Line of Duty – review of episode 5

Unsurprisingly, viewing figures are rocketing as this season builds to a climax with another dramatic, twists and turns renewal last week.

Series six, episode one was watched by 9.6 million BBC One viewers, a record audience for Line of Duty, surpassing the series five finale, watched by 9.1 million people. By episode five this had grown to 9.92 million.

This is very good news for aficionados, as it now seems likely that another one and possibly two series will be commissioned. The BBC practice has been to order them in pairs so, hopefully, two.

Keeping up with the storyline

Increasingly difficult as Line of Duty creator and writer, Jed Mercurio, tests memories, investigative skills and powers of deduction to the limit. As with last week’s review (read here), we start at the end, rather than the beginning, of this week’s action.

In an ultra- tense closing scene, Detective Inspector Kate Fleming faces down Central Police colleague, PC Ryan Pilkington, in a Mexican stand-off at a deserted lorry park. She had been lured there by her prospective lover, Temporary Superintendent Joanne Davidson on the pretext of discussing their faltering personal relationship.

At the behest of Pilkington, the venue had been switched at the last minute from Federico’s Biergarten, their usual cosy wine bar venue in town. The rogue cops had travelled together in Jo’s upmarket 4×4 with the junior officer in the rear seats, carrying a workshop modified handgun. Last seen held to the back of Jo’s head during episode four as she entered what is surmised to be a heavily fortified dwelling owned by a local Organised Crime Group (OCG).

Kate had, shortly before, been authorised by the SFC (Specialist Firearms Commander) to carry a concealed weapon, a service issue Glock 17 9mm pistol, at the insistence of her former boss, Superintendent Ted Hastings, the Head of Central’s Anti-Corruption Unit, codenamed AC-12. When the venue change was texted to her by Jo, she copied the address and forwarded it on to Temporary Detective Inspector, Steve Arnott, a long-serving officer in AC-12. He was last seen rushing to the lorry park, along with other members of the anti-corruption unit, after he had showed the phone message to ‘the gaffer’.

The show closed with Kate, a trained AFO (authorised firearms officer), adopting the conventional legs astride, two-handed stance and barking orders to Pilkington to “drop the f*****g gun”, as they faced each other down at short range.

Jo had retreated screaming to a position near her car, a short distance away. It is not known if she, too, was armed. Pilkington fired a shot at her, but missed, after the rogue cop assumed he had been set up, and trapped, by AC-12 using covert surveillance teams to monitor the two of them.

Arnott, who took down a sniper with a well aimed single shot in episode four, is also a trained AFO and former counter-terrorism officer. Viewers were left on a knife edge as the TV screen was blacked out and two shots were fired in quick succession.

The rest of the episode, if not so dramatic was equally compelling, with the familiar mix of dots joined and more loose ends left dangling. Not least with Jo engaged with the on-line messaging service favoured for communication with the OCG boss or ‘H’ (or one and the same). The ‘Unknown User’ tells her to get rid of Kate Fleming. Pleading that this should be her last last job, the answer to Jo was: ‘Definately’.

As predicted in my review last week, bent lawyer, Jimmy Lakewell, was found hanging in his cell at HMP Blackthorn, to disguise the fact that he had been choked to death by OCG enforcer, Lee Banks.

The equally unsurprising revelation that Jo Davidson was blood-related to an OCG member was also flagged up in that same review.

However, the nature of that relationship is profoundly shocking and would defy almost every attempt at prediction. Former OCG boss, Tommy Hunter, had an incestuous relationship with his own sister, Samantha, and Jo was the product. Making the evil criminal both her father and her uncle. Samantha Davidson, listed as Jo’s next of kin on her police personnel record, is discovered to be, like Hunter, deceased.

“Homozygosity”, which describes a genetic condition where an individual has the same DNA sequence for a particular gene from both sets of biological parents, was present in the sample attributed to Jo.

Meanwhile back at The Hill (Hillside Lane Police Station), the probe into the murder of investigative journalist, Gail Vella, took on renewed life after the apparent hiatus last week, as the Operation Lighthouse team developed the intelligence worked upon by Detective Sergeant Chris Lomax and DI Fleming regarding workshopped weapons and ammunition.

Unknown to either her boss, DCI Davidson, or the rest of her Murder Investigation Team (MIT) colleagues, Kate tipped off Steve Arnott about armed police raids on three possible light industrial locations. She took them (deliberately, it seems) to a dud location first, Lochside Park, from whence AC-12 newcomer, Detective Constable Chloe Bishop, observed Ryan Pilkington tipping off the OCG about the imminent raids on the two other premises. Steve Arnott was at the second identified location, Ted Hastings was at the third. All bases covered by the corruption busters.

Two suspicious looking IC-1’s were shot dead at location two, Whiterock Park, including ‘Beardy Blue Van’ from the closing scene of episode 2, where he delivered a burner phone to a distraught Jo Davidson. Now identified as Lewis Polkard, Jo didn’t look quite so unhappy about the death of one of her OCG tormentors as she otherwise might.

The other man in receipt of at least one fatal AFO bullet was Darren Morgan. Polkard had a lengthy criminal records, involving serious and violent offences, and, of course, identified links to the OCG. Morgan had only minor offences on his record but may have been the engineer operating the specialist machinery converting guns and producing ammunition.

