Catalogue of policing scandals that shame the two-faced Mayor of Manchester

On 6th August 2018, two retired Manchester police officers, Peter Jackson and Maggie Oliver, and one serving officer, Paul Bailey, met with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and the Deputy Mayor, Beverley Hughes. Also present in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) HQ were Deputy Director of Policing, Clare Monaghan and policy adviser, Kevin Lee.

The purpose of the meeting was for the police officers, past and present, to provide extensive disclosures of alleged wrongdoing by the senior leadership team of Greater Manchester Police. Most of those disclosures either directly concerned the chief constable, Ian Hopkins, or could be tracked back to him via vicarious liability or his role as a very much hands-on, directing mind.

When that meeting was eventually brought, after thirteen months of prevarication by the Mayor, he told the whistleblowers that he ‘only had an hour’. He was asked by Peter Jackson, in that moment, if he could quote the Mayor’s position as: ‘You only had an hour to discuss the rape and abuse of kids, the deaths of police officers, the deaths of members of the public, a corrupt police command team etc…’. The response of Andy Burnham was: “No, no no, this is just the first meeting, the first of many”.

But Jackson had formed the distinct view that all Burnham wanted to do, at that time, was to escape the room, escape the meeting, escape the challenges of the three whistleblowers. He really didn’t want to hear what they were saying and, of course, there has been no further meetings between Mayoral team and the whistleblowers, no further discussions. Not an email, a phone call. Nothing.

Beverley Hughes, a long term political crony of Burnham, was upbraided during the meeting, and afterwards, over face-pulling, negative body language and generally dismissive attitude. Kevin Lee played on his phone virtually throughout. Abuse victims and bereaved families will be horrified to hear of such grotesque conduct by those charged with safeguarding them and their loved ones. For his part, Burnham never once challenged their behaviour. Which is a measure of how weak he is behind the public-facing bravado.

Another is the fact that it took Burnham almost nine months before he finally responded to the very serious issues raised in that meeting. Despite, during that time, repeated email requests from the whistleblowers asking what action was being taken over the large amount of information passed over and the numerous ancillary issues raised in the arbitrarily allocated time of one hour.

Peter Jackson has this opening message to the Mayor: “It is clear that you have no desire to properly investigate the whistleblower complaints about GMP’s chief constable, and other senior officers, and no desire to hold him to account for the many scandals and failings that we have brought to your attention. These either directly relate to him, or have occurred in Greater Manchester Police on his ‘watch’.

“How can you defend your actions when myself, Maggie, Paul [and Scott Winters] are all such credible witnesses? We have over 100 years of exemplary police service in GMP between us. We have unrivalled insight into what goes on in GMP, gained from our first hand experiences, from our extensive networks of friends, colleagues and acquaintances built up over all those years. We have information sources that go to every corner and every level of the organisation, yet you are very keen to discount and ignore what we say.

“Maggie [Oliver] is one of the country’s best known whistleblowers; the driving force behind the BBC’s real-life drama series ‘Three Girls‘ and BBC documentary ‘The Betrayed Girls‘. Referred to as emotionally unstable by Sir Peter Fahy when she was a serving officer trying to expose the ‘grooming gangs’ scandal, her character besmirched by his colleagues and, yet, despite that smearing, which continues to present day, she is now a nationally respected voice on child sexual exploitation. Along with Sarah Champion MP and abuse survivors’ advocate, Sammy Woodhouse, she is, arguably, one of the most influential persons in the UK in putting the scandal of Pakistani grooming gangs firmly on the political agenda.

“Paul, a highly experienced serious crime career detective and now in his 30th year of service, was for many years the Chair of GMP’s Black and Asian Police Association (BAPA) and is, again, a nationally respected figure in that role.

“I completed 31 years’ service in GMP, was a senior officer and Head of GMP’s Major Incident Team.

“We are not alone; we are aware of many others who have complained to you about what is going on in GMP. We, personally, have provided you with extensive information and evidence about factual events and yet you treat us with utter disdain. Why is that? Is it that you and the Deputy Mayor are too close to Ian Hopkins?

“I count at least 21 different issues, or what I would describe as 21 scandals, that you catalogue within your response letter. All factual incidents that relate to serious failings and serious misconduct. All that have occurred under the watch of the present chief constable.

“The [alleged] lies, the deceit, the cover ups. the endemic senior officer misconduct, the fact that assistant chief constable after assistant chief constable [Steven Heywood, Rebekah Sutcliffe, Terry Sweeney] has left the force in disgrace, should surely raise serious questions about the present state of Greater Manchester Police, the leadership of the chief constable and the infected culture that cascades down from the top of the force through to the federated ranks. Another, Garry Shewan, did a ‘moonlight flit’ when the sky fell in on the catastrophic Integrated Operational Policing System (iOPS) technology project. Now set to be one of the biggest policing scandals in recent times after featuring as lead story on ITV Granada Reports (view 7 minute clip here).

“Please be assured that myself, Maggie and Paul, assisted by other whistleblowers and former and serving officers, will continue to hold you, Beverley Hughes and Clare Monaghan to account for dereliction in your duties, in failing to hold the chief constable to account”.

Devastating though it is, the statement of Peter Jackson, as one might expect of a renowned murder detective, is carefully and fully documented. The Mayor’s office, by contrast, is becoming notorious for its haphazard record-keeping and absence from its sparsely-populated website of specified information that should be published under the applicable elected policing body regulations. The office is a shambles at every level visible to either the public, or through the keener eye of an investigative journalist.

This is the genuinely shocking catalogue of scandals that were highlighted by the whistleblowers, and contemptuously dismissed by Andy Burnham, in his much delayed response dated 18th April, 2019. The citizens of Greater Manchester, who fund their regional police force, and the wider public with even a passing interest in the safety and security of those close to them, can now judge whether the train and tram-obsessed Burnham is discharging one of his primary functions as Mayor: To hold the chief constable of the region’s police force to account – effectively, efficiently and with the necessary level of rigour.

1. Operation Poppy – an IPCC (now IOPC) investigation into Peter Jackson’s whistle blower disclosures.

(i) Operation Nixon

A senior GMP officer, Dominic Scally, allowed a dangerous violent paedophile to take a child into a house, and remain there for over two hours, whilst under police surveillance, and stopped his officers from safeguarding the child. Officers under Scally’s command were outraged. GMP PSB, directed by senior leaders, took no disciplinary action against him.

At the conclusion of the IPCC investigation, Peter Jackson met with Sarah Green, the Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, as she was then. He saw her face glow red with embarrassment when he asked searching, but perfectly fair, questions over the outcome she had signed off. He asked, “Would it have been gross misconduct if it had been your son? Would it have been gross misconduct if the paedophile had killed the child whilst police watched?”.  Jackson reports that she couldn’t wait to get out of the room and end the meeting. In much the way that Andy Burnham closed down the whistleblower meeting at GMCA.

(ii) Dale Cregan and the deaths of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes

That same officer, Dominic Scally, who had little, if any, homicide investigation experience, and in full knowledge of his failings on Op Nixon, was placed by GMP Command in charge of the Mark Short murder (Dale Cregan case). Jackson, a very experienced and efficient murder detective, warned at the time that such actions were placing the public and officers at risk. Whilst Scally was leading that investigation, Short’s father and two police officers were murdered. Jackson highlighted the numerous failings in that investigation. He now asks: “Does that not require review, or judicial inquiry, especially given the utterly damning Grainger public inquiry report? Especially, given that two young, female police officers lost their lives? Very arguably, preventable deaths?”

(iii) North West Counter Terrorism Unit

Scally was promoted to Head of Intelligence in the North West Counter Terrorism Unit and in February and March 2017, Jackson raised concerns with Chief Constable Hopkins via emails, about his ability and others in Command of the NWCTU to keep the people of Manchester safe. Within two months Manchester Arena was suicide bombed. A coincidence? Did Jackson have a crystal ball? Was Salman Ramadan Abedi a GMP covert human intelligence source (CHIS) or registered informant, as some informed sources suggest?

ACC Rebekah Sutcliffe and ACC Steve Heywood were the two consecutive Heads of the NWCTU, and both left GMP in shame amidst nationally-known scandal. ACC Heywood the subject of humiliating criticism over Grainger, astonishingly avoided prosecution and yet to face a much-delayed gross misconduct hearing. GMP has primacy for the NWCTU. The problems and scandals that have infested GMP Command have consequently led to dysfunctional leadership in the NWCTU and at what cost? Bearing in mind what the Mayor now knows about his antecedents, the issue of whether Dominic Scally was an appropriate appointment to head up the NWCTU intelligence function is a matter of high public concern. Particularly, given what has followed.

Everything about Operation Nixon, the Cregan investigation and subsequent NWCTU promotions was flawed and, yet, since the Mayor/whistlebower meeting in August, 2018, Scally has, incredibly, been promoted again. He now heads up the NWCTU under the overall command of his long-term ally and supporter, Russ Jackson, a senior officer who had not attained the substantive rank of ACC at the time of his own promotion, and who has failed at the Senior Police National Assessment Centre twice, where necessary competencies are Serving the Public. • Leading Strategic Change. • Leading the Workforce. • Managing Performance. • Professionalism. • Decision Making. • Working with Others. In which of these is Russ Jackson (no relation to Peter) deficient according to PNAC? Can public confidence be maintained in these circumstances, given the legacy issues from the previous NWCTU leadership?

(iv) Shipman body parts scandal

Senior police officers secretly disposed of body parts without consulting the victim’s families in the face of strong objections of the Force Coronial Officer at the time. His protestations were ignored. He was present at a meeting when questions were raised about how they might deal with future requests under the Freedom of Information Act, which could reveal what they had done.  The same Coronial Officer witnessed Simon Barraclough, recent recipient of the Queens Police Medal, suggest that all documentation be burned to stop people finding out what had happened.

“Another shocking example of GMP operating in an unethical, unprofessional and unlawful way; a secretive manner, covering up their actions. Their motives? To avoid negative publicity, reputational damage and, most importantly, avoid damage to their own careers”, says Peter Jackson.

(v) Unauthorised bugging of police premises and Operation Oakland armed robbery incident.

A senior officer at the rank of temporary superintendent, Julian Snowball, bought covert recording equipment via the internet, then (unlawfully) repeatedly entered the office of his Divisional Commander in Wigan, C/Supt Shaun Donnellan, and the office of another senior leadership team member, DCI Howard Millington, and inserted covert surveillance equipment, subsequently and secretly recording months of private conversations.

This behaviour clearly constituted gross misconduct. The ‘spy’ was, however, a crony of ACC Terry Sweeney. Snowball had admitted to Peter Jackson that he was ‘one of Terry’s boys’, treated very favourably as a result and kept his job in the police. The disciplinary investigation was irregular. The outcome was only a written warning, followed by a posting to a detective position he coveted, close to his home.

T/Supt Snowball had almost no front line detective experience, yet was placed as the most senior detective at Stockport. He subsequently headed up a policing operation, codenamed Oakland, where he allowed violent armed robbers to commit an attack on licensed premises that were under police surveillance at the time, and where he stopped his officers intervening to ‘protect the victims’. Snowball also unlawfully changed details on a warrant after it had been granted. This officer was allowed to take a career break without facing disciplinary action, until the whistleblowing disclosures were made to the IPCC.

