Arriva North West

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 2015-2020. 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Riots peacemaker in ‘shoot to kill’ rant

Controversial Oldham businessman and political activist, Raja Miah, is noted for his trenchant views on a wide variety of topics relating to his home town, just West of the Pennines in the North of England.

He is also relentless in his criticism of local council leaders, Sean Fielding and Arooj Shah, and some of the area’s Members of Parliament (most particularly, James McMahon and Deborah Abrahams) and, it appears, anyone who associates with them on social media, writes about them in neutral terms or, heaven forbid, occasionally, in favourable terms.

His tone and hostility is alarming and, often it seems, allegations are made without a scrap of viable evidence and, in doing so, exposing significant gaps in his knowledge of public authority process and procedure. ‘Shout first, think later’ as one social media commentator noted.

An article published elsewhere on this website, earlier this week, heavily underscores those points (read here).

Given right of reply to that article, in which allegation after allegation he had made about the Deputy Leader of Oldham Council was comprehensively dismantled, Miah elected to pass up that opportunity and, instead, launched a vitriolic, ad hominem attack via his Recusant Nine Facebook page. Once again, littered with factual errors, half truths and half-baked assumptions.

Over the course of the next three articles on this website, covering just some of the main controversies presently raging, the ordinary, decent folk in and around the archetypal East Lancashire mill town will decide whether it is right to trust what is written by Neil Wilby and if it is reliable and well-grounded journalism: The product of repeat car journeys over the Pennines, foot-slogging, door-knocking, covert observation and knowledge of the appropriate processes and statutory frameworks, and, crucially, both the standing and ability to ask the right questions of the relevant individuals and organisations.

The political extremists, and the lazy, camp-follower keyboard warriors, at both ends of the spectrum, will doubtless dismiss, again, what is written as ‘garbage’, ‘utter crap’, ‘nonsense’, ‘bollocks’ and assert, or imply, there are bribes involved, or that mental health is a factor, or that the author is a stooge of Oldham’s Council Leader, the aforementioned Sean Fielding.

There will also be a further deluge of the ‘f**k off, you are not from round here and have no idea what’s going on’ class of abuse. Which appears to ignore the fact that Oldham is on the same main road as Huddersfield and Rochdale, about which a great deal is most definitely known. But there we are, reality does not appear to concern many of the critics.

Events this week, in the satellite world of Raja Miah, have taken an even more ugly turn – and that is a high threshold. Apart from renewing his harassment of Arooj Shah, a course of conduct that should, in all truth, be an urgent police matter, he has launched his latest mindless attack on another notably successful, high profile female, Gail Hadfield Grainger. It is difficult to comprehend, from a podcast rant on his weekly ‘Recusant Nine’ Facebook channel what motivated such bile, apart from her professional association with Neil Wilby. At that time, he was unaware of Gail’s five year association with Arooj.

In an attempt to smear Gail he describes her late partner, Anthony Grainger, as ‘a gangster’ and heavily emphasises that the police were right to shoot him, unarmed and without warning, through the windscreen of a stationary vehicle parked in a supermarket car park in Cheshire.

Summary justice, shoot to kill. No investigation, no public trial, sentenced to death on flawed police intelligence.

This from a man who made his name, and was awarded an honour by the Queen, in a peacemaking and community liaison role, following the race riots in Oldham in 2001. The flashpoint came, coincidentally, in the same district of Glodwick in which Arooj Shah has lived all her life.

Gail contends strongly that mysogyny is a factor in her being targeted alongside Arooj. Her record, and her media profile, as a justice campaigner and a relentless force for good, speaks for itself. Any attempt to undermine her will backfire on him.

“I’m shocked and disgusted that this man, whom I do not know, never met or spoken to, should attack a grieving woman who lost the love of her life in such horrendous circumstances, when an armed police officer shot Anthony, without warning, through a car windscreen. The Inquiry Chair, His Honour Thomas Teague QC, made his findings (read in full here) and the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has apologised personally to me and the rest of Anthony’s family. This sly attempt to go behind those findings and use my dead partner, who was NOT a gangster, to slur me is beyond the pale. I just hope his children do not ever have to read or hear these things that he is saying”.

Not content with smearing Gail, ‘Recusant Raja” turned his attention on the son of her fellow United Friends and Family Campaign committee member, Mohammed Yaqub. In January, 2017, Yasser Yaqub was shot dead through the windscreen of his car, by armed West Yorkshire Police officers, after a hard stop on the M62 motorway sliproad at Ainley Top, Huddersfield. This followed a meeting with a man said to be, variously, a police informant, organised criminal and now convicted murderer, known locally as ‘King Meggy’ (read more here). Miah again emphasised that, in his view, the police did absolutely the right thing in performing a roadside execution. No arrest, no legal representation, no investigation, no trial, no jury verdict, no judge weighing all the relevant matters in the balance. Just a high velocity bullet in the chest. Summary execution by a rogue state militia.

Yasser’s father, a successful businessman and highly respected member of his local community in Huddersfield, was horrified after viewing the ‘Recusant Nine’ film clip: “I have never met Mr Miah and don’t know who he is or what he stands for. But to say that about my son, when he knows nothing of the circumstances in what is a very complex case, is absolutely disgusting. I would like to see his reaction if he, or a close member of his family, suffered in the same way we have. He should come to my home, firstly to apologise, and then see how my family and I still grieve for our son every single day. Is Mr Miah completely without feelings for his fellow human beings? He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.”

Following on from those heartfelt and utterly scathing views from two bereaved families, these are plainly extreme and dangerous standpoints to harbour secretly, even for an activist. But to expound them publicly on the nation’s biggest social media platform is very seriously troubling. More, particulary,when broadcast from a crime-ridden town such as Oldham.

Raja Miah has been reported to Facebook and the local police over the podcast. He has confirmed that he is already the subject of two other police investigations regarding his conduct towards local politicians. One of which is codenamed Operation Hexagon, he says. That is believed to be a wide ranging investigation into allegations of harassment, he is alo under investigation for an offence under section 106 0f the Representation of the People Act, 1983 following a complaint by an Oldham MP, Deborah Abrahams.

A file is also being prepared for submission to the Cabinet Office’s Forfeiture Committee which will petition for removal of his MBE (read more here).

Right of reply was again offered to Raja Miah. He did not respond. As before, he chose to launch another ad hominem attack on social media instead. That, of course, is his prerogative.

Page last updated: Saturday 10th October, 2020 at 0700 hours

Photo credits: ITV, Manchester Evening News

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 2015-2020. 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If only, Madam Mayor

Several weeks ago, a well known and notably successful justice campaigner, Gail Hadfield Grainger, sent me a video clip (writes Neil Wilby). It featured a friend of hers, Arooj Shah, a prominent Labour Party politician in Oldham, an East Lancashire mill town in the North of England. It was filmed in the Council chamber as Cllr. Shah was moving a motion on harassment and abuse in public life, which called for a letter to be written to the Minister for the Cabinet Office to seek a cross-government response in tackling the issue.

Gail, over and above seeking justice for Anthony Grainger, is active in the same town. She supports the widow of André Moura, brutally killed in the back of a van by the same Greater Manchester Police who shot her own partner; also provides pastoral support to a victim of child sexual abuse in Oldham and champions an Oldham-based charity, The Greengate Trust, which undertakes overland aid missions to places such as war-torn Yemen and temporary refugee camps on the Greek Isles.

It is through giving so much of her time and considerable energy to others that Gail met Arooj, whilst she was doing the rounds of MPs in the Manchester and Salford area, harvesting support for her justice campaigning. At the time, Arooj was working in the office of Hazel Blears, prior to the MP standing down in 2015.

They also have a mutual friend, who works for Greengate, Mohammed Imran Ali, better known locally as ‘Irish Imy’, whose past association with notorious cop killer, Dale Cregan, forms just part of his local infamy. He is pictured here with volunteer colleagues and three Oldham police officers, who also enthusiastically support the work of the Trust.

For clarity, the officers are not ‘taking the knee’, as the Black Lives Matter campaign did not begin in earnest until a few months after this photograph was taken.

As a nod to Gail’s work, and the high admiration for her campaigning, particularly in almost single-handedly bringing about a public inquiry into Anthony Grainger’s death (read more here), the video clip was viewed, notebook at the ready.

Watching for the first time was an unsettling experience: Either Miss Arooj Shah was an Oscar-winning actress or she was a victim of a seriously grotesque, cruel, targeted campaign to discredit her. Much of the nine minutes speech was delivered through sobs and tears. The distress was palpable.

Shortly afterwards, the video was played a second time. This time without sound and focusing on everyone else but Arooj: Their body language, facial expressions, what they were doing with their hands. Including putting them together for a standing ovation at the end of the speech.

A third viewing, again silent, focused entirely on Arooj. The notebook was still blank because, by this time, the provisional view had been taken that there was more to this speech than politicking and play-acting. A transcript of the proceedings was procured instead. It is reproduced in full at the foot of this article.

The decision was made to take a neutral look at what is behind the individual, the politician, the speech and the allegations to which she alludes. A closer look at her tormentor was already well into the planning stage.

He was not named in the Council chamber, but identified himself as local activist, Raja Miah, in an on-line article shortly afterwards, Welcome to Oldham Part VI. Entirely devoted to a further, unvarnished attack on Arooj Shah, those associated with her, and businesses in which she has previously had, or presently has, an interest. 

Raja is not known to me personally, but he is an individual about whom a great deal has been learned over the past few months. We may have had a better understanding of one another if he had turned up for a meeting facilitated by an intermediary, and fellow Oldham activist, Tracey Gibson, in July. That involved me in a wasted 65 mile round trip and a lost afternoon. It added to the frustration of him not telephone calling, at an arranged time, whilst I was away in Spain earlier in the year. Tracey has now, it seems, distanced herself from Raja and deleted her Twitter and Facebook  accounts.

We have since communicated on social media, both in open forum and, more occasionally, by private message. But my persistent questions about backing up his assertions of wrongdoing with documents, or other evidence, have fallen on stoney ground and led to me being blocked on two of the main social media platforms.

One of Raja’s supporters likens that interrogatory approach as being ‘like a dog with a bone’. In reality, it’s just bog-standard investigative journalism.

Screenshot 2020-10-05 at 09.20.48

One of the issues upon which we clashed, publicly, was his interpretation of an email to which he refers, often, as evidence of a cover-up of child sex abuse in Oldham, a theme to which he returns regularly – and so will I in future articles.

Raja uses this allegation as a basis to attack one of his main targets in the aforementioned Welcome to Oldham series, Jim McMahon MP, a former leader of Council and, since May 2015, the elected representative for the Oldham West and Royton constituency. He is, more latterly, Shadow Transport Minister. Arooj Shah works in the MP’s office, as an adjunct to her main role as Deputy Leader of the Council, and that is how she came to the attention of Raja Miah, he claims.

Arooj is, more recently, the Council’s Cabinet Member for CoVID-19 which appears to have given Raja another stick with which to beat her, as Oldham enters its seventh week in ‘lockdown’.

Extensive enquiries have been made into what has flowed from Raja’s interest in Arooj. A search for the truth: Is she this dreadful, shameless, flighty individual that he paints, or has she been the subject of a contrived attack, designed to damage Jim McMahon by association. Or, does the answer lie somewhere in between?

Arooj’s parents migrated from Pakistan in 1968 to work in the local textile industry. She is one of seven siblings and has lived all her life in Oldham Borough, apart from term time at De Montfort University in Leicester, where she studied Politics and International Relations.

She was first elected as a Councillor for St Mary’s Ward in 2012 and selected as Cabinet Member for Performance and Corporate Governance, with responsibility for key campaigns and communications, in that same year. 

Arooj led Oldham’s pioneering Energy Switching campaign which became the most successful single-authority scheme of its type in the country – and was later rolled out across the Greater Manchester region. A collective bargaining initiative, this saw 8,726 households in the town signing up and making an average saving of £171 per year. Putting around £1.4 million back into Oldham resident’s pockets in a period of national austerity. 

In 2013, Arooj was named ‘Young Councillor of the Year’, alongside Oldham colleagues, Amanda Chadderton and Sean Fielding, by the Local Government Information Unit. Cllr Fielding is now, of course, Leader of Oldham Council and another local politician under constant attack from Raja Miah.

The Growth Company, where she currently serves as a Director, say: “She entered politics to give people strength and confidence in what they do, so that they feel able to speak up and have a voice. She has also worked hard encouraging local groups in schemes designed to take control of their communities and make them better places to live”.   

They added: “Arooj was praised for speaking out about harassment and intimidation she had suffered as an Asian female councillor before she was re-elected in the Chadderton South ward in May 2018”.

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Given my natural scepticism where all politicians are concerned, the direct feedback concerning Miss Shah was surprising, to say the least: ‘Very hard-working’ is a constant; ‘meticulous’, ‘very correct’, ‘loyal’, ‘dedicated’, ‘kind’, ‘caring’, ‘family and community-orientated’, ‘speaks her own mind’ also feature. A Muslim, she is known to be devoutly religious.

Less surprisingly, she is also regarded as highly ambitious, but not ‘a girl about town’ as they say. Indeed, no trace of a social life has been identified. As she said in her speech, she chooses to live at home with her mother. 

For emphasis, this is not client journalism: If there had been adverse commentary, or any other form of criticism of Arooj Shah, it would have been reported in the same way as the other remarks. In embarking upon this piece, and the ones that will follow, it was in the full knowledge that any unwarranted praise, perceived bias, or mistakes, or will be seized upon rabidly by Raja and his supporters.

The allegations made against Arooj Shah

For better or worse, these are the issues referred to in her speech and used by Raja Miah as a basis for undermining and discrediting her. At the same time, he rejects the notion that there is a mysogynistic element to his campaign.  