A burner phone recovered from Polkard had received a call from an unidentified number at exactly the same time as Pilkington had made the call from his own trouser-legged ‘burner’, observed by DC Bishop. All other phones belonging to the MIT team had been ordered to be left in the incident room, to avoid the possibility of leaks to the OCG.

Ammunition linking the Gail Vella murder to the failed OCG raid on Hickey’s Bookmakers (opening scene of episode one) was found at Whiterock Park, along with the tools and machinery used in the conversion of ‘workshopped weapons’ and ‘untraceable custom ammunition’. A huge step forward for the Op Lighthouse team.

In a scene memorable for a good helping of Ted’s culinary adages, sprat and mackerel was the gaffer’s rationale for leaving the permanently dangerous Pilks in situ. “He’s the new Caddy, he will lead us to the big fish”.

Washed down, inevitably, with: “Now we’re sucking diesel”. Red or white, asked no-one, in particular. But OCG’s usually prefer the former at half the price.

TV pictures of Chief Constable of Central Police, Philip Osborne, giving an impromptu press conference on the steps outside the force headquarters, articulating his views on politicians and bent cops, were viewed with dismay by the entire AC-12 team. Not least, Supt Hastings who sought, and was granted, an audience with the politician to whom the crooked chief had obliquely referred. PCC Rohan Sindwhani is resigning, we learned. Osborne had “thrown him under a bus”. But did he jump or was he pushed?

Forensic reports on banknotes drawn from a large stash found in Stephanie Corbett’s loft were returned to Steve Arnott in some secrecy. They were linked to the £50,000 recovered from Ted Hastings’ room at Edge Park Hotel in Series five. The crooked ex-cop turned Investment Manager, Mark Moffatt, centrally involved in the attempted bribe on Ted, had said in police interview that £100,000 was given to him. Hastings said there was only £50,000, and he was believed, as a police officer of good standing. He passed the ‘missing’ money to Steph, of course, to assuage the loss of her late husband, Sergeant John Corbett.

Whilst he was travelling in the armed convoy between HMP Blackthorn and AC-12 HQ, Jimmy Lakewell had, confidentially, revealed to DI Arnott that Gail Vella had been investigating Lawrence Christopher’s death in police custody in 2003. The young architect had been stabbed by a gang of five white youths near Edge Park Railway Station, but almost immediately labelled, by police, as a black gang member. Officers mocked him whilst he lay unresponsive in cell, making monkey noises, and the post-mortem examination found an undiagnosed skull fracture.

There were missed, and glaring, opportunities to arrest those responsible, forensic opportunities lost. Detective Chief Inspector Marcus Thurwell was the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO). The subsequent Inquiry into police failures in 2005 was a ‘whitewash’.

Darren Hunter, son of Tommy, was one of the five suspects. Assiduous detective work by Chloe Bishop revealed that Ian Buckells (as a young DC) and Philip Osborne (as a DI) were both involved in the initial Lawrence Christopher murder enquiry.

Apropos of not a great deal, Janet Alder has been a good friend of mine for a number of years, and the association of the names and the circumstances of the deaths of her paratrooper brother, Christopher, in 1998, and Stephen Lawrence, five years earlier, are obvious. I remain unconvinced that such leverage is entirely appropriate, particularly without contacting the Alder (or the Lawrence?) family. Notwithstanding, deaths of black males in police custody, or following police contact, State-led cover-ups and institutionalised racism in the police service, are all topics fully worth their place in a mass audience production. Janet has kindly approved the reference to her and Chris in this piece.

Line Of Duty viewers and fans may have recognised Thurwell’s name from Series three: He was the SIO in the enquiry into the 1998 murder of Oliver Stephens-Lloyd, the care worker who reported allegations of child sex abuse at Sands View Boys Home.  Where OCG members procured vulnerable victims for themselves, politicians and bent police officers.

Shades of Blenheim Vale that featured centrally in ‘Neverland’, the Series two finale of my all-time favourite TV programme, Endeavour. The episode opens with the apparent suicide of a journalist looking into alleged police and councillor corruption. One of the boys abused at the Vale was DC Morse’s skipper, D/Sgt Peter Jacques. He married and left for a new life in America in a bid to erase the bad memories.

An Inspector George Gently episode in 2009 also covered broadly the same topic where children were abused in an orphanage, over a long period, and the local police force failed them. Yet again, an abused boy became a scarred police officer in much the same way, and at the same rank, as Peter Jacques and Line of Duty‘s now deceased AFO Sergeant, Danny Waldron.

At the material time, the death of Stephens-Lloyd was written off as a suicide. But it was later discovered that he was murdered by the OCG, again strongly suggesting that the original investigation involved a cover-up. PC Maneet Bindra and one of the corrupt police “big four”, ACC Derek Hilton, also prematurely met their Maker at the same location. PC Bindra’s throat was gruesomely cut by Lee Banks, whilst being restrained by no less than Ryan Pilkington. She was being blackmailed by Hilton to leak sensitive information from AC-12. Hilton’s death was also written off as a suicide, from an apparent self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. He was assumed at the time, by AC-12, to be ‘H’.