As rehearsed earlier, Jackson met with the IPCC Deputy Chair Sarah Green at the conclusion of the Poppy investigations. On this particular topic he asked her, “Would it have been gross misconduct if the armed robbers had killed someone in the pub whilst the police watched?”

“As with the Op Nixon questions, I saw her face colour bright red. She didn’t answer the question”.

The IPCC returned the bugging incident disclosures to GMP and, Jackson asserts, didn’t complete their gross misconduct investigation.

In his April, 2018 letter dismissing the disclosures of the whistleblowers, Mayor Burnham relies on the thoroughness of the IPCC investigation to give GMP a clean bill of health regarding the bugging and armed robbery incidents. Yet appears to have forgotten that he was a ferocious critic of the same IPCC over their Orgreave investigation, carried out in much the same timeframe (read more here). Burnham also overlooks the fact that Jackson was the whistleblower, a very experienced and highly regarded murder detective, and is a first hand witness.

Conversely and perversely, the IPCC deployed inexperienced and unimpressive officers with no recognised detective credentials (PIP1 or PIP2). As one might expect, Peter Jackson takes this unvarnished view: “As an organisation, they do not know how to secure evidence, or how to investigate senior police officers impartially. They act with deference to them. The IPCC’s Senior Investigating Officer was Dan Budge, taking over from a deputy position whilst the original SIO was on sick leave. He was a very inexperienced investigator who had to admit to me he had never prepared a criminal case file, or even been to court. Many colleagues reported back to me about being interviewed by very young, new to the IPCC, investigators. One witness, a very experienced DCI, told me he actually had to show the IPCC investigator how to take a witness statement.

There is in existence, of course, as now revealed in a front page article in The Times newspaper, a tape recording of Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, at a meeting with other senior GMP officers, saying he thought the IPCC were ‘abysmal and incapable of conducting a thorough investigation’ yet ironically both Burnham and Hopkins now rely heavily, and frequently, on ‘the IPCC have conducted a thorough investigation’ to defend themselves and the failings of other members of the GMP Command Team.

Irrespective of the well catalogued and wider inadequacies of the IPCC (now IOPC), the incidents they investigated still happened. Reflecting badly, and bringing shame and substantial reputational damage onto both Greater Manchester Police, the Mayor’s office and the wider police service.

2. The questionable purchase of ACC Heywood’s house by the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The background to this complaint is the purchase of Steven Heywood’s house on the perceived threat that a small-time criminal, who went on to murder two police officers, was going harm him. The whistle blowers assert, with confidence, that the alleged threat to ACC Heywood’s house was, at its highest, temporary; it only came to light after Cregan was in prison on remand. He was held as a Category A prisoner. When spoken to in prison by psychiatrists, and other specialists, Cregan said he had gone to Bury Police Station to look for ACC Heywood, and to shoot him as he was angry about the harassment and treatment of his family. He had seen Heywood on the news as the figurehead of the investigation. ACC Heywood however had no connection to that station and Cregan soon realised it was a pointless plan. As he had no idea how to find him, he decided ‘just to kill any cops’ instead. That led to the murders of Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, following which he handed himself in.

The threat to Heywood had been momentary. It was not a real or present danger at the time of the house sale. The supposed threat was hidden from the purchasers of the house who were, understandably, outraged when they discovered the truth. The expenditure hidden in subsequent police accounts.

The ‘briefing’ relied on by Andy Burnham to exonerate the GMP Command Team, and ex-PCC Tony Lloyd, was provided by those with a clearly vested interest. The actions surrounding the Heywood house purchase would not stand up to the slightest external scrutiny and have not been properly investigated. The superintendent in charge of GMP Covert Policing told the Command Team at the time that, ethically and professionally, they couldn’t do what they were doing with the house sale and purchase. Burnham’s willingness to accept, at face value, anything told, or provided to him, by GMP Command highlights his lack of desire to investigate matters, robustly, independently and thoroughly, to establish the truth and properly hold CC Hopkins to account.

3. Incident involving ACC Rebekah Sutcliffe at the Senior Women in Policing 2016 Conference – ‘Titgate’ or ‘Boobgate’

ACC Sutcliffe was drunk at the event, and bullied, harangued a junior officer over a lengthy period – and then publicly exposed one of her breasts. That is well rehearsed in the public domain. But the extent of her drunkenness, perhaps, less so; she was very highly intoxicated.

It was a national event to highlight and promote the work of senior female officers in policing. Sutcliffe’s actions brought huge negative publicity, discredited the event and brought shame on herself and GMP.

Chief Constable Hopkins was present on the night and saw the increasingly drunken behaviour of his Command Team colleague. He failed to take charge of the incident and, instead, left early, leaving a junior officer to attempt to deal with Sutcliffe.  His failure to take control of the incident, and deal with the matter himself, could be argued as a lack of moral courage and necessary leadership. What cannot be argued against is that his inaction subsequently led to what was very widely reported as the ‘Titgate’ or ‘Boobgate’ incident in the media.

This was in the early hours of Sunday morning, she reported for duty that morning at Police HQ as duty Gold and, of course, Head of NWCTU. She cannot, conceivably, have been fit for duty. Hopkins must have known this by the state she was in. Yet, he did nothing.

Hopkins was, subsequently, made aware of what happened after he left the event – and was going to do nothing at all about the incident. No sanction against Sutcliffe, not even ‘words of advice’ for conduct that, on any independent view, was gross misconduct. He, eventually, had to take action when details of the incident was revealed on several social media platforms, one week later, and picked up from there by alert newspaper reporters.

ACC Sutcliffe should have been dismissed for gross misconduct. The fact that she wasn’t appears to be connected to an investigation carried out on behalf of Hopkins, by Durham Constabulary, that did not, seemingly, go where the evidence should have taken them. Other incidents, at least one where excess alcohol, and abuse of her rank, was a feature at another high profile event, and Sutcliffe had discredited the force. There was no finding by Durham that Hopkins was largely responsible for the escalation of the incident at the women’s policing event, after the point when he should have ordered Sutcliffe off the hotel premises, ensured her access to alcohol was cut off, and denied her access to police premises until she was sober. A point not lost on the Chair of the subsequent disciplinary hearing, Rachael Cernow QC.

After the disciplinary hearing, Hopkins said Sutcliffe was undeployable in GMP and she was subsequently placed into a senior position at Oldham council on secondment, funded by GMP, later taking the job full time on a salary in excess of £120,000. More than she was paid as a police officer.

This ‘rewarding’ of an ACC for gross misconduct is something not lost on the rank and file, and it is why the GMP Command Team are held in such contempt by many of the officers they lead.

The investigation report following the Durham investigation into Sutcliffe has never been published, despite the massive public interest in the matter.

4. Child Sexual Explotation, Operations Augusta and Span, Pakistani Grooming Gangs.

Now one of the most respected commentators and authors on child sexual exploitation, former GMP detective, Maggie Oliver, very recently heard from the Burnham CSE inquiry for the first time in well over a year. She has little confidence in either the Mayor, those involved in it, or the process itself.

She says, with justifiable force: “I spent several hours talking to the Burnham Review team in 2017, and made it crystal clear to them that as the only senior officer still in post who had failed CSE victims in 2004/5, when he was head of GMP Child Protection Unit, I considered that the buck stopped with Steve Heywood – and he should be held accountable.

“Unsurprisingly the Review team chose not to to speak to him about the disclosures I had made and allowed him to retire unchallenged, over a year later. This is a complete disgrace.

Maggie concludes: “Judgement as to what their findings will be is reserved, as I haven’t yet been given sight of the full Review and no date has been given for publication”

The last ‘deadline’ for publication of the Review, emanating from the Mayor’s office, was ‘end of March, 2019’. At the present rate of progress, Spring 2020 looks a reasonable guess. An agonising, and unnecessary wait for victims, witnesses and campaigners.

In Peter Jackson’s disclosures to the IPCC, he alleged that [Name redacted], GMP’s Force Review Officer at the time, had re-written, or was a party to the re-writing of a critical report that reviewed GMP Command’s approach to CSE in Rochdale. It is alleged that process involved nine separate revisions, after the original authors refused to amend their report. The Review Officer’s brief from senior officers was to cover up the criticisms and initial findings, which had reported that GMP had prioritised volume crime over the rape and abuse of children. It has emerged that at least one other senior female officer, [Name redacted] was involved with what might best be termed as historical revisionism.

As Maggie Oliver explains, ACC Heywood was again involved in another dreadful scandal. Interviewed on TV, he denied there was a cultural issue at play in the grooming gangs phenomon.

Jackson has offered to provide, in confidence, details of witnesses to this grotesque ‘cover up’ who can assist the Burnham CSE inquiry. But is still waiting to hear from the Mayor, or the inquiry team, so that the necessary protections can be put in place and arrangements made for an Available Best Evidence (ABE) interview.

5. Inappropriate relationship between ACC and junior officer.

ACC [Redacted] was the senior officer involved in the inappropriate relationship. The other officer involved was Temporary DI [Redacted]. Her husband, [Redacted] was at that time a temporary DCI. He had just failed his promotion assessment in GMP to substantive chief inspector. He kept his own counsel, didn’t create a fuss and then succeeded in gaining a double promotion to Cheshire Police, jumping two ranks to become a detective superintendent. Thus enabling a departure from the Force and avoiding embarrassment all round in the workplace. Ms [Redacted] was promoted to inspector during the currency of her relationship with ACC [Redacted].

The relationship was known to a large number of rank and file GMP officers and, again, contributes to their very negative view of the Command Team. The Mayor was invited to make a short phone call to CC Hopkins to confirm the facts, ask why this situation was tolerated and to enquire into the merits of the promotions, as opposed to their personal, or political, expedience. It appears that, from his written response to the whistleblowers, Andy Burnham has opted not to do so.

6. Complaints referred back to GMP by IPCC rather than be subjected to external scrutiny.

Following earlier whistleblower disclosures to the IPCC (now IOPC), there were several incidents referred back to GMP for investigation, including the cronyism, nepotism and promotion scandals, the Cregan investigation and a Major Incident Team being called out to deal with the domestic incident involving Supt [Name Redacted] (see para 10 below).

Andy Burnham in his assessment of more recent whistleblower disclosures makes no reference to GMP or what actions may, or may not, have taken on these matters. Peter Jackson asserts that Burnham’s willingness ‘to be satisfied’ that matters have been concluded, without any independent investigation or scrutiny, simply highlights his lack of desire to lift the stones and scrutinise the many misconduct, leadership failings and properly hold the chief constable to account.

7. The Metropolitan Police Peer Review of GMP PSB

It is, by now, well rehearsed that Ian Hopkins misled his officers, and the public, by purporting to have commissioned an in-depth investigation into GMP’s Professional Standards Branch by the Metropolitan Police Service. This was in response to numerous complaints and repeated negative media stories about GMP PSB. The so called six-week review consisted of a visit to the Force by four Met officers and was completed within 24 hours.  The senior officer in that group described his role as a ‘critical friend’ of GMP. None of the issues raised about the alleged PSB corruption were investigated or even lightly addressed. Or even discussed in the pre-planning for the visit. The Met involvement was nothing more than a ‘tick in the box’ exercise that Hopkins could point to and say, ‘Well, the Met have been in and scrutinised PSB. They found nothing wrong’.

