Kerry Perkins -v- West Yorkshire Police

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

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

Tuesday 3rd December, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 2nd December, 2019

Court is not sitting today.

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

Disclosure of the following information was sought:

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

2. Name of Senior Investigating Officer.

3. Dates upon which they were appointed.

4. Date operational codename requested.

5. Date police operation commenced, concluded.

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

a. Date of first entry

b. Date of final entry

c. Number of actions

7. Number of officers deployed on the operation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 29th November, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surveillance on 10th June 2014:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 28th November, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 27th November, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 26th November, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 25th November, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credits: Kerry Perkins

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Did ‘bad apple’ taint the Thatcham barrel?

In March 2008, an investigation began into two Huddersfield brothers. Concerns about their extravagant lifestyle, following an anonymous tip-off, appeared to be the trigger for the police probe.

At the subsequent trial in Bradford Crown Court in March, 2011, it emerged in evidence that Nadeem and Thazeem Khalid had exaggerated their earnings to obtain £968,000 from three financial institutions; Lombard, Birmingham Midshires and Kensington Finance.

They had used loans, fraudulently obtained, to buy a £75,000 Ferrari car, and two houses in Salendine Nook; a £650,000 detached house and another, valued at £160,000, that was subsequently used as a rental property.

After the trial, the detective constable based with the Kirklees CID response team, Mark Lunn, told a local newspaper:

“They were living a fast and loose lifestyle well beyond their means.

“Throughout our investigation they both showed an air of arrogance and were always of the opinion the case would never be proved. They were wrong.”

DC Lunn added: “They may believe they are untouchable and they may be enjoying a lavish lifestyle when the honest, hard working members of the public are struggling in times of austerity. But they can rest assured the police will catch up with them”.

At the time of their arrest, and conviction, the brothers were said to be running a company called Advanced Claims UK Ltd although their names have never appeared amonst the directors listed at Companies House. In both the evidence used for the fraud trial, and in the unused materials (for the legally minded, the MG6(c)), there were documents relating to the running of that company that aroused suspicion of bogus motor insurance claims.

Mark Lunn, who lives in the Golcar area of Huddersfield, joined West Yorkshire Police as a special constable in 1988. He served in that role for 6 years. He became a warranted officer in 1994 and remained, in relative obscurity, at the rank of police constable until around 2007 when he passed his basic exams and became a detective constable with the CID Response team in Huddersfield. He was a ‘rookie’ when he was given the task of investigating the Khalid brothers. It is said by the police that he was the ‘officer in the case’ for that investigation.

Following the conviction of the Khalid brothers, Lunn was ‘recommended’ to join the specialist Kirklees Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) Unit at their base in Batley Police Station. The sergeant leading the team, Mark Taylor (now an inspector in Bradford CID), says ‘it was a close knit unit’. Unusually for a detective constable, Lunn was allocated an office of his own. He was also tasked with leading an investigation, codenamed Operation Thatcham, to look further into the activities of not only the Khalid brothers but, more particularly, one of their associates, Sahir Mohammed.

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Batley Police Station

But Lunn was harbouring a dark secret of his own, and the fine words he gave to the Huddersfield Examiner would come back to haunt both him and West Yorkshire Police.

Revelling in his new found ‘celebrity’, he was, soon afterwards, planning a very large loan (or investment) of his own whose provenance was questionable. The leverage for that payment was the success of the Khalid investigation and his position as lead investigator on Operation Thatcham, a joint operation that included the private, not-for-profit Insurance Fraud Bureau (read more here) and the Ministry of Justice as partners.

At around the same time, the IFB had been involved in a controversial prosecution at Southwark Crown Court of doctors and solicitors. It concluded in December, 2011, after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped all charges, with the judge, HHJ David Higgins, describing the conduct of the case as “scandalous”.

That police investigation, codenamed Operation Triassic, had been funded and driven by the insurance industry and Ian Lewis, at the time the fraud partner at Manchester law firm Lewis Hymanson Small, representing BCR Legal Group, a London-based insurance intermediary, said: “Despite repeated requests to be provided with details of the complaints, the CPS and the police failed to do so, raising speculation that this was an investigation led by the insurance industry with a suspicion of an agenda to continue the civil cost wars in the criminal courts”.

IFB, for their part, maintain that they “….provided good evidence to the City of London Police to investigate the matter further and bring charges against the professionals concerned”. An article published by Legal Futures, covering the case, can be read here.

Questions concerning IFB’s role and whether they contributed funding to Operation Thatcham have been put to both them and West Yorkshire Police.

Police documents show that Mark Lunn added to his publicly available LinkedIn profile, sometime in 2011 he says, the fact that he was a director of private investigation business using a bogus company, ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’, as its trading style. It was not registered at Companies House at that time. He was, it seems, looking to ride the tidal wave of money being thrown at tackling insurance fraud by the big players in that industry. ‘Crash for cash’ motor insurance frauds were one of the biggest concerns for underwriters and brokers.

He subsequently approached two senior managers of a large, well established insurance company based in Haywards Heath, Sussex. They were Glenn Marr (Fraud Director) and Clare Burrell (Claims Director) who both worked for 1st Central Insurance. They are part of the much larger, Guernsey based, First Central Insurance and Technology Group.

Lunn says he had been introduced to 1st Central by an, as yet, unidentified contact made through the ‘crash for cash’ investigations. He made three visits to the insurer’s head office, whilst not on West Yorkshire Police business, during the time he spent running Operation Thatcham.

A business plan for the bogus company was produced by Lunn, on police computers, although he told Detective Chief Inspector Paul Jeffrey, in interview, that he had worked on it ‘only in lunch breaks’. He also admitted sending out emails connected to ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’ using his police email account.