Thurwell was also SIO on the Sands View investigation. He took early retirement in 2005, and now believed to be living in Spain. The subsequent AC-12 investigation convicted Patrick Fairbank, whom Gail Vella had asked to interview in prison, but she was killed the night before that was scheduled to take place. Gail had also requested interviews with Gill Biggeloe, Lisa McQueen, Roz Huntley, Jane Cafferty, Tina Tranter, Manish Prasad and Harinder Baines. A lengthy list, but all officers linked to organised crime and associated police corruption. Only convicted OCG criminal, Lee Banks (now casually revealed on screen that Carl was, in fact, his brother), agreed to an interview with the journalist, two weeks before Ms Vella was murdered. He was adamant that his brother was not Gail’s killer.

Jimmy Lakewell had been interviewed over the phone. The audio file of which the OCG were very anxious to discover, and its recovery may have led to her murder.

It was subsequently revealed that Hastings tipped off Lee Banks about ‘a rat’ in the OCG midst, during a clandestine visit to HMP Blackthorn in Series five. That informant turned out, of course, to be undercover officer D/Sgt Corbett whose throat was sliced open by Ryan Pilkington, as a consequence of that discovery. Revenge for Corbett beating and torturing his wife is mooted as a motive for Ted’s actions.

His oft-expressed obsession with rooting out bent cops, plainly, does not extend to himself. The catalogue of rule bending, disciplinary and criminal offences grows longer by the episode. Those who believe that Ted is a crooked cop will argue that the removal of Corbett from the land of the living was more nefariously grounded, and indeed essential, as he was convinced that Hastings was ‘H’.

Which may be one explanation for cold fish, Detective Chief Superintendent Patricia Carmichael (played by the utterly sublime Anna Maxwell Martin), making her Line of Duty re-appearance to take over Central Police’s merged, and now diminished, anti-corruption units. But she immediately arouses the suspicion of viewers and fans by pulling Ac-12 surveillance off Jo Davidson, Pilkington and Terry Boyle. She also informed a disturbed Hastings of the recommendation to the Crown Prosecution Service that they drop the criminal case against Ian Buckells. “To avoid the humiliation of a cracked trial”, she says (in this particular case, where the prosecutor would offer no evidence at a listed plea and case management hearing).

The big questions:

How did the lorry park shoot-out end?

Two shots rang out, in quick succession, following the Fleming/Pilkington showdown, which suggests a number of outcomes. The two most obvious being that they either shot one another, or a ‘double-tap’ was delivered by Kate, as she is trained to do in a life threatening situation.

A third and fourth, less obvious posit, is that a shot was fired by either Jo Davidson or an arriving AFO, despatched by AC-12.

A fifth is that the canny DI, sensing danger or a trap, had persuaded one of the surveillance team to remain in-situ and he or she fired at least one of the shots.

Of course, either or both of Kate and Ryan could have been injured and still alive; if so, will they die and be written out of the drama, thereafter?

However implausible it may seem to write out one of the three central AC-12 detectives, Line Of Duty fans will know that Jed Mercurio has ‘previous’ for killing off major players. ‘The Caddy’, Dot Cottan; the aforementioned Danny Waldron and Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton (brilliantly played by Keeley Hawes), to name but three.  

But if Fleming does survive, and I think that she does, it means the game is well and truly up for Joanne Davidson, with too many links to organised crime now out in the open. A return visit to the ‘glass box’ at AC-12 HQ now guaranteed.

Why was Ryan Pilkington left at large?

Previously, Ted Hastings pressed the case for AC-12 bringing in PC Pilkington, but he was dissuaded by Kate at a meeting in the notorious underpass, a regular covert meeting place over the years for Ac-12 detectives.

This week, those roles were reversed and DI Fleming urged the team to arrest and interview him, only for Hastings to persuade (ok, steamroller) her and Steve Arnott to keep him under surveillance, in the hope he would lead them to ‘the fourth man’. 

But is there more to the Hastings U-turn? One theory, which fuels the fire that Hastings is that fourth man, ‘H’, and, with the Banks brothers out of service and Polkard, Morley recently deceased, he needs Pilkington at large to take out Fleming, due to shortage of available manpower willing and able to kill a police officer. Ryan has murdered more than he has fingers on one hand.

Ted Hastings, past present and future?

As alluded to earlier in this piece, Ted Hastings is actually one of the bent cops he professes, so often, to despise. A case of ‘he doth protest too much’.

The wistful look at a photograph of a younger self, and other uniformed colleagues, on the office window sill is, possibly, a nod to his service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. A weakness, or pressure point, yet to be revealed, having joined that force in 1982 and served for 7 years during ‘The Troubles’?

The Hastings, Ann Marie McGillis, John Corbett (mother and son) axis may yet have a part to play. As the relationship with Corbett’s wife, Stephanie, most certainly will. The forensics on the recovered banknotes guarantee that.

How long into episode six will it take before Steve Arnott escalates what he knows about the banknotes, Steph Corbett, Lee Banks and Ted, beyond sharing with Kate Fleming. Or will she do it for him? Or has he done so, already?

Ted’s police service of 38 years is not unprecedented, but extraordinarily long. As is the time he has spent at the rank of superintendent and overall in Professional Standards or AC-12. Fifteen years in total. That strongly implies a ‘glass ceiling’ and past misdemeanours.