Journalist Neil Wilby has investigated this scandal via a number of FOI requests and reported extensively on it. Read more here.

Post peer-review, the scandals surrounding GMP PSB and its closely associated Legal Services Department continue, Peter Jackson claims he is a victim, as does DC Paul Bailey, retired Inspector Scott Winters and a host of others. Jackson describes GMP PSB as “the Command Team’s Praetorian Guard, there to protect senior officer reputations, limit reputational damage to the force, cover up and shut down damaging complaints and pursue, vendetta-style, those who seek to challenge and expose failings within the force”.

8. Operation Holly

Holly was a five year investigation into money laundering, and a serious organised crime group which included one of Manchester’s most infamous criminals, the now deceased Paul Massey. ‘Mr Salford’, as Massey was known, was murdered by a hitman from a rival gang. A strong evidential case had been built up during that period. Numerous reports, and specific allegations, of senior GMP officer corruption were also received by detectives during the investigation. The money laundering against the serious criminals was, subsequently, dropped and no charges were brought. All the detectives involved on the case were outraged by the senior management decision to abandon the investigation and prosecution.

The total costs of the investigation are estimated at £10 million. Peter Jackson knows all the officers on the case. It is common knowledge amongst those officers that the case was dropped because the prosecuting counsel had informed GMP Command Team that the case could not proceed unless all the corruption allegations were fully investigated. GMP Command chose to drop the case, rather than investigate the allegations against its own officers. This, by necessity, would have involved another force or the National Crime Agency.

The Times newspaper has reported on this matter, extensively, and called for an independent inquiry into GMP. (Read more here). Despite very serious corruption allegations being received against senior police officers, the Mayor and his Deputy allowed GMP to investigate itself which rode against the Police Reform Act and Statutory Guidance (and natural justice). The investigation was only requested by Burnham and Hughes after Jackson had raised the issue and The Times had reported on the case.

Jackson concludes: “You (Burnham) repeatedly rely on briefings by the chief constable, and investigations into itself by GMP, to give the force a clean bill of health. Such actions clearly lack integrity or transparency and are, quite frankly, shameful”.

9. Incident during DC Paul Bailey Employment Tribunal proceedings involving alleged malpractice by a GMP lawyer

Peter Jackson was contacted by a witness who asserted that a GMP solicitor [Name redacted] sought to have the Senior Investigating Officer in Operation Holly make a false statement about Detective Constable Paul Bailey in support of GMP’s defence at an Employment Tribunal Hearing brought by the serious crimes detective.

DC Bailey was present when the whistleblowers met the Mayoral entourage in August, 2018. In the months that followed the meeting, not one single member of  Burnham’s team, or the Mayor himself, made any further contact, sought to conduct any further enquiries or launched an investigation into this matter. This is not an isolated incident. says Jackson: “Several others have raised similar issues with you (Burnham) concerning alleged criminal conduct, or alleged gross misconduct, involving GMP PSB and/or Legal Services”.

In Burnham’s response letter, eight months after the only meeting with the whistleblowers, he says he will take appropriate action if the name of the witness is supplied. He offers no protection for the witness, or explanation as to how his/her anonymity would be preserved, fails to disclose whether a severity assessment has been conducted, does not reveal how the matter would be investigated and, particularly, if this would be another police force, statutory body, or member of the Bar or judiciary, rather than GMP, leading it.

The actions, or rather inaction, of Burnham and weak, defensive response to the entirety of the Jackson whistleblower disclosures, and those of others, have engendered genuine mistrust. The perceived closeness of his relationship with the chief constable, and lack of desire to thoroughly investigate the Force does nothing to undermine that proposition. The whistleblowers say, perfectly reasonably, that they need concrete assurances before putting their witness at risk of reprisals from the GMP Command Team.

10. Major Incident Team attending domestic dispute between Superintendent and wife

A Major Incident Team was deployed to deal with a domestic incident involving Superintendent [Name Redacted] and his wife. The domestic argument arose around the allegedly prolific extra-marital sexual activity of the senior officer, involved threats from his wife to go to the media, a scratch on Mr [Name redacted]’s finger, the arrest of his wife for common assault and the search of her home address. The MIT Team was deployed at the request of senior officers. Peter Jackson has spoken to the elite officers who were turned out on the night and, as a result, has extensive knowledge of the incident.

Jackson says: “Why wasn’t this incident dealt with by neighbourhood police? Why was a murder team turned out? How could a search of premises be justified? Who authorised the arrest of the wife? Which senior officers were involved? I know; the ones who run as a thread throughout my disclosures. It is an abuse of powers and authority. A grotesque misuse of police resources”.

“This incident provides yet another window into the broken and rotten cultures at play in GMP. The secrecy, cover ups, lies. The cronyism, the cliques, the misconduct. the wrongdoing. The two-tier system of response from the Professional Standards Branch: Those well connected are treated favourably, wrongdoing overlooked, their actions minimised, examples include Rob Potts, Dominic Scally, Julian Snowball, [Officer involved in DV incident – Name Redacted]. Whereas those not in cliques, not well connected, or who have invoked the wrath of Command are dealt with disproportionately. Examples include John Buttress, Mo Razaq, Rick Pendlebury (both high profile with mass media coverage), Paul Bailey, Scott Winters, Clara Williams, Maria Donaldson, Lee Bruckshaw and myself”.

“Chief Constable Ian Hopkins is well aware of all these matters and I also provided this same information to the IPCC. They returned it to GMP to investigate themselves.

“What has happened since? Nothing”.

11. GMP Professional Standards Branch (PSB) – Group think, toxic, defensive culture.

Over the past few years, there has been many negative news stories and TV broadcasts featuring the troubled and widely derogated PSB. Alleged witch-hunts against such as Chief Inspector John Buttress, Inspector Mo Razaq, Sergeant Rick Pendlebury, Chief Inspector Clara Williams, Chief Superintendent Lee Bruckshaw, Chief Inspector Maria Donaldson, Detective Inspector Andy Aston, Detective Constable Paul Bailey, Inspector Scott Winters, Inspector Laura Escott, Superintendent Jane Little and, of course, Peter Jackson, to name but a few, have also sapped morale within the force and public confidence in those running it.

For example, the grotesquely disproportionate response, expenditure and resources deployed over the John Buttress case, on any independent view, was an outrage. Especially when other misadventures, many much more serious, are deliberately minimised, or dispensed with, by the same PSB. It spawned a BBC Inside Out programme, produced by Neil Morrow and presented by the late and much lamented Dianne Oxberry, and Judith Moritz, that embarassed and enraged the Command Team (view programme here), as did a similarly explosive BBC File on 4 broadcast, extraordinarily titled “Bent Cops”.

Similarly, the resources and seemingly bottomless public funds deployed against Rick Pendlebury was another outrage. Operation Ratio spawned numerous employment tribunals all of which GMP lost. against the investigators and investigated. Jackson asks with considerable and justifiable force; “How much has it cost in legal fees defending the claims and in damages paid out? How much did the Op Ratio investigation cost? This case is a scandal. All for a £25 shoplifting incident. How many hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds has Op Ratio cost? As clear an example of a vexatious, obsessive, oppressive response, from within a police force, as you would find. Accompanied, of course, by reckless spending of huge sums of public money”.

Concerns over Paul Bailey’s case is referenced above at para 10, and recent disclosures by Scott Winters, to the IOPC, are alarming. With PSB officers, aided and abetted by senior officers and legal services, prepared to falsify and/or delete records in order to advance their case in tribunal proceedings, or subsequently seek to defend those actions when later challenged. Yet another case that warrants an urgent independent criminal investigation.

12. Victimisation of Peter Jackson as a police whistleblower

Peter Jackson has this to say about his own experiences:

“I suffered victimisation, was investigated by PSB and secretly referred to the IOPC for my involvement in detecting the perpetrator who assaulted, and nearly killed, my son in Manchester city centre. Did my actions warrant disciplinary investigation, and referral to the IPCC (now IOPC), simply because I expressed my disappointment at having to find evidence myself to identify the serial violent criminal, following a neglectful police investigation.

“Complaints about my treatment following my son’s assault were whitewashed by GMP PSB.

“The adverse referral to the IPCC was uncovered inadvertently, via a data subject access request surrounding my whistleblowing, This contrasts sharply with many other much more serious misconduct, or criminality, that is not referred to the watchdog. Even when there is a mandatory requirement to do so.

“What I allege to be subsequent victimisation and constructive dismissal, at the hands of Russ Jackson, Rebekah Sutcliffe, Ian Pilling and Ian Hopkins, is now the subject of Employment Tribunal proceedings against GMP. The listing of the hearing of the claim has now been delayed until April 2020, almost three years after it was lodged. GMP Command having employed their usual obstructive, underhand and delaying tactics, for the past two years, using the public purse as a bottomless pit.

“And what of the serious consequences for the high-profile Operation Leopard investigation which I had been leading at the time? The negative impact my treatment, and departure from the investigation, had on bringing the leaders of two of Manchester’s most dangerous and violent organised crime groups to justice?

“I had made a major breakthrough, as reported in the media (read more here), arresting the leader of the notorious Salford A Team, equipped with a loaded firearm, and stopping him killing the leader of the rival Anti A Team. Both major targets for GMP. The case against Stephen Britton, who was caught red handed, was dropped after my premature departure from the force.

13. Morale and staff survey

Peter Jackson was ‘tipped off’, by one of his many reliable sources within the force, about a visit to the Mayor’s office by Ian Hopkins, and a Professor from Durham University, with the results of a GMP staff survey the chief constable had commissioned. The survey was weighted towards new recruits, excited at joining the police and with few, if any, negative experiences of ‘the job’ in their early months of service. It gave Hopkins and the Command Team the results they wanted. An improving picture of morale.

“It doesn’t reflect the true landscape and the contempt in which the Command Team are held by many rank and file officers”, says Jackson. “A picture those longer in service have gleaned from seeing repeated senior officer misconduct and misapplication of resources”.

“For example, ACC Sutcliffe exposed for ‘Titgate’, keeping her job despite being found guilty of gross misconduct, then being rewarded with a better paid job at Oldham Council.

“ACC Heywood ‘retiring’ after being exposed lying, and altering his policy book post-incident, in the Grainger public inquiry. The subject of damning criticism by Judge Teague in his recently released Inquiry report. Heywood went on sick leave the day after he gave evidence at the Inquiry, and never returned to work, costing the taxpayer a six figure sum.

“He was portfolio holder of NWCTU. The force has refused to say who was in charge in Heywood’s absence, at home drawing full salary, when the Manchester Arena was bombed two months later

“ACC Sweeney also receiving damning criticism. having left the Force in shame after the Shipman revelations

“Experienced officers, longer in service, being fully aware of the many integrity questions around the PSB, all the adverse findings at ETs, all the operational failings, are sickened by these scandals. By contrast, new recruits are wide eyed learning the job. They are almost completely unaware of any of the scandals. The survey that Hopkins, and now Andy Burnham, relies upon does not reflect an accurate picture and would not stand the slightest scrutiny.