 – Slept her way to the top

This is referred to centrally in the speech, as is the dreadful effect it has had on Arooj. But, perhaps, the best answer is the one that forms the headline to this piece: ‘If only, Madam Mayor’. Beneath that, it is a desperately hurtful thing to say about a woman who is of the Muslim faith with, potentially, dangerous repercussions for her. Especially, when the allegation is made completely absent of any evidence, kiss and tell or otherwise.

The accompanying proposition that Raja Miah’s inbox is crammed full of lurid tales of her personal life appears to be far-fetched, at best. Not least, because the email link from his website is defective and communications are returned with an ‘undeliverable’ message.

Viewed objectively, her lifestyle, and total commitment to her career which, I’m told, involves her rising at 5am each day and finishing well into the evening, would not be conducive, in any way, to promiscuity. Neither would choosing to live in the family home.

The accolades she received after her first election success, and then having to resurrect her career after losing a local election in highly controversial circumstances in 2016, tend to suggest it is raw ability and commitment, rather than powers of seduction, that explain her present roles in politics and wider society.

 – Association with criminals

An interest must be declared here, first: Associating with criminals is something with which I can be charged. Often, in fact. Reporting on them from the press seats in Crown Court and the Court of Appeal; visiting them in custody (I have been inside seven different jails across Her Majesty’s Prison estate); assisting with rehabilitation, lobbying for employers to give a second chance to reformed offenders; supporting prison reform and rehabilitation on social media; campaigning against miscarriages of justice. I even share office facilities with one, when working in Leeds (read more here). That is, largely, who and what I am.

In Arooj Shah’s speech, she deals with her own connection with criminals with a fair and balanced explanation, from my standpoint at least. Given that all but two councillors rose to give her a standing ovation at the end of that powerful presentation, it was satisfactory to them, too. No doubt mindful of Oldham’s high level of criminality within the Borough and the difficulties that would pose if families and friends, or elected representatives, automatically disenfranchised those with a criminal record.

As a court reporter, I can go further in terms of relevance and context in this particular instance: Raja Miah, inadvertently or otherwise, frequently makes a connection to ‘Irish Imy’ as the getaway driver for Dale Cregan, then links that to the murder of two female police officers and, further and much worse, repeatedly asserts a link to Arooj Shah in the same chain. That has no basis in fact or evidence: Cregan did murder PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone in a truly horrific, senseless attack, but handed himself in at Hyde Police Station soon afterwards. As such, there was no getaway.

The offence for which ‘Irish Imy’ was convicted, Assisting an Offender, was not linked to the police officer murders. It concerned the aftermath of Cregan killing the well known gangster, David Short, six weeks earlier, and a car journey to Leeds some hours after that murder had taken place. He was jailed for seven and a half years.

It is no secret that I have campaigned vigorously for an inquiry into what is said by well known police whistleblower, Peter Jackson (one of Rajah Miah’s biggest and most enthusiastic supporters on social media), to be the entirely preventable deaths of those two young police officers (read more here).  According to the retired murder detective, the failings of several senior colleagues had much, much more to do with Cregan being still at large than his association with Irish Imy.

The definitive answer as to whether Arooj Shah would be wise to cut loose a friend of 30 years will, ultimately, come at the ballot box. Either at the next local polls or, more widely, when she, inevitably, stands for election to Parliament. In the meantime, Raja Miah appears to be the only person in the entire country making an issue of it.

 – Jim McMahon’s support of Mohammed Imran Ali (Irish Imy)

As set out above, Arooj Shah works in the McMahon constituency office. Raja Miah’s number one target, in what he freely terms his ‘vendetta’, is that same Member of Parliament; apparently over a grudge related to the ‘blacklisting’ of Raja, after spectacular failures at schools he operated in Manchester (read more here). A government investigation cast “significant doubts” on the legitimacy of money paid to a company connected to Miah (read more here), but concluded it was too difficult to establish a money trail. The probe, inexplicably, looked at just two years of transactions.

It is understood that the Serious Fraud Office are presently seized of those matters, following pressure from another local MP, Angela Rayner. But that is not to imply any wrongdoing by Raja Miah. The presumption of innocence must apply until investigations are complete.

Arooj appears, from this journalists’s vantage point, to have been caught in the cross-fire of the McMahon/Miah war of words (read more here) and, thereafter, seen as an easy target.

Screenshot 2020-10-05 at 09.46.37

This is what has been established as fact, as opposed to what is asserted by Raja, over a letter sent from the MP’s office regarding prison licence conditions: ‘Irish Imy’ is registered as a constituent of Jim McMahon MP; it is routine for elected representatives to assist such persons, irrespective of their antecedents; Arooj played no part in the letter that was written to the probation service, she has no locus as far as casework is concerned; the subject letter did not concern an early release, as claimed by Raja, the prison sentence was indeterminate (read more here); the subject matter was an appeal against a proposed, unscheduled transfer from a bail hostel in Oldham to more remote premises, away from his partner and young family. 

It has to be said that being adjacent to the criminal justice system, and a network of reliable contacts within it, makes access to this information far easier for me to secure than it might be for Raja. But it is a curiosity that he should ground a story entirely on speculation and, seemingly, absent of any interrogative feature. 

 – The genesis of the friendship between Arooj Shah and ‘Irish Imy’ 

Raja Miah has made a qualified assertion that he does not believe the friendship between the two is what Arooj articulated in her speech. That is to say, they have known one another since the ages of 11 and 9 respectively.

That, unqualified, would be a very serious allegation to make: A Muslim woman, devoted to her faith and her God, notably successful in her chosen career and a high profile political figure across the North West region of the UK, lies to an entire Council chamber, knowing that there would be high media attention to what was quite sensational subject matter. Just one credible witness coming forward, to rebut the longevity of the friendship, would end her political career and destroy her reputation.

Equally concerning, is the foundation for the Miah assertion: An anonymous post, using the handle ‘Bashah’ in the comments section of a newspaper; screenshot, very conveniently, by Raja prior to it being removed by the moderator.

There are two errors in that post that are easily put right: ‘Bashah’ claims that ‘Irish Imy’ and Arooj’s brother were ‘locked up in HMP Buckley Hall together’. Arslan Shah has never been in Buckley Hall prison. His trial and conviction was never reported. I am aware, via criminal justice contacts, of where Arslan was arrested, tried and imprisoned. Raja plainly is not.

‘Bashah’ also claims that a man nicknamed ‘Shanny’ was Arooj’s boyfriend. My enquiries locally firmly conclude that is also untrue: Shahnawaz Qumer, for that is Shanny, subjected Arooj Shah to an obsessive, persistent and unpleasant campaign of highly personalised harassment and stalking. They were never in any relationship, it seems.

Screenshot 2020-10-04 at 17.52.40

‘Shanny’ was not, as he should have been, prosecuted for those activities, but he did end up in prison in 2015 after standing trial over a find of 30kg of cannabis, worth £300,000, at the address of a friend. Qumer, a married man with three children and serious financial problems, lied to police about his role transporting the drugs from Hertfordshire to Oldham before, eventually pleading guilty (read here). An unlikely suitor for a young, attractive, well-grounded high achiever; but a likely ‘informant’ for Raja Mia’s campaign against her.

Remarkably, those matters did not show up when Raja was ‘researching’ Shanny, but an alleged assault upon him, by Irish Imy, did. Conversely, and perversely, I can find no trace of this alleged assault, either in the public domain or via my criminal justice contacts. Or an Oldham Councillor wearing Jimmy Choo shoes in the council chamber or in a local MP’s office.

What is unclear is why Raja was checking into Shanny at all: They have been friends since they sat opposite one another in secondary school. The source of that information is Raja, himself. 

It has been pointed out since this article was published that ‘Bashah’ is possibly, or indeed probably, a play on Bash Shah (as in Cllr Shah). If that is so, and the readers will judge for themselves, the suspects as the likely authors of that newspaper comment is reduced to a very small number. 

 – Register of business interests

Without wishing to diminish what, taken to its extreme, is a criminal offence under the Localism Act, 2011, and the effort and informed research to bring it to the public’s attention, this is very much a case of Raja Miah making an ice cream sundae out of a well-licked lollipop. The truth is not difficult to uncover and involves talking to people and asking questions, rather than just bashing away on a keyboard: The business was set up by Arooj for her brother, Arslan, whilst he was in prison. The Shah family were desperate to keep him occupied after his release and out of further trouble. In that regard, the venture has been a success, whilst not prospering financially. A matter readily ascertained at Companies House (read here).

If there was an oversight in declaring what, at the time, was a dormant business, dogged by the builder refurbishing the premises going bust, then Miss Shah is guilty as charged. The matter has been investigated by the Council’s Standards Committee and there has been a disposal. No-one gained from, or came to harm over, the registration error.

The Miah proposition that this ice cream business is a disguise for a money laundering operation, and Arooj Shah was, at its formation, a ‘shadow director’ fronting it, appears to have no basis in fact or evidence. 

 – Asian Cartels and Block postal votes

Any assertion that Arooj Shah benefits from involvement with any alleged cartel, Asian or otherwise, or vote rigging, is defeated in just one sentence: She lost her St Mary’s seat at the local elections in Oldham in 2016. 

After the narrow defeat (289 votes), a piece to camera was broadcast on BBC Newsnight in which Arooj complained of an organised mysogynistic campaign against her. This followed an on-line BBC article two months earlier in which she spoke of resistance from some Labour members, in her predominately Asian ward, to a Muslim woman representing them: “There’s Labour Party members who will accept my two ward colleagues, Asian men, but support anyone but me. They’re members of the local Labour party. They are shameless about it… It’s because I’m a woman and anyone who sugar-coats it is lying.”

Screenshot 2020-10-05 at 08.30.22

She, plainly, still feels very strongly about that issue to raise it again so powerfully in her speech in the Council chamber.

Historically, Oldham has been at the forefront of publicity over postal vote rigging, but it is 20 years since there has been a successful prosecution. In 2014, the town was named as an ‘at risk’ location with police and Returning Officers alerted by the Electoral Commission. Particularly in local communities where there are ‘low levels of literacy or a lack of English skills’.

The Council and Greater Manchester Police have both been contacted regarding the number of complaints of postal vote rigging in the Oldham Borough since 2014.

Requests have also been made to the same two public authorities to ascertain the number of retrievable documents that are returned, electronically, from the search term ‘Asian Cartel Oldham’.

Conclusion

The reader is, of course, invited to form their own view of events, before, during and after Arooj Shah’s speech, and my reporting of them. Earlier in the piece, I posed the questions, is she a bad person of low morals, the subject of a sustained, contrived attack by Raja Miah – or does the answer lie somewhere in between? You decide.

But, from this journalist’s standpoint, it has heavily underscored a suspicion I first formed two months ago and have posted about regularly on social media ever since: Almost all of Raja Miah’s assertions have little or no safe ground beneath them – and facts and evidence are in short supply. A point that will be explored in more detail in the succeeding Oldham articles in what, at present, is planned to be a series of four. The next piece covers the question of whether his core, and frequently repeated, allegation of long-running, widescale, multi-agency cover-up of child sex abuse in Oldham has substance. 

Both Arooj Shah and Raja Miah have been given right of reply to this article.

Raja Miah did not respond to me directly but, in an angry post on his Recusant Nine Facebook page, he has launched into an entirely predictable ad hominem attack. He goes on to describe the article as ‘all Wilby’s crap’ ‘a eulogy to Arooj Shah’ and a ‘so-called exposé’. He has not addressed any of his evidential failings, brought to light in this piece, or, much more crucially, apologised for smearing Arooj Shah. 

The Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council press office did not respond to the request for comment on behalf of Cllr Arooj.

 

Page last updated: Thursday 8th October, 2020 at 0600 hours

Photo credits: Oldham Chronicle, Greengate Trust, ITV News, MEN

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 2015-2020. 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Transcript of Arooj Shah speech, 8th January, 2020

Arooj Shah: Thank you, Madam Mayor. Before I go into this can I just echo what the Leader of the Council, Sean Fielding, has said. We’ve heard some fantastic contributions tonight, and the comments that Steve [Bashforth] made are absolutely right, and Cllr Sam Al-Hamdani.

This motion isn’t about self-gratification, it’s not about saying ‘Oh God, we’re so sensitive and we’re politicians that can’t take what people say about us’. We are open to scrutiny and we are open to accountability, that’s what we fight for and that’s why we come here – and we put in all the work that we do. 

But what we can’t say is that it’s okay to be personal, to attack us, to abuse us because that just doesn’t impact us, it has a massive impact on our family.

And we enter politics that’s a choice we make as individuals, we don’t ask our family members, our loved ones and our friends ‘Are you okay with this?’ because what might be said about me – rightfully or wrongfully – will have an impact on your life.

That is something we don’t do, so this motion is simply about saying treat us with the respect that we honour, and this job, Madam Mayor. When I got into this, I didn’t think that I would spend my whole life, give up my whole life to politics, and I did. 

I sacrificed some personal choices, that I have made myself. I have sacrificed them because I believed I could serve my community and I think I’ve done a really good job.

And like Cllr Bashforth says, for people who think that I haven’t, I’m there for you to ask me and challenge me in a respectful way, and I will respond to that.

But if you’re going to take to social media, and call us names, then that’s not acceptable I am not going to be ashamed of standing up and speaking up for myself, and other people who give their lives up to public service.

So, Madam Mayor, I want to thank the Members in this debate. And, at times, I suspect many of you feel alone and, perhaps, even isolated, and I want to say that my door is always open for you. So, if you need any support, help or guidance please feel free to get in touch.

And I say that because I know how this feels, I can speak to my own experience Madam Mayor, the person embarked on a targeted campaign of harassment for no other reason than I dared to challenge his behaviour.

The individual deliberately sought out to bring shame to me in my community and impact my family.

Actually, Madam Mayor, I’m touched by the contributions that have been made tonight and I resent the way public servants aren’t allowed to stick up for themselves without being told that they’re self-obsessed.

So, this individual came after me because I dared to challenge his behaviour. He inferred that ‘women in my profession must have sexually transmitted diseases and the only reason I hold the position I do is because I slept my way to this position’.