But will he get to retirement before the anti-corruption tables are turned on him? He survived the full Patricia Carmichael treatment at the conclusion of Series five, but the wily and well connected chief superintendent looks very much up for a second bout.

Viewers have previously spotted, in Ted’s hotel room, a laptop belonging to Hastings complete with the same encrypted messaging service that the OCG are known to use. That now comes into sharp focus again with the mis-spelt word, ‘Definately’. A form of spelling previously used by Ted. Deliberately, or otherwise. He claimed the former when he made the same ‘mistake’ in front of a group of surprised AC-12 colleagues.

It’s a big call, but, one way or another, I think that Series six is Adrian Dunbar’s last as Ted Hastings, beyond the occasional cameo appearance.

Who and what is Marcus Thurwell?

Marcus Thurwell is a retired detective chief inspector and was Senior Investigating Officer in three crucial cases in recent Central Police history:

(i) The Stephens-Lloyd murder. (ii) The failed investigation into child sexual abuse at Sands View (iii) The Lawrence Christopher death in custody.

He was, in fact, mentioned several times during Series three, and was briefly pursued as a suspect in the Sands View cover-up; so, last week’s episode was not the first viewers had heard of him. But the first time we had seen his face (that of iconic actor, James Nesbitt, of course).

A curiosity is that Thurwell was allocated the Stephens-Lloyd investigation whilst an inspector in the Vice Squad, an unusual appointment. The Head of that squad, of course, was the now disgraced Patrick Fairbank. Amongst other connections, the convicted paedophile was a Freemason alongside Ted Hastings.

During a visit to HMP Queen’s Chase by Steve Arnott and Chloe Bishop, Fairbank claimed he didn’t recognise Thurwell from a large photograph shown to him.

The Thurwell connection to these cases is crucial, as they appear to be the focus of journalist Gail Vella’s investigations. She was looking to add flesh to the bones of her hunch that senior police officers were in cohoots with serious and organised criminals. Gail was murdered, to all intents and purposes, to put a permanent stop on her work..

His strong links to Ian Buckells, on whom the corruption, unwitting, compliant or just plain stupid, jury is still out; bent chief constable, Philip Osborne; and the convicted and now, apparently, senile Patrick Fairbank, mark him as a person of very serious interest to AC-12.

The Belfast and Northern Ireland links to ex-DCI Thurwell may well, also, be of interest to Ted Hastings, in particular. They may have served together in the RUC in the mid to late 1980’s.

So, does Marcus Thurwell hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the OCG, and the elusive and enigmatic ‘H’? Or will the crime bosses, or ‘H’ (or both), get to him first and rub him out? As a retired officer he is beyond disciplinary sanction and it will need suspicion of a criminal offence, and a necessity test, in order to detain him for questioning. It seems unlikely that he would attend a voluntary interview.

He was last photographed in Spain in 2015, through the telescopic lens of what appears to be a police surveillance camera. This might indicate that he is, or was, on the radar of the Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera, a specialist law enforcement and surveillance agency likened to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) in the United States).

Thurwell could, also, be already dead.

Is DCS Patricia Carmichael another bent Central Police cop?

The Head of AC-3, the East Midlands Police anti-corruption unit, swept into AC-12 HQ and made sure that the incumbents are keenly aware, if they did not know already, that she will not be entering Central Police’s ‘Most Popular Cop Awards’. This year, or any other year.

Her first actions, and the animated exchange with the officer she is set to replace, Ted Hastings, immediately cast suspicion on Patricia Carmichael.  

Is she a stooge of Chief Constable Philip Osborne, put in place to make sure any enquiries into police corruption, and its links with organised crime, are stifled?

She claimed this was down to budget constraints, but is there something more sinister to her promotion and consequent decision making?

The motive for Gail Vella’s murder?

As alluded to earlier in the piece, Gail had begun to fill in the blanks in the police corruption, organised crime matrix and was plainly on a roll. The list of potential prisoner interviewees strongly suggests that she was about to blow open at least part, if not all, of the high profile Central Police cover-ups. It also opens up the possibility that her crusade was motivated, and more directly linked, to one or both of those investigations, beyond a journalist’s enquiring mind, and she was, perhaps, also receiving assistance from inside AC-12 in identifying potential leads.

Steve Arnott believes that the reporter was murdered in order to protect another officer in the original enquiries into both Sands View and Lawrence Christopher, putting forward that the same officer wields a high level of influence over the OCG, with his suspicion now falling firmly on Marcus Thurwell. My own instinct is that, if still alive, he is a player, but not the captain.

Why has PCC Rohan Sindwhani resigned?

Having appeared to obstruct Ted Hastings at every turn, and enthusiastically endorsed the ‘whitewash’, no police corruption, Operation Pear Tree outcome (which Gail Vella was also challenging), the PCC has now turned turtle and is, seemingly, encouraging Hastings to pursue his own chief constable.

But front of mind of the author of this piece, also an investigative journalist who probes alleged police misconduct and corruption, is that sly-looking Sindwhani, took off his microphone and earpiece and walked out of an interview with Gail Vella, as she questioned him over the Sands View scandal. PCC’s blanking questions over police force misdemeanours is routine on my beat, most notably in North and West Yorkshire, but also in Cleveland, Durham and Greater Manchester. The PCC in South Yorkshire does not, however, fall into that category. You may not always get the response you were looking for, but Dr Alan Billings and his team will always engage.