The plan was for 1st Central to pay him £183,000, based on that spreadsheet. Apparently, whilst Lunn was leading one of the highest profile fraud investigations in West Yorkshire Police history. A series of questions has been put to the press office of First Central Group concerning the provenance of this arrangement, given they must have known that Mark Lunn was a serving police officer and it directly conflicted with his leader role on Operation Thatcham.

Lunn had already sourced an office and agreed a rental with a well-known local businessman, Ian Pogson, who passed away suddenly in July, 2014. The premises were situated at Brougham Road, Marsden a short drive from the police officer’s home. Police documents reveal that 1st Central rejected that location as they wanted Lunn’s business premises to be situated in Leeds, the recognised regional economic centre.

Mr Pogson is named, by the police, as someone who could give advice on the drawing up of Lunn’s business plan. The link to Mr Pogson was via a former Metropolitan Police detective, Darren Jones.

Lunn says he met Mr Jones through enquiries as part of the Thatcham investigation. The latter is the principal shareholder in Fraud Consultants UK Ltd (read more here). Mr Jones was asked to verify if Mark Lunn’s account of his intermediary role is true. He states that it isn’t: Mr Jones was not a serving officer at the time and he says that Lunn approached him for advice, out of the blue, as someone who had started his own fraud investigation business. He knew Ian Pogson, as he was a client for whom he was doing professional work. Beyond that, he says he has little or no recollection of Lunn. Operation Thatcham was never discussed between them.

 

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Andel Ltd was the business controlled by the late Ian Pogson

According to DCI Jeffrey, based on the account Lunn gave to him, a Leeds solicitor, John James, was also involved in the plans involving the bogus company, ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’. He is a personal injury specialist presently working for a firm called Legal Studio (read more here). He was described by Lunn ‘as a prospective co-director’.

At the time of the alleged association with Lunn he was working for one of the largest law firms in Leeds, Ford and Warren. His CV on the LinkedIn website describes his role there as ‘Specialising in Insurance Fraud litigation, investigating and defending fraudulent motor claims on behalf of insurer clients’. Both Mr Walker, and Weightmans Solicitors, who took over the business of Ford and Warren, have been invited to give an account of any interaction with this ‘company’, a serving police officer and what appears to be a very large sum of money.

This private enterprise, apparently involving variously, and not necessarily limited to, a serving West Yorkshire Police officer, a former Metropolitan Police officer, a solicitor, and one of Huddersfield’s most successful businessmen, was, plainly, a very serious undertaking. The fact it was being organised from Batley Police Station, using police resources (office space, computers, phones at the very least), a police email address, software licenced to the police, and relying almost entirely on a number of professional connections made whilst on one of West Yorkshire Police’s largest ever fraud operations, is concerning.

On Lunn’s own account, he had been working on the satellite project for up to a year.

A series of questions has been put to West Yorkshire Police press office in order to shed more light on how this could have possibly happened and why Detective Constable Mark Lunn was not dismissed from the force. There is also the latent question of whether any of his conduct met the criminal threshold, particularly the deception over the bogus company.

The police’s position, regarding the sanctions Lunn faced over a lengthy list of serious demeanours, is that he was placed on an Unsatisfactory Performance Plan (UPP). A three-stage process that is more aligned to Human Resources than Professional Standards. Routinely used to tackle issues such as lateness or poor attendance record.

The UPP proposition, advanced by West Yorkshire Police, intended to divert attention from the investigation that it is known did take place into Mark Lunn, is, quite simply, preposterous. Those making it, and those maintaining it, should, themselves, face disciplinary or regulatory investigation.

There are also the residual and more serious issues of (i) what happened to the money that the police say was paid to Lunn and (ii) was it legitimately obtained? Public confidence in the police will suffer a serious detriment if answers are not provided to these questions.

On 14th May, 2012 a Bradford firm of criminal defence solicitors, Opus Law, wrote to the Professional Standards Department of West Yorkshire Police and drew the force’s attention to at least some of Lunn’s nefarious activities. Opus, a ‘Legal 500 Leading Firm’, represented one of the persons arrested, two months earlier, as part of Operation Thatcham: Dr Abdul Rashid, a Bradford GP and medico-legal expert.

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It appears as though PSD was either slow to act, as the third of Mark Lunn’s three visits to 1st Insurance took place eight days later, on 22nd May, 2012, or, by then, they had him under covert surveillance. He had taken that day off as unplanned leave, telling his supervisor, Detective Sergeant Taylor that he had ‘child care difficulties’.  He later told DCI Jeffrey he couldn’t remember saying that and, according to DCI Jeffrey’s notes, Lunn ‘made great play of how bad his memory was these days’.

On Monday 4th June, 2012, Mark Lunn started a planned two week period of leave. At a County Court hearing that concluded recently in Bradford Combined Court Centre, DI Mark Taylor (as he is now) gave evidence about how he came to know of Lunn’s burgeoning private enterprise. It can be paraphrased in this way: ‘On or about the first day of Lunn’s leave, DC Andrew Barrett came to his office and blew the whistle on Lunn, whom had been heard in telephone conversations obviously not to do with his police work’.

In police documents it emerges that, on DI Taylor’s account, DC Barrett was not the only team member to have heard, or seen, Lunn conducting such activities. Others were aware that he had compiled a business plan and had travelled ‘down south’ to make a ‘pitch’ for investment in his business. There was a huge concern as to how this would impact on the integrity of Operation Thatcham’.

DI Taylor’s further evidence in court was that he telephoned DI Andrew Leonard on that day, which he said was ‘at the end of May or beginning of June’ to share the knowledge of DC Barrett’s whistle blowing. There is no contemporaneous document available to support this account by DI Taylor. No emails, entry in pocket note books (PNB’s), or day books, and nothing on the investigation policy log relating to this. A ‘big red flag’ to borrow a phrase the police’s barrister, Olivia Checa-Dover, is fond of using, was not raised anywhere, it seems. Just an internal phone call, of which there is no audit trail.