If only, Madam Mayor.

He also indicated in other posts that he has an inbox full of stories about my personal life, and he makes threats to publish these. 

The pattern of directing attacks towards my personal life Madam Mayor, by him is not a coincidence.

He has caused great distress to me within my community, but you know what more importantly, he’s caused upset to my family. 

It is textbook misogyny, and I’ll use that word and no doubt later on he’ll start saying ‘oh my god she uses this to progress her professional career.’ No I don’t, this is my reality and I’m sick of that being undermined.

He has clearly designed to cause me sustained reputational damage, it soon moves on though because he claims to be a fictional writer and he does write a lot of fiction.

He soon moves on, though never too far from him accusing me of covering up child sexual exploitation Madam Mayor, who in this chamber would ever do that.

What kind of person does it take to do that, and the very fact that this person can think it is more of a reflection on him than it is on me or anyone in this chamber.

He then goes on to accusing me of misusing my position in public office, and people say to me all the time, ‘Well, if that’s not true why do you not answer it, why do your colleagues not answer it, why isn’t Sean answering the fact that he’s not a paedophile protector, why isn’t Jim McMahon answering these questions?’. Because we are too aware that if you were to counter every accusation he makes, that something more ridiculous and outrageous will follow. 

Madam Mayor, because he and these people are not about truth, they’re about intimidation and that’s what he tried to do.

Madam Mayor, I was born and raised in Glodwick, Oldham, and I came into public service because I wanted to serve my community.

I have always acted appropriately in my political and professional life. I have never abused my position and I have never, ever compromised any confidences. 

But Madam Mayor, that in and of itself is not enough when the level of attacks against you are not about the truth.

He then went on to share pictures of me with my brother, and one of my friends called Mohammed Imran Ali, who I’ve known since I was 11 years old.

Both of them have been into prison, but he did that because he wants to create a perception that I am part of a criminal gang, that I’m part of “a cartel”.

Madam Mayor, he knows full well that I have not covered up child sexual exploitation, that I have never misused my position in public office, because he’s asked these questions and he’s had the answers.

He knows that I am not part of a cartel, but he is also fully aware that I would not condone any acts that my brother did or that my friend did.

But Madam Mayor, whilst my longstanding relationships and friendships will be difficult for some people to accept, and I fully understand that, I can’t pretend that they don’t exist. 

And I certainly cannot turn my back on people I’ve known since childhood for political convenience. 

And I certainly don’t forget where I came from, there were times in my life Madam Mayor where I could only put in about £3 worth of petrol (in my car) I’d have to consider every journey to see whether it was worth me making. 

Now I’m in a position where I don’t even consider my journeys, and I’m able to put petrol in my car without giving it a second thought.

There have been times in my life where I have longed for certain types of clothing, shoes or for my hair to get done in the hairdressers, and I’d have to consider my choices, but today Madam Mayor, I’m fortunate enough to do that for myself.

And not just for myself, I’m fortunate enough and blessed enough to be able to do it for other people that I care about. 

There were times where I thought will I ever have my own home; will I ever be able to move out? Now Madam Mayor I have my own home, but I live with my mum out of choice, and all this happened because somebody believed in me.

Because the kind of community that I came from, the stacks are against you. It’s hope and it’s opportunity, and somebody believed in me.  

I swear to God, if people believe that I have not got to be the first Asian female Cabinet Member of Oldham Council, and the first Asian female statutory deputy leader of Oldham Council, by not working hard, I can tell you this: I have worked fifty times harder than my peers and my colleagues in this chamber to hold this position.

I don’t pretend to be somebody I’m not, Madam Mayor. I am straight talking, but I am very kind and respectful towards people. 

I do not disown people for political convenience or to advance my political career.

Too many people come into public life because they are driven by a passion for public service, a desire for better and believing that they have something to offer. 

But often Madam Mayor, the impact goes beyond those who make the choice to step forward, and it can affect your family and your friends.

As we are fighting for greater protection we ought to reflect that the vast majority of people like Cllr Sean Fielding said, like Shaid Mushtaq said, that the vast majority of people are decent, respectful and want the same for our communities.

So for those who step into public life, I sincerely thank you and to the friends and family that support you, your support means the world, and it’s more valuable than you’ll ever know.

Madam Mayor: Thank you, Cllr Shah. Does Council agree the motion; those in favour?

We’ll class that as unanimous. Thank you.

Even more rotten

On 21st August, 2020 an article was published on this website, headlined ‘Rotten to its Core‘ (read here). It referred to the actions of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in the eight years following the shooting of an unarmed man, Anthony Grainger, in a supermarket car park in Culcheth, Cheshire by a GMP armed response unit.

Within the piece were exclusive revelations concerning a corrupt detective who had worked on that undercover police operation, codenamed ‘Shire’. The officer also worked on the predecessor drugs investigation, Operation Blyth, but cannot be named for legal reasons and great care was, and is, being taken to avoid any possibility of ‘jigsaw identification’, in order not to prejudice any future proceedings against the officer, even though s/he has not yet been charged and, also, to protect unwitting others who are now dragged into the scandal.

The officer’s identity is, however, well known within GMP, not least because of the elite unit in which s/he was posted and there is a also relative who works for the force. Some colleagues were present when the arrest was made.

Not unnaturally, it created a great deal of public comment, opprobium and, indeed, alarm on social media, although completely ignored by the local and regional press. The most troubling aspect of the case is the genesis of the investigation: The subject officer allowed a packet of drugs to fall from a jacket pocket whilst dropping off a child at school (the location of which is now known but not disclosed here), left the scene without picking it up and the drugs were ultimately found by a pupil, handed to a teacher at the school, who called the police. The arrest followed, at the detective’s workplace, during which more drugs were found – and a search at home found yet more drugs and a cache of ammunition. The latter strongly suggests links to at least one organised crime group. The officer is presently suspended on full pay.

On 16th August, 2020 Gail Hadfield Grainger, the bereaved partner of Anthony, wrote to the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, who has a dual role as Police and Crime Commissioner for the region. This is the communication, in redacted form:

“Subject: Another corrupt officer attached to Operations Blyth and Shire.

Dear Andy

It is with some dismay that I have to write to you, yet again, over concerns related to the ‘investigations’ that ultimately led to Anthony’s death.

There is, apparently, no-one holding the chief constable to account, including yourself and Bev Hughes, and that is why GMP is widely, and quite correctly, labelled ‘rotten to the core’.

The latest revelation concerns [name redacted] whom, as you may know, featured strongly in both the subject investigations involving Anthony. [Gender redacted] has been arrested and is presently under investigation by the IOPC (believe it or not) over drugs offences. 

Both the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star have been trying to get the story past their lawyers. So far, unsuccessfully, because of the very limited response from the GMP press office. The facts are that [name redacted], when dropping off a child at school, inadvertently allowed some Class A drugs to fall from [gender redacted] pocket. These were picked up and handed to a teacher, who called the police. 

GMP officers found ammunition and a further supply of cocaine at [gender redacted] home address (more than for personal use). [Name redacted] also had drugs on [gender redacted] person when searched at [Name of office building redacted]. The offending is, apparently, common knowledge amongst the [name of unit redacted], of which [Gender redacted] is part.

Now to the important part. My information, from two sources, is that GMP are going to cut a deal with [name redacted] so that the story doesn’t get into the public domain and, they thought, reach my ears. [Gender redacted] won’t be prosecuted and misconduct proceedings will be held in private. [Gender redacted] will, of course, be on full pay for as long as [name of staff association redacted] can spin this out and then, of course, receive [gender redacted] pension.

It is not confirmed yet, but I have reason to believe that [name redacted] lives in the [name redacted] area. [sentence redacted].

In these circumstances, I require from you a firm undertaking that this officer will be prosecuted and sentenced with the same rigour as any other member of the public and that you properly and fully hold the chief constable to account over this disgraceful situation. Those orchestrating the cover-up should also face the full force of the law. You were noisy enough on that very same point when grandstanding for the Hillsborough families.

In the absence of you taking all the necessary and correct steps to put right this series of wrongs then I will go public and you will be doorstepped if you won’t face the cameras and answer questions.

A copy of a letter sent to all Greater Manchester MPs, including of course my own, is attached. The contents are self-explanatory. Your failure to hold the chief constable and his corrupt police force to account has been expressed within.

Yours sincerely

Gail Hadfield Grainger

Bereaved family member and victim – Anthony Grainger”

 

The Deputy Mayor’s response amounted to just five short, sterile paragraphs. It is completely absent of any empathy or sympathy for the distress and alarm these latest developments have brought to Gail and her family. In Ms Hughes’ familiar style she relies entirely on what the police have told her without making her own, independent, enquiries.

She quite correctly opens by saying that she is limited to what she can say because of an ongoing criminal investigation. But she omits to say for how long this investigation is ongoing. It is believed to have been running for over six months. The letter goes on to say that there are simultaneous investigations being conducted, misconduct by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and a criminal investigation led by the GMP Head of Professional Standards Branch (the very same PSB unit that has led the sustained ‘cover-up’ over Anthony Grainger’s death since March, 2012). The investigation was sent back to PSB, by the IOPC, rather that the watchdog take the more logical and transparent step of inviting another large metropolitan force to get to the bottom of what could be widescale corruption of which the subject officer may only form a part.

Ms Hughes says, despite the lengthy and troubled background to the Grainger case, that she is ‘assured that there is no question that a deal is being done with the officer’. But she gives no clue as to the source of that ‘assurance’ making it, in the event, worthless. She adds that any decision to hold a misconduct meeting in private would be made by the Panel Chair. Omitting to mention that the Mayor decides which legally qualified Chairs form part of his standing list from which a selection is made each time a misconduct hearing is deemed necessary.

She concludes by saying that ‘I am assured that the investigation will be conducted in a thorough and professional manner through to its conclusion and all available evidence presented to the CPS and any misconduct panel’. Again there is no clue whatsoever of the identity of the officer giving the assurance.

It is true to say that Gail Hadfield Grainger was surprised, disappointed and not a little angry that Andy Burnham had not responded himself and, more particularly how weak and supine the response was, after careful analysis.

Accepting, of course, the limitations of the Mayoral response in order to protect the integrity of the investigation (Gail has a Masters degree in law), there was no mention of:

– The ‘Rotten to its core’ label now widely attached to Greater Manchester Police.

– Why the investigation is taking so long? A member of the public found with drugs and ammunition, during and post-arrest, would have been charged, put before the local Magistrates’ and committed for trial at Crown Court within hours, not months.

– What safeguarding measures are being/were put in place at the school and whether counselling for the children and staff unwittingly involved in these crimes was offered?

– The danger this bent cop, and the missing firearm for which the ammunition was acquired, poses to the public of Greater Manchester, and serving colleagues, whilst still at large.

– The fiasco surrounding the investigation of every other officer accused of criminal offences and/or misconduct and involved in either the killing of Anthony Grainger, or the grotesque and sustained ‘cover-up’, by GMP, that followed.

– The fact that a key member of her own team, Paul Gilfeather, was convicted of Class A drugs offences in December, 2018 (read here).

Since that exchange of correspondence, other information has been shared by insiders that adds considerably to the risk that the public are being placed under. It is alleged that the subject officer has, before the suspension from duty:

– Unlawfully accessed police computer systems.

– Had involvement with at least one organised crime group. It is generally accepted that, where there is OCG drugs and firearms offending, as in this case, it usually follows that trafficking, extortion, robbery, theft to order, money laundering are also adjacent.

– Tipped off criminals as drug busts and other disruptive police activity in the locality were being ‘blown’ regularly. Senior officers, prior to arrest of their colleague, were said to be perplexed as to how this series of failed operations had come about.

Other matters more broadly connected to this troubling case include:

– One of the Mayor’s key political allies is said to be a recreational cocaine user. GMP should be aware, as the dealer is said to be a police informant. However, there is no suggestion whatsoever that Andy Burnham is adjacent to that fact. That is also the case with his now dismissed PR Guru, Gilfeather.

– It is alleged that an officer who worked on Operation Blyth was prosecuted for stealing drugs from the police force exhibits store.

The attempt by Beverley Hughes to downplay the case, and its wider ramifications, should trouble every single person in Greater Manchester and beyond. Her suitability to be be holding any police officer to account, given her own highly questionable ethics and professionalism, is just another part of the factual matrix. As is the total reliance on anonymous sources, within a corrupt police force, for her ‘assurances’ that everything will turn out well for the public in the region. The damning evidence already heard at the Manchester Arena Inquiry again expose the frailty of that proposition, as the rank incompetence of the senior leadership is again exposed, unchecked by any form of accountabilty from the Mayor’s office.

The last word, for now, goes to Gail Hadfield Grainger:

“Since this officer’s arrest was first brought to my attention it has caused great anguish to both my family and myself. The role played in the two operations that led to Anthony’s death cannot be erased from history and is a significant trigger. Nor can the terrible mistakes that preceded that utterly tragic event or the cover-up engineered by the police almost from the moment Officer Q9 pulled the trigger.

“With very good reason, I do not trust either the police service, or the Independent Office for Police Conduct, or the CPS, to bring to book this latest GMP criminality, without fear or favour and, unfortunately, the inactions of the Mayor, and this recent letter from his deputy, do nothing to dispel that deep rooted concern. The case should have been given to another police force to investigate”.

The Mayor’s and the police press office have been invited to comment.

Page last updated: Wednesday 9th September, 2020 at 1735 hours

Photo Credits: Greater Manchester Police, ITV News, Derby Telegraph (Stockphoto)

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 2015-2020. 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.

 

‘Rotten to its core’

These are the words of leading counsel, Leslie Thomas QC, about what is now recognised as the most scandal-ridden police force in the country.

They were spoken in May 2017 at the conclusion of a public inquiry into the death of Bolton man, Anthony Grainger. Mr Thomas went on to claim Greater Manchester Police attempted to “cover up” failings over the tragic and needless death.