“Another glaring example of how easily Burnham is hoodwinked by the very officer he is charged with holding to account” Jackson concludes, and not without justification. The Mayor looks, increasingly, as though he is as easily schooled as a fourth form pupil taking lessons from the headmaster. When the roles should, actually, be in reverse. Burnham appears to have forgotten that he has the power to hire and fire chief constables, not constantly suck up to the sub-standard one presently deployed in the Greater Manchester region.

14. Local Policing Review

This new policing model saw the introduction of a different shift pattern; changes to the  neighbourhood team model; the dismantling of the well-established, effective and efficient main office CID [Criminal Investigation Department] function; detectives working with PCSOs; frontline patrol officers reduced to a small number of response officers.

Yet, Andy Burnham claims, in his April, 2019 response to the whistleblowers’ meeting, that he has no knowledge of the Local Policing Review issues and needs evidence of its alleged failings. This recent article in his local newspaper might give the hapless Mayor some clues (read more here)? The headline is a give away: “Has Greater Manchester gone soft on crime?”. The reporter centres on how criminals are ‘laughing’ at the police and victims of crime virtually abandoned, even those with compelling evidence, often gathered themselves in the absence of any investigative support from GMP.

The response of the force within that article, by Superintendent Andy Sidebotham, is by way of an obvious untruth about the availabilty, delivery of evidence in a specific case concerning a £10,000 caravan theft. Filmed in its entirety by the victim’s own CCTV and published on the newspaper’s own website just four days after the incident. Weeks later, Sidebotham claims that none of the three emails sent to the force by the victim, and bearing the CCTV file, had been received and, presumably, no-one in GMP’s Salford Division reads the Manchester Evening News.

Peter Jackson expresses his incredulity over Burnham’s response to the LPR crisis: “Surely as Mayor, and surely your Deputy, statutorily charged with setting the policing plan and budget, are fully aware of the Local Policing Review? A model that has been an unmitigated disaster and I simply cannot believe you have not been briefed on its failings by the chief constable in your regular meetings”.

He continues: “Over the years I saw lots of unnecessary changes brought to GMP, with many millions of pounds wasted on vanity projects by senior officers trying to advance their careers. However, none more so than CC Hopkins signing off the LPR model.

“In the whistleblowers meeting with the Mayor, I described the changes to CID as tantamount to corporate vandalism and seriously undermining the investigative capabilities of the police force. And at what financial cost? How many millions to implement all the changes?

Jackson concludes with another broadside: “The result – a system that doesn’t work and after years of trying to force a failing model to succeed we now have acceptance of reality and Operation Ergo is seeing the return to the policing model we essentially had in the 1980’s”.

15. CC Ian Hopkins ‘lies’ in response to The Times paedophile story.

Following what can only be described as an attempted ‘brushing under the carpet’ of this incident by Deputy Mayor Beverley Hughes, Peter Jackson’s appeal was upheld by the IOPC after assessing her so-called ‘investigation’. As a result, Andy Burnham elected, on advice from the same IOPC, to have the matter ‘independently investigated’. The Mayor, or his advisers, chose to hand it to Durham Constabulary.

This proved to be a controversial choice and has spawned three other articles on this website. Peter Jackson says: “As you know I expressed a vote of no confidence in the Durham Senior Investigating Officer, Darren Ellis, at an early stage, but Burnham allowed him to continue, even though the SIO behaved in a totally unprofessional, defensive, biased, aggressive and belligerent manner”.

“The same SIO harshly exposed in the media over his dealings with the Loughinisland controversy (read more here).

“It, therefore, came as no surprise that the Durham investigation report was a whitewash, reeking of confirmation bias, cherry-picked evidence and a conclusion of ‘no case to answer’ for CC Hopkins. Ellis refused to interview the witnesses I identified and ignored the welter of evidence that demonstrated that CC Hopkins and ACC Russ Jackson, who was involved in drafting the statement, must have known what they said was not true.

“I did, however, note that the report also contained evidence of CC Hopkins having been advised by former PCC Tony Lloyd regarding a previous incident of apparently ‘not intentionally lying’. Repeated ‘accidental’ lying or not telling the truth to the media is certainly not a quality one would want of a Chief Constable, is it?”

16. The Grainger Inquiry

Anthony Grainger was shot by a GMP officer (anonymised ever since as Q9) whilst sat in a stationary car in Culceth, Cheshire in 2012. There were many appalling failings by the police before, during and after the killing.

Through the tenacious, relentless efforts of his partner, Gail Hadfield Grainger, and his mother, Marina Schofield, a public inquiry eventually sat in Liverpool Crown Court in 2017 to hear those circumstances and take evidence from those involved

His Honour Judge Thomas Teague QC’s damning report, published over two years later, can be read in full here.

It is a crushing condemnation of Greater Manchester Police by the Inquiry Chair. Particularly, its leadership and its specialist firearms unit. The report attracted close attention from almost every mainstream media outlet. There is little point rehearsing them again here.

In this instance Peter Jackson simply says, “As far as the whistleblower meeting with the Mayor goes it is a case of ‘res ipsa loquitur’, although if Andy Burnham wants me to point out some of the more damning comments about senior GMP officers, which I foretold during our meeting, I would be happy to assist”.

17. iOPS scandal

Presciently, the early failures and alleged cost over-runs of GMP’s were raised in the whistleblower meeting in August, 2018. One year later, almost to the day, it was the lead story on the ITV’s Granada Reports daily news broadast and a full blown scandal has developed.

Once again, Peter Jackson has strong words to say to Mayor Burnham: “I note in your response to our meeting, and my disclosures and complaints about IOPS, you seem to imply all is in order and you even take some ownership of this project, as you say ‘expenditure is monitored very closely and spend agreed… now by me or the Deputy Mayor with advice on the investment provided independent of GMP.’

“I also note in the first MEN article on the subject (read article in full here) it says there has been a ‘glitch’ and cites ‘GMP chiefs’ as saying the system is progressing well.

“The reference to ‘chiefs’ rather than ‘chief’ is interesting, as if it had been in the singular CC Hopkins would be caught in a lie again. Costs are cited at £27 million, but as you know the true figure of the project with implementation costs has to be, in reality, well in excess of an estimate first broadcast over three years ago. What’s more, I have ample evidence from many other police whistleblowers that the system is not ‘progressing well’. It has been a complete and utter disaster.

Jackson continues his attack on the Mayor: “Are you alarmed Mr Burnham? Is that enough of a scandal for you to take action? Live feedback from officers is pouring in. The Police Federation say there is a serious risk to officers and the public.

“Are you concerned about Intelligence System failures? Everyone should know of the dangers of that from the murders of PC’s Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes committed by Dale Cregan. Most recently, the intelligence failures that were exposed at the Grainger Inquiry. Also, it is well known that GMP officers went to the wrong house and killed the ‘wrong’ Jordon (Jordan) Begley.

“And what of the many other ‘glitches’? Are you waiting for a blue light call to a non-existent job to end in tragedy before you take action?

Conclusion

Peter Jackson’s conclusion on the response to his own disclosures, and those of other whistleblowers, can be summarised thus:

“Margaret Oliver, Paul Bailey and myself are three voices that represent the views and concerns of many other ex-, retired and serving officers.  After the meeting last August, we were, more or less, blanked for eight months by Mayor Andy Burnham, his Deputy, and Clare Monaghan. All three failed to positively engage with us and repeatedly resist taking serious, determined action to investigate our disclosures and complaints. All we have faced is delays, prevarication and been treated as a nuisance. The unacceptable behaviour of such as Beverley Hughes and Kevin Lee in that meeting foretold what came later.

“I would, respectfully, remind you, Mr Burnham, of some of your comments in your House of Commons speech on Hillsborough (read in full here).

  • This is a time for transparency, not secrecy

Let me turn to collusion between police and the media. The malicious briefings given in the immediate aftermath were devastatingly efficient. They created a false version of events which lingered until yesterday.

  • At many inquests today, there is often a mismatch between the legal representation of public bodies and those of the bereaved.Why should the authorities be able to spend public money like water to protect themselves while families have no such help?
  • This cover-up went right to the top.
  • This police force [South Yorkshire Police] hasn’t learned and hasn’t changed.
  • Mr Speaker, let me be clear – I don’t blame the ordinary police officers, the men and women who did their best on the day and who today are out keeping our streets safe. But I do blame their leadership and culture, which seems rotten to the core.
  • One of the lessons of Hillsborough is that there must be no arbitrary time limits on justice and accountability.
  • This is a time for transparency, not secrecy—time for the people of South Yorkshire to know the full truth about their police force.

“I agree, completely, with all the sentiments you expressed. They all apply to GMP today. Yes, it is time for the people of Greater Manchester to know the full truth about their police force.

“It is time that they also knew that their Mayor failed to take action, failed to hold the Chief Constable to account.

He signs off with a very powerful message to the Mayor: “Your failure to tackle the scandal that is Greater Manchester Police is a serious neglect of your public duties and ultimately should, if justice is served, mean that you lose your position as Mayor next May. This great city, and the wider region, deserve much better than you can provide. I, and many others associated with the police, will be actively campaigning against you both on the streets, at hustings, public meetings and on social media”.

Which means that Andy Burnham was right after all about the whistleblower meeting being the first of many. But, perhaps, not in the way he might have envisaged.

Earlier today, (12th August, 2019), senior reporter Jennifer Williams broke the mould of the Manchester Evening News exempting the Mayor and his Deputy from any critisism over failings of their regional police force. In a short, but sharply pointed, piece she sets out clearly and concisely just where she considers the democratic deficit to lie: Squarely at the feet of Andy Burnham and Beverley Hughes (read in full here).

This Neil Wilby piece,  a mammoth 8,200 words epic, might go some way to fleshing out the MEN and Jennifer’s argument.

Other scandals outside the scope of the police whistleblower disclosures

There are a series of other scandals that were not part of the Bailey, Jackson, Oliver (and Winter) disclosures to the Mayor of Greater Manchester. Associated articles have either appeared, or due to appear in the near future. It is a depressingly long list, and reveals a police force so badly run that it, in all conscience, should be placed in special measures by the Home Office and the chief constable served with a Section 38 notice.

As for the Mayor and his Deputy, they should fall on their sword and announce that neither will stand in the local regional elections next May:

(i) Industrial scale breaches of Freedom of Information Act and Data Protection Act.

(ii) Mabs Hussain promotion to Assistant Chief Constable (read here).

(iii) Spying on and reporting disabled protesters to Department of Work and Pensions.

(iv) Chief constable’s behaviour in and outside the courtroom at the Grainger Inquiry

(v) Destruction of weapons, assets following death of Ian Terry. Undertaking signed off by present chief constable, Ian Hopkins. Destruction didn’t take place until at least 2017.

(vi) Death following police contact of Jordon Begley.