Why was Billy McTulloch removed from the Gail Vella enquiry

DCO Jo Davidson was the second SIO to lead the Operation Lighthouse investigation, taking over from DCI Billy McTulloch in October, 2019. No explanation has yet been offered for the switch, or details of which senior officer made the decision and why. In the ordinary course of events that would fall to Superintendent Ian Buckells, in conjunction with Central Police’s Head of Crime or the assistant chief constable holding that portfolio.

Two of the Line of Duty Twitter fraternity, @CapitalG5000 and @DCottan (both must-follows on that social media platform) have identified two other McTullochs of interest. One is a training officer at the police college at Ryton in Warwickshire, who trained Ryan Pilkington, and the other, Thomas, is one of the five suspects in the Lawrence Christopher murder, along with Tommy Hunter’s son.

Will they, won’t they?

Even before the confrontation at the lorry park, Jo had asked Kate to transfer out of The Hill, following a disagreement of Ryan Pilkington, and it seemed that their relationship is over. Now, even if both survive the shoot-out, it is surely doomed? Unless they both resign from the police service and elope to consummate their affair. A step too far, surely, even for a Mercurio-written drama?

One national newspaper, not exactly renowned for its truthful reporting has speculated, quite grandly and with a photograph, that Kate and Chris Lomax have an affair in the not too distant future. Kate has ‘previous’ on the affairs front, having conducted one with Richard Akers in Series two. He was the husband of D/Sgt Jayne Akers who died in the ambush of the armed convoy accompanying Tommy Hunter. DI Fleming and Mrs Akers had trained together before joining the police service.

In other news, Mrs Corbett and DI Arnott’s fledgling love life appears to be faltering. “Shall we leave it, leave it” asks Steph. “I’m still at work and can’t talk” says Steve. You may be a heartthrob, with gorgeous women falling at your feet, mate. But you are a lousy liar!

How good is DC Chloe Bishop?

Steve Arnott and Chloe have begun to really gel as a team and the bright young detective, convincingly played by Shalom Brune-Franklin, has carried the AC-12 investigation into OCG links with the Vella murder, and connected links to the ‘fourth man or woman’, almost single-handedly.

Is she bent? Hopefully not, as a distinct preference would be for her to be promoted to detective sergeant in a forthcoming Line of Duty series, in an anti-corruption unit headed by DCS Carmichael.

Is she the daughter of bent cop Tony Gates from Series one? Pure guesswork, and I’d rather waste one on a link to the family of Lawrence Christopher, or their justice campaign, and a further professional, or personal, link to Gail Vella.

What’s next?

So much yet to be revealed, so much to look forward to over the closing two episodes, including a 29 minute AC-12 interview scene. Buckle in at 9pm on Sunday, BBC One. Or catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Page last updated: Sunday 25th April, 2021 at 1405 hours

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Picture credits: BBC, World Productions.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Liar, Liar. Pants on fire.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, or IPCC for short, is an organisation that has been extensively, and justifiably, criticised since it replaced the thoroughly discredited Police Complaints Authority in 2004.

In February 2008, over a hundred lawyers who specialise in handling police complaints resigned from its advisory body, citing various criticisms of the IPCC including a pattern of favouritism towards the police, indifference, rudeness towards complainants, and complaints and appeals being rejected in spite of apparently powerful evidence in their support.

In 2011, a falsely grounded press statement, authorised by Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne (pictured below), concerning the shooting of Mark Duggan by armed police officers on a Tottenham street, was considered by some to have contributed to the confrontations with the police that ultimately led to what are now known as the London Riots. Looting and burning on an unprecendented scale also spread to other major cities in the UK soon afterwards. The IPCC publicly apologised for ‘misleading journalists’ six days after the violence erupted (read BBC report here).

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On television, in national newspapers and in Parliamentary committees the conclusion today is still much the same: Slow, inadequate, poor decision-making and apparent bias. In 2013 the Home Affairs Select Committee said the IPCC was ‘not fit for purpose’ as the so-called police watchdog.

There are many other people, particularly justice campaigners all around the country, who have a negative view of the IPCC and its workforce.

Now I can exclusively reveal that there are other serious, and deep seated, problems within the IPCC which include alleged misuse of official funds. running into six figures.

From September 2014, until the matter was settled in December 2015, I was the subject of a High Court action, brought and funded by the IPCC, in which it was alleged that I harassed three of its employees.

The IPCC alleged that articles written and published by me on the uPSD police whistleblowers website – and messages broadcasted on the Twitter social media website referring to those articles – had caused their employees ‘distress and alarm’.

The legal proceedings against me were issued, on behalf of the IPCC, by a Leeds firm of solicitors, Cohen Cramer. An odd choice for a Home Office funded Commission, given a Solicitors Regulation Authority finding which condemned both the law firm and one of its senior partners, Mr Michael McDonnell, for unlawfully conducting litigation (read more here). The choice of lawyer within that firm to act for the IPCC was even more bizarre: Miss Emily Slater whom, it seems, had also been publicly pilloried by a Master at the Royal Courts of Justice for the manner in which she had conducted libel litigation. She acted for the claimant, who lost the case and had costs awarded against him (read more here).