He added: “Key documents have been destroyed, accounts and logs embellished, police statements carefully stage-managed, evidence has been concocted, redactions made for no good reason and thousands of pages of relevant material withheld.

“Taken together with the sweeping failures in planning and execution of this operation, this smokescreen by GMP reveals an organisation that is rotten to its core.”

The inquest touching Mr Grainger’s death was converted to a public inquiry by way of a decision taken in March 2016 by the Home Secretary of the day, Theresa May. This followed the abandoning of a Health and Safety prosecution against Peter Fahy, the chief constable at the time, in January, 2015.

The perenially inept Fahy, who had pleaded not guilty at Liverpool Crown Court, had been charged as the corporation sole, a legal status that meant he represented GMP, but bore no criminal liability.

The prosecution set out to prove 26 alleged GMP failings arising out of Operation Shire, an armed police deployment acting without any proper intelligence basis for so doing, and when the use of armed police was unnecessary or premature. Particularly when some of them had been hanging around for up to 14 hours before reaching the death site.

But, following an application by defence counsel that the prosecution was an abuse of process, the CPS offered no evidence and a not guilty verdict was formally recorded. ‘Shire’ had followed another flawed and controversial drugs-focused operation, code-named Blyth, also dogged with corrupt officers.

It was argued, some might say incredibly, that evidence gathered by the force was so secret it could not be shown to a jury and, therefore, Fahy and GMP could not get a fair trial. It was, on any independent view, another in a long line of disgraceful episodes in the recent history of GMP.

Fahy, whose dreadful legacy still puts Greater Manchester at risk, retired later that year. Some of those perils are outlined in this shocking and widely read catalogue of scandals besetting GMP, many of them on Sir Peter’s watch (read here).

One of his worst bequests was the choice of his deputy, Ian Hopkins, promoted to that role in 2012 after joining GMP in 2008 as an assistant chief constable. Hopkins had previously served, without any obvious distinction, in three small county forces.

Following the Fahy retirement, Hopkins was take his place as chief constable, after no other officer, internally or externally, made the short-list for what should be a highly prestigious role, heading up the third largest police force in England and Wales.

The force, on Hopkins’ watch has, almost since the day of his appointment, staggered from crisis to crisis, scandal to scandal, on a routine basis, and confirmed his position as the worst chief officer in the country, by some distance. Most heavily underscored by the disastrous IT Transformation that is commonly known as iOPS (read more here) and the catastrophic human tragedies associated with Operation Augusta.

One of the worst of those scandals will surface again shortly as the Grainger shooting is about to hit the headlines, once more, for all the wrong reasons.

At the Grainger Public Inquiry, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood was caught telling untruths and admitted making forged entries in a policy log in an attempt to justify the fatal attack. Just part of the catalogue of disgraceful GMP conduct referenced by Leslie Thomas QC.

Heywood told the judge, under probing from counsel to the inquiry, Jason Beer QC, that he did not intentionally mislead the inquiry. Against a background of his force doing just that, over and over again, in those same proceedings.

He signed off on sick leave the day after giving that evidence and never returned to duty, thereafter. It was reported that, during his eighteen month ‘sickness’ absence, he received salary and benefits worth a sum over £250,000. He ‘retired’ in October, 2018 on a full police pension, having reached 30 years service.

This officer, whose evidence was generously described by the inquiry Chair, Thomas Teague QC, as ‘lacking candour’ was not, subsequently, prosecuted over what might be considered, at their highest, to be very serious criminal offences; the Crown Prosecution Service ruling that there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction. Later revised, after it was belatedly accepted that it did, in fact, meet the evidential threshold, to ‘not in the public interest’.

An investigation followed the public inquiry, by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, into Heywood’s misdemeanours. It began in October 2017 and concluded in May 2018. Roughly five months longer that a competent probe should have taken. They, eventually and belatedly, ruled that he had a case to answer for gross misconduct. It took GMP until November, 2018 to accept that finding. Another six months deliberately wasted.

The disgraced IPCC, upon whose evidence the CPS had relied in deciding not to charge Heywood, had in the meantime changed their name to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

In May, 2020 the Government produced a ‘whitewash’ response to the 346 page Report into the Death of Anthony Grainger (read inquiry report in full here). It said ‘valuable lessons have been learned for the future’ and ‘good progress’ had been made on nine of the recommendations set out by HHJ Teague. There did not appear to be any probative evidence supporting those assertions (read here).

Supine and very largely ineffective Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, said: “These organisations [the National Police Chiefs Council and GMP] have accepted the recommendations which were made and assured Government that, in the eight years since the operation in which Anthony Grainger was fatally shot, significant work has taken place to implement changes”. Again completely without supporting evidence. Simply relying on the word of the same senior officers who had condoned the disgraceful conduct of the force at the inquest.

Four officers remain under investigation by the IOPC in connection with the incident and its aftermath. They include another assistant chief constable and Fahy protege, Terry Sweeney. The IOPC seem determined to string out proceedings as long as humanly possible, apppearing to do little or nothing between updates to the bereaved family.

In the midst of all this controversy, in May 2019, Ian Hopkins was given a two year extension to his highly lucrative chief constable contract by the Manchester Mayor, despite being the officer very closely involved in the purchase of illegal gas canisters, deployed in the immediate aftermath of the fatal shooting of Anthony Grainger. One was thrown into the car in which he lay dead. The canisters, purchased in the USA, had been stored by GMP for some time before that unlawful use.

The marksman who shot Grainger, anonymised under the codename Q9, was recently told that he had no case to answer for misconduct (or criminal liability). The watchdog found Q9’s reason for using lethal force was “honestly held”. A surprise and disappointment to the Grainger family having heard his evidence, and that of the others involved in the botched operation, at the public inquiry.

The gross misconduct proceedings against Steven Heywood were listed to be heard at GMP HQ from Monday 1st June, 2020 and scheduled to last three days. They sensationally collapsed, early on the second day, when counsel for the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, who had brought the proceedings against Heywood, submitted to the Panel that charges against him should be dismissed. This remarkable turnaround, by Gerard Boyle QC, followed an application on Friday 29th May, 2020 by GMP to the effect that proceedings should be adjourned whilst an issue concerned redacted materials in the hearing bundle was resolved.

The response of counsel for Heywood, John Beggs QC, was to apply for a stay to the proceedings on the grounds that the delay in bringing the proceedings, and a contemplated further delay, was unfair and prejudicial. Beggs, in oral submissions, also made great play of the redactions issue being unfair to his client, although his copious written pleadings were largely silent on that point.

The way the proceedings played out, regrettably, had the appearance of a well-rehearsed pantomine. With ‘the baddie’ making good his escape.

However, to her great credit. the Panel Chair pulled no punches when responding to the submissions by counsel, being harshly critical of the conduct of both parties.

A transcript of the Panel’s decision and closing remarks – and the response of GMP to them – can be found here.

The officer providing the statement on behalf of the force was Deputy Chief Constable Ian Pilling, Command Team portfolio holder for professional standards, and it is with him that the search for those responsible for the debacle begins: “Following submissions made at the gross misconduct hearing in relation to retired ACC Heywood on June 1, the force has made the decision not to pursue these proceedings further and invited the panel to dismiss the charges against Mr Heywood.

“This misconduct case involved consideration of some complex issues relating to certain information and intelligence which, for legal reasons, could not be provided to Mr Heywood and could not be made public or indeed even shared with the panel dealing with the misconduct hearing.

“Evidence relating to those things was heard in private at the Anthony Grainger Inquiry, and as such was redacted from the public records of that inquiry. The law concerning what can be disclosed in a public inquiry is different from that in misconduct proceedings.

“Following submissions made on Monday, the force has accepted that some of these matters could not be overcome and it would be unfair to pursue the case against the retired officer.

“These are complex issues and the available options were often constrained by the law. Decisions have been made based on professional advice and in the best interests of reaching the most appropriate outcome – however, in this case this hasn’t been possible, which I very much regret.”

As can be seen from the transcript, the Panel Chair, Nahied Asjad, slammed GMP for “delays and procedural errors” and said the handling of the misconduct hearing “could undermine public confidence in the force”.

“There has been a  fundamental disregard for everyone involved in the proceedings, including Mr Grainger’s family, Mr Heywood and the public”, she added.

In the face of that stinging criticism, DCC Pilling added: “The Chair has been clear that the Panel are of the view that GMP did not deal with some key elements of this matter in an appropriate way. Whilst we need to examine the comments more fully, we absolutely accept that mistakes have been made and this matter should have been handled much more effectively.

Pilling did not offer his resignation, as he rightly should have done but did go on to say:

“We apologise unreservedly for the errors which were made, in particular to the family and partner of Anthony Grainger and to all other involved parties.”

gail hg

An apology not accepted by Gail Hadfield Grainger, Anthony’s co-habiting partner at the time of his death – and an intelligent, dignified, determined and resourceful campaigner for justice ever since.

She has similar disregard for the perennially weak IOPC Director of Major Investigations, Steve Noonan, who said: “Anthony Grainger’s family, and the wider public, deserved to hear the evidence and Mr Heywood account for his actions. We acted quickly and decisively to examine Mr Heywood’s conduct once it was brought into question during the Grainger Public Inquiry in 2017. In May 2018, after our seven month investigation, we concluded he should face a public hearing to answer allegations that the evidence he provided to the Inquiry may have breached police professional standards relating to honesty and integrity and performance of duties. GMP agreed with our findings.”

“Today’s developments mean that there can be no ruling from the police panel, as to whether or not Mr Heywood committed gross misconduct to a degree that would have justified dismissal, were he still serving.

“Three new investigations stemming from evidence given at the Anthony Grainger Public Inquiry, which reported its findings in July 2019, began earlier this year, and we will continue to work hard to ensure those allegations are thoroughly examined, that actions are accountable and lessons learned.”

Gail absolutely rejects that lessons have been learned by either GMP, or the IOPC, whom she holds jointly responsible for the Heywood fiasco with the CPS, who provided two different and equally weak arguments before deciding not to prosecute. A decision that had all the appearance of being pre-formed with a resort to any excuse not to put matters before a jury.

On Friday 21st August a very short remote hearing took place under Regulation 34 of the Police Conduct Regulations 2012, applicable in this particular case. The chair, DCC Pilling looking shifty and uncomfortable, who is also Appropriate Authority and responsible almost entirely for the Heywood debacle, determined that no disciplinary sanction would be applied to the former assistant chief constable in the light of the Panel’s decision at the June hearing.

Steve Heywood did not attend the proceedings and neither did his legal team. Gerard Boyle QC, as mentioned above counsel to GMP, was in attendance but had nothing to add to Pilling’s decision.

The execution of the Heywood cover-up was complete. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along to the next one, which allegedly involves a cocaine-using officer, with links to illegal firearms, presently being ‘investigated’ by the IPCC following an arrest. The officer cannot be named yet, for legal reasons, but was involved with both Operations Blyth and Shire, the latter to a significant degree. GMP are desperately trying to suppress details of the shocking nature and scale of offending. The officer was attached to one of the highest profile and most prestigious units in the force where, it is said, the offending is common knowledge.

Gail Hadfield Grainger has, quite rightly, expressed her outrage at this latest ‘cover-up’ involving officers in the team responsible for her partner’s needless death. An email setting out her concerns that ‘a deal’ may have been done with the offender, to slip the officer out of the GMP back door away from public view, without prosecution or a misconduct hearing held in public, has been sent to Andy Burnham. He has until Monday 31st August, 2020 to respond.

The Home Secretary, Greater Manchester Mayor and the chief constable have been approached for comment.

Page last updated: Monday 24th August, 2020 at 1735 hours

Photo Credits: Greater Manchester Police, ITV News

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 2015-2020. 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.

Misconduct proceedings described as ‘omnishambles’ by top QC

As an interim measure, this is a contemporaneous record of notes taken during the substantive part of the proceedings of Tuesday 2nd June, 2020, in the hearing of gross misconduct allegations against former assistant chief constable, Steven Heywood. A more complete report will appear later.

This was the second of three days listed for the hearing. Most of the first day’s session was taken up with an opening by Gerard Boyle QC, representing the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police and a viperous response from John Beggs QC, for Heywood, who sought a stay of the proceedings under sections 19 and 21 of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012.
Those concern prejudice against an officer, the subject of misconduct proceedings, in the event of protracted and inexplicable delay. Beggs QC described the conduct of the misconduct proceedings by GMP as ‘an omnishambles’.
He also complained bitterly about ‘equality of arms’, in terms of legal representation and funding. In which he felt that his lay client was seriously disadvantaged.

