They were the words of a retired senior detective delivered in person to a Leeds businessman, recently.
To those who have regular dealings with West Yorkshire Police this would not come as a surprise at all. The force has been notorious for fitting up innocent men and women for decades. Judith Ward, over the M62 coach bombing, and the late Stefan Kiszko, over the murder of Lesley Molseed, being two of the highest profile examples from the 1970’s (read more here).
If David Oluwale hadn’t have been kicked into the River Aire, after a brutal beating at the hands of two police officers, he would very likely have been taken to the police station in central Leeds and charged with one offence or another. That had been a pattern over the previous few years before a racist police force, in a notoriously racist city, finally disposed of their unwanted black vagrant (read more here).
Dishonesty and disregard for the law is deeply embedded in this police force’s DNA. As, very regrettably, is their treatment of black and ethnic minorities (read more here about an innocent, defenceless mother forced to flee Bradford), even within their own ranks (read more here about a whole series of complaints).
When the businessman referred to above is John Elam, still fighting injustice eight years after being released from prison, then it is almost expected that the vendetta waged against him for almost 20 years is just reaching its next stage (read more here). He is convinced that covert surveillance is still in place and that his every move is watched and recorded. It will be of considerable disappointment that the police have not discovered any criminal activity as a result.
Gerry Sutcliffe MP told Parliament in 2014 that at one stage of investigations into Elam around 120 officers were involved. Including some drawn from a counter-terrorism unit in the period before the 7/7 bombings took place in London. Three of the four terrorists were, of course, from Leeds. The ringleader, recruiting sergeant and main financier of the 7/7 plot grew up in the Beeston area of the city where, by a twist of coincidence, John’s office is presently situated.
The whistle blower, whose identity is very closely protected, also said that the ‘fit-up’ would involve the planting of Class A drugs. An obsession of the police for two decades and, during which time, they have never found one iota of evidence that Elam has been involved with illegal substances, even after years of the most intrusive covert surveillance. The simple fact is that he trades development land and property, not cocaine and heroin.
A recent attempt to ‘fit up’ John Elam, at a much lower level, backfired spectacularly on WYP. He was taken to court over traffic offences that concerned a motor accident that never happened. Failing to stop, failing to report, driving without due care and attention. His arrest was conducted over these offences by armed response officers from Wakefield, not the constable local to where he lives.
Eventually, after all the relevant CCTV film was disclosed by the police, rather than the cut and shut version given to the compliant Crown Prosecution Service, the case was dropped. As a consequence, a civil claim against the West Yorkshire force was issued by leading ‘Actions against the Police’ solicitor, Iain Gould. An offer to settle the claim has been rejected by the lawyer, on behalf of his client, and it is now awaiting judicial assessment. The police have also baulked at giving an apology to John Elam.
His elected representative, the disgraced Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, continues to turn a blind eye to the force’s misdemeanours, happy to fund spectacular reversals in subsequent court claims.
The last words go to John Elam: “The fight to clear my name goes on. I work hard, often up at 6am to start work on clearance for development sites, rain or shine. Spurred on by the news that the prosecuting barrister in my case, Jonathan Sandiford, has recently been made a part-time judge. There was so much wrong with that case, how it was presented and what was held back, it does trouble me that he is now up there on the bench”.
“After so many disappointments with legal representatives over the years, I now have a new barrister in my corner, Dominic D’Souza from Goldsmiths Chambers in London (read here). He looks to have more fight in him than the rest of them put together”.
“If you are a police officer that worked on my case or have knowledge of it, please read this appeal and get in touch with my MP”.
APPEAL: If any retired or ex-West Yorkshire Police officer wants to come forward, anonymously or otherwise, with information that may assist in answering the questions still posed by this troubling case, they are asked to contact, in complete confidence, the office of John Elam’s MP, Alex Sobel (details here). The Member for Leeds North West has been assisting Mr Elam, particularly with disclosure issues, for the past eighteen months. He has promised efforts will be made to secure a second adjournment debate in order to fill the gaps from the first one six years ago. They are, however, difficult to come by, especially now as the Corona Virus situation bites, and Alex has not been at all lucky in the ballots that take place when pursuing other issues on behalf of constituents.
Page last updated at 2010hrs on Monday 26th October, 2020.
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Exactly six years ago, at the end of the day’s Parliamentary business, Gerry Sutcliffe rose to his feet from the green leather benches to begin his contribution to an adjournment debate on the subject of the John Elam miscarriage of justice case. This is what he had to say:
“I am pleased to see the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims in his place. I do not expect him to be able to respond in detail to the important issues that I will raise, but perhaps while he listens to my speech he will reflect on what advice he can give on the best course of action to take the matter forward.
“The last case that I raised in which I felt a serious injustice had been done was that of Private Lee Clegg, a soldier in Northern Ireland who was convicted of murder. After the intervention of his solicitor, Simon McKay, other Members from both Houses and myself, he was eventually cleared of the crime.
“I want to make it clear that I do not raise these matters lightly. On the whole, our legal system is fair and just. It was with great pleasure and pride that I served as a Minister in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice under the last Government. I therefore raise this case knowing the confines within which Ministers may speak because of operational issues and the legal process. I raise this case this evening because a number of things have happened that have made me want to put it on the record.
“Mr John Elam was convicted of a conspiracy to commit fraud and received a 10-and-a-half-year jail sentence in April 2008. He has now been released on licence. He has always maintained his innocence and has sought to appeal against his imprisonment. He had an appeal in 2010 that was turned down.
“A constituent of mine came to see me to raise his concerns about the safety of the conviction and the role of certain officers in West Yorkshire Police. As you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Members of Parliament are approached by many people who feel that the legal system has operated against them. Sometimes it is difficult to unravel what the issues really are. As any other constituency MP would do, I wrote to the appropriate Departments and West Yorkshire police, and I contacted Mr Elam’s then solicitors, Keith Dyson and Partners. I also had meetings with the West Yorkshire Police Commissioner [Mark Burns-Williamson].
“My interest was stirred even more when differing accounts of the case emerged. According to West Yorkshire Police, Mr Elam was an international criminal who had connections to the Russian mafia and was involved in money laundering and the drugs trade. However, according to his solicitor, Mr Elam was the victim of police intimidation and a dirty tricks campaign, which included a lack of disclosure at his appeal. I am not a lawyer, so I was unsure what legal avenues were available to resolve the conflicting stories. As MPs do, I asked around, seeking advice and receiving information from many sources. The responses led to my interest in the case deepening further.
“Mr Elam had only one previous conviction, for common assault—he threw a Toby jug at a pub landlord. How did that minor criminal evolve into an alleged international criminal? According to West Yorkshire Police, they were interested in Mr Elam in 2005 and sought approval to have him monitored and placed under surveillance as a dangerous criminal. Operation Teddington was set up, and a very large amount of resources was spent on the process. Covert action was used to monitor the bank accounts of the Medina Trading Company, which consisted of a restaurant and a car wash. Mr Elam has always admitted his involvement with the Medina company and its directors.
“The Yorkshire Bank held the accounts of the Medina company, and an employee of the bank at that time, Mr Richard Shires, passed on information relating to the accounts, and cheques, to DC Mick Casey of West Yorkshire Police, as confirmed by affidavit. During my investigations into the matter, I have submitted a number of freedom of information requests to West Yorkshire Police, through which I have discovered that a person called Mr Richard Shires was a serving special constable in West Yorkshire Police at the time the information was passed on. I have also discovered that a person called Mr Richard Shires subsequently became a paid constable in West Yorkshire Police and continues to serve to this day. I have tried to discover through a recent freedom of information request whether those Richard Shires were one and the same, but at this time I have not been provided with that information.