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Apart from Master Eastman’s criticisms, Miss Slater (pictured above) had attracted some shocking national newspaper headlines of her own (click here) which cannot have escaped the attention of either the IPCC, or their lay claimants. Simple enquiries about the capabilities in, and likely conduct of, a harassment claim by Miss Slater could also have been easily gleaned in the public domain. Such as this stinging criticism from HHJ Robert Owen QC in another case that Cohen Cramer ‘lost’ (read the approved judgment extract here). Another losing legal case for Miss Slater, and her firm, was a libel action against the Metropolitan Police in which two high court judges separately found the claim to be grounded more in hope than substance (read the full judgment here).

By way of balance, I have tried to identify cases in which Miss Slater may have enjoyed even partial success but, so far, I have found no such trace.

From the outset, the IPCC’s legal action against me attracted attention in the press, and amongst the legal profession, mainly as a result of some quite startling allegations made by the three claimants. One of whom, C1, appeared as a very late substitute only five days before the interim hearing, with their name scribbled over that of another IPCC caseworker, Mr Mohammed Ejaz, who abandoned his own claim without any explanation. No pre-action protocol was followed by Cohen Cramer, and the IPCC, in respect of the appearance of the new claimant in the claim, which set the tone for a number of later breaches of Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).

Given that I had only ever written positively about Mr Ejaz, it appears to be a reasonable deduction that his claim was withdrawn because it was completely without merit. He refused an opportunity to explain his abrupt departure from the case when approached by me, in writing, to provide a witness statement.

There was evidence  which attempted to link me with improvised explosive devices and threats to kill made by a member of the public of whom I had never even heard, let alone interacted with. These unevidenced assertions were later withdrawn, once I had made contact with the alleged ‘bomber’ and taken an evidential witness statement from him. Suffice to say, such a device never existed.

The findings of HHJ Richard Parkes at the interim hearing did not make good reading for me, my family, friends and fellow justice campaigning supporters and the Huddersfield Examiner made a meal of it the following day by publishing a salacious, gratuitously damaging article to which I have never been offered a right of reply.

The sharp-eyed would also have noted, that I did not appear and was not legally represented at the interim hearing. This was because I had only been given 15 hours notice that the hearing was going ahead at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (180 miles from my home), two days after I believed I had come to a reasonable, provisional settlement with the IPCC. It had all the appearances of a legal ambush, seemingly orchestrated by Miss Slater and, presumably, given the green light by her IPCC paymasters.

I was, however, able to attend the judgment hearing at the same court two weeks later at which it was pronounced that an interim injunction had been ordered against me. The effect of which, I was to take down the articles about which the IPCC had complained and also remove the tweets that referred to their three employees. Before the judge handed down his findings, I was approached by counsel for the IPCC, Matthew Richardson (pictured below) outside Court 14, the historic and highly ornate Lord Chancellor’s Court. Matt is an affable chap, perhaps better known as the former General Secretary of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and his opening remarks to me were surprising to say the least: ‘We need to make this go away‘. My response was similarly plain. I was prepared to have any articles in dispute put to the IPCC press office (or legal team) for comment, or objection, and amend them if they could show any of the facts underpinning the articles had no foundation. A stance I maintained, on a point of principle, until the matter was settled fifteen months later.

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In the meantime, senior management of the IPCC allocated around £125,000 of public funds in their attempt to bring proceedings against me and, of course, Mr Hofschröer. A man I have never spoken to, but with whom I had a small amount of correspondence some years ago when I first became aware of what is now the well known ‘Grandma B’ scandal involving his mother, Mrs Barbara Hofschröer.

In Mr Hofschröer’s harassment case, brought against him by the IPCC , Cohen Cramer finally brought matters to a conclusion in February 2016 against a defendant who had no access to either his electronic or paper records since his arrest and detention – and had declined to take part in the proceedings since June 2015. The eventual finding against Mr Hofschröer followed a ‘failed’ summary judgment application, heard before HHJ Mark Gosnell at Leeds County Court in November last year. I was in court to hear this particular application in my capacity as a reporter. It was, by any measure, a comical exhibition of legal incompetence on the part of the troubled Leeds law firm: Trying to convince a circuit judge that sending notice of an Application to an inmate of HMP Hull, by first class post three days before the hearing was, in legal parlance, ‘good service’ never had a realistic hope of succeeding despite the valiant, and persistent efforts, of counsel. The argument advanced that the overriding objective of the litigation (CPR1.1) would be best served by circumventing notice of proceedings on the defendant was novel, to say the least

Having been referred to in generally unflattering terms in that same summary judgment application made by the IPCC against Mr Hofschröer, two other journalists, Timothy Hicks and Nigel Ward, along with myself, submitted witness statements and exhibits which directly challenge some evidence in that claim.

Following my appearance before HHJ Parkes at the Royal Courts of Justice there followed a stream of correspondence from Miss Slater, which became ever more bizarre as her IPCC lay clients sought removal of every reference to them ever written and published on the internet. However innocuous and whether, or not, I was author or publisher. This included tweets broadcasted by national newpaper journalists and justice campaigners. Such as this one from Sunday Times reporter, Tom Harper:

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Or the many that had been tweeted by nationally known justice campaigner, Michael Doherty, a relentess critic of the IPCC. Indeed, it was submitted by my defence team, in evidence, that Mr Doherty had more recorded interactions with the IPCC – many of them in adverse terms – than myself, yet the IPCC had pursued me through the courts, and not him. Indeed, Mr Doherty’s principal criticisms of the IPCC: covering up child abuse and being the IPCC’s ‘hatchet woman’ are still there on the internet for all to see today. As are those of a number of other IPCC critics in a similar vein. Perhaps, I was perceived as the softer target given my precarious health. Or, Mr Doherty’s much greater public persona deterred them?