This disciplinary hearing was brought about by Heywood’s seriously troubling evidence given at a public inquiry into the shooting of Gail Hadfield Grainger’s partner, Anthony Grainger, in 2012. It was Gail’s articulate, dignified but persistent campaigning that  largely brought about the inquiry.
The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently refused to prosecute Heywood after he lied on oath at the inquiry and it transpired that he had altered police logs post-facto. They said the evidence was ‘insufficient’ to secure a conviction.
Gail was refused a review of that inexplicable decision on the grounds that she wasn’t regarded by the CPS as a victim.
Decision of Panel, as delivered by Legally Qualified Chair, NAHIED ASJAD LLB (Hons) LLM. [There are a number of typographical errors in the note-taking, these will be corrected at the earliest opportunity].
“These are misconduct proceedings brought by the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, as the appropriate authority, against former ACC Steven Heywood. The proceedings commenced on Monday 1st June, 2020 and the matter was listed for three days.
“Yesterday, we heard submissions from Mr Boyle QC on behalf of the appropriate authority, and Mr Beggs QC on behalf of Mr Heywood this morning. Mr Boyle QC invited the panel to recommend that the charges against Mr Haywood be dismissed.
“In his submissions, on behalf of the appropriate authority, Mr Boyle stated that the appropriate authority had concluded that it cannot in good conscience, seek to pursue these matters further.
“Well, in this Panel ‘in good conscience’ cannot dismiss the allegations against Mr Heywood, without stating the following. What we are about to say is not directed at Mr Boyle QC, but is directed towards the appropriate authority [Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police]. We, as a Panel, were convened to hear Gross Misconduct allegations against Mr Heywood; one of the purposes of misconduct proceedings is to maintain public trust and confidence in the police service. The integrity of the police system can only be upheld if officers who are alleged to have committed misconduct proceedings are dealt with appropriately.
“Mr Grainger was shot on 3rd March, 2012. His death has been the subject of a public inquiry, a CPS prosecution and these Gross Misconduct proceedings. We learned yesterday that the same legal department of Greater Manchester Police had been involved in all of these proceedings, in one way or another, yet it is manifestly obvious that no one has strategic oversight of all of these matters. How else can it be explained that matters that today are said to be inevitable and unfair, when not seen in the same light by the same legal team after the IOPC completed its investigation, following a complaint in relation to Mr Heywood.
“The appropriate authority has said that it does not accept the colourful descriptions by Mr Beggs QC of funding by GMP of a chaotic and shambolic approach. This panel goes further however, and states that there has been a fundamental disregard to everyone involved in these proceedings. And by that we mean the family of Mr Grainger, interested parties, Mr Heywood and the public.
“All the expectations and faith in the misconduct process that these individuals had, has been held in abeyance whilst the appropriate authority attempted to sort out issues that, according to its own chronology, it had been working on since at least March, 2019. That chronology shows that they spent nine months, attempting to resolve the issue of intelligence and its impact on the misconduct proceedings. And, according to Mr Boyle, did so in good faith.
“Yet, that cannot be right as, despite not having resolved those issues, they decided to bring these misconduct proceedings. And now, in June 2020, have gone the other way. As we have already noted, up until Friday of last week, they had even prepared the case for hearing with an opening note, in which they relied on a blanket prohibition on the redactions. We are deeply concerned that, despite advice from counsel, despite assistance from the National Crime Agency, and most importantly, despite knowing the history of the case and the outcomes and the criminal proceedings, it is only now two years after the IPCC report was sent to GMP that they now say that they have reflected on the position and realised the inevitable and have been persuaded that it would be unfair to proceed. Reflection and realisation should have occured much sooner. Instead, the family of Mr Grainger are having to leave these proceedings without an outcome.
“They and the public were led to believe, by the very fact that these proceedings were brought, that at least the allegations of Gross Misconduct would be heard. Similarly, Mr Heywood has had to face these allegations for years, only to be told today that the appropriate authority, would be offering no evidence.
“Mr Grainger’s family, Mr Heywood and the public, have been let down by the appropriate authority in this case, and we note that there was no contrition, or apology, to anyone in what was said on their behalf this morning.
“Public confidence in the police force can be undermined if the proceedings themselves are so flawed by delay and bad decision making. But, ultimately, they lead to charges being dismissed, the costs involved in bringing such Gross Misconduct proceedings cannot be in the public interest, either the appropriate authority has accepted delay in this case, as well as procedural irregularity in that the regulation 19 and 21 notices were not issued as soon as reasonably practicable.
“We note that the appropriate authority said that they would be very happy to attend and explain the steps taken, following the CPS decision and progress made but, in the end, doing so would have been an academic exercise.
“This Panel feels that everyone would have been greatly assisted in understanding what has happened in this case, had they heard direct from the appropriate authority, because even now, as we stand here today, it’s not clear why these delays and procedural errors have occurred.
“We do find it necessary to mention that we also have some criticism of the way the defence conducted themselves in response to these proceedings. Nowhere in the regulation 22 response was there any mention of the redactions request being an extant issue. It was mentioned twice in a 23 page document comprising 82 paragraphs. At paragraph 7 it was mentioned in brackets, in the following way. “It would be helpful if the appropriate authority lifted the redactions in this section, to better content contextualise his answer. The second time it was mentioned was in paragraph 66, where it was said, it makes it more difficult for him to answer the issues in this misconduct case with redactions.

ements of a regulation 22 response is that the officer should provide, to the appropriate authority, written notice of whether he accepts the conduct amounts to misconduct, or Gross Misconduct, any submissions he wishes to make in mitigation and which parts of the case he disputes was written notice of the allegations he disputes, and any arguments on points of law, he wishes to be considered.
“Nowhere in the Regulation 22 response was there any reference to Mr Heywood having actively pursued the issue of redactions. Nowhere was it said that this was an outstanding matter, or that the case could not be pursued fairly as it stood, or that illegal point was being taken.
“This only added, therefore, to the surprise that the Panel felt at the turn of events yesterday when Mr Beggs advanced it repeatedly, and that the redactions point was an obvious issue, and had always been since 2018. Indeed, yesterday it was cited as the central issue. But even in the letter to Laura Shuttleworth, which was produced in the bundle it doesn’t say that the issue of redactions was raised as an ongoing or outstanding issue.
“That  had been going on for a year, but only on the basis that Mr Heywood needed them so he could remember his evidence, and it was a request that the appropriate authority should consider it.
“We mentioned that, just to make it clear that that didn’t help matters either in the way that they have been progressed in this case. Turning to the decision that needs to be made. Mr Heywood has retired from the police, these proceedings are brought under the Police Conduct Regulations 2012. As amended, and so he’s being dealt with as ‘a former officer case’, the panel will know that at the conclusion of this hearing.
“We have a duty to produce a report to the appropriate authority, recording our findings, our reason for those findings and a recommendation. We have been invited to make a recommendation that the charges be dismissed. And in the light of what we have said, we make that recommendation today. And that’s all we want to say about this matter.
*** BEGGS
But can we just, through your good offices, point out that a number of media outlets seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that the firearms operation on 3rd March 2012 was not commanded by ACC Steve Heywood. As you know, and I’m grateful that you’re nodding. It wasn’t just as a matter of good reporting and accurate reporting. Could I ask you to make clear that he did not command the operation which led to the shooting of Mr Grainger, lest anyone makes a mistake on that point.
**** NAHIED ASJAD
Absolutely, the facts in this case, need to be understood. Mr Heywood only faced Gross Misconduct allegations as a result of answers that he gave at the public inquiry in 2017, and it was a result of a log that he kept the day before. This incident took place when he had command, but he then rescinded the order, the actual order was made by a different officer. So, the shooting of Mr Grainger, tragically, did not occur, whilst under the command of Mr Heywood and it’s very important that that distinction is made, I agree.
***BEGGS
Thank you very much for that, because the press are more likely to listen to us and to me. Okay. Thank you.
*** BOYLE
No matter of justice, but to thank you and your colleagues for your consideration of the issues in this particular case. Your comments, I’m sure, will resonate with those who are instructing me. Thank you.
*** NAHIED ASJAD
Thank you. Can I thank both yourself and Mr Beggs QC for your very thorough consideration and presentation of the case. And thank you to everyone who has helped with this Microsoft Teams hearing, and its administration. Mr Heywood, that is the end of the case against you. I hope we can move on from this. Miss Gail Hadfield Grainger, thank you for the way in which you’ve conducted yourself during these proceedings, you’ve conducted yourself impeccably and with the greatest of patience and we are grateful for that. That is the end of the hearing. So I’m now going to be formally closing proceedings Thank you everyone.
CLOSE SESSION

The Panel Chair, Nahied Asjad is an experienced Crown Advocate and has worked for the CPS since qualifying as a Solicitor in 2002 and transferred to the Bar in 2007. She has prosecuted in all courts, including the Magistrates Court and the Youth Court and currently works as a Crown Court advocate, dealing with serious offences. Nahied is a trained Pre-Trial Witness Interviewer and Proceeds of Crime Specialist and was the lead lawyer in the largest money laundering case in Leicester, leading to a £5 million confiscation order. Nahied reviews offences at the police station and decides upon charge and prepares cases in the office and makes decisions as to whether or not to prosecute.
The response of the force and an unreserved apology

Greater Manchester Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Ian Pilling, about whom plenty is said elsewhere on this website, said the force made the decision not to pursue the proceedings further and invited the Panel to dismiss the gross misconduct charges against Mr Heywood following submissions made at the hearing:

“This misconduct case involved consideration of some complex issues relating to certain information and intelligence which, for legal reasons, could not be provided to Mr Heywood and could not be made public or indeed even shared with the panel dealing with the misconduct hearing.
“Evidence relating to those things was heard in private at the Anthony Grainger Public Inquiry and as such was redacted from the public records of that Inquiry.

“The law concerning what can be disclosed in a public inquiry is different from that in misconduct proceedings.”

Pilling, who holds the Command Team professional standards portfolio in GMP, said the force accepted some of these matters “could not be overcome” and it would be “unfair to pursue the case against the retired officer” following submissions made to the Panel on Monday.

“These are complex issues and the available options were often constrained by the law.

“Decisions have been made based on professional advice and in the best interests of reaching the most appropriate outcome. However, in this case this hasn’t been possible, which I very much regret.

In answer to the stinging criticism made by the Panel Chair, Pilling said: “In her comments, the Chair has been clear that the Panel are of the view that GMP did not deal with some key elements of this matter in an appropriate way.

“Whilst we need to examine the comments more fully, we absolutely accept that mistakes have been made and this matter should have been handled much more effectively.

“We apologise unreservedly for the errors which were made, in particular to the family and partner of Anthony Grainger and to all other involved parties.”

On behalf of the Grainger family, friends and campaigners Gail Hadfield Grainger said:

“This misconduct hearing follows on from a public inquiry, where the police were to blame for killing a man, due to inaccurate intelligence,  about which Mr Heywood later went on to mislead the Inquiry.  Questioned on the validity of entries he made in a contemporaneous log he admitted that some had been forged using different coloured pens and backdated.

“These matters need to be taken seriously. Given the stark criticisms made in Judge Teagues report, and now the manner in which GMP have delayed this misconduct hearing, and in my opinion, purposely, to ensure it does not go ahead, this is not in the name of justice, but to save the Chief Constable  and the force further embarrassment”.

“This misconduct process was set up to fail and the reasons behind its collapse need to be taken up at the highest level and those responsible brought to book. It makes a mockery of Teague’s report, of the justice system, to this Panel, and, most of all, it makes a mockery of the public”.

Holding to account

The person responsible for holding the chief constable to account, Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, did not respond to a request for comment.

Postscript

On Friday 21st August a very short remote hearing took place under Regulation 34 of the Police Conduct Regulations 2012, applicable in this particular case. The chair, DCC Pilling, who is also Appropriate Authority and responsible almost entirely for the Heywood debacle, determined that no disciplinary sanction would be applied to the former assistant chief constable in the light of the Panel’s decision at the June hearing. 

Steve Heywood did not attend the proceedings and neither did his legal team. Gerard Boyle QC, counsel to GMP, was in attendance but had nothing to add to Pilling’s decision.

 

Page last updated: Friday 21st August, 2020 at 1345 hours

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Catalogue of policing scandals that shame the two-faced Mayor of Manchester

On 6th August 2018, two retired Manchester police officers, Peter Jackson and Maggie Oliver, and one serving officer, Paul Bailey, met with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and the Deputy Mayor, Beverley Hughes. Also present in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) HQ were Deputy Director of Policing, Clare Monaghan and policy adviser, Kevin Lee.

The purpose of the meeting was for the police officers, past and present, to provide extensive disclosures of alleged wrongdoing by the senior leadership team of Greater Manchester Police. Most of those disclosures either directly concerned the chief constable, Ian Hopkins, or could be tracked back to him via vicarious liability or his role as a very much hands-on, directing mind.

When that meeting was eventually brought, after thirteen months of prevarication by the Mayor, he told the whistleblowers that he ‘only had an hour’. He was asked by Peter Jackson, in that moment, if he could quote the Mayor’s position as: ‘You only had an hour to discuss the rape and abuse of kids, the deaths of police officers, the deaths of members of the public, a corrupt police command team etc…’. The response of Andy Burnham was: “No, no no, this is just the first meeting, the first of many”.

But Jackson had formed the distinct view that all Burnham wanted to do, at that time, was to escape the room, escape the meeting, escape the challenges of the three whistleblowers. He really didn’t want to hear what they were saying and, of course, there has been no further meetings between Mayoral team and the whistleblowers, no further discussions. A couple of emails, one letter and no conference or Zoom phone calls.

Ms Hughes, a long term political crony of Burnham, was upbraided during the meeting, and afterwards, over face-pulling, negative body language and generally dismissive attitude. Kevin Lee played on his phone virtually throughout. Abuse victims and bereaved families will be horrified to hear of such grotesque conduct by those charged with safeguarding them and their loved ones. For his part, Burnham never once challenged their behaviour. Which is a measure of how weak he is behind the public-facing bravado.

Another is the fact that it took Burnham almost nine months before he finally responded to the very serious issues raised in that meeting. Despite, during that time, repeated email requests from the whistleblowers asking what action was being taken over the large amount of information passed over and the numerous ancillary issues raised in the arbitrarily allocated time of one hour.

Peter Jackson has this opening message to the Mayor: “It is clear that you have no desire to properly investigate the whistleblower complaints about GMP’s chief constable, and other senior officers, and no desire to hold him to account for the many scandals and failings that we have brought to your attention. These either directly relate to him, or have occurred in Greater Manchester Police on his ‘watch’.

“How can you defend your actions when myself, Maggie, Paul [and Scott Winters] are all such credible witnesses? We have over 100 years of exemplary police service in GMP between us. We have unrivalled insight into what goes on in GMP, gained from our first hand experiences, from our extensive networks of friends, colleagues and acquaintances built up over all those years. We have information sources that go to every corner and every level of the organisation, yet you are very keen to discount and ignore what we say.