“If those Richard Shires were one and the same, there was a clear conflict of interest, and more to the point, the credibility of the information and cheques passed to DC Casey would be called into doubt. I think all would agree that it would never be appropriate for a bank employee who was also a serving special constable to assist with the inquiries of the very same police force he worked for.
“At the trial, the Crown was represented by Mr Jonathan Sandiford. No evidence was given about the wider concerns relating to Mr Elam’s criminal associations. In fact, Mr Sandiford stated: The prosecution case here is that the conspirators sought to conceal the fact that Mr Elam was the true owner of the companies acquiring the business in order to defraud creditors’.
“In summing up the case, His Honour Judge Wolstenholme said to the jury that ‘….what you must do is take the view that, well, something dishonest was going on with one or more of the defendants. They must all have been up to something, even if you are not sure what.’
“Subsequently, Mr Elam was convicted.
“Mr Elam’s case, supported by his legal team, portrays an entirely different account of the chain of events. Mr Elam claims that he was approached in the summer of 2004 by a police officer demanding £150,000 in cash to be paid immediately, and £30,000 annually thereafter. In March 2005, the police investigated Mr Elam’s business practices using the covert name Operation Teddington. It is alleged that, in June 2005, 49 officers were redeployed from the anti-terrorist taskforce to work on Teddington.
“As I said, in September 2005, Richard Shires was a paid employee of the Yorkshire Bank. He accessed bank accounts relating to the Medina restaurant and secured more than 3,000 cancelled cheques. A written affidavit by Mr Shires confirms that he delivered a bundle of those cheques to DC Casey. The Yorkshire Bank also confirms that it never received an order to produce from the courts.
“In 2006, John Elam was arrested, and then the Crown court trial began. Despite a wide-ranging three-year investigation, involving more than 300 officers, Mr Elam faced a single charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. He was convicted and served his sentence in HMP Wakefield as a category A prisoner, the highest security level. He had also been treated as a category A prisoner during his time on remand. Mr Elam suffered a stroke in prison and needed external medical support.
“It is my contention that, whatever the true situation, a number of questions remain unanswered and there are a number of public interest concerns. First, was a production order properly served to Yorkshire Bank, and what was the role of PC Shires? Secondly, what was the true cost of Operation Teddington, and were officers diverted from the anti-terrorism taskforce, who at the time were dealing with the 7/7 bombers in West Yorkshire? Thirdly, why was Mr Elam considered to be a category A prisoner, and who was the police officer that demanded money?
“I know the Minister cannot respond directly to individual cases and that the Criminal Cases Review Commission will take a fresh look at this case, but I am seriously concerned enough to raise these issues and the fact that, while out on licence, Mr Elam still faces issues related to the recovery of the proceeds of crime. A hearing that was suspended in October is due in February. I have tried to contact West Yorkshire police on a number of occasions about those issues, and I will continue to do so. I was heartened today when I had a more co-operative response from West Yorkshire Police because they knew this debate was taking place, and I hope to take the matter further.
“These are serious allegations and this is a serious case—as I said, I do not usually promote and push issues where I do not feel that a cause needs to be looked at. This is a sensitive case, but it is important that as constituency MPs we raise such matters when they are put to us, and that we try to get the best result for the constituents we represent, particularly where justice and the work of the police are concerned. It must always be held utmost that the police operate in a proper manner and that our legal system is operating at its best.
“I want to put this case on record. I am sure it will not end here and that we will have to deal with other issues. However, I believe that the other bodies involved—they know who they are—should look at this case in greater detail, and I look forward to what the Minister has to say.”
The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims (Damian Green) then rose to respond on behalf of the Government:
“I congratulate the Hon. Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe) on securing this debate and thank him for recognising at various stages in his speech that I will inevitably be constrained in what I can say in response to the specific points he has raised. He served in a distinguished capacity in both the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office under the previous Government, so he will recognise that as a Minister in both Departments I am doubly constrained in what I can say. I will, however, respond to his points about miscarriages of justice, applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, and police matters.
“Consideration of alleged miscarriages of justice is a matter for the independent Criminal Cases Review Commission, and ultimately for the appeal courts. I am aware that Mr Elam has made an application to the commission. It is therefore not a matter for the Government and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that case on their behalf. I understand that Mr Elam has made a complaint to West Yorkshire Police that is still ongoing and being investigated by the force’s Professional Standards Department. Again, that disqualifies me from commenting on it.
“The Hon. Gentleman mentioned the background to the case, and I understand that Mr Elam and a number of co-defendants were prosecuted as a result of a major operation by West Yorkshire Police. There were a number of criminal trials against Mr Elam and other defendants in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Mr Elam was convicted of offences including assault and conspiracy to pervert justice, conspiracy to defraud, and doing acts tending or intending to pervert the course of justice. Custodial sentences were imposed following conviction, which have been served, and I understand that Mr Elam has appealed unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal, against sentence on one occasion, which was heard in 2007, and twice against conviction—both those appeals were heard in 2010.
“As I have said, Mr Elam has made an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which was established by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. Its purpose is to review possible miscarriages of justice. Since 31st March 1997, the Commission has operated with the power to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice and refer convictions and sentences to the relevant appeal court for a new appeal. Its remit extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Commission replaced functions that were previously carried out by the Secretary of State. Parliament established the Commission specifically to be a body that is independent of the Government.
“A Commission review is rightly a long and thorough process. If Mr Elam’s application to the Commission concerns all the criminal proceedings to which he has been subject over a number years, the review will be complex and lengthy.
“It should be noted that the Commission has strong statutory powers to enable it to discharge its functions. It can direct and supervise investigations; approve the appointment of officers to carry investigations on its behalf; and gain access to documents and other relevant materials. I draw the Hon. Gentleman’s attention to the power in section 17 of the 1995 Act, under which the Commission can reasonably require any person serving in any public body to produce to the Commission any document or other material that can assist it in the exercise of any of its functions.
“Of course, “public body” includes the police, so the Commission’s powers pursuant to section 17 operate irrespective of any duty of confidentiality and allow the Commission access to information of the highest sensitivity. Accordingly, as I am sure the House can see, the Commission has the power to obtain and review the papers and materials held by West Yorkshire Police, provided the Commission believes it reasonable to do so, in connection with its review of Mr Elam’s conviction. I hope that that reassures the Hon. Gentleman that, when the time comes, the Commission can access and consider all material relevant to the review of Mr Elam’s application.
“The Commission has confirmed that an application from Mr Elam was received in January 2013. Mr Elam is now at liberty and, as I understand it, the case is not yet under active review. The Commission has informed me that it recently wrote to advise Mr Elam that the estimated date for the allocation of his case for review is January 2015. I appreciate that that is some 2 years after the original application was made and that, given the complexity of the case, it is likely to be some time before an outcome is reached once the review is under way.
“In addition, the commission has explained to me that it operates a system of priority for applicants who are in custody. For cases requiring a substantial review, the review is generally started 12 months earlier when applicants are in custody than when somebody is at liberty. Currently, the wait for those in custody is unduly long. The Commission is concentrating on allocating those cases to reduce the maximum waiting time.
“As I have said, although the Commission prioritises applications from people in custody, I am advised that it has a policy for affording priority to any individual case when appropriate. Perhaps Mr Elam wishes to pursue that, or perhaps the Hon. Gentleman can discuss with Mr Elam whether that is an appropriate course of action in his case. I should take the opportunity to repeat that the Government should not, and indeed cannot, in any way intervene or be seen to be intervening in a matter for the Commission and, if appropriate, the appeal courts.
