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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