A remarkable feature of those proceedings was the extent to which DI Taylor’s recollection of events varied from question to question, put to him in his examination-in-chief and, later, his cross-examination.

Another feature was that a significant number of other documents that would have supported DI Taylor’s oral evidence had either gone missing, been inexplicably destroyed or not searched for.

A third feature was how little DI Taylor appeared to know about the day to day running of the Thatcham investigation. For example, on a policy log with a very large number of entries he could not point to a single entry he had made. Almost every single one was made by DC Lunn. He told the court he was involved in thirteen other investigations or prosecutions at the time.

A fourth feature, very obviously of course, was the massive private enterprise, with a dangerous conflict of interest, being organised by the officer leading the investigation, right under DI Taylor’s nose. For up to a year, Lunn must have regarded his supervisor, working in an adjacent office, with scarcely concealed contempt.

Without the letter from Opus Law, it is possible that Lunn would have got away with his plans and scammed both West Yorkshire Police and, possibly, 1st Central Insurance, who were being asked to invest very heavily in a bogus company whilst the principal was a serving police officer.

On 7thJune, 2012, DI Taylor was copied into an email sent by D/Sgt Lockwood. Attached to the email was the letter from Opus Law.

When asked in cross-examination, at the County Court trial, if he had ever seen the Opus letter, before being shown the email in the trial bundle, he answered firmly in the negative.

He didn’t repeat the regular mantra of ‘I don’t recall’ or ‘I can’t remember’. He said: ‘No’

When shown the Lockwood email, he conceded that he must have opened it and seen the letter. The judge, Ben Nolan QC, sitting in this case as a Recorder, characterised this type of evidence as being tendered by a ‘truthful, reliable and extremely professional officer’. The judgment also gratuitously praises DI Taylor’s ‘very good recollection of his role as supervisor of DC Lunn’.

There is, very evidently, a tension between the daily reports of the hearings posted from the press seats and those judicial findings (read here). Not to mention the dangerous enterprise Lunn was perpetrating right under DI Taylor’s nose.

It now transpires, after further investigation, that the Opus letter featured in a meeting with DCI Jeffrey that took place on the day following receipt of the Lockwood email. DI Taylor had actually taken the letter to the meeting for the purpose of bringing it to the attention of ‘the boss’. The letter was not an item on the agenda, this was a routine operational review meeting of POCA team activity, and it seems, from DCI Jeffrey’s own account that this occasion was the first he knew of the Lunn complaint. It was only raised by DI Taylor when the review turned to Operation Thatcham, not as a matter of very considerable importance at the outset. Yet DI Taylor’s best evidence to the court was that he had never seen the Opus letter before being shown it in the witness box.

In DCI Jeffrey’s detailed notes of that meeting there is no mention of the Taylor phone call to DI Leonard. Or, indeed, any contact between Leonard and Jeffrey. It appears that, on all the available evidence, it was the first DCI Jeffrey, the Head of Crime in Kirklees, had heard of the complaints made against Lunn by Opus Law. 25 days after their letter had been sent to West Yorkshire Police.

The apparent delay by the POCA team, and the seeming lack of urgency in managing the complaint up the command chain, over what were, on any independent view, serious allegations, is troubling. Particularly, in the light of knowledge held, by both PSD and those senior officers, over a ‘written warning’ sanction Lunn had received, previously, at the end of a misconduct investigation into misuse of police computers. Given what was alleged, and the fact that the latest complaint came from a leading firm of solicitors well acquainted with policing matters, with documentary evidence supporting it, gives rise to suspicion that other dynamics were in play.

Frequently, police officers are dismissed from the service for computer and data misuse. It is, quite rightly, viewed very seriously and, as such, a curiosity as to why Lunn escaped with such a relatively minor sanction over his previous breach. Nevertheless, in the light of that disciplinary finding, the decision to allocate Detective Constable Lunn an office of his own in Batley Police Station, away from the gaze of the rest of his colleagues, appears highly questionable and smacks of poor supervision and decision making.

There was also one other live PSD complaint running at the time, from a member of the public, over the failure of Lunn to return seized property. The outcome of that complaint is not known. In his written response to PSD, Lunn had declared that he was ‘Team Thatcham‘ and that status, apparently, gave him immunity from any criticism, either internally or from members of the public.

In the same County Court proceedings, featuring the unlawful arrest of Dr Rashid, the court heard at the pre-trial review that there had been three previous complaints made against Lunn, by members of the public, alleging unlawful arrest. None were upheld by PSD. Under force policy at that time, West Yorkshire Police should, however, have placed a ‘red flag’ against Lunn’s name for having three complaints of the same classification made against him, irrespective of whether they were upheld or not.

Dr Rashid’s unlawful arrest claim was also dismissed, after a ten day court hearing, but is presently subject to an appeal to the High Court. He was never charged with any offence, but kept on police bail until June, 2013.

DC Mark Lunn, the officer in charge of the Thatcham investigation was, on the documentary evidence provided by the police to the court, clearly a detective who was prepared to persistently lie; misuse police assets; misrepresent himself using a police email account to further a private enterprise; repeatedly deceive fellow police officers working in the same team; engage in conduct that placed a huge fraud investigation at risk; gratuitously embellish his CV (which he still does to this day); repeatedly breach Police Conduct Regulations and place self-interest well above public service. Added to all that ‘he made great play of how bad his memory was’.

Unsurprisingly, that is not the view Mark Lunn projects about himself.

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Incredibly, this was the officer who planned and executed the arrest of Dr Rashid and wrote the operational order that included a massive, pre-dawn police raid at a residential property in an upmarket suburb of Bradford, the home of a well known professional man deeply embedded in the local community, and in which children as young as seven years old were asleep.