 

Page last updated: Thursday 15th August, 2019 at 2105 hours

Photo Credit: Getty Images/PA/Huffington Post

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

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

When the ‘cover-up’ becomes the story

Hi, Mabs. Ian Hopkins speaking.”

So began the search for a new member of the most troubled command team in British policing. Even before the post was advertised. In footballing parlance, Chief Superintendent Maboob “Mabs” Hussain from the neighbouring West Yorkshire force (WYP) had been “tapped up”.

Hopkins, the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) chief constable, ultimately, and he thought seamlessly, secured the transfer of Mabs from a rival team across the Pennines. Even though the tapping up did cause some discomfort within the GMP command team, emails disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.

The phone call was made on the same day that Hopkins and his deputy, Ian Pilling, claim they decided that another assistant chief constable was needed to bolster their dwindling team: 19th July, 2018. But no notes in day books were made, no meeting or briefing notes, no team discussion, no decision rationale, no disclosable data at all. Just a spur of the moment, informal discussion it seems.

It also appears that the police and crime commissioner was not consulted, either, as required by law.

But, those not so minor issues apart, all seemed fine and dandy; slick dresser Mabs had got a promotion, some might say well-deserved, and a pay rise of around £40,000, including benefits; Hopkins had been able to disguise the fact that no other senior police officer in the country wanted to work for him AND he had a black minority ethic (BAME) face in his leadership team, to underscore his commitment to the police service’s obsession with diversity. Smiles and handshakes all round.

Except that Hopkins had the dubious distinction of having, at that time,  TWO disgraced assistant chief constables on long-term absence from the force, with neither expected to return. The cost to the taxpayer was around £250,000 per annum. Which, in terms the man, or woman, on the crime-riddled, poverty-stricken streets of Manchester might understand, would pay for ten bobbies on the beat. Or, more than adequately feed fifteen families of five for a year.

The first of those, ACC Steve Heywood, is presently awaiting a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after an investigation by The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC, but perhaps better known as the IPCC). The latter said, in May 2018:

“Our investigation looked at the evidence given by ACC Steven Heywood at the [Anthony Grainger] inquiry, particularly in relation to how he recorded information in his police (sic) log book.

Heywood has been dogged by other major policing scandals since his full promotion to the command team in April, 2013. He had been in a temporary ACC role for eighteen months prior. He has been absent from the force for eighteen months on full pay. Again, a six figure salary plus benefits.

On 14th November, 2018, after almost a week of rumours swirling around social media, news was released to the press, by GMP, of Heywood’s retirement. Apart from his own failings, that led, at least in part, to the needless death of Anthony Grainger, Heywood has always sought to conceal his role in the handling of notorious villain, Dale Cregan, who eventually, and tragically, shot and killed two young Manchester police officers. The subsequent, and some say, contrived, sale of Heywood’s house also developed into a murky scandal centred around whether he was at risk from Cregan, at the time locked up in the Category AA wing (known as The Cage) of Strangeways jail. The artful financial wangling was followed by the inevitable, long-running, multi-layered GMP ‘cover-up’. The troubled ACC was also Head of Public Protection in GMP for at least some of the period covered by the Rochdale grooming scandal. The vexed question of ‘who knew what’ within the police force is presently being addressed via an inquiry run by the Greater Manchester Mayor.

The infamous ‘Boobgate’ scandal claimed the second of the miscreant ACC’s: Rebekah Sutcliffe, whom many believe owes her continued, if pointless, place in the police service to the astute advocacy of John Beggs QC. Who, somehow, managed to persuade a disciplinary panel, that included Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to conclude proceedings with a written warning, rather than dismissal. A remarkable achievement, in the light of the allegations against her and a previous chequered history with the force. Sutcliffe, who infamously told colleague, Superintendent Sarah Jackson, that she would be “judged on the size of her tits” is presently seconded to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, where she is overseeing a project to encourage exercise, healthy living and healthy eating (watch short video clip here) . A demeaning ‘non-job’ costing taxpayers £109,000, plus benefits, per annum. She was reprimanded in 2010 for trying to pull rank and gatecrash a Labour party conference hotel, to attend a drinks junket, when she had no accreditation to enter the secure site. There was also an IPCC ivestigation into her failure to declare a relevant relationship with chief superintendent, Paul Rumney, when chairing a disciplinary panel. Rumney, never far from controversy himself, was Head of GMP’s Professional Standards Board at the material time, thus creating a clear conflict of interest. That neither, oddly enough, appeared to notice at the time.

49 year old Sutcliffe’s secondment to Oldham council was due to end in September, 2018, but a spokesperson for the latter recently told Police Oracle: “There is no agreed end date for the secondment at this time. Rebekah is still the Strategic Director of Reform”. GMP refused to comment on if, or when, she would be returning to the force. It is believed she has five years of police service remaining before she becomes eligible for retirement. Her biography has been deleted from the GMP chief officer team webpage.

At a time when the police service cannot give away deputy and chief constable roles, another ACC, Debbie Ford, recently secured a rare neutral-rank transfer from GMP back to her former force, Northumbria Police (read here). Having told at least one former senior colleague, retired superintendent Pete Jackson, she was uncomfortable with being associated with scandal after scandal that routinely engulfs the force. As the former murder detective wryly observes: “Challenging the unethical, unprofessional conduct of her peers was an option she might have considered, rather than heading for the exit door”. There may be other personal, or professional, reasons why Ford left GMP, of course. But, if there are, the public is in the dark. Ford joins Sarah Jackson as a GMP departee, after the latter also sought a transfer from the troubled Manchester force to the less demanding rural acres of Cumbria.

Garry Shewan was another who walked away from an ACC role in the UK’s fourth largest force, doing a ‘moonlight flit’ as GMP’s £27 million iOPS technology upgrade, for which he had portfolio responsibility, crashed and burned. The budget for the project is believed to have roughly doubled and, incredibly, Shewan claims credit for a £60 million IT project on his LinkedIn profile.. “Honest Cop” Shewan, like Heywood and Sutcliffe, had also been dogged by scandal over the previous four years as both the author of this piece, and an increasing number of well respected police whistleblowers, rounded on him and exposed a number of troubling, alleged misdemeanours. Some of them very well evidenced. In one particular case, that resulted in the controversial, and many say unjust, dismissal of a junior officer, ex chief constable Sir Peter Fahy allowed Shewan to investigate complaints about himself. They had been made by the discipline lead of the local police federation, no less. In another case, Shewan wanted to manage a conduct complaint about him outside the statutory framework and through a restorative justice process in which he was the controlling influence. He had admitted giving a misleading statement about knowledge, or otherwise, of an investigation being carried out by Fahy into another chief constable, Lincolnshire’s Neil Rhodes. The issue being that Shewan had withheld crucial information that could have significantly informed that probe. The Operation Redbone outcome was significantly flawed as a result.

Hate crime champion, Shewan, was also not slow to complain about feeling ‘harassed’ when tackled about his conduct.

Yet another Manchester assistant chief constable to head for the exit door, as trouble rained down on him, was Terry Sweeney. His retirement triggered an angry response from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC, now IOPC).  He was under investigation by the IPCC for two separate allegations, after being served with a gross misconduct notice in relation to the disposal of body parts by GMP from victims of the notorious Harold Shipman. In addition, he was served with a criminal and gross misconduct notice in respect of his role in an allegedly poorly-handled investigation into a now-convicted child sex offender, Dominic Noonan. Sweeney was also involved in the alleged ‘cover-up’ of the unauthorised bugging of offices, occupied by senior leadership team members, by Superintendent Julian Snowball, who had purchased equipment for his illegal activities on the internet. Terry Sweeney was also formerly a Commander of GMP’s Rochdale Division and is yet another part, however small, of the ‘who knew what’ police mystery concerning child sex abuse in the town.

One of Sweeney’s sycophantic clique, during this troubled period, was Detective Chief Inspector (as he was then) John Lyons, latest holder of the poisoned chalice that is Head of Ethics and Standards at troubled Cleveland Police. Lyons is remembered well by former GMP peers for a discreditable, unpleasant, early morning drunken incident in Bolton town centre, in which subordinate officers were verbally abused. Sweeney is said to have smoothed the path so that his friend faced no meaningful sanction.

The IPCC Commissioner overseeing the Sweeney investigations, said at the time: “Greater Manchester Police has informed the IPCC that ACC Terry Sweeney is retiring on 31 October, 2014. The IPCC cannot prevent that happening, but we have been assured that ACC Sweeney will cooperate with our investigations after his departure.

“A police officer resigning or retiring when they are subject to investigation does not serve anyone’s purpose and can frustrate our investigations leaving important questions unanswered. Such a practice can only be damaging to public confidence in policing. We will continue pursuing all lines of enquiry before publishing our findings and evidence so that the public can decide for themselves.”

Sweeney faced no further action. Strangely, the IPCC report can no longer be located on their website.

Against this alarming, and continuous, backdrop, Chief Constable Hopkins has also been under heavy siege for the past twelve months, as a series of national newspaper front page splashes, in depth exposés, and a call for a public inquiry, has kept both him, and his scandal-rocked force in the headlines. For all the wrong reasons, it must be said. He was also lambasted over the Boobgate scandal, and some squarely put the blame on him for not nipping Becky Sutcliffe’s drunken antics in the bar, whilst stood with her at the boozy women’s policing function. Instead he delegated that unpleasant, hazardous task to a subordinate, whilst he sloped off to enjoy another ‘freebie’ at a nearby luxury hotel (read more here). Which might readily explain why no-one wanted to work for him as an assistant chief constable and end up with a reputation tarnished in the manner of Heywood, Shewan, Sutcliffe or Sweeney. Or have to backtrack to their home force in the manner of Debbie Ford.

An independent observer might also conclude that, given the present circumstances, and sensing there may be even worse to come, you would have to be desperate to walk into that firestorm.

Nevertheless, Hussain took up the role of Assistant Chief Constable at GMP on 1st October, 2018. He was the only candidate who applied, after the approach from Hopkins, and it is said, the only candidate interviewed; although no documented evidence of such an event has been disclosed to the author of this piece, after what have been quite exhaustive enquiries: Two freedom of information requests (one each to GMP and WYP) concerning the appointment; enquiries made of both police force press offices; fairly lengthy correspondence with GMP Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Ian Pilling and one way correspondence with WYP Chief Constable, Dee Collins. Whom, it must be said, has this unappealing, unethical, unprofessional, and repeating habit of burying her head in the sand at the first sign of trouble. Particularly, when it is one of her ‘favourites’ under scrutiny. Mabs was, most certainly, in that group.

Documents disclosed by WYP under FOIA reveal the usual inconsistencies. Collins claims the matter of Mabs’ ‘tapping-up’ on 19th July, 2018 by Hopkins and subsequent application to GMP, was first discussed amongst her own command team the day after he was appointed (4th September, 2018). The only record in her day book, she says, is on that same date and a copy has been disclosed.

Yet, Collins had assisted in Mabs’ application, in early August, to the extent that, in section 11 of the application form (a blank form can be viewed here) it was required to be completed by the applicant’s chief constable, she filled it in and sent it back to Hussain, via email, with the jolly message: ‘If it is not what you want, alter it to suit’. 