“On the West Yorkshire Police investigation, I understand from them that Mr Elam’s solicitor contacted them at the end of last year to make a complaint about an officer involved in the 2005 investigation. West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department is currently in correspondence with Mr Elam’s solicitor about the matter and currently awaits a response. As the Hon. Gentleman has said, Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Brennan, the Head of the West Yorkshire Police Professional Standards Department, has spoken to him and informed him of the sequence of events surrounding the original complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
“The complaint was thoroughly reviewed, and the response was sent on 18 September advising that there was no evidence to support the allegation. A formal complaint was recorded by West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards department and, although Mr Elam and his representatives have been advised that the complaint will be subject to disapplication on two occasions, there has been no response to the letters.
“I understand that the Hon. Gentleman was advised that the process would not stop West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department from taking action on the information, especially if there is a suggestion of misconduct or criminality. I believe that Detective Chief Superintendent Brennan has also offered to meet the Hon. Gentleman to go through any outstanding allegations or suggestions of misconduct. As well as that offer—it is obviously a matter for him to decide whether to take that up—the Professional Standards Department strongly encourages Mr Elam, or any other person, to contact it should they have information that they believe may be relevant or of value. I think that that is all I can appropriately say at this stage.
“If after those stages Mr Elam is not satisfied with how his complaint to West Yorkshire Police was dealt with, or how he was notified of the outcome, he can appeal a decision to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is the statutory guardian of the police complaints system. There are, therefore, further steps that he can take if he wishes to do so.
“The Hon. Gentleman raised three important specific points at the end of his speech. Let me address them as far as I can. The issue of the production order to Yorkshire Bank and the role of Mr Shires is specific to one or more of the criminal cases brought against Mr Elam. If that is a case he has asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to consider, it will investigate the issues fully. It is therefore not appropriate for me to speculate on them. Information on the costs and diversion of police resources for the purposes of Operation Teddington is an operational matter for West Yorkshire Police, so I refer the Hon. Gentleman to it for the answer to that. On the question of where Mr Elam served his custodial sentences, the decision on which custodial facility a convicted prisoner is sent to is made by the National Offender Management Service. Its decision is informed by information and intelligence from various sources, and the Directorate of High Security has a responsibility to act on that information. It is not within its remit to investigate the details of the information provided by the sources it uses.
“It is clear from the important matters raised by the Hon. Gentleman that there are issues that need to be looked into further. As I have explained, the relevant and appropriate bodies are looking into those matters now. I therefore think that the sensible way forward is to allow the application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission to take its course. I hope that that satisfies the important points raised by the Hon. Gentleman.
Damian Green sat down at 5.18pm having given a polished and, patently, well briefed response, 22 minutes after the debate opened. The obvious, and legitimate question, is what has happened since? Is everything as straightforward as he makes out with regard to the various statutory bodies and the police in their treatment of miscarriage of justice victims and did the case pan out as he said it would. What follows here is a damning condemnation of all four: The Criminal Case Review Commission, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, West Yorkshire Police and Mr Green himself.
Green was later sacked by Prime Minister, Theresa May, as First Minister after he admittted making misleading statements following the discovery of pornography found on his Commons computer in 2008. Those listening to the swish sound of whitewash being smoothly applied during his response to Gerry Sutcliffe wouldn’t have been too surprised at this turn of events. Mrs May was, of course, Green’s ‘boss’ at the Home Office at the time of the adjournment debate. She did not call for a review of any matters with which he had been involved as a result of his admission of dishonesty.
Other allegations raised against him by Kate Maltby, were found to be “plausible”, but no definitive conclusion could be reached about them as a result of “the competing and contradictory accounts” of the Minister and a female family friend who is nearly 30 years his junior, regarding inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Mrs May was heavily critical of the police in the way they carried out the raid on Green’s parliamentary office in 2008, when the pornography was discovered. One might fairly say that the former Home Secretary was not quite so robust when members of the public were victims of unlawful, high-handed and/or heavy-handed treatment by cops.
The first port of call for a member of the public having difficulties with the police should be his elected policing representative, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), voted in by the public for that very purpose. Regrettably, the PCC for West Yorkshire is Mark Burns-Williamson, one of the worst in the country, in a field of plenty. His approach throughout the Elam fight for justice has been nothing short of disgraceful: He firstly lobbied his Labour colleague, Gerry Sutcliffe, to drop his involvement with the miscarriage of justice case. Burns-Williamson then, as he invariably does in other complaint cases, simply adopted the police postion without making independent enquiries: So, in the PCC’s eyes, Elam is a notorious Russian mafia gangster and unworthy of the assistance of the officer paid to perform that function. But when asked by Mr Sutcliffe to provide evidence, or substantiation, of that position he could provide none. In fact, he refused to answer correspondence.
For a series of investigations into John Elam and others, that Gerry Sutcliffe believed had cost, in total, approaching £100 million of taxpayers money, and, at times, occupied up to 300 officers, the PCC ought really have been a great deal more rigorous in challenging the police narrative.
As far as West Yorkshire Police is concerned, their treatment of John Elam continues to be highly questionable. Despite almost ten years of intensive covert surveillance, of the most intrusive nature one can imagine, there was not one scrap of evidence that he fits their bizarre description as an international drug-running, money laundering, Russian mafia gangster produced at his trials. Despite many requests from Elam, his legal representatives, his MP’s, there has not been any evidence of the same genre produced in the intervening 11 years, either. Which makes the Burns-Williamson stance even more inexplicable.
He looks a long, long way from that, sloshing about on a brownfield construction site in Bradford in torrential rain on a cold, sleeting December morning rallying his workers from the front. Yet still the police pursue him; smearing him with banks and professional associates, making life as difficult as they possibly can to put his undoubted, almost unequalled, business acumen to use as a property developer. Very few would be able to start with less than nothing, from gypsy stock, and legitimately turn that into a £multi-million fortune.
There is also this troubling whiff of racism, and all the resentment infecting people of such unpleasant disposition, that appears to permeate into almost all of WYP’s actions. Is it the gypsy blood and the ability to wheel and deal, making ‘easy money’ by putting ‘back to back’ land packages together that gets their goat?
One senior WYP officer is alleged to have said at the time of the Sutcliffe adjournment debate: “How did that gypsy f****r get his case on the telly like that”.
Every complaint made on behalf of John Elam (he is in the later stages of his life, having made and lost several fortunes, getting to grips with reading and writing) is airily batted away by the police. Then kicked further into the long grass by the thoroughly disgraced IPCC (now the similarly disgraced IOPC). Aided and abetted by a police complaints system deliberately re-designed, in 2011 and 2018, to further hamper the public at every turn.
Two long-serving officers turned up to meet Elam at Gerry Sutcliffe’s office in Bradford in 2014, Simon Bottomley and Osman Khan. Both DCI’s at the time, who have gone on to be Heads of PSD at WYP. Bottomley is the present incumbent, having succeeded Khan last year. Both have a chequered history amongst those members of the public who have had the misfortune to complain against their local police force. Their disposition towards John Elam and Mr Sutcliffe was aggressive and confrontational throughout. They had turned up in place of Andy Brennan, who had done a ‘moonlight flit’ and left WYP shortly before he was due to meet with the MP and Elam, as Damian Green had indicated he would. When Elam spoke to Brennan by phone he could offer no explanation for his ‘retirement’ from WYP. The meeting produced nothing of use to the fight for justice. The barriers were up and stayed up.