The findings of the judge, at the conclusion of the Rashid trial, seek to strongly downplay the impact of Lunn on the lawfulness of the doctor’s arrest and his role in it. Not only in the face of what was known in court about an officer whose very presence, let alone his position as its leader, appears to taint the entire investigation, or at the very least, up to the point he was removed from it, but the fact that almost all the documents, upon which Lunn might reasonably have noted the reasons he relied upon for the arrest, appear to have been ‘sanitised’. This formed part of the closing submissions of Dr Rashid’s barrister at the end of the trial. A point seemingly not addressed in the judgment.

The officer in charge of disclosure, on behalf of the police legal team, was DI Taylor. Warmly praised by the judge as ‘extremely professional’. From the press seats, at least, across three hearings, beginning in December, 2018 and ending in September, 2019 the drip-feed disclosure process had the appearance of an exercise whose principal aim was not to reveal anything that would undermine the principal plank of the police case.

The police’s various and changing explanations for the absence of key documents, including some of those provided by DI Taylor on oath, pose some difficulty when reconciling what is known as Authorised Professional Practice (formerly issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, more latterly by the College of Policing), and the internal management of police information (MoPI) policies of a well-run police force. Not to mention their lawful obligations, Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and duty of care.

One reasonable hypothesis, given what is now known about his general character and integrity, is that DC Lunn had exaggerated the reasons for the arrest in the contemporaneous documents pertaining to the arrest, for the purpose of enhancing his ‘pitch’ for investment in his private business by 1st Century – and giving the motor claims industry a ‘prized scalp’, as Dr Rashid was described in pre-trial court proceedings.

Significant support for this line of reasoning is that within hours of Dr Rashid’s arrest, Lunn had written to the General Medical Council to tell them that the doctor had been arrested over ‘serious fraud, money laundering and was part of an organised crime gang’. The words ‘on suspicion of’ or ‘alleged’ were notably absent. Lunn had also told the GMC that Dr Rashid was using drugs, but did not specify their nature, or application.

Lunn went on to say that patient records were found scattered in his home and the boot of his car. That was a baseless allegation, unsupported by evidence, photographic or otherwise. The ‘money laundering’ was an invention, as was the allegation that there was a misuse of drugs. None of these matters were ever put to Dr Rashid in interview.

Apart from this grotesque, and arguably libellous, smearing of Dr Rashid, it was a serious breach of West Yorkshire Police’s policy for disclosure to regulated professions. A task, for very obvious reasons, almost always undertaken by a specialist, qualified officer in the Force Disclosure Unit.

The General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practice Panel rejected West Yorkshire Police’s submissions and cleared Dr Rashid of any wrongdoing.

On 18th June, 2012, on the first day back on duty after his holiday leave, Lunn was summoned to Divisional HQ in Huddersfield for a meeting with DCI Jeffrey and DI Leonard, who was Mark Taylor’s line manager at that time.

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DCI Paul Jeffrey pictured after the conclusion of the Opertion Thatcham trials

Perversely, given what was alleged, and Lunn’s past history of police computer misuse, this was arranged as an informal meeting. The public might reasonably have expected that, given the suspicion of at least one criminal offence, Lunn would have been arrested and interviewed under caution.

A countervailing argument might be that admissions could be coaxed from Lunn by informal questioning, rather than when represented by his lawyer and a Police Federation representative at a formal interview under caution, where he might be advised to give a ‘no comment’ interview and provide a statement prepared by the Fed’s own lawyers at its conclusion.

Dr Rashid, for one, might well point out that he was never given such opportunity. Instead, sixteen police officers turned up at his home at 6.15am banging on the door.

It is clear from Paul Jeffrey’s detailed account of the meeting that an internal investigation had been launched against Lunn on 8th June, and a significant amount of information and material seized prior to the interview on the 18th. It is now apparent that the investigation was codenamed Operation Wademere.

At the outset of that meeting with two of his superiors, Lunn was dismissive of the complaint against him and maintained that the Opus Law letter was ‘a bit of a joke’. The bogus company was ‘only an idea’ he said. He was unaware that an investigation into the complaint by PSD, or, more likely, the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) that falls under the PSD umbrella, had started ten days ago, at DCI Jeffrey’s instigation.

Lunn’s approach to the interview was described by fellow police officers as ‘closed’ and ‘evasive’. He was prepared to lie to two senior officers in an attempt to bluff his way out of the Opus complaint. He only made admissions, they said, when he belatedly realised that his superiors already had the answers to the questions they were putting to him.

Eventually, and reluctantly, it was admitted by Lunn that he had misused police computers again; he was running the private investigation business from his home, rather than the office he had agreed to pay £50 per month to rent; he was using contacts gained specifically through the Operation Thatcham investigation to set up his business; he had breached force policy in not disclosing his business interests; most crucially, there was a clear conflict of interest with his duties as the Officer in the Case and the acknowledged lead investigator in Operation Thatcham.

To the extent he had, potentially, placed the entire investigation in jeopardy. Not least, it seems, by procuring the services of a chartered physiotherapist, Lee Robinson, as a director of the bogus company. Robinson was already a retained expert witness on Operation Thatcham.

That conflict, the police admit, would have led to the collapse of the Thatcham trials if the information was disclosed to the Crown Prosecution Service. The decision was made by a group of officers to deliberately conceal that crucial information from the CPS and the legal teams of those on trial.

Lunn denied any other police officers were involved in the plans.

He was removed from Operation Thatcham on the same day, but neither suspended nor placed on restricted duties (normally a non-public facing role and not adjacent to any evidence chains). Instead, Lunn was posted to the Huddersfield South neighbourhood team. Policing the area both where he lived and planned to set up his private investigation office, with the locals unaware that, in their midst, was a ‘bad apple’ police officer. One with a history of complaints of unlawful arrests (at the time, four), one who had twice misused police computers, and one who had repeatedly lied to, and deliberately deceived, other police officers. With a bad memory, to boot.