No note in her day book about that event. Or, if there is, it has not been disclosed. A retired WYP command team member has revealed that, under Dee Collins’ leadership, the priority is what to EXCLUDE from notes of their meetings, rather than maintain an auditable record.

Taken at its face, and by reference to the disclosures made, so far, by both forces, Hopkins did not contact Collins. Which, given the recent history of each of those two police forces covering up for the other, and the fact that they are neighbours, with a large shared border, is difficult to contemplate.

There is no documented record, either, of Mabs contacting his own chief constable, or vice versa, after the Hopkins phone call.

The fact it was public knowledge, broadcast by Collins, no less, that Mabs was in line for the next ACC role in his home force, where he had served his entire 22 year police career, simply adds to the intrigue as to why a popular, high achieving, Bradford council estate lad made good, would take such a risk with this move to GMP.

At the time of his appointment as ACC, this is what a gushing Mabs said on the GMP website: “I’m thrilled to have been given this opportunity. I have great admiration for the work GMP has done for some time, knowing they are a similar size to WYP and respecting the way they have responded to particularly challenging times over the years. Their commitment to public service and the demands I can expect to face in my new role were all things which appealed to me to join the GMP family.”

So, let us look at this statement in more detail:

He was certainly correct about being ‘given’ the opportunity. Gift-wrapped, with a ribbon on top.

But then his fresh-from-the-strategic-command-course-sycophantic-management-speak sets the alarm bells ringing (Mabs had successfully negotiated the necessary College of Policing test six months earlier):

Firstly, he does not explain what it is he admires about GMP that places it above his former force. Both have a dreadful history of covering up industrial scale child sex abuse Rochdale, Oldham, Bradford (Mabs’ home city for all his life), Dewsbury, Keighley, Halifax, Huddersfield, Manchester Curry Mile, Mirfield. Similarly, their failures to tackle volume crime, particularly burglarly, are legion. Both have gun, and knife, crime that is out of control. Is all this ‘the [GMP] commitment to public service’ to which he refers? But, moving on, both have professional standards departments and counter-corruption units that are perennially inept, and, arguably, corrupt. Both have ACPO teams, past and present, mired in scandal. Both have chief constables that are, quite plainly, out of their depth. Both have the unenviable reputation for outrageous, high profile cover-ups. So what is it that makes GMP ‘admirable’, one has to wonder: The debacle in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing; the Operation Grantham stored body parts scandal; or a multi-million pound organised crime investigation that collapsed after allegations of police officer corruption? These three examples are drawn from a lengthy list that also includes Operations Poppy 1 and 2, and Operation Leopard, of which more will be heard in a separate articles.

Secondly, no-one who knows even a little about policing, or reads the national newspapers, or watches police documentaries on TV, or listens to radio programmes such as File on 4, could conclude anything other than, in its present form, run by Hopkins, Greater Manchester Police is a scandal-hit shambles. Perhaps Mabs, an alert thief-taker, missed all that?

Thirdly, he describes Greater Manchester Police as ‘a family’. The implication is happiness, cohesion and belonging. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a rush for the exit door into careers such as train, or tram, driver;  officers count the hours and days to retirement; morale in the force is at rock bottom says the GMP Police Federation; faith in the leadership team is correspondingly low, and, so stressed are the frontline officers with the working environment, record numbers are calling in sick. Add to that the internal strife caused by over-promotion of on-message sycophants, who have never seen an angry man; obsessive internal witch-hunts conducted against officers prepared to call out wrongdoing, and then draw your own conclusions as to whether this den of skulduggery, and two-faced-gittery, is a family of which anyone sensible would really want to newly marry into. Especially, if it means uprooting your own family from an area in which you’ve lived all your life, and leaving an organisation in which you started your career, progressed at a pleasing rate, and have always been well regarded.

For his part, and at the same time, Chief Constable Hopkins said of his new recruit: “I’m delighted to welcome Mabs to the GMP family. He is an extremely experienced officer and he will help us to continue to drive the force forward”. Over a cliff, presumably? As for police ‘family’, Hopkins is on his fourth, having previously worked in three of the smaller county forces before making the quantum leap to Manchester in 2008.  Becoming chief constable of GMP, by default, in 2015, as no-one else applied for that job, either.

As one might expect, the Manchester Evening News (MEN), in what police whistleblowers say is their adopted role as the public relations arm of GMP, ran a ‘Welcome to Mabs’ puff piece, as Hussain gave his first exclusive ‘interview’, just one day after joining the force (read full MEN article here).

Despite controversy over the appointment, broadcast widely on social media, MEN avoided asking any difficult questions. It all had the look, and feel, of a pre-planned ‘corporate comms’ operation, with softball questions, and answers, agreed in advance, to avoid any embarassing issues surfacing, inadvertently.

There was, however, one interesting passage: Mabs was, presumably, well prepared when asked this question by award-winning MEN reporter, Neal Kealing:

– Is it true you and your family get stopped routinely when you fly abroad?

“Yes. I do get stopped regularly, in particular flying to the States – my brother lives in America – and I do visit him regularly. I have been taken off a flight, because they forgot to check me getting onto a flight, which was rather embarrassing. It does frustrate me. I can understand the reason for checking people who fit a certain age group, ethnicity, and profile. But it does annoy me that it is happening so often.

“As a result I did write to Homeland Security. The Director General replied saying they couldn’t confirm or deny if I was on any international list. I have what they call a redress number, which I can use when I fly, which they say should hopefully limit the level of inconvenience caused. You have to go with the flow.

“It is frustrating. But people have a job to do. Flying out of America I still get stopped. I usually get told my name has been flagged up, and to expect some delay. I don’t mind security checks, it shows we are taking terrorism seriously.”

Even more interestingly, Mabs was not asked these questions by “Killer”, as Kealing is known to friends and colleagues:

– What, or who, persusaded you to apply to join GMP?

– Why uproot your family and leave a force where you have served all your career?

– Was the competition for the job, and the interview, tough?

– Are you concerned about the welter of bad publicity that has engulfed GMP recently, particularly in The Times and The Sunday Times, and on BBC television and radio?

– What do you think of two serving ACC colleagues being removed from the force? One of whom may be facing criminal proceedings and the other who brought national shame and ridicule on GMP and the city of Manchester.

– Are you concerned about another ACC retiring in what was, effectively, a moonlight flit after grotesquely failing on a major infrastructure project?-

– Has this poisoned chalice been handed to you?

– Have you questioned why and how the ACC vacancy arose?

– Have you spoken to ACC Debbie Ford about why she left?

– Joining from another force that has history of ‘problem’ senior officers (Norman Bettison and Mark Gilmore being very high profile examples), has this better equipped you to deal with a low calibre command team such as GMP?

– Will you robustly challenge inappropriate conduct of senior colleagues. Or look the other way, or walk away, as is the tradition in GMP?

– Were you asked in interview about the persistent allegations, circulating on social media, made by WYP whistleblowers against you?

– Have you been asked by either Mr Hopkins, or Mr Pilling, about them since you joined?

– Is there any truth in those allegations? Which include the proposition of failing counter terrorist unit vetting for a number of years.

– Were the whistleblower allegations robustly, and thoroughly, investigated by WYP, before you left, so that the air could be cleared and you could deal with any residual issues. If, indeed, there are any at all, on your application form and vetting declaration?

Whilst the MEN was giving Mabs the VIP treatment, Questions were being asked, by two investigative journalists, of the police press offices in Manchester and West Yorkshire about the allegations against Mabs. One of which, it is said, has been the subject of a complaint made by a serving WYP superintendent (also served as a detective chief inspector in professional standards for several years) and close working colleague.

Essentially, (i) have they been investigated – and (ii) what was the outcome?

Straighforward enough, and not at all unreasonable to expect honest answers from two of the country’s law enforcement agencies. But, no, all questions have been glibly deflected by both press offices, to both journalists, in a manner that seemed calculated to cause further exasperation.

Both those journalists, the author of this piece and the BBC’s Neil Morrow, readily accept that, if the wall of silence is maintained by both police forces, it is almost impossible to get to the truth of the issue of whether an investigation took place, or not. But, it can be said, with some certainty, that had one taken place, and cleared Mabs, then neither force would have been slow to trumpet that fact; discrediting the whistleblowers and those adopting their cause.

There has been email correspondence between Ian Pilling and Neil Wilby that appears to confirm that no checks have been made by GMP over the vetting issue and they had not asked, as of 14th September, 2018 any questions of WYP, at all, concerning the allegations against Mabs. The announcement of his appointment as the new GMP ACC had been made ten days earlier. The following day, 5th September, 2018, Pilling was passed, in strict confidence, correspondence between Neil Wilby, the WYP press office and Dee Collins dating back to January/February, 2018. The serving superintendent is copied into that correspondence. Which is shortly after the latest of the alleged incidents concerning Mabs. DCC Pilling cannot claim not to know the identity of that officer.

The official GMP line, says Pilling, is that if there has been any allegations concerning misconduct, during his service with WYP, then they were matters for the Appropriate Authority of that force, Chief Constable Collins, to deal with, not himself or Ian Hopkins. He was confident such an investigation would have been undertaken, but was not going to ask the question – and still hasn’t, on the evidence available. On 14th September, 2018, DCC Pilling says that he forwarded the concerns over the allegations to the West Yorkshire chief constable.

Following freedom of information request to both GMP and WYP, it appears that Ian Pilling did NOT contact Dee Collins, by email or letter, at least, to make enquiries as to whether that investigation into Mabs did, in fact take place. He didn’t contact DCC John Robins or Head of Professional Standards, Osman Khan, either. Neither did Ian Hopkins, nor his own Head of Professional Standards, Annette Anderson, contact any of the WYP officers named here.

It was also established, from the disclosure arising from those same requests, that there appears to have been no contact between any of the same three GMP senior officers and either the College of Policing or the National Police Chiefs Council, concerning Mabs’ appointment or any vetting concerns. The College’s senior selection team were made aware in January, 2018 of the whistleblower concerns, but no email correspondence between the College of Policing and either WYP, or GMP, has been disclosed upon request.

Dee Collins begins a three month secondment to the College of Policing in January, 2019.

A separate information request to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority seeking disclosure of correspondence between the de facto police and crime commissioner, Deputy Mayor of Manchester, Beverley Hughes, and her chief constable has, so far, been stonewalled.

By way of section 40 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011, the chief constable must consult the Police and Crime Commissioner (the Deputy Mayor in the case of GMCA) before appointing a person as an assistant chief constable of the force.

The response to the information request provided by the PCC is highly questionable. She claims that in respect of the appointment of deputy and assistant chief  constables, her oversight responsibility is confined to private chats between herself and the chief constable. No notes, or minutes, taken and no email traffic between the two. Indeed, no retrievable data is held says Baroness Hughes.

Material disclosed by GMP contradicts that position. Internal email correspondence between Ian Hopkins and Ian Pilling say she was sent a copy of Mabs’ application form, plus background papers, on 29th August, 2018. Put another way, the Deputy Mayor of Manchester has lied to journalist, Neil Wilby.

The stated position of the Deputy Mayor, according to her written response to the information request, has been robustly challenged. But no response had been provided by her within the required four week period under FOIA and the Information Commissioner’s guidance.