The stigma of the 7/7 bombings, and the effect of the withdrawal of WYP’s specialist counter-terror officers onto what appeared to be an almost wholly disproportionate vendetta, also rankles deeply with the force’s hierarchy. Further discrediting Elam is one of the only ways they can salve their conscience after 56 people died at the hands of three radicalised suicide bombers from Leeds, and one from Kirklees.
The CCRC did, eventually respond in April, 2016, three years and three months after the submission of the Elam appeal to them. Their detailed findings, and the flaws inherent within them, including what appears strongly as ‘verification bias’ and a lack of basic investigative rigour will be the subject of a separate, but linked, article on this troubling miscarriage of justice case.
The CCRC provided no satisfactory answers on the key issues concerning:
(i) Richard Shires and his dual and contemporaneous role with Yorkshire Bank and WYP.
(ii) The provenance of the Production Order which took nine years for WYP to eventually produce (in the end to Gerry Sutcliffe) and the Yorkshire Bank are adamant was never served on them at any time.
(iii) The true status of the alleged police informant, Andrew John Rudd. Whom it is said was acting as agent provocateur.
(iv) The classification of John Elam as a Category AA prisoner. Extraordinarily, and quite independently as an investigative journalist, I have obtained access to that information and about which there will be a seperate article naming the officer who provided what appears to be false and malicious information to HMP’s Director of High Security.
(v) The identity of the police officer who turned up at John Elam’s home in Scarcroft and demanded £150,000 in cash up front, and £30,000 per annum thereafter, ‘to make your [John Elam’s] problems go away’. No enquiries were made as to the whereabouts of the film from a covert camera situated in a bird box in a tree opposite (in the garden of a former Leeds United goalkeeper, Nigel Martyn).
(vi) The continued smearing of him as a very serious organised drug-running, money laundering, Russian mafia criminal, absent of even the smallest scrap of evidence.
What they did do, incredibly, was have at least one face-to-face briefing with West Yorkshire Police, the very organisation whose serious, and proven, wrongdoing was at the heart of the Elam CCRC appeal. It appears to have escaped the attention of the CCRC that WYP has the worst record of any police force in the country when it comes to serious, high profile miscarriages of justice. Dating back to the 1970’s and the deeply shocking Stefan Kiszko and Judith Ward cases (read more here). They are a police force that simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth or not tamper with evidence and/or witnesses. That is not fanciful speculation, it is an inalienable fact.
Most crucially, what they CCRC didn’t do was exercise their extraordinary powers to obtain disclosure independent of the police and prosecution filters or barriers. If they had, they would have discovered, as I have done, that covert surveillance on John Elam began accidentally in 1998 when an operation (my informant who worked on the case cannot recall the name) was mounted in East Leeds targetting other persons of interest to the police. Elam was a business associate of one of them. West Yorkshire Police say they have not been able to trace the operational name either, despite very specific information being provided to them that should make it a straighforward task
An operation that followed, codenamed Primary, did target John Elam but yielded nothing after three years of intensive, intrusive surveillance as they tried to link him to WYP’s ‘most wanted man’, Dennis Slade. A career armed robber whom the police fitted up in 2010 for a murder conspiracy he wasn’t part of. There was never any connection to find between the two men, socially or in business dealings, except for a fleeting introduction in a Leeds pub one evening. Slade’s conviction on that murder count was quashed by the Court of Appeal and the charged dropped one week into the re-trial in April, 2019 (read more here).
West Yorkshire Police misled Damian Green when they stated that surveillance on John Elam only began in 2005. It would have seriously harmed their case if the obsessive vendetta had been found to have begun five years earlier.
For my own part I can say this: I’ve known John Elam for seven years and either I am blind and stupid or he is a hard-working family man, unfailingly courteous, would walk a mile to do a man a good turn, would turn around rather than do him a bad one. His office is on one of the busiest corners in Leeds, he operates in a highly competitive business arena but appears to have the respect of his peers. Deals get done, and the wheels of the diggers and trucks turn. He is in the public eye insofar as he regularly takes his daughter and grandson out for meals and spends many weekends with them at their caravan at the East Coast seaside. That is not the lifestyle of a mafia gangster.
Like me, he abhorrs any form of narcotics and will not tolerate their use in his presence.
What I can’t say: That there is any evidence at all that he is the major criminal portrayed by the police. He is a one man band and has no association with any gang, apart from those carrying out groundworks on construction sites. He has the same computer in his office that he has had all the time that I’ve known him; he freely gives me access to that. He has just one ancient mobile Nokia phone that, apart from making and receiving calls, he struggles to use. There are no burner phones or SIM cards; no sophisticated means of encrypted communication used routinely by criminals, even the not-so-serious ones these days; no firearms; no weapons (and he wouldn’t even try to beat me in a fist fight). Nothing at all to support the notion of a criminal lifestyle and enforcer. His mode of transport is a 4 year old Ford Ranger open-backed pick-up truck. Not ideal if you are transporting illicit goods, cash or weapons.
What John Elam does have is a burning sense of injustice. It will never leave him. Why else, nine years after he was released from prison would he still be battling the police and the criminal justice system, spending whatever money he can raise on lawyers, trying to clear his name. The reader is invited to draw their own conclusion from that and look out for the follow-ups to this article which will appear in the coming weeks. This is a story that will run and run.
APPEAL: If any retired or ex-West Yorkshire Police officer wants to come forward, anonymously or otherwise, with information that may assist in answering the questions still posed by this troubling case, they are asked to contact, in complete confidence, the office of John Elam’s MP, Alex Sobel. The Member for Leeds North West has been assisting Mr Elam, particularly with disclosure issues, for the past eighteen months. He has promised efforts will be made to secure a second adjourment debate in order to fill the gaps from the first one six years ago. They are, however, difficult to come by and Alex has not been at all lucky in the ballots that take place when pursuing other issues on behalf of constituents.
Alex secured a resounding victory at the recent General Election, securing a third term in office with a substantially increased majority. Very much against the trend for the Labour Party. John Elam, as a constituent campaigned strongly amongst his family, friends and associates for an elected representative he holds in high personal and professional regard.
Page last updated at 1650hrs on Saturday 11th April, 2020.
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This is a piece I first wrote for the uPSD website three years ago (2013). It has been updated with some recent developments, particularly relating to the ex-PC Danny Major miscarriage of justice case, in which I have been closely involved:
On the gravestone that marks the burial place of Charlotte Hedwig Kiszko, and her son Stefan (pictured above), the inscription is carved on blackened Pennine rock: “A loving wife and a very devoted mother“. That is an understatement of monumental proportions. No one could possibly have been more steadfast than Charlotte, who campaigned tirelessly – and ultimately successfully – for sixteen long years to prove the innocence of her son. Much in the way that the relatives, and friends, of the many who perished in the Hillsborough Disaster have fought relentlessly for justice – and the parents of Danny Major who have battled for so long to clear their own son’s name after he was fitted up by the police force that faetures centrally in this shocking story.
Stefan Ivan Kiszko was convicted, after a diabolical West Yorkshire Police investigation, of the murder of a frail, 11-year-old Rochdale girl, Lesley Molseed, in 1975. She had been brutally stabbed to death on Rishworth Moor, close to the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. The killer had ejaculated on her underclothes.
The murder probe, and subsequent persistently unlawful, and relentless, three day interrogation of Kiszko, was led by Detective Sergeant John Akeroyd and, later, his boss, Detective Chief Inspector, Dick Holland, both of whom were commended at the subsequent trial.