DCI Jeffrey also noted after the meeting with Lunn on 18th June, 2012 that there was a clear risk of ‘reputational damage’ to West Yorkshire Police if details of Lunn’s activities emerged into the public domain. The risk to the public of rural Huddersfield appeared not to have even been considered, let alone assessed, by DCI Jeffrey or the Professional Standards officers. That, despite the conclusion being drawn by Paul Jeffrey: ‘There are misconduct issues apparent in the information gathering exercise conducted today and I have no doubt that there is significantly more information [about Lunn] that will come out over time’.

Some of that information may have concerned a registration that was made at Companies House, in the name of ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’., very shortly after Mark Lunn was removed from Operation Thatcham. It is unclear whether Lunn has any connection with any of the officers named as having control of the company. West Yorkshire Police have been asked to clarify.

Following the report of the Jeffrey/Leonard/Lunn meeting, in correspondence circulated to seven officers, up to the rank of superintendent, and who were, in one form or another, stakeholders in the investigation into Lunn’s activities, it was clear that there were serious concerns about what had been extracted from the police systems, by Lunn, to further his own commercial enterprise. Sgt Jonathan Dunkerley (as he was then) said: ‘It worrys (sic) me what he may have ‘taken’ with him from WYP systems that is clearly for personal gain. It’s obvious the monies and stakes are high’.

It also appears that Lunn was involved in another covert ACU investigation, codenamed Operation Waffleedge. ACU investigations are normally given operational codenames, Professional Standards investigations are given unique reference numbers (URN’s). For example, the Opus complaint had the URN ‘CO/797/11’.

The covert investigation was confirmed in an email between the Intelligence Unit in PSD and Stephen Bywater, following additional concerns raised with PSD on 8th June, 2012 by D/Sgt Lockwood, regarding Lunn. It was obvious that DS Lockwood was not in the ACU loop. The Waffleedge investigation was already under way:

‘We have received this request from Andy Lockwood about Mark Lunn. We are working on Mark LUNN for Op Waffleedge. What do you want to happen. Does someone contact DS Lockwood and let him know of our concerns? Or does the Intelligence Unit just do the work as requested?’

The police, in defending the unlawful arrest claim made by Dr Rashid, have given a variety of explanations for the Waffleedge investigation at pre-trial hearings, at the final hearing and in documents disclosed to the court. Including the proposition, submitted in court, that ‘Waffleedge was not a covert operation’. Taken together, they arouse the reasonable suspicion that the true findings of that investigation are being concealed, to the significant detriment of both Dr Rashid, the integrity of the Operation Thatcham investigation and, most crucially, public confidence in the police force.

There is also a freedom of information request in which West Yorkshire Police have refused to provide any information at all. They will not even confirm or deny Operation Waffleedge exists (read more here).

An appeal against the refusal by the police to disclose uncontroversial details about the investigation is, presently, being considered by the Information Commissioner. It is likely to be, ultimately, determined before an information rights tribunal. That is the only conceivable chance of prising at least part of the truth about Waffleedge from West Yorkshire Police.

Mark Lunn was, remarkably, not called to give evidence at the hearing into the unlawful arrest claimed by Dr Rashid. One of the reasons heard in court was an incredible submission by Miss Checa-Dover, at the pre-trial hearing before HHJ Neil Davey QC, that ‘the police couldn’t locate him’.

Amongst Lunn’s Facebook friends are Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigator, Mohammed Ejaz, and the present Chair of West Yorkshire Police Federation, Brian Booth. Which, apart from laying to waste the proposition that Lunn couldn’t be found, presents an interesting challenge to those organisations, and damages public confidence in both by exhibiting a close association with a ‘bad apple’ police officer. Questions have been put to them both, individually, and to their respective press offices.

Quite apart from which, it took less than 20 minutes, using open source material, for the author of this article to locate Mark Lunn. His home address, the names of the two businesses he now runs (jobbing builder and free range eggs vendor), his mobile telephone number, his Facebook account, and his LinkedIn account.

The trail of destruction he left behind as a police officer has lasted rather longer than 20 minutes – and it may not have ended yet. It appears from the various police correspondence, and reports, forming the rump of this article, that senior officers may have taken the decision to hide Lunn away, in what they believed was a noble cause and until the Thatcham investigation was completed, and not disclose his misdemeanours to those charged with offences arising from it. That may have influenced the defendant’s decision whether to plead guilty, or not, at court.

There has to be considerable doubt as to whether the trials would have proceeded if the fruits of the ACU and PSD investigations into Mark Lunn had been properly served on the CPS and the defendant’s legal team, as part of the police’s strict duty under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, 1996.

Dr Rashid’s barrister, Ian Pennock of Park Lane Plowden Chambers in Leeds, raised this issue in court during his final submissions. He said that if the Lunn disclosures were not made, and it is more likely than not they weren’t, this could amount to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and required further investigation.

The judge observed that it didn’t matter as the defendants had pleaded guilty and the time for any appeal against conviction had lapsed. He did not address the core point of alleged police wrongdoing, or explore with the police legal team whether the criminal defence teams (or the CPS) of those convicted were, in fact, notified of Mark Lunn’s role in the investigation and his taint upon it. The CPS has been approached for comment.

A complaint is being made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, by Dr Rashid’s legal team, with a request that another police force is appointed to investigate those allegations of perverting the course of justice.

That, regrettably, is founded more on hope than reality.

Recent history shows that the disgraced police watchdog and their local ‘masters’, West Yorkshire Police, will not want to lift the lid on this stinking Thatcham barrel. Both have steadfastly resisted calls to instigate a proportionate and independent investigation into the alleged serious failings of senior police officers over the industrial scale child sexual abuse, drug dealing, human trafficking in Huddersfield by Asian gangs – described recently by one outspoken media commentator as ‘Grooming Gang Central’.