A complaint has been lodged with the Information Commissioner’s Office concerning the handling of the request, and a further complaint is being submitted to the appropriate authority alleging honesty and integrity breaches by Beverley Hughes. In this case, the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel.

Baroness Hughes, another living, breathing example of the abuse of the ‘honours’ system does, of course, have ‘previous’ for lying. Having resigned as a Labour government minister, in 2004, for doing just that – and in very similar circumstances to those prevailing here: Denying she’d received a memorandum when it was readily proved that she had not only received the document, but acted on it.

Whether, or not, it is possible to get to the truth of the WYP whistleblower allegations against Mabs Hussain is a moot point, without an unequivocal statement from either Ian Hopkins, Dee Collins, or Mabs himself. But, as with so many policing issues over the years, it is now the ‘cover-up’ that becomes the story.

In this particular case, without the ever-lengthening mystery, and the lies that inevitably follow, surrounding this matter, there simply is no story. It could have been put to bed by a two paragraph statement from WYP in February or March, 2018.

This cover-up may yet claim some very high profile scalps, even if the new GMP assistant chief constable emerges untarnished and free to get on with his new job.

The press offices of GMP, WYP and the Deputy Mayor’s Office have all declined to comment. Indeed, the latter two have not even acknowledged the request.

The enquiry to the GMP press office ends thus: “For the avoidance of doubt, and this has been made clear, previously, to DCC Pilling and WYP chief constable Collins, I [Neil Wilby] have no personal, or professional, issues with ACC Hussain. Other than the whistleblower allegations, he is known inside and outside of WYP to be a popular, professional, high achieving police officer. I am more than content for those views to be shared with Mabs.”

Statements had been specifically requested from Mabs Hussain, and Dee Collins, that directly address the issue of whether the police whistleblower allegations have been appropriately recorded, referred and subsequently investigated.

From the ensuing silence, inference can be drawn as to whether the answer is in the affirmative, or otherwise. Not one journalist or police officer, serving, ex-, or retired, spoken to believes it has.

The lay reader is invited to draw their own conclusion as to where that leaves the GMP chief constable and his latest command team recruit.

There is no ACC Maboob Hussain biography on the GMP chief officer team webpage, which was last updated on 29th October, 2018. A month after mabs joined the force (read here).

Page last updated on Saturday 24th November, 2018 at 1725hrs

Picture credit: Greater Manchester Police

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

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

Mystery of the ‘missing’ peer review

An important part of an investigative journalist’s armoury is the Freedom of Information Act, 2000. The essential principle being that public authorities, unless they can provide a good, and lawful, reason not to do so, must disclose information, upon request, by a member of the public. Or, indeed, a reporter chasing down an ‘exclusive’.

‘Public authorities’ includes police forces and policing bodies. With only one or two notable exceptions, the Act is routinely abused by the latter two.

For emphasis that is repeated, in terms: Law enforcement agencies disregard the dictates of Parliament and gang together, under the auspices of the National Police Chiefs Council, no less, to do so.

Unchallenged, it has to be said, by the very MP’s who are the country’s legislators. Or, by Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC’s) who are elected at the ballot box to provide oversight to chief constables. The latter may be connected to the fact that some PCC’s are also serial, and serious, FOI offenders. Aided and abetted by a woefully weak statutory regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and an even less efficient ‘inn of last resort’, the General Regulatory Chamber, First Tier Tribunal.

In short, policing bodies know, all too well, that there is no easy remedy if they set out to frustrate a journalist in his, or her, quest for disclosure of documents that may underpin a vital public interest exposé, or search for the truth in, for example, the case of a miscarriage of justice.

One glaring, and increasingly high profile example of police forces abusing the Act, is the matter of a ‘peer review’ that was allegedly undertaken by the Metropolitan Police Service (the Met) on behalf of the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

A peer review is a process, guided by the College of Policing, by which police forces frequently invite counterparts, and specialists, from neighbouring constabularies to evaluate their operational performance. Peer reviews, it is said, completely absent of evidence, support the principle of police interoperability, continuous improvement and information sharing.

Management-speak aside, a peer review is also a soft alternative to a robust, thorough investigation of wrongdoing in which ‘bad apples’ in police forces are plucked from the barrel and cast aside.

Shortly after his appointment as chief of the Manchester force, Ian Hopkins, trumpeted loudly about his intention to invite the Met to look into his troubled Professional Standards Board (PSB), which had been dogged by scandal after scandal over the preceding three years, or so. Including, for example, unlawful hacking of phones belonging to members of public; alteration of witness statements; failure to disclose evidence in civil and criminal court proceedings. All very topical, and serious criminal offences, to boot.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “I have asked for a peer review, by another force, to look at how the Professional Standards Branch and Counter Corruption Unit operate – and to see if there is any learning from other parts of the country about the way we operate that maybe we can be doing differently.”

Both departments had been inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) ‘about three times’ in the last few years and concluded they are ‘very good’, the chief added. It is relevant to point out that HMIC is another policing body that abuses the Act and, quite separately, there is considerable doubt, across a much wider spectrum, as to the effectiveness and efficiency of their inspections. The Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor, is deeply disrespected, and subjected to childish ridicule, by very many serving, and retired, police officers across the country. If the general public was more widely aware of the concerns over the Queen’s representative, there would be a huge outcry.

Hopkins went on to defend the work of the department – feared and loathed by some inside GMP, it is said – and added: “What we are increasingly seeing is that, rather than people accounting for their own actions, they are attacking those people who are told to do that investigation.”

The chief constable pointed to ‘a number of individuals who are disgruntled and have raised issues’. He was, no doubt, referring to such as ex-Superintendent John Buttress, whom, on many independent views, was the subject of what amounted to a crudely executed, disproportionately pursued ‘witch-hunt’ by GMP – and Paul Bailey, the very well-respected former Chair of the National Black Police Association, who was a constant thorn in the side of the command team in GMP.

“We want to make sure, if we get things wrong, or if people have behaved badly, or broken the law, then they are held to account for it,” the chief constable concluded.

Fine words but the reality is very, very different, as anyone close to GMP knows.

So, put shortly, the view advanced by Hopkins was that GMP’s PSB was functioning well, there was not really a problem – and he would ask another police force to carry out a review to prove his point. Which is, in terms, that the issue is confined to disgruntled officers making a lot of white noise.

The peer review, Hopkins said, would last SIX WEEKS. Note that carefully. But, to some, that might have seemed short enough, given the nature and scale of the corruption allegations made against GMP’s troubled PSB.

That was the last public pronouncement made by Hopkins and there has been no visible follow up by the local newspaper, or its crime reporter, John Scheerhout. Whom a number of GMP’s critics perceive to be too close to the force to effectively perform the “social watchdog” role of a journalist. Underpinned, at least in part, by the appearance of a string of stories in The Times and Sunday Times, sourced by the country’s most visible, and effective, police whistleblower, ex-GMP Superintendent Pete Jackson.

This series of front page splashes, and double page spreads, led to a leader being run by the country’s ‘newspaper of record’, in February 2018, calling for a public inquiry into the many high profile failings of Greater Manchester Police. Since then, there has been another two pieces run by The Times, in June 2018, the second of which, effectively, calls out Hopkins for a dishonest response to the first. Times reporter, Fiona Hamilton, pulled no punches as she ripped into the cornered chief constable.

It is a quite extraordinary state of affairs. In both cases the source was, again, Pete Jackson. Manchester’s best detective, and head of the Major Enquiry Team, when he retired from the force.

GMP has also been under constant attack by the BBC, who have produced a number of radio and television programmes featuring alleged wrongdoing by the force. Inside Out producer, Neil Morrow, is a strong, articulate, well-reasoned critic of the running of the force, particularly on social media. ITV’s award-winning presenter, Matt O’Donoghue, is another. Having worked at close quarters with the bereaved families of Jordon Begley and Anthony Grainger, Matt knows a great deal more than most about the inner workings, and ‘cover-up’ mentality, of GMP.

A piece highlighting the shenanigans over this peer review was due to appear in Private Eye on Wednesday 7th November, 2018. That has been written by another highly respected journalist, presenter and producer, Mark Gregory. It may yet appear, of course. Even in a modified form, once the final piece of police disclosure fits into this increasingly complex jigsaw.

Returning to the peer review, the significance of which will unfold, there has been a good deal of activity via freedom of information requests: The first on this topic was made in August, 2016 by William Crow. The response was “GMP can confirm that a peer review was undertaken by the MPS and the report is currently being drafted by them, with the lead being Supt Gary Randall.  The report will include the terms of reference and findings, and will be presented to GMP when completed”. It was supplemented, following a complaint, by this explanation: “Apologies – I did not think we held this information. It has now been confirmed to me that the review took place on the 9th-10th May 2016”.

That disclosure was important. It revealed, taken at its face, that a six week review had taken just TWO DAYS. But as will become clear, the disclosure officer’s addendum will assume much greater significance “I did not think we held this information

A second request on this topic to GMP, made by the author of this piece, in August, 2016, and not finalised until the end of November, 2016 ran counter to that first request. A list of outside police force investigations, and peer reviews, belatedly provided by GMP in its response, did NOT include the Met peer review requested by chief constable Hopkins. It disclosed just two investigations: one each by Kent and Durham constabularies. The former almost certain to be the inquiry into corruption allegations made by John Buttress. That stated absence of data held, concerning the ill-starred Metropolitan Police peer review, also assumes importance as this story unfolds.

A similar request was made, simultaneously, to the three Yorkshire police forces, concerning outside force investigations, all of which can be characterised as troubled and time consuming. Including the perennially hopeless North Yorkshire Police being forced, by formal notice, to respond by the ICO, and, as such, amidst this maelstrom, the significance of the GMP misrepresentation was, regrettably, overlooked.

In June 2017, Mr Crow returned to the fray and the matter of the peer review was raised again via a FOI request. The GMP output was helpful to a degree, and disclosed that Supt Randall was part of a team of four; the GMP officers said to be involved were Head of PSB, Chief Superintendent Annette Anderson, Randall’s direct contact, and Deputy Chief Constable Ian Pilling. The terms of reference for the review had been drafted by the Met, and were part of the final report. GMP concluded by saying that “there is no intended date for publication of this document”. Which, may yet, prove to be a particularly clever choice of words.

At this point, there is still no intervention by the local newspaper, almost two years after their front page splash. Which now looked, increasingly, like a hollow GMP public relations exercise, in which Hopkins had tossed the local ‘social watchdogs’ (as journalists are sometimes dubbed) a tasty bone to keep them quiet.

After the furore over the Hopkins ‘lie’ about the first of the two The Times articles in June, 2018 it was decided, by the author of this piece and Pete Jackson, to re-visit the matter of the Hopkins/Met peer review. The lack of output by the force, and the local newspaper, was suspicious – and a quick assessment of the information available, via both open source and other documents sourced by each of the two, warranted a more in-depth investigation. This was to be assisted by drawing on the knowledge of a network of police and journalist sources – and another two FOI requests. One to the Met (in the event, it actually became two) and one to GMP.