As was the senior investigating officer, Chief Superintendent Jack Dibb. In spite of almost every one of the Judges’ Rules, governing detention and police interviews, at the time, having been broken by the police.
Holland and Dibb were later charged with perverting the course of justice, but the trial was halted after Dibb passed away in 1995. An application for a stay, on the grounds of abuse of process, was allowed by the stipendiary magistrate in Rochdale, Jane Hayward. She said that a fair trial was not possible without hearing oral evidence from the deceased Dibb. Passage of time and non-availability of other witnesses were also factors weighing in the balance.
Holland, and a forensic scientist charged along with the two police officers, Ronald Outteridge, were set to blame Dibb for any evidential shortcomings. Holland died in 2007.
The repeated request to have Charlotte present, whilst he was being questioned, was refused and, crucially, the police did not caution the grossly immature Stefan Kiszko until long after they had decided he was the prime – and indeed only – suspect. He ultimately “confessed” after being told he could go home to his mother if he did so. He retracted the confession almost immediately. Stefan had attended Rochdale police station voluntarily, and had, in fact, driven himself there in the bronze coloured Hillman Avenger that was his pride and joy. He was not arrested until his third day in custody.
That came two days after his first contact with Holland, who is alleged to have said, without preamble, to an immature, frightened, unwell man: “I’ll get the fucking truth out of you, one way or another”, whilst assaulting him.
Holland waslater to achieve notoriety in the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, after which he was demoted following an internal inquiry. He was also one of the senior investigators on another of the greatest miscarriages of justices of modern times: Judith Ward was wrongly convicted of the M62 IRA coach bomb murders, after a similarly brutalising WYP interrogation.
When he retired in 1988, Holland viewed the convictions of both Stefan Kiszko and of Judith Ward as being “among his finest hours during his 35 years in the police force”. The quashing of both those convictions, by the appeal court, came less than five years later.
It is over 40 years since Stefan, an Inland Revenue clerk with the mental and emotional age of a 12-year-old, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court by a jury directed by the highly experienced ‘red’ judge, Sir Hugh Park; and 20 years since he died, like his father, of a heart attack, after an all too brief taste of freedom. He was just 41 years of age, mentally and physically broken. His beloved mother, of Slovenian descent, died just a few months later.
Charlotte had buried her husband, the giant Ukrainian-born Iwan Kiszko, in a Halifax cemetery after he dropped dead at Stefan’s feet, in 1970, following a heart attack in the street near their home in Rochdale. His parents had met in migrant accommodation in 1951, married a year later and were a devoted, happy couple. Iwan, a road construction worker had helped build the M62 trans-Pennine motorway that swept past the spot at which Lesley Molseed’s body was foun d near Windy Hill.
Stefan suffered from XYY syndrome, a condition in which the human male has an extra Y chromosome. Such men are normal except for – sometimes slight – growth irregularities and minor behavioural abnormalities. He also suffered from hypergonadism and was acutely anaemic. As a child he had suffered badly with asthma.
One of Stefan’s “behavioural abnormalities” was jotting down the registration numbers of a car if he had been annoyed by the driver. This trait led, in part, to his wrongful conviction as he had, at some point prior to the murder, unwittingly jotted down the number of a car seen near the scene of the crime on the Oldham – Halifax A672 road on that fateful Sunday. A red Renault 16TL with the mark, ADK539L.
It was argued by the prosecution, at the murder trial, that only someone at the scene could have known the number of this car. A submission that was later to be proved wholly unlikely, by even the simplest of investigations. It was a car first registered in Rochdale, and owned by a couple in the town for the first two years of its life. It was even known to have been parked in the car park near the Inland Revenue offices where Stefan worked. One of a number of simple tasks that, regrettably, Rochdale solicitor Albert Wright, the senior partner in the town’s oldest firm of solicitors, and instructed counsel also failed to undertake.
Also, as a symptom of his medical conditions, Stefan Kiszko would have been physically incapable of producing the the type of sperm that covered Lesley’s knickers, which was a cornerstone of the prosecution case. A crucial fact that was never disclosed to either the court, or more particularly, his defence team, at the time of the trial. Another incapacity, a surgical pin in a recently, and badly, broken ankle, would have prevented Stefan carrying, or dragging, Lesley up a steep forty foot ascent, away from the main road to the killing ground. Wright, and the defence team, never made submissions to the court in this regard.
Apart from these evidential and investigative failings, Stefan Kiszko’s defence team, led by David Waddington QC, made a number of significant tactical mistakes at trial. Grounded in the belief, it seems, that the jury would find Stefan guilty of the murder.
Firstly, they did not seek an adjournment when the Crown delivered over 6,000 witness statements, as part of the unused material, on the first morning of the trial. These had lain, untouched, in an office attached to the Director of Public Prosecutions for weeks before the trial. Included in those statements were those of Chistopher Coverdale and Maurice Helm, both of which would have seriously undermined the prosecution’s claims. Coverdale had seen a man and a girl, at the lay-by on the A672 beneath the murder scene, on the Sunday afternoon. The man described bore no resemblance at all to the the accused, the description of the girl, and what she was wearing, was uncannily close to Lesley. Helm was a local milkman who admitted inadvertly exposing himself to two young girls when taking an emergency ‘leak’ on the Friday before the murder. Much was made of this ‘crime’ being committed by Stefan Kiszko at the crown court, in what was perversely described as ‘similar fact evidence’ to a brutal murder. Had Coverdale and Helm been brought to court as witnesses the trial would have been, effectively, over.
Secondly, Waddington never challenged the admissibility of the Kiszko confession or the lurid similar fact evidence of alleged indecent exposure offences. In his summing up, the judge gave a clear direction to the jury that the latter bore no relevance to the murder. It follows, therefore, that an application to exclude it would have succeeded
Thirdly, in court, Waddington maintained the risky, inconsistent, and parallel, defence of diminished responsibility, which the Kiszko family had never authorised. The lawyer contends that they did. Stefan was adamant that he had never seen nor touched Lesley Molseed and they were his instructions to Mr Wright and instucted counsel. In effect, Waddington was putting to the jury an admission of guilt to murder but a plea for them to return a manslaughter verdict running alongside an alibi defence to the murder.
Waddington went on to become Margaret Thatcher‘s last Home Secretary, on the very day that Stefan’s second, and ultimately successful, appeal was filed with the Home Office – and now sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords as Baron Waddington.
Albert Wright had, in fact, initially instructed George Carman QC, the best criminal defence barrister of his day. He was, however, detained elsewhere when the Kiszko trial started on 7th July, 1976. It is not difficult to believe that the trial would have had a very different shape, and outcome, had Carman retained the brief.
In February 1992, at the time of the quashing of Stefan’s conviction, Charlotte Kiszko said that it was David Waddington who ought to be “strung up” for his pro-capital punishment views and for the way he had handled her son’s defence at the 1976 trial. On any independent view, it was shocking – and Waddington was not helped by a judge who also appeared, in a one-sided summing up, to take the view that Kiszko was guilty.
Prosecuting counsel, Peter Taylor QC, later became Lord Chief Justice and, in another quirk of fate attained that high office one day after Stefan’s conviction was finally quashed. He maintained, at the time, that the police had withheld the crucial scientific evidence from the prosecution, as well as the defence, at the fateful trial. A proposition that now seems highly likely.