A common link is that the Divisional Commander of Kirklees from 2009 to 2012 was Chief Superintendent John Robins, now, no less, the chief constable of that same West Yorkshire Police (read WYP biography here).

The child sex scandal and the Operation Thatcham debacle both happened on Robins’ Kirklees watch. As were the seeds of the outrageous lawlessless sown that has now seen  ‘Horrible’ Huddersfield grow into the worst place to live in the UK (read more here).

 

Page last updated at 1100hrs on Wednesday 9th October, 2019

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Photo credit: Huddersfield Examiner

© 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.

 

Court set to hear £5 million civil claim against police

A county court claim filed in October, 2015 by a Bradford doctor, Abdul Rashid, is, finally, set to be heard later this year. The defendant is the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police.

A second trial, to determine quantum, will follow if the claim succeeds in establishing liability against the police. The first trial is listed for hearing in Bradford County Court between 9th and 19th September, 2019.

Since July, 2018, two case management hearings and a pre-trial review have focused mainly on unresolved disclosure issues.

The court has already heard that the claim, for aggravated, exemplary and special damages, including loss of earnings, concerns events that took place over seven years ago.

Shortly after 6.15am on Wednesday 7th March, 2012, eighteen police officers attended at Dr Rashid’s home in a pre-planned operation, threatened to break down the front door, arrested him in front of his wife and three children, then searched the house before taking him to Trafalgar House police station in Bradford, a short time later.

The arresting officer was Detective Constable Mark Lunn, who features centrally in a claim that turns upon the lawfulness of this officer’s actions before, during and after the arrest of Dr Rashid. Expressed succinctly by HHJ Neil Davey QC at the second case management hearing: ‘There is only one issue: Did the arresting officer have reasonable grounds‘.

The court has also heard that the large group of WYP officers, led by DC Lunn, not only searched Dr Rashid’s home, in full view of his neighbours, but also seized computers, other electronic devices, as well as life-saving medication for the use of one of Dr Rashid’s three children, putting that child’s health and safety at risk. The police deny the latter allegation.

DC Lunn was, at the time, involved in an investigation codenamed Operation Thatcham, seeking to disrupt a large scale ‘cash for crash‘ fraud in Huddersfield, where he was based. Lunn was working under the supervision of Sergeant Mark Taylor (now an inspector in Bradford CID) and the operation was led by DCI Griffiths and later, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Jeffrey. Counsel for WYP, Olivia Checa-Dover, has told the court that Sergeant Taylor (as he was then) will give evidence in these proceedings and the police will rely on his account for the necessity of the arrest.

The Ministry of Justice and the Insurance Fraud Bureau were partners assisting the police in the investigation. It followed a similar, three year investigation that had led to conviction of two Huddersfield men at Bradford Crown Court in March, 2011 (read more here). DC Lunn had been ‘officer in the case’ and police spokesperson (unusual for a detective constable) in that investigation. Operation Thatcham began the following month.

The court has heard that a Huddersfield-based insurance claims management company, trading as Advanced Claims UK Ltd, was at the heart of the second investigation. A large number of men were convicted of fraud at Leeds Crown Court in April, 2014. Counsel for Dr Rashid, Ian Pennock, has told the court that disclosures within the course of this civil claim have revealed that the police knew before they arrested Dr Rashid that it was unrealistic to connect him to that company. That assertion is disputed by WYP.

Dr Rashid’s surgery and other premises were also raided on that same March morning in 2012. At the time, he also ran a very successful medico-legal practice, employing four people, in addition to his two general practices at Thornton and Denholme. This involved travelling the country at the request of many different firms of solicitors, providing expert medical reports upon predominantly soft tissue injuries such as ‘whiplash’. The loss of his private medico-legal practice alone is said to have cost Dr Rashid at least several hundred thousands of pounds per year.

Very shortly afterwards DC Lunn told others, including the Bradford Primary Care Trust (PCT) and the General Medical Council (GMC), that Dr Rashid was involved in a conspiracy to defraud insurance companies by assisting fraudulent ‘cash for crash’ claims. Mr Pennock asserts that such an allegation was ‘without foundation, baseless and ludicrous’.

He also told the court that ‘there was no evidence at the time, and there is still no evidence, whatsoever, to even reasonably suggest he has acted dishonestly within such an alleged conspiracy, or otherwise’.

Following his arrest, a large squad of WYP detectives carried out a protracted investigation of Dr Rashid’s private and personal life. Ranging from his early educational life at school, university and, thereafter, his early career as a doctor.

The court has heard that the investigation into the minutiae of Dr. Rashid’s life failed to reveal any criminal offences, or any other wrongdoing, by Dr. Rashid, in relation to any of the medical reports which he compiled, and submitted, on behalf of solicitors acting for insurance claimants. Mr Pennock says that this was an unsurprising conclusion given that it is widely known within the insurance, medical and legal arenas that such ‘expert’ reports are prepared, independently, by doctors, for the benefit of the courts. Not for either the underwriters or injured parties and their legal representatives.

This detailed and seriously intrusive investigation, says Mr Pennock, was motivated by the police’s increasingly urgent need to justify the wrongful arrest and detention of Dr. Rashid. The police deny such a motive and say that there were a number of identified defects in the medical reports, and Dr Rashid appeared to charge solicitors above the ‘going rate’ for the work. Both gave rise to suspicion of other wrongdoing.

At the forthcoming trial, says Mr Pennock, Dr Rashid will rely upon that same police investigation to prove that he is a man of integrity, who fully deserved the respect and standing he had in the Bradford community at large, together with his well deserved reputation amongst other doctors, solicitors, barristers and other fellow professionals, prior to the arrest. The police have told the court that Dr Rashid will be put to proof on those points.