The peer review ‘net’ was closing on Hopkins and GMP. It was not realised at the time that some big Metropolitan Police ‘fish’ might became snared, too.

The first request was made to the Met on 23rd July, 2018 and the second to GMP on 29th August, 2018. The latter is much the simpler to report upon: GMP have ignored the request completely. No acknowledgement, no finalisation, no explanation, no apology. NOTHING. The Independent Office for Police Conduct has, effectively, forced GMP to record a conduct complaint against their head of the information disclosure unit – and the ICO will shortly be issuing an enforcement notice compelling GMP to answer the request.

The inference being, of course, that to respond to the request is almost certain to disclose wrongdoing by very senior officers within GMP. Notably, the two Ians, Hopkins and Pilling.

This is the request in full:

“Dear Greater Manchester Police (GMP),

Please disclose, by way of the Freedom of Information Act, the following information:

1. Date of hot debrief given by Supt Gary Randall of Metropolitan Police (Met) and copies of notes taken at that meeting and/or reports made afterwards.

2. Pocket note book, or day book, entries of GMP officers present at debrief that relate to their attendance at/participation in the debrief.

3. Copy of Peer Review Terms of Reference (ToR) agreed between DCC Ian Pilling and DAC Fiona Taylor, together with email and/or letter correspondence between those two officers pertaining to the Peer Review ToR’s.

4. Copy of Peer Review report delivered by Met to GMP. If it is intended to rely on any exemptions under the Act then I request that the following information is disclosed pending appeal against such exemption(s).
a. Date of report
b. Date received by GMP
c. Copy of Met’s covering letter that accompanied the report.
d. Number of pages that comprise the report, excluding any annex, appendices.

5. Copy of any post-Peer Review report correspondence between DCC Pilling and/or DAC Taylor and Supt Randall.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist”

The reader is invited to draw their own conclusions of the efficacy of that request and the likelihood of the dire consequences in responding.

The responses to information request to the Met, and its subsequent follow-up request, have also been, on any view, disappointing and frustrating. A sorry tale of deceit and subterfuge that exposes the country’s largest police force, once revered as ‘Scotland Yard‘, as a dishonest, incompetent shambles who will, it seems, go to any lengths, and put, often unsuspecting, junior officers in the firing line to avoid the exposure of senior officer misconduct.

This is the full text of the first request:

“Dear Metropolitan Police Service (MPS),

In November, 2015 there was widespread press, and broadcast, publicity concerning an announcement by the chief constable of GMP that he had invited the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to conduct a review of the operations of his PSB.

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/…

In this regard, please provide the following information:

1. Date the Peer Review commenced.

2. The name(s)/rank(s) of the Gold Commander or Gold Command Group.

3. Date the Peer Review ended.

4. Date the Peer Review report was delivered to the GMP chief constable.

5. The operational name given to the Peer Review.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist”

The sharp-eyed will spot that the answers to questions 1 and 3 were already available as open source material. But they were asked again as a ‘test’ of the veracity of the police responses. It was allocated a Met Freedom of Information Request Reference Number of 2018070000913. The response from the Met was suspiciously speedy and an Information Manager, Ian Burgess, said they did NOT hold ANY information about the GMP Peer Review at all. NOTHING.

At the time, that was viewed, understandably, as an outrageous lie and challenged accordingly. After all, GMP had provided responses ‘to the world’ (as all FOI responses are) that confirmed the existence of the peer review; named the investigating officer, the size of his team and the date it had taken place. But, as already discovered, all is not as it seems with this peer review. Nevertheless, the willingness of the police to lie about it is deeply troubling.

After receiving the complaint, the Met upheld it, changed their position and disclosed that information about the peer review is, in fact, held. Or, so they say.

The name of the person dealing with the complaint was, quite extraordinarly, redacted from the response. However, the Met now aligned themselves with earlier GMP responses and said that the peer review took place on 9th/10th May, 2016. There was no Gold Commander (or Gold Group) nominated and, it follows, no operational codename given to the investigation. The peer review report, or outcome, or both, was delivered to GMP on 22nd December, 2016, they said.

The officer who dealt with the internal review was Yvette Taylor, another Information Manager. Not, in any way, independent from the officer finalising the request, which places the Met in breach of the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice and the same organisation’s Code of Ethics. Ms Taylor mis-spelled the name of the requester and, apart from that fundamental error, her response can be safely characterised as overly bullish; saying it was all just a mistake and denying that the Met had lied about not having any information about the peer review. On any independent review of the two responses, it would be hard to conclude otherwise. The first says one thing, the second says the complete opposite.

Having eked out of the Met that information was admitted as held, the second, ‘killer’, information request was made on 23rd August, 2018:

“Dear Metropolitan Police Service (MPS),

Having now established that disclosable information concerning the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Peer Review is held by MPS DPS, may I please make a further request? I accept and understand that this second request will carry a different reference number and may attract exemptions, redactions under the Act. However, given the nature of the materials requested to be disclosed, and my experience as an information rights practitioner dealing almost exclusively with policing bodies, it is anticipated that the effects of such exemptions would be very limited indeed.

1. a. Copy of all email and letter correspondence between DAC Fiona Taylor and DCC Ian Pilling where the communication contains reference to the Peer Review.
b. Copy of all email and letter correspondence between Supt Gary Randall and any GMP officer where the communication contains reference to the Peer Review.

NB: In response to journalistic enquiries made of GMP’s press office, it has been confirmed that DAC Taylor and DCC Pilling were the two senior officers whom, between them, agreed the Terms of Reference for the Peer Review. In a previous FOI request finalisation on the WhatDoTheyKnow website, GMP disclosed that Supt Randall was the officer who carried out the Peer Review.

2. Copy of Terms of Reference

3. Copy of Final Report delivered by MPS to GMP on 22nd December, 2016.

4. Copy of any response(s) received by MPS from GMP after the delivery of the Peer Review.

5. Copy of amended Peer Review, if any such amendments were made.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Wilby
Investigative journalist”

The drafting of the information request was greatly aided by the response to a query put to the GMP press office immediately prior to submission of the FOI request. That had informed that Deputy Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor was the Met officer who set the terms of reference for the peer review, and had corresponded with Ian Pilling in so doing.

The FOI request is tightly drawn and involves, one might believe, information readily retreivable and disclosable. A report concerning a peer review that lasted just two days, which may have included travel to London and back, and, they say, a ‘hot debrief’, cannot amount to a great deal in terms of either content, or substance.

A well-informed police source has posited that the hot debrief might well have been an Oldham Road curry, and a few pints of lager, to send the Londoners on their way. It has also been hypothesised, on a more serious note, that if there was a hot debrief then it is likely that there was no intention by the Met to put anything to paper, subsequently.

GMP are a force, as seen in the recent ‘body parts’ scandal, acutely aware of the dangers of holding documents that could be disclosed under freedom of information law. They are prepared to burn them, it seems, rather than damage reputations of senior officers.

But a two day jaunt up to Manchester, a bit of ‘lessons learned’ patter, a jolly on the second night, and there you go: Job done. Peer reviewed. No paper trail, if awkward questions asked later by prying journalists.

Since the 23rd August, 2018 FOI submission, the Met has made a variety of excuses that, like the parallel GMP request, has necessitated the involvement of the IOPC and the ICO. A separate article on this website, ‘Your cheque is in the post‘ covers, in detail, the chronology and full extent of the deceit engaged in, by the Metropolitan Police, to avoid disclosure of the requested peer review information (read here).

Tension between requester and public authority is now palpable. The request is also, by now, attracting considerable attention, and comment, on the Twitter social media platform. The Times, meanwhile, contacted the author of this piece, and Pete Jackson, and said they wanted to run the story. But still no interest from the supine Manchester Evening News.

It is now clear that, without the intervention of third parties, the Met has no intention of complying with the law, and thus disclosing the requested information. On 26th October, 2018 the matter was reported to the ICO. Apart from an auto-response, that has drawn no reaction, whatsoever, from the toothless ‘watchdog’.

So, at the date this article is first published, on Sunday 11th November, 2018,  and as the nation stands silent to honour our fallen, particularly those in the Great War that ended one hundred years ago, so too does the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police. Over disclosure of the materials that will reveal one of three things:

1. The peer review never took place at all. Previous responses by GMP to requests about it were deliberately false and, correspondingly, the first response by the Met was, in fact, correct: They did not hold any information about the peer review, as stated in their information request finalisation on 8th August, 2018. It should also be noted that GMP in one of their first finalisations also said they didn’t hold any information. The request finalised in November, 2016 also made no mention of a peer review supposedly undertaken by the Met five months earlier.

2. The peer review did take place, but was a complete sham. A six week investigation, promised very loudly by chief constable Hopkins, was cut down to just two days. It is said to have taken place in May 2016. Six months after the ‘all guns blazing’ press announcement. The report of that review then took over SEVEN months to deliver from the Met to GMP. It can amount to very little, or nothing. Apart from the usual, all pals at the Palais, police investigating themselves, ‘whitewash’.

3. The peer review did take place, but there was never any intention to produce a closing report. The hot debrief was all that was planned, and then executed on the second of the two days that the Met were said to be carrying out the review. Supt Randall may also never have left his New Scotland Yard office. It may have been a systems review that was conducted electronically, with a debrief via video conference. A tick-in-a-box exercise that is a long, long way short of what GMP’s chief splashed on the front page of the local evening newspaper in November, 2015.

Manchester’s finest have already said they have no intention of publishing the report, yet GMP’s PSB is now engulfed in far worse scandals than they were in 2015. The Metropolitan Police, and almost certainly by now, the National Police Chiefs Council, are very likely colluding with GMP as to how reputational damage can now be limited, and the jobs of Ian Hopkins, and potentially, Ian Pilling can be saved.

If the peer review didn’t take place at Manchester HQ, and a large number of police sources cannot find a single GMP officer that can say that it did, then the only feasible redress is resignation by at least one of the big two chief officers, plus at least one senior Met officer who has taken part with GMP in the charade over the past three months. The list of suspects is small.

If the peer review did take place, then it could still prove the straw that breaks the proverbial back of Hopkins. His standing as a public figure, and, more crucially, as a warranted police officer, has been seriously undermined by the series of stories in The Times. He stands accused of lying about the infamous Operation Poppy investigations. In the circumstances outlined in this piece, he would have conned the public of Greater Manchester over another promised investigation. Whilst all the time the dire situation in PSD – whatever spin he might try to put on it – just goes from very bad to even worse. The chief constable’s position would, on any view outside of the police service, be untenable. Within his own force, and on the fringes, the private view of a significant number officers, past and present, is that he does not have the requisite competencies, and unimpeachable integrity, to lead the Manchester police. The peer review debacle very much underscores that view.

But the real losers in this sorry saga are the taxpaying public, whose confidence in the country’s two largest police forces is certain to receive another knock and their belief in MP’s, and other elected officials, such as the Mayors of both Manchester and London, further undermined as they all stand idly by whilst Acts of Parliament are ransacked by those they are paid to hold to account.

This is a story that, quite obviously, has still some way to run.

 

Page last updated on Monday 26th November, 2018 at 0650hrs

Picture credit: The Guardian Media Group

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