“Maggie [Oliver] is one of the country’s best known whistleblowers; the driving force behind the BBC’s real-life drama series ‘Three Girls‘ and BBC documentary ‘The Betrayed Girls‘. Referred to as emotionally unstable by Sir Peter Fahy when she was a serving officer trying to expose the ‘grooming gangs’ scandal, her character besmirched by his colleagues and, yet, despite that smearing, which continues to present day, she is now a nationally respected voice on child sexual exploitation. Along with Sarah Champion MP and abuse survivors’ advocate, Sammy Woodhouse, she is, arguably, one of the most influential persons in the UK in putting the scandal of Pakistani grooming gangs firmly on the political agenda.

“Paul, a highly experienced serious crime career detective and now in his 30th year of service, was for many years the Chair of GMP’s Black and Asian Police Association (BAPA) and is, again, a nationally respected figure in that role.

“I completed 31 years’ service in GMP, was a senior officer and Head of GMP’s Major Incident Team.

“We are not alone; we are aware of many others who have complained to you about what is going on in GMP. We, personally, have provided you with extensive information and evidence about factual events and yet you treat us with utter disdain. Why is that? Is it that you and the Deputy Mayor are too close to Ian Hopkins?

“I count at least 21 different issues, or what I would describe as 21 scandals, that you catalogue within your response letter. All factual incidents that relate to serious failings and serious misconduct. All that have occurred under the watch of the present chief constable.

“The [alleged] lies, the deceit, the cover ups. the endemic senior officer misconduct, the fact that assistant chief constable after assistant chief constable [Steven Heywood, Rebekah Sutcliffe, Terry Sweeney] has left the force in disgrace, should surely raise serious questions about the present state of Greater Manchester Police, the leadership of the chief constable and the infected culture that cascades down from the top of the force through to the federated ranks. Another, Garry Shewan, did a ‘moonlight flit’ when the sky fell in on the catastrophic Integrated Operational Policing System (iOPS) technology project. Now set to be one of the biggest policing scandals in recent times after featuring as lead story on ITV Granada Reports (view 7 minute clip here).

“Please be assured that myself, Maggie and Paul, assisted by other whistleblowers and former and serving officers, will continue to hold you, Beverley Hughes and Clare Monaghan to account for dereliction in your duties, in failing to hold the chief constable to account”.

Devastating though it is, the statement of Peter Jackson, as one might expect of a renowned murder detective, is carefully and fully documented. The Mayor’s office, by contrast, is becoming notorious for its haphazard record-keeping and absence from its sparsely-populated website of specified information that should be published under the applicable elected policing body regulations. The office is a shambles at every level visible to either the public, or through the keener eye of an investigative journalist.

This is the genuinely shocking catalogue of scandals that were highlighted by the whistleblowers, and contemptuously dismissed by Andy Burnham, in his much delayed response dated 18th April, 2019. The citizens of Greater Manchester, who fund their regional police force, and the wider public with even a passing interest in the safety and security of those close to them, can now judge whether the train and tram-obsessed Burnham is discharging one of his primary functions as Mayor: To hold the chief constable of the region’s police force to account – effectively, efficiently and with the necessary level of rigour.

1. Operation Poppy – an IPCC (now IOPC) investigation into Peter Jackson’s whistle blower disclosures.

(i) Operation Nixon

A senior GMP officer, Dominic Scally, allowed a dangerous violent paedophile to take a child into a house, and remain there for over two hours, whilst under police surveillance, and stopped his officers from safeguarding the child. Officers under Scally’s command were outraged. GMP PSB, directed by senior leaders, took no disciplinary action against him.

At the conclusion of the IPCC investigation, Peter Jackson met with Sarah Green, the Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, as she was then. He saw her face glow red with embarrassment when he asked searching, but perfectly fair, questions over the outcome she had signed off. He asked, “Would it have been gross misconduct if it had been your son? Would it have been gross misconduct if the paedophile had killed the child whilst police watched?”.  Jackson reports that she couldn’t wait to get out of the room and end the meeting. In much the way that Andy Burnham closed down the whistleblower meeting at GMCA.

(ii) Dale Cregan and the deaths of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes

That same officer, Dominic Scally, who had little, if any, homicide investigation experience, and in full knowledge of his failings on Op Nixon, was placed by GMP Command in charge of the Mark Short murder (Dale Cregan case). Jackson, a very experienced and efficient murder detective, warned at the time that such actions were placing the public and officers at risk. Whilst Scally was leading that investigation, Short’s father and two police officers were murdered. Jackson highlighted the numerous failings in that investigation. He now asks: “Does that not require review, or judicial inquiry, especially given the utterly damning Grainger public inquiry report? Especially, given that two young, female police officers lost their lives? Very arguably, preventable deaths?”

(iii) North West Counter Terrorism Unit

Scally was promoted to Head of Intelligence in the North West Counter Terrorism Unit and in February and March 2017, Jackson raised concerns with Chief Constable Hopkins via emails, about his ability and others in Command of the NWCTU to keep the people of Manchester safe. Within two months Manchester Arena was suicide bombed. A coincidence? Did Jackson have a crystal ball? Was Salman Ramadan Abedi a GMP covert human intelligence source (CHIS) or registered informant, as some informed sources suggest?

ACC Rebekah Sutcliffe and ACC Steve Heywood were the two consecutive Heads of the NWCTU, and both left GMP in shame amidst nationally-known scandal. ACC Heywood the subject of humiliating criticism over Grainger, astonishingly avoided prosecution and yet to face a much-delayed gross misconduct hearing. GMP has primacy for the NWCTU. The problems and scandals that have infested GMP Command have consequently led to dysfunctional leadership in the NWCTU and at what cost? Bearing in mind what the Mayor now knows about his antecedents, the issue of whether Dominic Scally was an appropriate appointment to head up the NWCTU intelligence function is a matter of high public concern. Particularly, given what has followed.

Everything about Operation Nixon, the Cregan investigation and subsequent NWCTU promotions was flawed and, yet, since the Mayor/whistlebower meeting in August, 2018, Scally has, incredibly, been promoted again. He now heads up the NWCTU under the overall command of his long-term ally and supporter, Russ Jackson, a senior officer who had not attained the substantive rank of ACC at the time of his own promotion, and who has failed at the Senior Police National Assessment Centre twice, where necessary competencies are Serving the Public. • Leading Strategic Change. • Leading the Workforce. • Managing Performance. • Professionalism. • Decision Making. • Working with Others. In which of these is Russ Jackson (no relation to Peter) deficient according to PNAC? Can public confidence be maintained in these circumstances, given the legacy issues from the previous NWCTU leadership?

(iv) Shipman body parts scandal

Senior police officers secretly disposed of body parts without consulting the victim’s families in the face of strong objections of the Force Coronial Officer at the time. His protestations were ignored. He was present at a meeting when questions were raised about how they might deal with future requests under the Freedom of Information Act, which could reveal what they had done.  The same Coronial Officer witnessed Simon Barraclough, recent recipient of the Queens Police Medal, suggest that all documentation be burned to stop people finding out what had happened.

“Another shocking example of GMP operating in an unethical, unprofessional and unlawful way; a secretive manner, covering up their actions. Their motives? To avoid negative publicity, reputational damage and, most importantly, avoid damage to their own careers”, says Peter Jackson.

(v) Unauthorised bugging of police premises and Operation Oakland armed robbery incident.

A senior officer at the rank of temporary superintendent, Julian Snowball, bought covert recording equipment via the internet, then (unlawfully) repeatedly entered the office of his Divisional Commander in Wigan, C/Supt Shaun Donnellan, and the office of another senior leadership team member, DCI Howard Millington, and inserted covert surveillance equipment, subsequently and secretly recording months of private conversations.

This behaviour clearly constituted gross misconduct. The ‘spy’ was, however, a crony of ACC Terry Sweeney. Snowball had admitted to Peter Jackson that he was ‘one of Terry’s boys’, treated very favourably as a result and kept his job in the police. The disciplinary investigation was irregular. The outcome was only a written warning, followed by a posting to a detective position he coveted, close to his home.

T/Supt Snowball had almost no front line detective experience, yet was placed as the most senior detective at Stockport. He subsequently headed up a policing operation, codenamed Oakland, where he allowed violent armed robbers to commit an attack on licensed premises that were under police surveillance at the time, and where he stopped his officers intervening to ‘protect the victims’. Snowball also unlawfully changed details on a warrant after it had been granted. This officer was allowed to take a career break without facing disciplinary action, until the whistleblowing disclosures were made to the IPCC.

As rehearsed earlier, Jackson met with the IPCC Deputy Chair Sarah Green at the conclusion of the Poppy investigations. On this particular topic he asked her, “Would it have been gross misconduct if the armed robbers had killed someone in the pub whilst the police watched?”

“As with the Op Nixon questions, I saw her face colour bright red. She didn’t answer the question”.

The IPCC returned the bugging incident disclosures to GMP and, Jackson asserts, didn’t complete their gross misconduct investigation.

In his April, 2018 letter dismissing the disclosures of the whistleblowers, Mayor Burnham relies on the thoroughness of the IPCC investigation to give GMP a clean bill of health regarding the bugging and armed robbery incidents. Yet appears to have forgotten that he was a ferocious critic of the same IPCC over their Orgreave investigation, carried out in much the same timeframe (read more here). Burnham also overlooks the fact that Jackson was the whistleblower, a very experienced and highly regarded murder detective, and is a first hand witness.

Conversely and perversely, the IPCC deployed inexperienced and unimpressive officers with no recognised detective credentials (PIP1 or PIP2). As one might expect, Peter Jackson takes this unvarnished view: “As an organisation, they do not know how to secure evidence, or how to investigate senior police officers impartially. They act with deference to them. The IPCC’s Senior Investigating Officer was Dan Budge, taking over from a deputy position whilst the original SIO was on sick leave. He was a very inexperienced investigator who had to admit to me he had never prepared a criminal case file, or even been to court. Many colleagues reported back to me about being interviewed by very young, new to the IPCC, investigators. One witness, a very experienced DCI, told me he actually had to show the IPCC investigator how to take a witness statement.

There is in existence, of course, as now revealed in a front page article in The Times newspaper, a tape recording of Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, at a meeting with other senior GMP officers, saying he thought the IPCC were ‘abysmal and incapable of conducting a thorough investigation’ yet ironically both Burnham and Hopkins now rely heavily, and frequently, on ‘the IPCC have conducted a thorough investigation’ to defend themselves and the failings of other members of the GMP Command Team.

Irrespective of the well catalogued and wider inadequacies of the IPCC (now IOPC), the incidents they investigated still happened. Reflecting badly, and bringing shame and substantial reputational damage onto both Greater Manchester Police, the Mayor’s office and the wider police service.

2. The questionable purchase of ACC Heywood’s house by the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The background to this complaint is the purchase of Steven Heywood’s house on the perceived threat that a small-time criminal, who went on to murder two police officers, was going harm him. The whistle blowers assert, with confidence, that the alleged threat to ACC Heywood’s house was, at its highest, temporary; it only came to light after Cregan was in prison on remand. He was held as a Category A prisoner. When spoken to in prison by psychiatrists, and other specialists, Cregan said he had gone to Bury Police Station to look for ACC Heywood, and to shoot him as he was angry about the harassment and treatment of his family. He had seen Heywood on the news as the figurehead of the investigation. ACC Heywood however had no connection to that station and Cregan soon realised it was a pointless plan. As he had no idea how to find him, he decided ‘just to kill any cops’ instead. That led to the murders of Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, following which he handed himself in.

The threat to Heywood had been momentary. It was not a real or present danger at the time of the house sale. The supposed threat was hidden from the purchasers of the house who were, understandably, outraged when they discovered the truth. The expenditure hidden in subsequent police accounts.

The ‘briefing’ relied on by Andy Burnham to exonerate the GMP Command Team, and ex-PCC Tony Lloyd, was provided by those with a clearly vested interest. The actions surrounding the Heywood house purchase would not stand up to the slightest external scrutiny and have not been properly investigated. The superintendent in charge of GMP Covert Policing told the Command Team at the time that, ethically and professionally, they couldn’t do what they were doing with the house sale and purchase. Burnham’s willingness to accept, at face value, anything told, or provided to him, by GMP Command highlights his lack of desire to investigate matters, robustly, independently and thoroughly, to establish the truth and properly hold CC Hopkins to account.

3. Incident involving ACC Rebekah Sutcliffe at the Senior Women in Policing 2016 Conference – ‘Titgate’ or ‘Boobgate’

ACC Sutcliffe was drunk at the event, and bullied, harangued a junior officer over a lengthy period – and then publicly exposed one of her breasts. That is well rehearsed in the public domain. But the extent of her drunkenness, perhaps, less so; she was very highly intoxicated.

It was a national event to highlight and promote the work of senior female officers in policing. Sutcliffe’s actions brought huge negative publicity, discredited the event and brought shame on herself and GMP.

Chief Constable Hopkins was present on the night and saw the increasingly drunken behaviour of his Command Team colleague. He failed to take charge of the incident and, instead, left early, leaving a junior officer to attempt to deal with Sutcliffe.  His failure to take control of the incident, and deal with the matter himself, could be argued as a lack of moral courage and necessary leadership. What cannot be argued against is that his inaction subsequently led to what was very widely reported as the ‘Titgate’ or ‘Boobgate’ incident in the media.

This was in the early hours of Sunday morning, she reported for duty that morning at Police HQ as duty Gold and, of course, Head of NWCTU. She cannot, conceivably, have been fit for duty. Hopkins must have known this by the state she was in. Yet, he did nothing.

Hopkins was, subsequently, made aware of what happened after he left the event – and was going to do nothing at all about the incident. No sanction against Sutcliffe, not even ‘words of advice’ for conduct that, on any independent view, was gross misconduct. He, eventually, had to take action when details of the incident was revealed on several social media platforms, one week later, and picked up from there by alert newspaper reporters.