As Lord Chief Justice, and, by then, Sir Peter Taylor, he became increasingly aware of miscarriages of justice and gave due attention to appeals against conviction. He was also responsible for many liberal innovations in the English criminal and civil justice systems and gave strong support to the full disclosure of police and prosecution evidence. Still a controversial topic almost 30 years later.
Taylor is, of course, is now eternally (and now posthumously) famous as the legal luminary leading the Departmental Inquiry into the Hillsborough Disaster, just over 4 weeks after the football stadium tragedy which cost 96 lives at the Sheffield Wednesday football stadium, in April, 1989 .
After a month in the notorious Armley Jail, following his conviction, Stefan Kiszko was transferred to the Category A Wakefield Prison and immediately placed on Rule 43 to protect him from other inmates. As, at least in the eyes of the law, he was now a convicted sex offender. Or, in prison parlance, a ‘nonce’. He suffered a number of assaults during the first five years of incarceration but, after striking back at his assailaint on the fifth occasion he was attacked, the beatings ceased.
Stefan’s mother launched an appeal, but it was dismissed on 25th May 1978, when Lord Justice Bridge, sitting with Mr Justice Wien and Mr Justice Eastham, said, curtly: “We can find no grounds whatsoever to condemn the jury’s verdict of murder as in any way unsafe or unsatisfactory. The appeal is dismissed”. Lord Justice Bridge is, probably, best known as presiding judge in the infamous Birmingham Six trial, especially his closing remarks where he expressed regret at being able to pass a sentence that would see those convicted, hanged.
Stefan had insisted that Waddington and Clegg represent him at appeal. The former should, arguably, have returned the brief as he was compromised by the grounds of that appeal.
Charlotte Kiszko, ably aided by her elder sister, Alfreda Tosić (Stefan’s beloved Aunt ‘Freda), never gave up the fight to clear her son’s name, despite being roundly ignored, and then airily dismissed, by many politicians, including her own MP, the now notorious Cyril Smith, together with successive Prime Ministers James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher and their secretaries of state, and by a legal system designed to stonewall justice campaigners. Thatcher’s role in the police cover-ups after both the Battle of Orgreave and Hillsborough Disaster has now unravelled in spectacular fashion. She set out to protect her political militia at all costs and would hear no criticism of the police.
In 1984, Charlotte contacted JUSTICE, the UK human rights organisation which, at the time, investigated many miscarriages of justice. Three years later, she made her first contact with solicitor Campbell Malone, who agreed to take a look at the case when it seemed almost certain that Charlotte’s son would never be released.
Meeting Malone (pictured above right) was the turning point for Mrs Kiszko and two years later, working with barrister Philip Clegg (Waddington’s junior at the trial and later a highly respected circuit judge) a petition was presented to the Home Office. By an astonishing quirk of fate, Waddington replaced Douglas Hurd as Home Secretary on the very same day, 26th October 1989. It took the Home Office a further sixteen months to refer the matter back to West Yorkshire Police for re-investigation. Detective Superintendent Trevor Wilkinson was asked by his chief constable, Peter Nobes, to look at the investigation afresh. He quickly established that there were glaring errors in the prosecution case, particularly relating to the medical evidence. Key witnesses against Stefan also retracted their original statements saying that they had lied for “a laugh”and other witnesses were located through private investigator, Peter Jackson, who discovered that Stefan had strong alibis at the time of the original trial.
On 17 February 1992, a fresh appeal against Stefan Kiszko’s conviction was heard by three judges, Lord Chief Justice Lane, Mr. Justice Rose and Mr. Justice Potts. The Crown were represented by Franz Muller QC and William Boyce . The inimitable Stephen Sedley QC and Jim Gregory were defence counsel, who asserted Kiszko was innocent. Gregory had taken over from Clegg when the latter took up his judicial appointment. However, Muller and Boyce did not put up any counter argument after hearing the new evidence, and immediately accepted its provenance.
Despite the overwhelming, and obvious, evidence that Kiszko was innocent, West Yorkshire Police and Ronald Outteridge, the original forensic scientist, refused to apologise to Kiszko for his wrongful conviction. In 1991, Outteridge became angry when questioned by journalists about his role in the trial.
Neither did David Waddington, Sheila Buckley, her daughter Maxine Buckley, Pamela Hind, Debbie Brown and Catherine Burke, whose perjured evidence helped convict Kiszko, offer any apology, or express one word of regret, for what had happened. All refused to comment when Kiszko was released. West Yorkshire Police even tried to justify the position they took in 1975 whilst accepting, and admitting, they were wrong. Stefan did, however, receive a letter from Sir Hugh Park, the trial judge, expressing his profound regret over what had happened, but maintained that his conduct of the trial was above criticism. A view not shared by a number of legal commentators.
Anthony Beaumont-Dark, a Conservative MP said, “This must be the worst miscarriage of justice of all time” and, like many others, demanded a full, independent and wide ranging inquiry into the conviction.
Fifteen years after Stefan was vindicated and released, justice was finally done for the victim’s family. Ronald Castree, a comic-book dealer from Oldham (pictured above), was eventually caught after he gave a DNA sample in connection with what is understood to have been a serious sexual assault in 2005. No action was taken over that complaint, but the body sample provided a match with semen found on Lesley Molseed’s underwear. The sexually deviant Castree was found by the jury to have lured Lesley into his taxi before sexually assaulting her, stabbing her 12 times and leaving her for dead high up on the moors.
Despite DNA evidence that established there was a billion-to-one chance that Castree was not the killer, he continued to protest his innocence after he was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court. “I didn’t do it” he shouted out, as he was led down the steps to the cells beneath the dock.
Liverpool-based Mr Justice Openshaw (also twice Recorder of Preston) told him: “You kept quiet whilst an entirely innocent man was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced for this murder. He served 16 years before his conviction was fully set aside, living only a couple of years after his release before he died.”
Justice campaigners continue to protest Ronald Castree’s innocence saying he was the second person fitted up for Lesley Molseed’s murder by West Yorkshire Police. But I have, so far, not been given sight of any materials that support their campaign.
One of the grounds appears to be that, at the Castree trial, it was said that Lesley’s knickers had been pulled down whilst he masturbated and then returned to their normal position. Which, apparently, explains the presence of Castree’s DNA inside the knickers, but this movement of the little girl’s underwear had never been part of any evidence advanced by the police or prosecutors previously.
Another ground mentioned by those campaigning for Castree concerns the provenance of the DNA sample and the fact that no counterpart sample was provided to the defence team for independent checking.
Castree’s appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, although the judgment appears to have gone unreported on BAILII.
Whilst writing to his eldest natural son, Nick Castree, in October 2013, seeking reconciliation and inviting a prison visit, Castree said that it had taken six years for the case file, containing only the used materials at trial, to be disclosed to him (read here). The schedule of unused material (MG6c) was still absent.
In 1997, a book written by Jonathan Rose, now a judge based at Bradford Crown Court, journalist Steve Panter and retired WYP detective, Trevor Wilkinson named Raymond Hewlett as the likely murderer of Lesley Molseed. In a highly forensic account, it provides significant background detail and witness statements. The book also identified a previously unknown link between Hewlett’s family and friends of the Molseed family.
In 2002, when Detective Chief Superintendent Max McLean was leading the new investigation into the Molseed murder, he reported that he was confident he would find Raymond Hewlett, who remained the prime suspect.
Hewlett was a drifter, at the time busking his way across the sunnier spots of Europe and North Africa. He was later captured and interviewed by police over the Molseed murder but released after a no reply interview through lack of evidence.