Even in full knowledge of those health issues, Cohen Cramer’s Miss Slater conducted an intimidatory, oppressive stance throughout – presumably on instructions from the IPCC – and even threatened to have me arrested and detained by the police for not removing the tweets highlighted above, and a number of other tweets and articles in a similar vein over which I had no control, whatsoever. Miss Slater also lied in correspondence between us in an attempt to withhold the source of the claimants’ funding. Incredibly, she denied that the IPCC was, in fact, footing the bill on behalf of their employees, despite the fact that her retained counsel, Mr Richardson, had openly confirmed to me before a witness, at the Royal Courts of Justice, that the police watchdog was financing the claim.

This was a low point for me. Having been rushed to hospital three times under blue lights in the preceding six months and, awaiting remedial surgery, I was not in good health. Furthermore, I did not have the financial resources to engage lawyers in an action in which the IPCC appeared to have given their three employees a blank cheque, in order to prevent me writing about them. I was defending myself as a litigant in person and it was, quite obviously, not a level playing field and the IPCC were kicking me all over the park.

But the rules of the game – over which the IPCC and Cohen Cramer thought they had complete control – were set to change dramatically. Galvanised by the unflinching support I received from those closest to me – and from others around the country – the task of unravelling the case constructed by the IPCC’s chosen ones began. In January 2015, I served my witness and defence statements on the IPCC, and their lay claimants, and also witness statements from seven other journalists and campaigners who had all been involved in close, and very unsatisfactory, dealings with the ineffective police watchdog. These included Mr Doherty, and other high profile figures such as Janet Alder and Bernadette Major.

It certainly appeared to be the tipping point for Emily Slater: She and Cohen Cramer parted company and, according to information given to me, she had moved abroad to Vienna. Miss Slater no longer shows up on a search of the Law Society’s solicitor database (see screenshot below) and, until she removed her LinkedIn profile a few months ago, was seemingly unemployed.  Another high profile victim of Miss Slater’s unethical approach to her professional calling, Lincolnshire businessman Mr Stuart Brown, reported on his weblog that she had been dismissed by Cohen Cramer at the end of January 2015 (read more here), a claim the law firm denies.

Mr Brown, in a remarkable turnaround, has recently served harassment proceedings on Cohen Cramer which centre on the behaviour of Emily Slater during litigation which was, in the words of HHJ Owen “an oppressive use of the legal procedure” and “conducted with unnecessary aggression”. A case in which I will be providing witness evidence on his behalf.

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At a case management hearing before Mr Justice Warby at the Royal Courts of Justice in March 2015, the IPCC, their lay claimants and their lawyers did not fare well. By this time, Miss Slater had been replaced by a Cohen Cramer partner, Mr David Hall. Their first-choice barrister, Matt Richardson, had also been replaced by Mr Guy Vassall-Adams, who appeared uncomfortable throughout the hearing about the case he was being asked to present. Through the generosity of my family I was able to engage lawyers to represent me on the day. My counsel, Mr Ian Brownhill, persuaded the judge to transfer the case to Leeds High Court – against the strong protest of the IPCC’s lawyers – which was much more local for myself, all three claimants, most of the other witnesses and Cohen Cramer. The only reason the IPCC wanted to have the matter heard in London was to cripple me financially and put off most of my witnesses from attending a final hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on the grounds of time and cost.

During this hearing Mr Vassall-Adams’ complained to the judge that I had harassed the IPCC’s employees that very morning by tweeting this on the social media website:

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This is a graphic illustration of not only legal bad faith, but the petulance and poor judgment with which I have been confronted in all my dealings with Cohen Cramer and the IPCC, both throughout their conduct of the case – and since. As a highly regarded media and information lawyer, regularly heard on The Strand defending the freedom of speech of large newspapers groups, Mr Vassall-Adams should have cause to reflect upon making a submission, albeit on instructions, to the effect that me saying to a friend “Thanks, Michael. En route to RCJ. Will call you later” constitutes harassment.

In any event, Mr Vassall-Adams subsequently returned the brief to the IPCC’s lawyers and was replaced by the third barrister to be acting in this increasingly vexed action, Mrs Sara Mansoori, who hails from the same Matrix International chambers.

At the case management hearing the judge gave Directions that, effectively, required the IPCC to start their claim again and that all their costs, up to and including the case management hearing could not be recovered by the IPCC, even if the claim ultimately succeeded against me. My lawyers calculated that ‘penalty’ to be at least £25,000 of public money wasted on protecting Crown servants, sanctioned at the very top of the IPCC by their Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone (pictured below).

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Following partial release of information by the IPCC that I requested under the Freedom of Information Act at the conclusion of the case (click here), it is now apparent that the amount of money lost by the end of the March hearing was nearer to £50,000 than my lawyers’ estimate of £25,000. On the face of those figures, it would appear that Ms Longstone, and her senior IPCC cohorts, were already in deeper financial water than either my legal team, or I, realised at the time.