ACC Sutcliffe should have been dismissed for gross misconduct. The fact that she wasn’t appears to be connected to an investigation carried out on behalf of Hopkins, by Durham Constabulary, that did not, seemingly, go where the evidence should have taken them. Other incidents, at least one where excess alcohol, and abuse of her rank, was a feature at another high profile event, and Sutcliffe had discredited the force. There was no finding by Durham that Hopkins was largely responsible for the escalation of the incident at the women’s policing event, after the point when he should have ordered Sutcliffe off the hotel premises, ensured her access to alcohol was cut off, and denied her access to police premises until she was sober. A point not lost on the Chair of the subsequent disciplinary hearing, Rachael Cernow QC.

After the disciplinary hearing, Hopkins said Sutcliffe was undeployable in GMP and she was subsequently placed into a senior position at Oldham council on secondment, funded by GMP, later taking the job full time on a salary in excess of £120,000. More than she was paid as a police officer.

This ‘rewarding’ of an ACC for gross misconduct is something not lost on the rank and file, and it is why the GMP Command Team are held in such contempt by many of the officers they lead.

The investigation report following the Durham investigation into Sutcliffe has never been published, despite the massive public interest in the matter.

4. Child Sexual Explotation, Operations Augusta and Span, Pakistani Grooming Gangs.

Now one of the most respected commentators and authors on child sexual exploitation, former GMP detective, Maggie Oliver, very recently heard from the Burnham CSE inquiry for the first time in well over a year. She has little confidence in either the Mayor, those involved in it, or the process itself.

She says, with justifiable force: “I spent several hours talking to the Burnham Review team in 2017, and made it crystal clear to them that as the only senior officer still in post who had failed CSE victims in 2004/5, when he was head of GMP Child Protection Unit, I considered that the buck stopped with Steve Heywood – and he should be held accountable.

“Unsurprisingly the Review team chose not to to speak to him about the disclosures I had made and allowed him to retire unchallenged, over a year later. This is a complete disgrace.

Maggie concludes: “Judgement as to what their findings will be is reserved, as I haven’t yet been given sight of the full Review and no date has been given for publication”

The last ‘deadline’ for publication of the Review, emanating from the Mayor’s office, was ‘end of March, 2019’. At the present rate of progress, Spring 2020 looks a reasonable guess. An agonising, and unnecessary wait for victims, witnesses and campaigners.

In Peter Jackson’s disclosures to the IPCC, he alleged that [Name redacted], GMP’s Force Review Officer at the time, had re-written, or was a party to the re-writing of a critical report that reviewed GMP Command’s approach to CSE in Rochdale. It is alleged that process involved nine separate revisions, after the original authors refused to amend their report. The Review Officer’s brief from senior officers was to cover up the criticisms and initial findings, which had reported that GMP had prioritised volume crime over the rape and abuse of children. It has emerged that at least one other senior female officer, [Name redacted] was involved with what might best be termed as historical revisionism.

As Maggie Oliver explains, ACC Heywood was again involved in another dreadful scandal. Interviewed on TV, he denied there was a cultural issue at play in the grooming gangs phenomenon. Peter Fahy did much the same thing on television shortly before he retired as chief constable.

Jackson offered to provide, in confidence, details of witnesses to this grotesque ‘cover up’ who can assist the Burnham CSE inquiry. But is still waiting to hear from the Mayor, or the inquiry team, so that the necessary protections can be put in place and arrangements made for an Available Best Evidence (ABE) interview.

In the event, the widely-acclaimed and utterly shocking Operation Augusta report by Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway eclipsed much of that, with a damning indictment of GMP’s leadership teams, past and present (read in full here).

5. Inappropriate relationship between ACC and junior officer.

ACC [Redacted] was the senior officer involved in the inappropriate relationship. The other officer involved was Temporary DI [Redacted]. Her husband, [Redacted] was at that time a temporary DCI. He had just failed his promotion assessment in GMP to substantive chief inspector. He kept his own counsel, didn’t create a fuss and then succeeded in gaining a double promotion to Cheshire Police, jumping two ranks to become a detective superintendent. Thus enabling a departure from the Force and avoiding embarrassment all round in the workplace. Ms [Redacted] was promoted to inspector during the currency of her relationship with ACC [Redacted].

The relationship was known to a large number of rank and file GMP officers and, again, contributes to their very negative view of the Command Team. The Mayor was invited to make a short phone call to CC Hopkins to confirm the facts, ask why this situation was tolerated and to enquire into the merits of the promotions, as opposed to their personal, or political, expedience. It appears that, from his written response to the whistleblowers, Andy Burnham has opted not to do so.

6. Complaints referred back to GMP by IPCC rather than be subjected to external scrutiny.

Following earlier whistleblower disclosures to the IPCC (now IOPC), there were several incidents referred back to GMP for investigation, including the cronyism, nepotism and promotion scandals, the Cregan investigation and a Major Incident Team being called out to deal with the domestic incident involving Supt [Name Redacted] (see para 10 below).

Andy Burnham in his assessment of more recent whistleblower disclosures makes no reference to GMP or what actions may, or may not, have taken on these matters. Peter Jackson asserts that Burnham’s willingness ‘to be satisfied’ that matters have been concluded, without any independent investigation or scrutiny, simply highlights his lack of desire to lift the stones and scrutinise the many misconduct, leadership failings and properly hold the chief constable to account.

7. The Metropolitan Police Peer Review of GMP PSB

It is, by now, well rehearsed that Ian Hopkins misled his officers, and the public, by purporting to have commissioned an in-depth investigation into GMP’s Professional Standards Branch by the Metropolitan Police Service. This was in response to numerous complaints and repeated negative media stories about GMP PSB. The so called six-week review consisted of a visit to the Force by four Met officers and was completed within 24 hours.  The senior officer in that group described his role as a ‘critical friend’ of GMP. None of the issues raised about the alleged PSB corruption were investigated or even lightly addressed. Or even discussed in the pre-planning for the visit. The Met involvement was nothing more than a ‘tick in the box’ exercise that Hopkins could point to and say, ‘Well, the Met have been in and scrutinised PSB. They found nothing wrong’.

Journalist Neil Wilby has investigated this scandal via a number of FOI requests and reported extensively on it. Read more here.

Post peer-review, the scandals surrounding GMP PSB and its closely associated Legal Services Department continue, Peter Jackson claims he is a victim, as does DC Paul Bailey, retired Inspector Scott Winters and a host of others. Jackson describes GMP PSB as “the Command Team’s Praetorian Guard, there to protect senior officer reputations, limit reputational damage to the force, cover up and shut down damaging complaints and pursue, vendetta-style, those who seek to challenge and expose failings within the force”.

8. Operation Holly

Holly was a five year investigation into money laundering, and a serious organised crime group which included one of Manchester’s most infamous criminals, the now deceased Paul Massey. ‘Mr Salford’, as Massey was known, was murdered by a hitman from a rival gang. A strong evidential case had been built up during that period. Numerous reports, and specific allegations, of senior GMP officer corruption were also received by detectives during the investigation. The money laundering against the serious criminals was, subsequently, dropped and no charges were brought. All the detectives involved on the case were outraged by the senior management decision to abandon the investigation and prosecution.

The total costs of the investigation are estimated at £10 million. Peter Jackson knows all the officers on the case. It is common knowledge amongst those officers that the case was dropped because the prosecuting counsel had informed GMP Command Team that the case could not proceed unless all the corruption allegations were fully investigated. GMP Command chose to drop the case, rather than investigate the allegations against its own officers. This, by necessity, would have involved another force or the National Crime Agency.

The Times newspaper has reported on this matter, extensively, and called for an independent inquiry into GMP. (Read more here). Despite very serious corruption allegations being received against senior police officers, the Mayor and his Deputy allowed GMP to investigate itself which rode against the Police Reform Act and Statutory Guidance (and natural justice). The investigation was only requested by Burnham and Hughes after Jackson had raised the issue and The Times had reported on the case.

Jackson concludes: “You (Burnham) repeatedly rely on briefings by the chief constable, and investigations into itself by GMP, to give the force a clean bill of health. Such actions clearly lack integrity or transparency and are, quite frankly, shameful”.

9. Incident during DC Paul Bailey Employment Tribunal proceedings involving alleged malpractice by a GMP lawyer

Peter Jackson was contacted by a witness who asserted that a GMP solicitor [Name redacted] sought to have the Senior Investigating Officer in Operation Holly make a false statement about Detective Constable Paul Bailey in support of GMP’s defence at an Employment Tribunal Hearing brought by the serious crimes detective.

DC Bailey was present when the whistleblowers met the Mayoral entourage in August, 2018. In the months that followed the meeting, not one single member of  Burnham’s team, or the Mayor himself, made any further contact, sought to conduct any further enquiries or launched an investigation into this matter. This is not an isolated incident. says Jackson: “Several others have raised similar issues with you (Burnham) concerning alleged criminal conduct, or alleged gross misconduct, involving GMP PSB and/or Legal Services”.

In Burnham’s response letter, eight months after the only meeting with the whistleblowers, he says he will take appropriate action if the name of the witness is supplied. He offers no protection for the witness, or explanation as to how his/her anonymity would be preserved, fails to disclose whether a severity assessment has been conducted, does not reveal how the matter would be investigated and, particularly, if this would be another police force, statutory body, or member of the Bar or judiciary, rather than GMP, leading it.

The actions, or rather inaction, of Burnham and weak, defensive response to the entirety of the Jackson whistleblower disclosures, and those of others, have engendered genuine mistrust. The perceived closeness of his relationship with the chief constable, and lack of desire to thoroughly investigate the Force does nothing to undermine that proposition. The whistleblowers say, perfectly reasonably, that they need concrete assurances before putting their witness at risk of reprisals from the GMP Command Team.

10. Major Incident Team attending domestic dispute between Superintendent and wife

A Major Incident Team was deployed to deal with a domestic incident involving Superintendent [Name Redacted] and his wife. The domestic argument arose around the allegedly prolific extra-marital sexual activity of the senior officer, involved threats from his wife to go to the media, a scratch on Mr [Name redacted]’s finger, the arrest of his wife for common assault and the search of her home address. The MIT Team was deployed at the request of senior officers. Peter Jackson has spoken to the elite officers who were turned out on the night and, as a result, has extensive knowledge of the incident.

Jackson says: “Why wasn’t this incident dealt with by neighbourhood police? Why was a murder team turned out? How could a search of premises be justified? Who authorised the arrest of the wife? Which senior officers were involved? I know; the ones who run as a thread throughout my disclosures. It is an abuse of powers and authority. A grotesque misuse of police resources”.

“This incident provides yet another window into the broken and rotten cultures at play in GMP. The secrecy, cover ups, lies. The cronyism, the cliques, the misconduct. the wrongdoing. The two-tier system of response from the Professional Standards Branch: Those well connected are treated favourably, wrongdoing overlooked, their actions minimised, examples include Rob Potts, Dominic Scally, Julian Snowball, [Officer involved in DV incident – Name Redacted]. Whereas those not in cliques, not well connected, or who have invoked the wrath of Command are dealt with disproportionately. Examples include John Buttress, Mo Razaq, Rick Pendlebury (both high profile with mass media coverage), Paul Bailey, Scott Winters, Clara Williams, Maria Donaldson, Lee Bruckshaw and myself”.

“Chief Constable Ian Hopkins is well aware of all these matters and I also provided this same information to the IPCC. They returned it to GMP to investigate themselves.

“What has happened since? Nothing”.

11. GMP Professional Standards Branch (PSB) – Group think, toxic, defensive culture.

Over the past few years, there has been many negative news stories and TV broadcasts featuring the troubled and widely derogated PSB. Alleged witch-hunts against such as Chief Inspector John Buttress, Inspector Mo Razaq, Sergeant Rick Pendlebury, Chief Inspector Clara Williams, Chief Superintendent Lee Bruckshaw, Chief Inspector Maria Donaldson, Detective Inspector Andy Aston, Detective Constable Paul Bailey, Inspector Scott Winters, Inspector Laura Escott, Superintendent Jane Little and, of course, Peter Jackson, to name but a few, have also sapped morale within the force and public confidence in those running it.

For example, the grotesquely disproportionate response, expenditure and resources deployed over the John Buttress case, on any independent view, was an outrage. Especially when other misadventures, many much more serious, are deliberately minimised, or dispensed with, by the same PSB. It spawned a BBC Inside Out programme, produced by Neil Morrow and presented by the late and much lamented Dianne Oxberry, and Judith Moritz, that embarassed and enraged the Command Team (view programme here), as did a similarly explosive BBC File on 4 broadcast, extraordinarily titled “Bent Cops”.

Similarly, the resources and seemingly bottomless public funds deployed against Rick Pendlebury was another outrage. Operation Ratio spawned numerous employment tribunals all of which GMP lost. against the investigators and investigated. Jackson asks with considerable and justifiable force; “How much has it cost in legal fees defending the claims and in damages paid out? How much did the Op Ratio investigation cost? This case is a scandal. All for a £25 shoplifting incident. How many hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds has Op Ratio cost? As clear an example of a vexatious, obsessive, oppressive response, from within a police force, as you would find. Accompanied, of course, by reckless spending of huge sums of public money”.

Concerns over Paul Bailey’s case is referenced above at para 10, and recent disclosures by Scott Winters, to the IOPC, are alarming. With PSB officers, aided and abetted by senior officers and legal services, prepared to falsify and/or delete records in order to advance their case in tribunal proceedings, or subsequently seek to defend those actions when later challenged. Yet another case that warrants an urgent independent criminal investigation.

12. Victimisation of Peter Jackson as a police whistleblower

Peter Jackson has this to say about his own experiences:

“I suffered victimisation, was investigated by PSB and secretly referred to the IOPC for my involvement in detecting the perpetrator who assaulted, and nearly killed, my son in Manchester city centre. Did my actions warrant disciplinary investigation, and referral to the IPCC (now IOPC), simply because I expressed my disappointment at having to find evidence myself to identify the serial violent criminal, following a neglectful police investigation.

“Complaints about my treatment following my son’s assault were whitewashed by GMP PSB.

“The adverse referral to the IPCC was uncovered inadvertently, via a data subject access request surrounding my whistleblowing, This contrasts sharply with many other much more serious misconduct, or criminality, that is not referred to the watchdog. Even when there is a mandatory requirement to do so.