In 2009, Hewlett was, it is said, still being investigated by Max McLean, who travelled to Aachen in Germany to see him, over an attack almost 35 years previously: “West Yorkshire Police are also investigating his possible involvement with an indecent assault in 1975.”
As Castree continues to proclaim his innocence, it should be borne in mind that his defence counsel Rodney Jameson QC told Bradford Crown Court that there was “an overwhelming possibility” that the man who sexually assaulted Lesley and stabbed her 12 times was Hewlett. There is controversy over the proposition advanced by some of Castree’s campaigners that his DNA was planted by police on the piece of tape used to convict him. Lesley’s clothing had been destroyed by the Forensic Science Services in 1985. Extraordinary, particularly when one considers the vociferous, and persistent, campaign mounted by Stefan’s mother and aunt over his wrongful conviction.
Could a case as shocking as the Stefan Kiszko fiasco happen today? I say, emphatically, ‘yes’ because you have the same West Yorkshire Police force completely enamoured with its own sense of invincibility. The man who helped to prove Stefan’s innocence, and who acted as his mother’s staunch ally, believed at the time that there was just as much danger of ignoring equally egregious miscarriages of justice. “In the current climate more miscarriages will take place,” said Campbell Malone. “It is nonsense to suggest miscarriages of justice are less likely to happen now. We are more at risk – the climate is just as bad as it was in the 1970s when you had all the Irish cases (including Judith Ward featured here). I am profoundly gloomy about the situation.”
Mr Malone accepted that changes in the law through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) had removed some of the dangers. Stefan Kiszko was, for instance, initially questioned without a lawyer and made his confession after being told by West Yorkshire Police detectives that, if he did so, he would be allowed to go home. Under PACE both those events would now be unlawful.
The bad news here is that West Yorkshire Police treat PACE with almost complete disdain. In almost every case I examine, that features one of their officers, breaches of PACE are blatant and manifest.
It is hoped, with Danny Major’s case back in the national newspapers, on network television and, possibly, headed back to the Court of Appeal, that it will give people the opportunity to think about the widescale misery that can be caused by concealing the truth about such cases – and remind people that the real perpetrator can be free to carry out other offences. The drive-by West Yorkshire Police (and aided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission) to keep their star witness against Danny Major ‘clean’ allowed PC Kevin Liston free licence to go and out and commit a string of sex, drug and violence offences.
Since the Birmingham-based Criminal Case Review Commission opened its doors in 1997, it has received 10,288 applications for cases to be reviewed. Of these, 376 were referred back to the court of appeal and 241 convictions were quashed.
Anecdotally, the CCRC presents a higher evidential hurdle than the Court of Appeal to which it refers those cases it deems have sufficient merit. It is an area of our judicial system which, uPSD believe, requires urgent review.
The old-fashioned notion that honesty was an integral part of policing in the UK has been comprehensively swept away over the past few years, as corruption scandal after corruption scandal has emerged into the public domain.
Many of the worst public outrages concern police forces in Yorkshire. The Hillsborough Disaster, the Battle of Orgreave and Rotherham Abuse failings will forever stain those who wear the South Yorkshire Police uniform.
Their neighbours in West Yorkshire (WYP) have an unenviable record of ‘fitting-up’ innocent people for serious crimes they didn’t commit and this stretches back for decades to Stefan Kiszko andJudith Ward. Investigative and prosecutorial misconduct come easily to this force and one of the worst case ever to come before the courts was also down to them. Never before – or since – has a police force been so roundly and completely condemned by law lords as they were in the Karl Chapman supergrass case. Probably better known now as Operation Douglas.
Most recently, the confirmation that the jailing of one of their own most promising young constables, PCDanny Major, was corruptly grounded, takes WYP to depths in policing criminality rarely plumbed before.
The discredited West Yorkshire Police also share with North Yorkshire Police (NYP) the unenviable distinction of allowing the country’s most notorious child sex offender, Jimmy Savile, to go unchecked for almost 50 years on his home patches of Leeds and Scarborough.
North Yorkshire Police were, of course, out on their own in allowing another notorious and prolific paedophile, Peter Jaconelli to offend at will for a similar period.
Worse still, NYP tried very hard indeed, by way of two bogus investigations into themselves, to rubbish any claims that they knew about the nefarious activities of either of these hideous individuals. Indeed, but for the intervention of two citizen journalists, writing for a North Yorkshire internet news magazine, the police would have got clean away with hoodwinking the public over both Savile and Jaconelli.
This report by ACC Sue Cross (a former West Yorkshire Police officer and pictured below) took just nine days – and zero interviews – to dismiss over forty years of relentless sex offending by a man widely known as “Mr Scarborough”. It’s tone and content is directed much more to discrediting the two journalists than addressing the core issues. A trait much favoured by senior officers in the police service.
North Yorkshire Police were subsequently, and quite rightly, exposed as an incompetent, embarrassing and humiliated shambles. It seems more than a coincidence, therefore, that those same two journalists – Tim Hicks and Nigel Ward – have for the past fifteen months been facing civil court action both mounted and funded by the police (or more accurately the precept payer). This is the article by Mr Hicks that effectively dismantled the now discredited Cross Report.
I have investigated this matter of the claim concerning alleged harassment by the two journalists, extensively, since the issue of the court papers in January 2015 and have written a number of articles as a result:
Cost of silencing police force critics now approaches £1 million (click here)
Complete capitulation follows Fall of Rome (click here)
Key witness in police funded civil action is a proven liar (click here).
The North Yorkshire Police dilemma: Find a murderer or pursue journalists over harassment (click here)
This latest article focuses on just one single aspect of those investigations, upon which a large amount of time and money has already been spent:
North Yorkshire Police and the Police Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, have both quoted a figure of £409,970.90 as the alleged cost of a criminal investigation into the two journalists, and one other. The police investigation was styled Operation Rome and this is the published breakdown of their estimate:
Police officer time from December 2011 to September 2014; 94.6 months – £386,347
Legal services work from October 2010 to June 2014; 243.1 hours – £7,424.73
Civil disclosure work from September 2011 to October 2014; 352 hours – £5,181.44
Related complaints matters; 82 hours – £1,708.88
Chief Officer time; 259.08 – £9,308.85
This costing of what is, at best, a notional spend was the cornerstone that underpinned the decision by the Chief Constable and the Police Commissioner to go ahead and disburse an estimated £202,000 of the public’s money in legal fees, pursuing the civil harassment claim via the senior partner of one of the most expensive law firms in Leeds, and two barristers. One of whom is a well-known QC, with charge rates to match.
Indeed, Mrs Mulligan is quoted as saying: “Dealing with the actions of those involved in the civil case has tied up police resources to a significant extent, and it seemed reasonable to expect that further time and expense would be incurred if no action were taken“.
In layman’s terms, the PCC’s muddled hypothesis appears to be: (i) We have come up with some notional, and fanciful, figures to say it has ‘cost’ North Yorkshire Police £409,970 trying to silence these people, by criminalising them via an embarrassingly bad investigation. (ii) Now, we can save a bit of face by actually spending £202,000 of hard cash, and chase the same three men through the civil courts at the public’s expense. But, with no certainty of achieving anything more than the original failed police investigation (iii) It has actually cost a lot more than £202,000 so far, but we are keeping the lid tightly screwed down on that.
My investigations go a long way to proving that reliance on that particular foundation of the £409,970 calculation will bring the whole Operation Rome edifice to the ground:
The inclusion in the calculations of 94.6 months of police officer time, allegedly costing £386,347, to pursue three members of the public on a harassment without violence investigation stretches the bounds of credibility, far beyond breaking point.