The court has heard that the mere fact that Dr Rashid, along with other doctors, accepted instructions from solicitors of good standing to examine a claimant, and report upon the same, makes him no more involved with any alleged fraudulent claim than any other professional such as a barrister, psychologist, psychiatrist, doctor, occupational therapist,  or other such expert also instructed by those same solicitors. As such it was an insufficient basis for any reasonable grounds, or belief, to justify the arrest and detention of Dr. Rashid says Mr Pennock.

The court also heard that it has not been alleged, or even suggested, during the numerous and prolonged interviews by the police, that he was knowingly involved in any claim that was said to be fraudulent, and upon which he is said to have reported. He played no part in the Thatcham prosecutions, either as defendant or witness

In those interviews, lasting many hours, and cumulatively days, in various police stations in the Bradford, Huddersfield and Wakefield areas, the detectives only concerned themselves with matters such as Dr. Rashid’s qualifications, income, properties and background. Not one specific allegation was put to the doctor by the police. The interview transcripts, says Mr Pennock, summarise the police’s position at that time: “You are guilty of committing crimes and should own up to them, this is your last chance to tell us”. The court has heard that Dr Rashid was released from police bail in June, 2013. A file had been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, later reviewed at the police’s request, but no charges were authorised as a result.

The court has heard, on at least two occasions, that the arresting officer, Mark Lunn, appeared to claim he was also the officer in charge of the investigation against Dr Rashid and others. Ms Checa-Dover says that Lunn was not in charge and he, in fact, reported to Sergeant Taylor (as he was at the time). She went on to say that the basis for the arrest of Dr Rashid is set out in some detail in the witness statement of Inspector Taylor (as he is now).

At the time of Dr. Rashid’s arrest, and subsequently, DC Lunn purported to be a director of a company called “Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd”, an operation which sought work from insurance companies, including a well known name in Sussex, to investigate suspected insurance fraud claims. But no such company existed in official records at Companies House.

Ms Checa-Dover told the court that WYP has not admitted that such an enterprise was in place, or that such records existed on police systems, or that they did exist and were, subsequently, deleted.

Enquiries with Companies House revealed that the purported company did not exist before the arrest of Dr Rashid. But, on the same day that DC Lunn was removed from the Operation Thatcham investigation, a company of that name was incorporated at Companies House.

The company was dissolved in 2014, and this was, Mr Pennock says, shortly before Mark Lunn started work for the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) in January, 2015. Ms Checa-Dover has told the court that WYP will not be calling Mr Lunn as a witness at the trial and that her client does not know where to locate him, in any event.

She has asserted, on instructions from WYP’s Deputy Force Solicitor, Alison Walker, that his actions were at all times lawful and proportionate. The police also deny that DC Lunn was acting as ‘a malicious, lone decision maker’.

DC Lunn did not have the authority of the chief constable to undertake this additional employment and/or have any involvement with the so-called “Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd.” The claimant’s lawyers have sought an explanation from the police, or Mark Lunn, to refute the fact that he held himself out as being a director of IFCL, who sought work from insurance companies to investigate suspected insurance fraud claims. The court has heard the claimant’s allegation that Lunn, for his own financial gain, was allegedly acting wrongfully, in purporting to represent a company that did not exist.

The court has heard details of a specific allegation that Lunn prepared a detailed business plan, using police computers, and may have received a payment of £183,000 from an insurance company as a result. Ms Checa-Dover has told the court that searches of WYP files, systems and archives, conducted by Sergeant (now Inspector) Taylor, have not, so far, revealed the information sought by the claimants.

It has also been asserted by Mr Pennock that this unauthorised business association created a serious conflict of interest with DC Lunn’s Oath of Constable, and his obligations as an independent and impartial police officer. Particularly, when coming to assess the involvement of Dr Rashid in examining personal injury claimants, and the decision to arrest him. Mr Pennock told the court that Dr Rashid was a ‘prized scalp’ for Lunn in his attempt to establish credibility for his ‘burgeoning private enterprise’.

After complaints by Dr Rashid’s criminal defence solicitors, DC Lunn was removed, by his superiors, from the investigation into Dr. Rashid. That was in July 2012. Mr Pennock asserts that Lunn was, following those complaints, subject to a professional standards investigation, Operation Waffleedge, and no longer works for the police. He left the force in August, 2013. Ms Ceca-Dover told the court that Lunn resigned of his own volition. He was not forced to, or asked to, resign by the police, or dismissed. Any wrongdoing by the officer is denied. She added that the police admitted he was the subject of a UPP (Unsatisfactory Performance Plan), more of a human resources sanction than a disciplinary process, she explained. The police also say that Operation Waffleedge was not a covert investigation into Lunn.

The court also heard that reference had been made, in earlier disclosures by the police to Dr Rashid, to a written warning given to DC Lunn by WYP regarding misuse of police databases, and an admission that he had used WYP computers during his lunch hour to send correspondence, on his official police email account. This was alleged to be in connection with his own business interests. The police position is that their professional standards department has no record of this written warning.

HHJ Davey asked, during the pre-trial review, if the written warning was part of the materials that Ms Ceca-Dover says the police have ‘weeded out’ as part of their data management obligations. Ms Checa-Dover, after taking instructions, told the judge that would be dealt with in later disclosures and after further internal enquiries had been made by the police.

Mr Pennock also told the court that Lunn has ‘a track record of unlawful arrest allegations’, citing the reference numbers of five complaints. The relevance being, Mr Pennock added, that there was a ‘wrongful motive’ by DC Lunn to arrest Dr Rashid and that this would, in any event, negate any reasonable grounds. Mr Pennock has told the court, on several occasions, that Lunn is presented by the claimant in this case as a “bad apple” and asserts that is why he left, or was asked to leave the police force.