After the case management hearing, new particulars of claim were duly issued by the IPCC’s lawyers, but were met with a robust defence drafted by my own counsel. The allegations of harassment against me were systematically rebutted and the claim reduced to what, in my solicitor’s view, was nothing more than ‘a storm in a teacup’. The libel allegations that were an earlier feature of the IPCC’s pleadings – and also referenced in a letter openly published on the internet (click here) by their now departed Chief Operating Officer, Nick Hawkins (pictured below) – had now inexplicably disappeared. Some might infer from such a change of direction that the IPCC were avoiding a legal fight grounded in whether, or not, the articles published about their three lay claimants were true. It is assumed that Mr Hawkins, given both his working proximity to Ms Longstone and also the tone and content of the letter in his name, would have also been supporting the IPCC’s action against me and the funding of it. He left the IPCC, in September 2015, after just one year’s service.

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At about the same time Cohen Cramer also confirmed, in writing, that the IPCC’s lay claimants were no longer relying on their first or second statements. Which was not at all unexpected, given the way they had been torn apart by the defence evidence. But my legal team and I waited, and waited, and waited, for the third statements to be filed at court and served on me. Eventually, the statements of two of the three claimants were emailed to my lawyers less than two weeks before the trial was listed to be heard (7th December 2015) and more than six months after they were directed to do so by Mr Justice Warby. The third claimant did not file a revised statement at any time.

As a result of this late service of evidence, Cohen Cramer were forced to go cap in hand to the court in Leeds and ask the judge, at the pre-trial review, to make a retrospective Order to allow the statements of their clients into the claim.

It should surprise no-one that, of the many slurs in their various witness statements against not only me, but also against some of those for whom I act as complaint advocate and others with whom I have had only passing acquaintance, not one single document was adduced by any of the three lay claimants to support the IPCC’s allegations. Anyone who could be linked with me, however tenuously, was fair game for the smear campaign being funded by the IPCC.

There were also a number of incredible claims about the impact of the alleged harassment, but not one shred of medical evidence to support it.

Similarly, for anyone who has had dealings of any length with the IPCC, there was the familiar ducking and diving over disclosure. They breached their obligations under Part 32 of the CPR Rules, and there was an unresolved Part 18 Request still pending at the time the matter reached a settlement. I simply asked for the materials that supported the fanciful  assertions made by the claimants. I was entitled to see these, but they were not produced. Or, confirmation given to me that such documentary evidence did not actually exist, so that my lawyers could apply for the claim could be struck out. Any experienced litigator (or judge) knows that contemporaneous documents are the first port of call when assessing witness credibilty. The obvious conclusion to draw from that is Cohen Cramer and the IPCC’s lay claimants simply did not want to go there and have theirs tested.

The two teams of lawyers, respectively acting for the IPCC, and myself, eventually agreed on terms for settlement on the day the trial should have started, after a torturous few days of negotiation. I was determined to go to trial and have the matters raised in evidence fully ventilated in open court. It was like a bad smell hanging over me.

The prospect of having the IPCC’s lay claimants on the witness stand and subjected to cross examination by a formidable human rights barrister, not only having the organisation’s honesty and integrity questioned in public hearing, but also the reputation of the whole organisation they worked for coming under severe scrutiny was one that held significant attraction for me – and to the other witnesses who were prepared to travel far and wide to give evidence on my behalf.

The final settlement of the claim was in terms very favourable to me. The interim injunction was removed; there was no admission (or finding) of harassment and I gave an undertaking to the court and to the claimants; and the right to continue to publish articles about the IPCC and its employees was preserved. In respect of any articles that name the IPCC’s three lay claimants, I am required to give them sight of the articles first and invite each of those named to give their consent. Such consent to be not unreasonably withheld, if the articles are true and the evidence behind the articles stands up to legal scrutiny.

There was another part of the settlement that the IPCC were absolutely insistent did not reach the public domain, so I am unable to disclose that particular point at the present time. But I can say the ‘secret’ agreement was also very much to my advantage, without breaching the confidentiality clause. It is also noteworthy that enforcement proceedings had to be threatened against the IPCC, by my lawyers, before they complied with that particular term of the agreement.

On any independent view, the IPCC strategy to oppress and stifle my right to report on corrupt practices, using huge amounts of public funds, has failed. It is a situation that I will continue to address by whatever legal means are available, if the IPCC continue to shield dishonest employees and allow them to prosper from their misdemeanours: Those options include laying an information concerning a private prosecution at Wakefield Magistrates Court – a mere 100 yards from the IPCC’s own offices – if such a step becomes necessary

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The grim exterior of Wakefield Magistrates Court -a short walk from the IPCC’s office

Mr Hall of Cohen Cramer and both the IPCC’s press office and their Chief Executive, Lesley Longstone, were all approached for comment on this article prior to publication. The IPCC press office said they would not be commenting. Ms Longstone did not acknowledge or respond to my email. A remark that also applies to Cohen Cramer’s Mr Hall.

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Page last updated Saturday 16th April, 2016 at 1035hrs

© Neil Wilby 2015-2016. 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.

Photo credits: IPCC, Private Eye, Law Society