“What I allege to be subsequent victimisation and constructive dismissal, at the hands of Russ Jackson, Rebekah Sutcliffe, Ian Pilling and Ian Hopkins, is now the subject of Employment Tribunal proceedings against GMP. The listing of the hearing of the claim has now been delayed until April 2020, almost three years after it was lodged. GMP Command having employed their usual obstructive, underhand and delaying tactics, for the past two years, using the public purse as a bottomless pit.

“And what of the serious consequences for the high-profile Operation Leopard investigation which I had been leading at the time? The negative impact my treatment, and departure from the investigation, had on bringing the leaders of two of Manchester’s most dangerous and violent organised crime groups to justice?

“I had made a major breakthrough, as reported in the media (read more here), arresting the leader of the notorious Salford A Team, equipped with a loaded firearm, and stopping him killing the leader of the rival Anti A Team. Both major targets for GMP. The case against Stephen Britton, who was caught red handed, was dropped after my premature departure from the force.

13. Morale and staff survey

Peter Jackson was ‘tipped off’, by one of his many reliable sources within the force, about a visit to the Mayor’s office by Ian Hopkins, and a Professor from Durham University, with the results of a GMP staff survey the chief constable had commissioned. The survey was weighted towards new recruits, excited at joining the police and with few, if any, negative experiences of ‘the job’ in their early months of service. It gave Hopkins and the Command Team the results they wanted. An improving picture of morale.

“It doesn’t reflect the true landscape and the contempt in which the Command Team are held by many rank and file officers”, says Jackson. “A picture those longer in service have gleaned from seeing repeated senior officer misconduct and misapplication of resources”.

“For example, ACC Sutcliffe exposed for ‘Titgate’, keeping her job despite being found guilty of gross misconduct, then being rewarded with a better paid job at Oldham Council.

“ACC Heywood ‘retiring’ after being exposed lying, and altering his policy book post-incident, in the Grainger public inquiry. The subject of damning criticism by Judge Teague in his recently released Inquiry report. Heywood went on sick leave the day after he gave evidence at the Inquiry, and never returned to work, costing the taxpayer a six figure sum.

“He was portfolio holder of NWCTU. The force has refused to say who was in charge in Heywood’s absence, at home drawing full salary, when the Manchester Arena was bombed two months later

“ACC Sweeney also receiving damning criticism. having left the Force in shame after the Shipman revelations

“Experienced officers, longer in service, being fully aware of the many integrity questions around the PSB, all the adverse findings at ETs, all the operational failings, are sickened by these scandals. By contrast, new recruits are wide eyed learning the job. They are almost completely unaware of any of the scandals. The survey that Hopkins, and now Andy Burnham, relies upon does not reflect an accurate picture and would not stand the slightest scrutiny.

“Another glaring example of how easily Burnham is hoodwinked by the very officer he is charged with holding to account” Jackson concludes, and not without justification. The Mayor looks, increasingly, as though he is as easily schooled as a fourth form pupil taking lessons from the headmaster. When the roles should, actually, be in reverse. Burnham appears to have forgotten that he has the power to hire and fire chief constables, not constantly suck up to the sub-standard one presently deployed in the Greater Manchester region.

14. Local Policing Review

This new policing model saw the introduction of a different shift pattern; changes to the  neighbourhood team model; the dismantling of the well-established, effective and efficient main office CID [Criminal Investigation Department] function; detectives working with PCSOs; frontline patrol officers reduced to a small number of response officers.

Yet, Andy Burnham claims, in his April, 2019 response to the whistleblowers’ meeting, that he has no knowledge of the Local Policing Review issues and needs evidence of its alleged failings. This recent article in his local newspaper might give the hapless Mayor some clues (read more here)? The headline is a give away: “Has Greater Manchester gone soft on crime?”. The reporter centres on how criminals are ‘laughing’ at the police and victims of crime virtually abandoned, even those with compelling evidence, often gathered themselves in the absence of any investigative support from GMP.

The response of the force within that article, by Superintendent Andy Sidebotham, is by way of an obvious untruth about the availabilty, delivery of evidence in a specific case concerning a £10,000 caravan theft. Filmed in its entirety by the victim’s own CCTV and published on the newspaper’s own website just four days after the incident. Weeks later, Sidebotham claims that none of the three emails sent to the force by the victim, and bearing the CCTV file, had been received and, presumably, no-one in GMP’s Salford Division reads the Manchester Evening News.

Peter Jackson expresses his incredulity over Burnham’s response to the LPR crisis: “Surely as Mayor, and surely your Deputy, statutorily charged with setting the policing plan and budget, are fully aware of the Local Policing Review? A model that has been an unmitigated disaster and I simply cannot believe you have not been briefed on its failings by the chief constable in your regular meetings”.

He continues: “Over the years I saw lots of unnecessary changes brought to GMP, with many millions of pounds wasted on vanity projects by senior officers trying to advance their careers. However, none more so than CC Hopkins signing off the LPR model.

“In the whistleblowers meeting with the Mayor, I described the changes to CID as tantamount to corporate vandalism and seriously undermining the investigative capabilities of the police force. And at what financial cost? How many millions to implement all the changes?

Jackson concludes with another broadside: “The result – a system that doesn’t work and after years of trying to force a failing model to succeed we now have acceptance of reality and Operation Ergo is seeing the return to the policing model we essentially had in the 1980’s”.

15. CC Ian Hopkins ‘lies’ in response to The Times paedophile story.

Following what can only be described as an attempted ‘brushing under the carpet’ of this incident by Deputy Mayor Beverley Hughes, Peter Jackson’s appeal was upheld by the IOPC after assessing her so-called ‘investigation’. As a result, Andy Burnham elected, on advice from the same IOPC, to have the matter ‘independently investigated’. The Mayor, or his advisers, chose to hand it to Durham Constabulary.

This proved to be a controversial choice and has spawned three other articles on this website. Peter Jackson says: “As you know I expressed a vote of no confidence in the Durham Senior Investigating Officer, Darren Ellis, at an early stage, but Burnham allowed him to continue, even though the SIO behaved in a totally unprofessional, defensive, biased, aggressive and belligerent manner”.

“The same SIO harshly exposed in the media over his dealings with the Loughinisland controversy (read more here).

“It, therefore, came as no surprise that the Durham investigation report was a whitewash, reeking of confirmation bias, cherry-picked evidence and a conclusion of ‘no case to answer’ for CC Hopkins. Ellis refused to interview the witnesses I identified and ignored the welter of evidence that demonstrated that CC Hopkins and ACC Russ Jackson, who was involved in drafting the statement, must have known what they said was not true.

“I did, however, note that the report also contained evidence of CC Hopkins having been advised by former PCC Tony Lloyd regarding a previous incident of apparently ‘not intentionally lying’. Repeated ‘accidental’ lying or not telling the truth to the media is certainly not a quality one would want of a Chief Constable, is it?”

16. The Grainger Inquiry

Anthony Grainger was shot by a GMP officer (anonymised ever since as Q9) whilst sat in a stationary car in Culceth, Cheshire in 2012. There were many appalling failings by the police before, during and after the killing.

Through the tenacious, relentless efforts of his partner, Gail Hadfield Grainger, and his mother, Marina Schofield, a public inquiry eventually sat in Liverpool Crown Court in 2017 to hear those circumstances and take evidence from those involved

His Honour Judge Thomas Teague QC’s damning report, published over two years later, can be read in full here.

It is a crushing condemnation of Greater Manchester Police by the Inquiry Chair. Particularly, its leadership and its specialist firearms unit. The report attracted close attention from almost every mainstream media outlet. There is little point rehearsing the catalogue of deceit and operational failures again.

In this instance Peter Jackson simply says, “As far as the whistleblower meeting with the Mayor goes it is a case of ‘res ipsa loquitur’, although if Andy Burnham wants me to point out some of the more damning comments about senior GMP officers from the Inquiry report, which I foretold during our meeting, I would be happy to assist”.

17. iOPS scandal

Presciently, the early failures and alleged cost over-runs of GMP’s were raised in the whistleblower meeting in August, 2018. One year later, almost to the day, it was the lead story on the ITV’s Granada Reports daily news broadcast and a full blown scandal has developed.

Once again, Peter Jackson has strong words to say to Mayor Burnham: “I note in your response to our meeting, and my disclosures and complaints about IOPS, you seem to imply all is in order and you even take some ownership of this project, as you say ‘expenditure is monitored very closely and spend agreed… now by me or the Deputy Mayor with advice on the investment provided independent of GMP.’

“I also note in the first MEN article on the subject (read article in full here) it says there has been a ‘glitch’ and cites ‘GMP chiefs’ as saying the system is progressing well.

“The reference to ‘chiefs’ rather than ‘chief’ is interesting, as if it had been in the singular CC Hopkins would be caught in a lie again. Costs are cited at £27 million, but as you know the true figure of the project with implementation costs has to be, in reality, well in excess of an estimate first broadcast over three years ago. What’s more, I have ample evidence from many other police whistleblowers that the system is not ‘progressing well’. It has been a complete and utter disaster.

Jackson continues his attack on the Mayor: “Are you alarmed Mr Burnham? Is that enough of a scandal for you to take action? Live feedback from officers is pouring in. The Police Federation say there is a serious risk to officers and the public.

“Are you concerned about Intelligence System failures? Everyone should know of the dangers of that from the murders of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes committed by Dale Cregan. Most recently, the intelligence failures that were exposed at the Grainger Inquiry. Also, it is well known that GMP officers went to the wrong house and killed the ‘wrong’ Jordon (Jordan) Begley.

“And what of the many other ‘glitches’? Are you waiting for a blue light call to a non-existent job to end in tragedy before you take action?

Conclusion

Peter Jackson’s conclusion on the response to his own disclosures, and those of other whistleblowers, can be summarised thus:

“Margaret Oliver, Paul Bailey and myself are three voices that represent the views and concerns of many other ex-, retired and serving officers.  After the meeting last August, we were, more or less, blanked for eight months by Mayor Andy Burnham, his Deputy, and Clare Monaghan. All three failed to positively engage with us and repeatedly resist taking serious, determined action to investigate our disclosures and complaints. All we have faced is delays, prevarication and been treated as a nuisance. The unacceptable behaviour of such as Beverley Hughes and Kevin Lee in that meeting foretold what came later.

“I would, respectfully, remind you, Mr Burnham, of some of your comments in your House of Commons speech on Hillsborough (read in full here).

  • This is a time for transparency, not secrecy

Let me turn to collusion between police and the media. The malicious briefings given in the immediate aftermath were devastatingly efficient. They created a false version of events which lingered until yesterday.

  • At many inquests today, there is often a mismatch between the legal representation of public bodies and those of the bereaved.Why should the authorities be able to spend public money like water to protect themselves while families have no such help?
  • This cover-up went right to the top.
  • This police force [South Yorkshire Police] hasn’t learned and hasn’t changed.
  • Mr Speaker, let me be clear – I don’t blame the ordinary police officers, the men and women who did their best on the day and who today are out keeping our streets safe. But I do blame their leadership and culture, which seems rotten to the core.
  • One of the lessons of Hillsborough is that there must be no arbitrary time limits on justice and accountability.
  • This is a time for transparency, not secrecy—time for the people of South Yorkshire to know the full truth about their police force.

“I agree, completely, with all the sentiments you expressed. They all apply to GMP today. Yes, it is time for the people of Greater Manchester to know the full truth about their police force.

“It is time that they also knew that their Mayor failed to take action, failed to hold the Chief Constable to account.

He signs off with a very powerful message to the Mayor: “Your failure to tackle the scandal that is Greater Manchester Police is a serious neglect of your public duties and ultimately should, if justice is served, mean that you lose your position as Mayor next May. This great city, and the wider region, deserve much better than you can provide. I, and many others associated with the police, will be actively campaigning against you both on the streets, at hustings, public meetings and on social media”.

Which means that Andy Burnham was right after all about the whistleblower meeting being the first of many. But, perhaps, not in the way he might have envisaged. The May 2020 elections were, of course, postponed due to the Corona Virus scare. But it has not stemmed the flow of scandals emanating from Police Force HQ. Here are just two good examples (read ‘Rotten to the core’ here and ‘Even More Rotten’ here).

Earlier today, (12th August, 2019), senior reporter Jennifer Williams broke the mould of the Manchester Evening News exempting the Mayor and his Deputy from any criticism over failings of their regional police force. In a short, but sharply pointed, piece she sets out clearly and concisely just where she considers the democratic deficit to lie: Squarely at the feet of Andy Burnham and Beverley Hughes (read in full here).

This Neil Wilby piece,  a mammoth 8,200 words epic, might go some way to fleshing out the MEN and Jennifer’s argument.

Other scandals outside the scope of the police whistleblower disclosures

There are a series of other scandals that were not part of the Bailey, Jackson, Oliver (and Winter) disclosures to the Mayor of Greater Manchester. Associated articles have either appeared, or due to appear in the near future. It is a depressingly long list, and reveals a police force so badly run that it, in all conscience, should be placed in special measures by the Home Office and the chief constable served with a Section 38 notice.

As for the Mayor and his Deputy, they should fall on their sword and announce that neither will stand in the local regional elections next May:

(i) Industrial scale breaches of Freedom of Information Act and Data Protection Act.

(ii) Mabs Hussain promotion to Assistant Chief Constable (read here).

(iii) Spying on and reporting disabled protesters to Department of Work and Pensions (read here).

(iv) Chief constable’s behaviour in and outside the courtroom at the Grainger Inquiry

(v) Destruction of weapons, assets following death of Ian Terry. Undertaking signed off by present chief constable, Ian Hopkins. Destruction didn’t take place until at least 2017.

(vi) Death following police contact of Jordon Begley.

Page last updated: Friday 23rd October, 2020 at 1335 hours

Photo Credit: Getty Images/PA/Huffington Post

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