The police force’s Professional Standards Department say DC Lunn did not have any disciplinary findings against him and that Sergeant (now Inspector) Taylor gives an explanation in his statement, as credible evidence, as to why DC Lunn left WYP.

On 7th March 2012, the day of the arrest, Detective Constable Lunn approached and informed Dr Rashid’s ’employers’, Bradford Patient Care Trust (PCT), of the fact that he had arrested Dr Rashid, whom he said ‘was involved in a serious and substantial conspiracy to defraud’. Mr Pennock says that the wording forming that contact is important. DC Lunn did not, he says, describe Dr Rashid as a suspect and, instead, asserted guilt.

As a result of DC Lunn’s approach to the PCT, they wrote to the General Medical Council to initiate complaints against Dr. Rashid, which included his previously unpublicised arrest that day and the reasons for it, as provided by DC Lunn.

At the end of that month, the court heard, Dr Rashid’s contract as a general practitioner with the PCT was terminated and he lost his practice, built up over a number of decades, operating from two surgeries. Mr Pennock asserts that this was all as a direct consequence of the wrongful actions of the police. An allegation they strongly deny.

He went on to say that DC Lunn again circumvented police policies and procedure for deciding if, and when, to make any disclosure to professional bodies and communicated directly with the GMC. Ms Ceca-Dover denied their had been any breach of protocol by her client. Mr Pennock lifted up a bundle of papers, approximately 300mm thick, to demonstrate to the judge the welter of information given to the PCT, and the GMC, by the police. Which, he says, consisted mainly of improper disclosure of selective and prejudicial material. The police assert that all disclosures were made in good faith, lawful, proportionate, in line with force policy and bore on their responsibility to keep the public safe.

On 24thApril 2012 the GMC suspended Dr Rashid from practice for a period of 18 months, as an interim measure pending a final hearing, if any, before the Fitness to Practice Panel of the GMC. The court heard that the final hearing did not take place until October, 2016. Dr Rashid had challenged the interim suspension in the High Court in Leeds in September, 2012 and, as a result, it was quashed.

The police evidence supporting the GMC’s interim suspension was described by the judge, HHJ Mark Gosnell, as ‘sparse’. A point noted by HHJ Davey at the pre-trial review.

Mr Pennock says that even though the suspension was lifted, by this time irreparable damage had been done to Dr Rashid’s personal and professional reputation. Mr Pennock has told the court that Dr Rashid fears that his reputation may never be restored.

The GMC Panel found that Dr. Rashid’s fitness to practice was not impaired, because he was not culpable of any of the misconduct previously alleged by the police. Mr Pennock says that the allegation he was actually involved in a large scale conspiracy to defraud, involving false personal injury claims, rather than merely being a suspect, is particularly damaging.

It was, he says, also demeaning and offensive to a respected and well established medical doctor working within that particular sector of personal injury claims.

The court has also heard of an Application, made in the same Bradford County Court, for third party disclosure from WYP to identify the complainants (if any) and reasons for his arrest. This court action, instigated in August 2012, was compromised by the parties, ahead of a scheduled hearing, after West Yorkshire Police confirmed, in writing; “…not one specific allegation has been made against him by any individual outside, or within, the West Yorkshire Police”.

At the pre-trial review, there was a lengthy examination, by HHJ Davey, of the progress of disclosure requests made by the claimant, and the responses so far made by the police. The court heard that despite the protracted investigation into Dr Rashid’s private and professional life the police have only been able to conclude that, out of thousands of professional medical reports compiled by Dr. Rashid, only nine were not entirely accurate, or that his examination of them was not entirely proficient.

Mr Pennock asserts that this conclusion is drawn by the police despite those, as yet, ‘anonymous insurance claimants’ having read and approved Dr. Rashid’s report, and signing confirmation that it was accurate, and that they wished to rely on that same report in support of their claim for damages.

He further contends that the police sought to frustrate Dr. Rashid’s ability to practice as a doctor by disclosing only limited, and highly selective, details of those alleged nine complainants to the GMC as a basis for suspending, or terminating, Dr Rashid’s licence to practice. The police do not rely on evidence from any of those nine as part of their defence in this wrongful arrest claim. Their identities are known to the police.

Mr Pennock complained to the court that the police had ‘drip-fed’ disclosure to his client and previous searches for relevant materials by WYP had been ‘inadequate’. This amounted to Dr Rashid, and his lawyers, being given ‘the runaround’ by the police, he says. ‘The object of the exercise is to establish what the arresting officer knew, why was Dr Rashid arrested, and a definition of the offence over which he was arrested, beyond being told at interviews he was being detained over a cash for crash conspiracy’. The police have refused to inform the claimant whether any other doctor was arrested in connection with Operation Thatcham.

One of the main, and repeated, complaints by Mr Pennock was that the police appeared to have weeded out materials relating to the ‘cash for crash’ investigations and prosecution, when that criminal case concluded only the year before the claim form in this case was filed at court and served on West Yorkshire Police. He maintains that, in such instances, and as required by the Criminal Investigation and Procedures Act, all documents should be retained for six years after conclusion of the Advanced Claims UK Ltd trial. Ms Ceca-Dover told the court, on behalf of WYP, that all documents would have been destroyed at the end of the statutory period. Further, she said that her clients did not consider that such materials were relevant to the issues in this case (the civil claim).

HHJ Davey told the court that the submissions for the pre-trial review amounted to 621 pages – and that he had read all of them by way of preparation for this hearing. He retires in June, 2019 and will not be available to preside over the trial of a case he describes as “interesting”. It is uncontroversial to note that Neil Davey QC’s steady hand, wise words and pleasing court manner, will be missed on the circuit bench in Bradford.

Proceedings continue. A further pre-trial review is expected to be listed for hearing in July or August, 2019.

 

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Photo credit: Telegraph & Argus

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