Another Durham debacle as chief constable snubs Manchester Mayor

Much has already been written about the Operation Mackan fiasco, over which the now-retired chief constable of Durham Constabulary, Michael Barton was Gold Commander (read more here).

The central theme has been the sub-optimal, one-eyed investigation carried out by his Silver Commander, civilian investigator Darren Ellis, into complaints raised against the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, Ian Hopkins. It is alleged that, not for the first time, he responded dishonestly to press criticism.

Durham were asked to investigate by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, on his behalf, after a grotesquely failed ‘investigation’ carried out by his deputy, Beverley Hughes.

An appeal by the complainant, to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, against the outcome, signed off by Hughes, unsurprisingly succeeded. The so-called investigation amounted to nothing more than a single phone call to Hopkins, of which there was no note or record.

The complainant is Peter Jackson, a retired superintendent and now a nationally known police whistle blower, having been the source for a large number of regional and national newspaper stories, over the past two years, plus a regular round of TV appearances. Most recently on ITV Granada Reports where he broke a massive scandal concerning information technology failures at GMP from which, the Police Federation say, lives of police officers and members of the public are at risk.

It was also Jackson who was the source for The Times article at the heart of the complaints.

The Durham investigation outcome, accompanied by a 66 page report, littered with errors, is now also subject to appeal to the IOPC. Its receipt was ackowledged on 2nd August, 2019 and the Casework Manager, who gave his address as the Sale office of the police watchdog, anticipated being in a position to complete his assessment ‘within 15 working days, subject to any senior manager or lawyer input’.

‘Casework Manager’ is a very junior role in the IOPC, often held by inexperienced recruits, with little or no experience in police matters and no investigative experience or qualifications. The watchdog do themselves yet another disservice by not having this appeal, against a highly controversial investigation, analysed and assessed under the direct control of one of their Regional Directors.

It is hard to envisage the handling of a complaint, outside the realm of a death following police contact, that continues to drain confidence in the police complaints system as much as this Jackson, Hopkins, Burnham farrago.

In April 2019, Peter Jackson made a multi-faceted complaint to the Mayor’s office, via his Deputy Director for Policing, Clare Monaghan, regarding the conduct of Darren Ellis. It concerned both his questionable performance and competencies as a detective, and a series of alleged ethical breaches that included disrespect, discourtesy, neglect of duty, partiality and discreditable conduct. Jackson is well placed to assess the merits of a police investigation, particularly how it is framed and progressed, as he was Manchester’s leading murder detective before he retired. He had investigated serious crime for most of his 31-year police career.

The following month Andy Burnham wrote to the Durham chief constable, passing on the Jackson complaints against Ellis to him, as the appropriate authority, to make a decision whether to record them under the Police Reform Act, 2002. Bizarrely, Burnham did not support the whistle blower’s request for the removal of Ellis from the investigation. A decision likely to prove very costly; both in terms of public funds and further damage to his already failing reputation as an elected representative capable of holding a police force to account.

Jackson wrote to Barton, just before he retired in June, to enquire about the status of his complaints. His email was ignored. The Operation Mackan outcome was sent to Burnham a few days later. Jackson describes it as one of the worst he has ever seen, with, he says, a large catalogue of basic investigative errors and a highly partial approach virtually throughout. His appeal to the IOPC reflects those points.

Questions about the recording of the Jackson complaints, raised via the Durham press office in the course of researching this article, also drew a blank. Although separate enquiries to the Professional Standards Department did reveal that Ellis is still employed by the force. The clear inference at this point is that they have not been recorded. Strongly backed up by the fact that there has been no contact at all from Durham PSD to the complainant since the Burnham letter to Barton.

In the light of that information, Peter Jackson wrote to Barton’s successor as chief constable, Jo Farrell, to again enquire whether the complaints have been recorded. He has not even received an acknowledgement.

Even allowing for the apparent absence of ethical and professional standards in Durham Constabulary, cascading down from the top of the force, it is very poor conduct by Ms Farrell towards a retired police officer with an exemplary record across 31 years of service. This echoes dealings I had with her during her stint as deputy to Barton. Her portfolio responsibilities at that time included PSD. Our contact concerned an attempt to establish the directing mind in the response to a freedom of information request in which Durham gratuitously libelled me (read more here)

Members of the public, some with very serious issues indeed, have come forward to complain of the same disdainful culture within Durham. Typified in every way, it must be said, by Darren Ellis, as well as others across the ranks of this “grubby little police force”.

Alarming though it is, the protection of Ellis by Barton, and now, it seems, Farrell, does not just extend to the Jackson complaints. He is also under complaint over the most appalling conduct towards two Irish journalists, Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney in an operation codenamed Yurta that resulted in the two reporters being arrested and their properties searched over a TV documentary they filmed, and produced, about the infamous Loughinisland massacre. Barton, described by his own Durham colleagues as “a nutter”, resolutely defended Ellis in a televised broadcast from the Policing Board of Northern Ireland and continued to do so through other media, up to the day of his retirement.

The next step for Jackson is to appeal the non-recording of his complaints by Durham to the IOPC. Very determined that they will be appropriately and proportionately investigated, however long that takes, he is, of course, acutely aware that such an investigation, or local resolution, is unlikely to happen within the Durham force: Chief constables, past and present, are already implicated in a ‘cover-up’ and Darren Ellis, it seems, is still able to exert considerable influence within the very department that would deal with the complaints against him.

Peter Jackson’s merry-go-round predicament is another perfect example of why the police complaints system, and the statutory framework governing it, is in such urgent need of radical overhaul; a re-structure that should find no place for police officers, and forces, investigating themselves.

The seriously flawed IOPC should also be confined to the dustbin of history, alongside its three disgraced incarnations, the Police Complaints Board (1977-1985), the Police Complaints Authority (1985-2004) and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (2004 – 2018). Each one worse than its predecessor, which is, arguably, something only the UK Home Office could achieve.

Page last updated: Monday 12th August, 2019 at 0715 hours

 

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

 

Second investigation into ‘lying’ chief constable flounders

Retired murder detective, Peter Jackson, the country’s best known police whistle blower, has written to the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s office to point out that his complaints against the region’s chief constable, Ian Hopkins, are, once again, not being investigated properly.

Under the applicable statutory framework, the Mayor is, ultimately, the Appropriate Authority who deals with such complaints. After a calamitous first investigation, in which his Deputy, ‘Bev’ Hughes attempted to dispose of the complaints by a hopelessly misconceived local resolution process, and misled the complainant by claiming she was conducting an ‘investigation’, Durham Constabulary was asked to assess and manage the probe into the misconduct allegations (read more here).

The ‘investigation’ by Mrs Hughes subsequently turned out to be no more than a phone call to Mr Hopkins. Not one scrap of paper was produced by her after the Independent Office for Police Conduct (more widely recognised under its previous guise of the IPCC) directed the hapless Deputy Mayor to disclose all documents relating to the process. Mr Jackson’s complaint against her ‘local resolution’ findings was, unsurprsingly, upheld by the police ‘watchdog’.

Bev Hughes had falsely claimed that she had conducted a three month investigation and Peter Jackson was, understandably, disconcerted when the truth emerged. She has faced no disciplinary process or sanction, arising from that disgraceful farrago.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which hosts the Mayor’s administrative functions first contacted Durham on 5th December, 2018. Three weeks later, after a flurry of communication between GMCA’s Deputy Director of Policing, Clare Monaghan, and a Durham civilian investigator, Darren Ellis, the small county police force took on the job of tackling serious misconduct allegations against the chief constable of the country’s fourth largest metropolitan force.

It looked a mis-match from the outset, and so it has proved. Not helped, it seems, by the unexpected announcement of the retirement of the Durham chief constable, Michael Barton. He is the Gold Commander of the Hopkins investigation, even though he appears to spend an extraordinary amount of his time ‘out of force’.

There are serious and well-grounded questions presently being asked surrounding the reasons given for that retirement, and its proximity to accepting the investigation into Chief Constable Hopkins. Mr Barton was less than half way through a contact extension agreed in 2016, which would keep him at the Durham helm until February 2021 (read more here).

Mr Jackson says he has lost confidence, both in Mr Ellis and the Durham investigation. He cites the following principal reasons:

– Witnesses that were identified in his evidential statements have contacted him to complain about the conduct of Ellis towards them.

– Those witnesses, a serving and a retired police officer, Paul Bailey and Scott Winters respectively, plus journalist Neil Wilby, have no confidence in Mr Ellis and, particulary, his ability to conduct a correctly framed, robust, proportionate investigation.

 – He is not reassured that Mr Ellis is adopting an appropriately thorough and independent investigation of his complaint. He fears another ‘whitewash’, along the lines of the previous feeble attempt to dispose of the complaints by the Deputy Mayor.

 – Ellis has been accused variously, of being sarcastic, patronising, confrontational, aggressive, insulting, deceitful, evasive, inept, unethical and unprofessional. Seeking, from the outset it seems, to break off contact with all parties on the complainant’s side.

 – Providing a straight answer to a straight question also appears to be beyond Durham’s finest.

Mrs Monaghan was provided with relevant e-mail correspondence to evidence this serious and quite astonishing catalogue of allegations. She has acknowledged the communication from Mr Jackson and is set to discuss the matter with the Mayor, Andy Burnham in the near future.

Clare Monaghan 2
Gretaer Manchester’s Deputy Director for Policing, Clare Monaghan.

Those Ellis emails, highlighted by Peter Jackson, include one to Neil Wilby, where, amongst other smearing, misdirected remarks, he references visiting the toilets at a friend’s house. Mr Ellis cites quotations he read on the walls of both the upstairs and downstairs facilities, referring to him as a fool. Ellis might well be correct in his assertion, but to use a police email address and IT systems, is unethical and unprofessional, at best. Not least, as the journalist is a deponent in the investigation of which the Durham detective is seized, at the behest of the complainant, and has extensive and detailed witness evidence relevant to what is asserted by Peter Jackson.

At the initial meeting between investigator and complainant, Mr Ellis gave the impression that he understood the seriousness of the matters in issue, and would conduct a thorough investigation. More crucially, he agreed to ‘go where the evidence takes him’, adding it into Mr Jackson’s first witness statement and asserting that such a crucial caveat would form part of the investigation’s Terms of Reference, agreed with GMCA.

As a former head of GMP’s elite Murder Investigation Team (MIT), Mr Jackson is much more aware than most, including Mr Ellis, that it is a well recognised, and sound, approach to examine evidence arising out of similar conduct in other incidents when conducting any investigation.

To Mr Jackson’s obvious dismay, Mr Ellis is said to be conducting the investigation ‘with his fingers in his ears’ whilst acting in an antagonistic manner towards highly informed and experienced witnesses. Conversely, and perversely, there appears to be excessive contact between Ellis and Mrs Monaghan. More alarmingly, Durham Constabulary appear to be willing to break the law to conceal the extent of it (read more here). 

Mr Jackson was recently contacted by a well informed local journalist, based in Manchester, who has reinforced the complainant’s view that the outcome of the present investigation is going to be another ‘whitewash’. Firmly held views, emanating from highly placed sources within both GMP and GMCA, are that the complaint is ‘trivial’ and ‘the investigation is going nowhere’. 

In an article, published on Wednesday 3rd April, 2019 in the Manchester Evening News, that has the look and feel of the under-fire Mr Hopkins calling in a favour from his friends at the local newspaper, the prospect of a ‘whitewash’ increases.  ‘Chief constable vows to clear his name’ screams the headline. The oxymoron, ‘I did not deliberately lie‘ is the theme of an article almost entirely absent of journalistic rigour. 

Mr Jackson has made it clear, in his evidence to both the Durham team and Mrs Monaghan, that the conduct of the chief constable in response to The Times article at the heart of the present complaints, was not a ‘one off’. It forms part of a much wider pattern of alleged behaviour that includes deceit, lies, ‘cover up’ and misleading of the public. 

For his part, Mr Ellis has repeatedly refused to inform the complainant of the outcome of his severity assessment. Although Ellis asserts that a Regulation 15 notice has been served on Ian Hopkins, he refuses to say whether the allegations amount to misconduct, or gross misconduct. Adding to the opaqueness, GMCA have refused requests by the BBC to confirm whether the regulation notice has been issued. GMP referred such enquiries to GMCA. The latter has been approached by Neil Wilby, via a freedom of information request, for a copy of the notice.

The terms of reference have been disclosed publicly and they appear to be a diluted version of what Mr Jackson was told to expect. There is no mention of the recording of the disreputable conduct that is alleged by Jackson, and the ‘go where the evidence takes us’ is missing. Mr Ellis has refused to explain these disparities and has cut off contact with the complainant, accusing him of leaking information to journalists.

In the light of the alleged misconduct of Darren Ellis, together with the highly conflicted position of the Deputy Mayor and GMCA, flowing from the disgraceful first attempt at the investigation of the Jackson complaints, a firm request has been made for a referral of these matters to the IPCC (now IOPC) for an independent investigation, by them, as a matter of urgency.

Page last updated on Monday 8th April. 2019 at 1725hrs

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

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

Picture credit:  Manchester Evening News

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