That is the type of sum you would normally expect to see spent on a murder investigation where the perpetrator(s) remain undetected after six months.
Compare Operation Rome’s “£409,970” harassment enquiry, for example, with the recently wound up Operation Essence, a major crimes review of the Claudia Lawrence disappearance and murder. As many as 20 detectives and police staff worked full time for two and a half years. Cost: £800,000 Source: NYP.
Even 94.6 hours would be well beyond the routine for a harassment investigation of this type. That would bring the ‘cost’ in at a more realistic £2,240.34.
A harassment investigation would normally involve a neighbourhood police constable overseen by a sergeant, or possibly an inspector. The police hear what the complainant(s) have to say, speak to the suspects and make a charging decision based on the evidence. There is no forensic science involved, or complex issues to unravel. Even Heartbeat‘s PC Geoff Younger (pictured below) would shine in such probes.
The police have declined to say how many detectives were actually involved. They rely on a total of 14 people including lawyers, civil disclosure officers, PSD officers and staff from the PCC’s office as their answer.
The link between the cost of dealing with complaints against the police, freedom of information requests, reported at £6890.32, and a harassment investigation would also appear very tenuous at best. The complaints against NYP officers and information requests either had merit, or not. No evidence has been produced to me to suggest they were outside the scope of the legislation under which such issues could, quite properly, be raised.
The other ‘big ticket’ items on the costs estimate for Operation Rome also have the fishy odour of red herring. £16,733.58 is the combined total allegedly spent on Chief Officer time and the cost of Legal Services support. It begs the question as to what Chief Officers (who are most unhelpfully not identified by either name or job title) were actually doing that was connected to a criminal harassment investigation and involved 259.08hrs of their time?
The same comment applies to lawyers who are employed by the police force to deal with civil claims, not criminal investigations. How did they manage to spend 243.1 hours on a criminal harassment probe and what were they actually doing?
The bottom line here is that the TOTAL of £409,970 has very much the appearance of a figment of the imagination – and appears to be a figure largely plucked out of the air to justify raiding the public purse so that senior officers, including the Chief Constable and his Deputy could get their hands on free legal fees.
The next step in the process is to look at how the Operation Rome investigation was conducted and what it actually achieved:
None of the three suspects have ever been issued with a Police Improvement Notice (PIN), more commonly known as a harassment warning. More on PIN’s here.
Only one of three suspects, Mr Hicks, was interviewed by the police. The focus of that 2012 interview was alleged damage to the reputation of North Yorkshire Police by his work as a citizen journalist, rather than harassment.
No disclosure was made to Mr Hicks, or his solicitor who was present throughout, that would persuade an independent reviewer that the police claims of harassment were credible.
The letter from Mr Hicks’ solicitor to NYP following the interview can be read here. It amounts to another humiliation of those police officers involved in Operation Rome.
Mr Ward, meanwhile, was completely unaware that any such investigation was in progress that involved him. He was never contacted by either a police officer, or any alleged ‘victim’, at any time concerning harassment allegations.
There was no mention of Mr Ward in the interview conducted with Mr Hicks at Fulford Road police station.
Meanwhile North Yorkshire Police actively canvassed other public officials from parish, borough and county councils, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, to make complaints against the two citizen journalists.
One of the public officials, York City Council social worker, Mark Bednarski, was found to have misled police in his own witness statement by withholding information that damaged his claim.
Another public official, County and Borough Councillor Jane Kenyon lied in her CJA statement. A fact she has recently admitted after being cornered by documentary evidence.
No arrest was made at any time during Operation Rome.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) twice refused to authorised the arrest and charging of Mr Hicks under Section 3 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
The CPS guidance on issue of harassment warnings can be read here.
Following the second refusal by the CPS a ‘leading specialist barrister’, believed to be Simon Myerson QC, was consulted in an effort to make criminal charges stick. That was also a failure.
With Bednarski and Kenyon as star witnesses there would be little prospect of a prosecution succeeding, in any event.
At the end of a near three year investigation, Operation Rome was closed down as an incompetent, embarrassing and humiliating shambles.
But there are a number of questions, asked via appropriate legal channels, that remain unanswered by North Yorkshire Police which cast further and serious doubt on the provenance of the information already supplied about the harassment investigation and its ‘cost’.
NYP have stated in response to a FoIA request that none of the elements of the £409,970 costings are broken down for the years 2011,2012, 2013 and 2014
On the same request, the force cannot provide details of the incident that triggered the Operation Rome investigation. That suggests there is no policy log (sometimes called the policy book) in existence. The first sign of a poorly led, and badly directed, investigation
It is further claimed by NYP that Operation Rome was led by an inspector. Yet, I have in my files letters written by CI Heather Pearson (to Tim Hicks) and DCC Tim Madgwick (to Jane Kenyon) concerning this investigation.
Why was the Force Solicitor, Jane Wintermeyer, who essentially concerns herself with legal disputes in the civil courts tasked with collecting financial estimates for a three-year criminal investigation?
Why is there no written request to Mrs Wintermeyer to carry out this work – upon which so much rested – in existence? The costing exercise was, allegedly, instigated following a verbal request from PCC Julia Mulligan and Chief Constable Dave Jones. Who both, separately, employ a highly qualified, and commensurately paid, Chief Financial Officer (Mike Porter and Jane Palmer respectively).
How could a back of the envelope exercise, delivered in such sloppy form, take over three months to produce?
Why did NYP reply to a FoIA request on 1st December, 2014 (almost at the centre point of the Wintermeyer cost collection exercise according to information she supplied to me by letter) saying that they could neither ‘confirm nor deny’ that such information existed?
Why are NYP dragging their feet on a FoIA request asking them to justify the breakdown of hourly rates used in the calculations?
More crucially, and in the interests of openness and transparency much touted by Mrs Mulligan, why does the Chief Constable, and the PCC, not simply publish the workings of Mrs Wintermeyer with the names of anyone lower than the managerial rank of inspector (or its civilian equivalent) redacted?
This all has the look of a third incompetent, embarrassing and humiliating shambles for North Yorkshire Police. Yet the mindset of its Chief Constable, and his lap dog Police Commissioner, is to dig both him, her and themselves ever deeper into a hole. Rather than confront the fact that they have been caught with their fingers in the till, so to speak, and deal with it in an honest, ethical and professional manner
More importantly, for a police force and a police commissioner to be prepared to relentlessly break the law to try, in vain, to cover its tracks over some distinctly shady territory mean that questions need to be urgently asked, at the Home Office: How can Dave Jones and Julia Mulligan justify conducting police operations in this manner – and for whose benefit are these ‘investigations’ actually being run?
There are, currently, at least 409,970 reasons for the Secretary of State, or the Home Affairs Select Committee, to seek answers to these questions.
Both Chief Constable Jones and Mrs Mulligan have been approached for comment on this article. None has yet been forthcoming from Jones, but a spokesman for the Commissioner said: ‘It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing legal matter‘.
North Yorkshire Enquirer‘s Nigel Ward said this: “At the material time, I was passing North Yorkshire Police a large volume of information regarding SAVILE and JACONELLI and was profusely thanked, by detectives, for my contributions. But during that same period, it seems, the police were plotting (unsuccessfully) to nail me on criminal harassment allegations made by Jane Kenyon. I refute those accusations made by her, entirely“.
But the last words should belong to Lord Maginnis of Drumglass who most presciently commented in Parliament, about North Yorkshire Police, in 2012: