After a pause lasting almost five years, the innocence claim of former West Yorkshire Police officer, Danny Major, is once again being considered by the Criminal Case Review Commission. He was convicted in November, 2006 of assaulting a prisoner and causing actual bodily harm following an incident that took place in Leeds Bridewell three years earlier. Concurrent sentences of 3 months and 15 months imprisonment were handed down.
The Major family has vehemently protested his innocence ever since (read more here).
Since 2013, there has been two investigations carried out by Greater Manchester Police into the handling of complaints made by Danny’s mother, Bernadette Major. There are wide-ranging allegations of corruption involving the notorious Professional Standards Department.
The first investigation, codenamed Operation Lamp, was launched in April, 2013 at the behest of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and concluded in December, 2014. But, for reasons GMP has never explained, the report was not released until 12 months later.
A second investigation, codenamed Operation Redhill, was instigated by the incumbent chief constable, Dionne Collins, in April, 2016. The first phase appears to have now also concluded in November, 2019, absent of any announcement from either the Major family, GMP or WYP.
The criminal justice watchdog confirmed earlier this week that their investigations have now resumed:
“A second application arrived on 14th December 2015. Maslen Merchant of Hadgkiss Hughes and Beale is the family’s legal representative. We started a review, but it became clear that we could not sensibly conduct our review while there were ongoing police investigations (Greater Manchester Police’s Operation Redhill) in relation to the case. In November 2017 we wrote to Mr Major and his lawyers to explain that we had essentially paused the case and that we would restart our review when we could. That is to say, if facts came light that required it, or when Greater Manchester Police (GMP) relevant enquiries were complete.
“This second review of Mr Major’s conviction resumed at the end of November last year when GMP supplied us with a summary of its investigation. We asked for more material from the investigation and, in January 2020, GMP supplied us with extensive material in relation to phase one of Operation Redhill. We are in the process of considering that material. The Covid-19 related closure of our office in March has caused some delay as it reduced our ability to securely access some of that material, but the case is being actively considered.
“The first CCRC application in relation to Danny Major was received in 26 September 2007 (Maslen Merchant/Hadgkiss Hughes and Beale were not the representatives at that stage, but they did take over shortly after in January 2008).
“We sent a Provisional Statement of Reasons in October 2010 (a PSOR is used when, after a review, we consider that we have not identified reasons to refer a case. It sets out the reasons for that view and invites a response from the applicant / their legal representative if they have one – nowadays 90% of applicants do not). We consider any response before making a final decision.
“The CCRC received substantial further submissions in response to the PSOR (over a period of almost six months) and further work was conducted before we eventually issued a final Statement of Reasons not to refer on 2nd August 2011. (The CCRC is prohibited from making its statements of reasons public. However CCRC applicants can share them if they wish)”.
The final SOR ran to 62 pages with a further 11 pages of annexed material. It was signed off by John Weeden, CB. The other two Commissioners who formed the committee considering the Danny Major were Ewen Smith, a Birmingham solicitor, and Jim England. All three served their full ten year term at the CCRC.
The Major family and their legal representative were criticised for both the repetitive nature of their lengthy submissions and for introducing issues that could not go to the consideration of a referral back to the appeal court.
This echoed criticism of two of the three grounds upon which the appeal to the Court of Appeal was made. One was characterised as ‘surprising’ and another has having no merit whatsoever (read in full here).
The Major family’s first application to the CCRC ran to almost 400 pages and the watchdog narrowed its focus to:
The integrity of PC Kevin Liston, the key prosocution witness
The integrity of other officers involved in the detention of the assaulted prisoner, Sean Rimmington, and those involved in the subsequent investigation
The integrity of West Yorkshire Police
The integrity of the Crown Prosecution Servive
CCTV evidence at Leeds Bridewell
The CCRC enquiries, including interviews with Danny Major, his parents, officers from the Professional Standards Department at West Yorkshire Police; telephone conversations with prosecution counsel, Ben Crosland, and defence counsel, Simon Jackson QC (now a judge) and Sunny Bhalla, at the material time a casework manager at the now defunct Independent Police Complaints Commission appeared to be comprehensive. They were not challenged by way of judicial review.
This is yet another case where a notably poor police investigation, an unsatisfactory series of trials (three in all) with familiar disclosure issues, and a subsequent, sustained cover-up and closing of ranks by the investigating force to protect a corrupt police officer, may not be enough to see the conviction quashed. Particularly, if there is no confession by another officer, or officers, present in Leeds Bridewell that night.
Given the passage of time, seventeen years, and the high stakes that has to be considered unlikely. There has been no announcement of any arrests or press coverage of prosecutions during the currency of Operation Redhill, now in its fifth year. Taken together with its predecessor investigation, Operation Lamp, which took just under three years, it is believed to be the longest investigation ever into an assault in the history of the police service.
Both police forces and the Major family were approached for comment. There were no responses to those enquiries.
Page last updated: Monday 13th July, 2020 at 1730 hrs
Photo Credits: WYOPCC, CCRC
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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Seven years ago today, The Times newspaper informed its readers that Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary had appointed Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to investigate corruption allegations involving a neighbouring force (read the article in full here).
The notorious West Yorkshire Police (WYP), whose miscarriage of justice history stretches back almost 50 years, are accused of a widescale force-wide ‘cover-up’ in the case of ex-PC Danny Major, a graduate probationary officer who was jailed for an assault on a teenaged prisoner, held in Leeds Bridewell, after WYP colleagues testified against him in three criminal trials.
The first trial, in 2005, was stayed as an abuse of process; the second, in April 2006, declared a mis-trial after the jury could not reach a majority verdict; the third in November, 2006, saw Major convicted of two counts of common assault and sentenced to 15 months in prison. He served 4 months before being released on licence in March, 2007. The offences took place in September, 2003. The victim, Sean Rimmington, was a lairy 6’4″ amateur rugby league player who had drunk himself senseless and was found at around 4am propped against the old Millgarth Police Station in central Leeds.
After an inexplicable delay of over five years, Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s perenially ineffective Police and Crime Commissioner, finally referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after complaints that officers’ testimonies were unreliable and that other key evidence, including closed-circuit television footage, was withheld from the defence during those trials.
Like the PCC, in his former life of Police Authority Chairman, the IPCC had also previously rejected the complaints made by Danny’s mother, Bernadette Major, after what appeared to be a closed, compromised, rigour-free, highly partial assessment of the issues raised against the police, in 2007. Those were, of course, the police watchdog’s familiar trademarks and, many years too late, they were eventually dissolved in December, 2018 after a lengthy series of national scandals, often involving loss of life at the hands of the police, and of which the Major enquiry was just one relatively minor part. No life was lost, but many were ruined.
I was namechecked in The Times article and freely credited, at the time, by both the Major family and GMP, as the campaigner singularly responsible for the reluctant change of heart by the two Commissioner bodies and the instigation of the ‘outside force’ investigation. Sampson and Burns-Williamson had branded the Major family ‘persistent complainants’ (a fate that has befallen many others, including myself) and the IPCC had previously placed them in ‘special measures’ with a single point of contact (SPOC) stonewalling their enquiries and entreaties. The SPOC, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had a vested personal interest in maintaining the status quo.
WYP, and the IPCC, for their part, maintained a resentful silence after the referral but I was, over the succeeding three years to be attacked by both those policing organisations claiming harassment against officers whom I’d named as failing in their public duties. Neither succeeded; the IPCC via the civil courts and WYP via a lengthy criminal investigation, but the attrition, undoubtedly, left a lasting toll. To this day, I am continually harassed by WYP as they regularly instruct lawyers to seek to have me removed from courtrooms from which I am reporting as an accredited journalist. So far, those lawyers, and the police force, have only succeeded in making even bigger fools of themselves.
GMP, in the guise of ACC Garry Shewan, the Gold Commander, also pulled a harassment rabbit out of the hat when he was caught out, telling at least one lie, just six months into the Danny Major investigation, randomly codenamed Operation Lamp. That complaint also came to naught, except that I refused to have anything further to do with him. I was widely reviled for calling out Shewan on social media, and in articles written at the time, as he enjoyed a high profile and appeared to be a very popular senior policing figure. In my own experience he was a pompous, shallow and, at times, quite ludicrous individual.
The succeeding years saw Shewan fall into disgrace as police whistleblowers came forward to reveal both his own integrity shortcomings and the wider, and deeply entrenched, ‘cover-up’ culture cascading down from the top of the Greater Manchester force of which he was, of course an integral (and some say central) part. The best read article on this website, even though it was only published a few months ago, covers in some detail that propensity. It can be read in full here.
Shewan was also very largely responsible for one of the biggest in-house disasters the UK police service has ever encountered. A £27 million IT transformation project, nicknamed iOPS, which he formulated, procured and implemented has turned into an £80 million (and rising) nightmare for the Manchester force. I’ve written thousands of words on the topic (read more here) and appeared on an ITV Granada Reports programme that put the extent of the scandal into the public domain for the first time (view here).
When the terms of reference for Manchester’s Danny Major investigation were set. Shewan acted on behalf of his force and I represented the Major family in that process as their on-record complaint advocate. Fraser Sampson, the PCC’s slippery chief executive completed that particular triangle. He was the public official whom, it is generally acknowledged by insiders, was mainly responsible for continually blocking the Major family’s fight for justice prior to 2013. For Sampson, a man whom I have found to be a stranger to the truth on more than one occasion, and called him out on it face to face, it very probably comes down to money: Danny Major would be entitled to £millions in compensation for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, loss of status, reputation, salary, pension and associated benefits if his name is eventually cleared at the Court of Appeal. Every year that goes by compounds the figure dramatically. It would fall to Sampson, as WYP’s general counsel, to settle the claims and sign the cheques.
It was at my dogged insistence that the term “go where the evidence takes you” was included for reference by the Operation Lamp investigators. The relevance of that demand was to unfold dramatically just under three years later.
In December, 2015, a redacted version of the Operation Lamp investigation outcome was finally released to the Major family. Shewan and another officer with whom I had clashed, C/Supt Paul Rumney, had sat on that report for 12 months. There was no credible explanation for the delay. The Lamp outcome ran to 506 pages, with seven additional volumes of evidence.
Although I have not seen that version of the report, from what was reported in the media elsewhere, it completely vindicated what I had said to crime reporter (now crime and security editor), Fiona Hamilton, at The Times in January, 2013.
The Major family and I split in the days before the publication of the Lamp report, although cracks in the relationship had appeared a little earlier, once Ian Hanson, the Chairman of the GMP Police Federation had become involved with them. His mission, it seemed at that time, was to drive a wedge between us, by promising the earth to the Major family, provided I was kept at arm’s length and any media activity involving me very much muted.
Later events, including the emerging fact of Hanson’s close friendship with the present chief constable, the now disgraced Ian Hopkins, considerably fortify that belief. This is an article I first published in December, 2015 in response to Hanson’s ‘deal’ with the Majors (read in full here). It was later updated to reflect information that had become publicly available in the meantime.
In my certain knowledge, Hanson was viewed by well-known and well-respected police whistleblowers as an over-promoted, self-regarding, under-achieving, and, perhaps ungenerously, as a ‘command team quisling’. His standing does not appear to be overly high with his successor at the Fed, either, if one reads closely into the election publicity of Stuart Berry. Interestingly, Berry’s relationship is, reportedly, very different when it comes to dealing with the chief constable and the new Chairman is prepared to forcibly stand his ground, where necessary, to protect the interests of his Members.
But, for all that, Hanson achieved what he set out to do and the Majors were now isolated and at the mercy of the same institution, the police service, that, apparently, ‘fitted-up’ Danny and then, and about this there is no doubt, engaged in a persistent, long-running, grotesque, multi-agency ‘cover-up’. Personally, and professionally, I found that action by GMP, and its tame acceptance by the Major family, profoundly disappointing. Not least because I had been asked to write the book about the Danny Major miscarriage of justice – and it was always understood that I would manage media relations exclusively on their behalf once the Lamp report was published.
In the event, I was dropped like a stone and it is as though I never had any part to play in the family’s fight for justice. Nevertheless, life goes on and the Lamp report produced some sensational headlines in the local, regional and national media. It also received extensive coverage on network television. Danny Major thought the battle was won and he was about to be cleared and return to work as a police officer (he was promised a job with GMP as part of the Hanson ‘package’). But to me, given my inside knowledge, the Lamp report was fundamentally flawed. There had not been a single arrest or prosecution. Or, so it seems, not even one interview, under caution, of any suspect. Greater Manchester Police had NOT gone where the evidence took them, as they were required to do under the terms of reference. It would impact on everything that follows.
At least two officers escaped justice during that near three year investigation period. The most obvious was ex-PC Kevin Liston, a serial criminal whom had been protected for almost 10 years by West Yorkshire Police (read more here in a piece I first published in 2012). He was the main prosecution witness against Danny Major. Without Liston maintaining the stance he took before and at trial, however weak and implausible that was, then the whole case against Major falls apart. The Lamp report describes his evidence at trial as: ‘either deliberately, or inadvertently, misleading the court’.
As can be seen from that Liston article, and prior to the commencement of the Lamp investigation, a list of fifteen criminal offences committed by the miscreant officer had been compiled by the family, and myself, using a variety of police and other insiders. The Manchester detectives were to tell Eric Major, himself a retired police officer with 31 years service, that the schedule was 70% correct: The Lamp team had compiled their own list of 22 offences. There is no evidence in the public domain that Liston has been prosecuted for any of them. The readers of this article are invited to form their own view on that bizarre situation.
By a curious coincidence, my family owned a property in Baghill Lane, Pontefract for many years, less than 200 yards from Liston’s home in an adjacent street. It was sold 3 years ago.
No other journalist has ever questioned why a police officer has been given such licence to commit an alarmingly long list of criminal offences and enjoy complete immunity from prosecution. Neither has the role of the IPCC been questioned in this long running scandal, as it quite properly should. Their officers were complicit in the ‘cover-up’ from a very early stage. A point I made repeatedly to Operation Lamp detectives in the early stages of their investigation in 2013. There is no mention of this in the investigation outcome, yet the evidence examined by Lamp should, most certainly, have taken them there.
The other WYP officer to evade meaningful investigation and sanction during the Lamp investigation was former detective inspector Michael Green. As the architect of the apparently malicious Danny Major prosecution, that has regularly been described since as a ‘fit-up’ and, at the very least, one of the instigators of a 10 year police ‘cover-up’, he should, very arguably, have been charged with at least one of two criminal offences: Misconduct in public office or perverting the course of justice.
The Lamp report, disappointingly, limited comment on Green to ‘poor investigative rigour and a mindset that could be described as verification bias’. It reveals that he failed to recover four out of the six video tapes containing the CCTV output in Leeds Bridewell and failed to interview the officer who was in charge of the control room and monitored that CCTV on the fateful night. The two VHS tapes that were used at trial had been edited in a way that did not assist the defence team at all. Green is alleged to have been the officer who scripted those cuts. He also admitted under cross-examination that he had never viewed either of the tapes. There was also a fairly lengthy list of other disclosure failings uncovered by the Manchester detectives.
At Danny Major’s trial at Bradford Crown Court HH Judge Roger Scott stated that Green was, in his estimation, ‘Inefficient, incompetent and ineffective – and that just covers the i’s, the rest of the alphabet may follow later’. The learned judge was being generous. To those insiders, including myself, who have had access to the relevant case materials, the letter ‘c’ would have been a better place to start: ‘Criminal, corrupt and contempt (of court)’
The same judge also told West Yorkshire Police at the outcome of the trial that he anticipated a full investigation to be carried out in relation to events at the Leeds Bridewell on the night of the assault and, further, expected that several police officers should face criminal charges as a result of the evidence presented at trial. That criminal investigation never took place and the sham misconduct proceedings, that were put in its place instead, were abruptly shut down immediately after Green was interviewed as part of that process by another serial Professional Standards rogue, ex-detective inspector Damian Carr. As a result, not one WYP officer had a single misconduct finding against them as a result of the Danny Major ‘fit-up’. Carr was also, effectively, Kevin Liston’s PSD ‘minder’ for a period of around 5 years during which a significant amount of offending occured.
In another coincidence, Michael Green was in the twilight of his rugby career at Wakefield RUFC as I was beginning mine at neighbouring Sandal. He contacted me several times in 2012 and 2013, protesting his innocence and claiming the Majors were not telling the truth, and asked to meet me at Sandal for a pint (of beer) and a chat. I declined his offer. The case against him, on my reading, was incontrovertible and, indeed, the uPSD (un-Professional Standards Department) website (www.upsd.co.uk), launched in 2012 was named with Green very much in mind.
In February, 2016, West Yorkshire Police referred the ‘explosive’ Operation Lamp report back to the IPCC (now re-badged as the IOPC) who promptly returned it to WYP for ‘local investigation’. They said, in a statement at the time, that Greater Manchester Police had been invited to carry out a second review in February “to investigate whether, in their view, there are any criminal and/or misconduct matters to answer”. The force, curiously, declined to provide the terms of reference for the second investigation, codenamed Operation Redhill.
A third coincidence, if indeed it is one, is that both PCC Burns-Williamson and myself were brought up in the area of Castleford (Glasshoughton), adjacent to Redhill, and Eric Major served for a part of his career at Pontefract police station, just a couple of miles away.
Will Danny Major ever be cleared? I sincerely hope so, but we are now one month into a new decade, seventeen years after the assault on Sean Rimmington took place in Leeds Bridewell; thirteen years since Major was released from jail; seven years to the day since the article in The Times that promised to light the way to justice. To date, no-one has been prosecuted for the offences for which PC Major was tried and cleared and, more particularly, those for which he was convicted. Without the perpetrator(s) being identified, and either cautioned or convicted, then his name can never be cleared. That is how the criminal justice system works. With the passage of time, and the almost four years now taken by the Operation Redhill team on the follow up to Lamp, it strongly suggests that the two police forces are simply running down the clock. Aided and abetted, of course, by the ‘police watchdog’ in the game of pass the ‘explosive’ parcel.
Will the convictions be quashed? Nine years ago, when I was first given access to the case files and the family’s own quite brilliant investigative work, I was confident that goal was achievable, even though it requires a very high evidential and legal bar to be overcome. More so, when I was able to obtain other materials for the family, including the ‘breakthrough’ disclosure from the IPCC, via a data subject access request, that ultimately led to Operation Lamp. After the investigation report was published, everyone involved in the case assumed it was a formality – and I would place myself in that category. But the Criminal Case Review Commission ended their second review of the Major file some time ago (it began in March 2016) with no plans to re-visit until after the conclusion of the Opertion Redhill investigation. They refused a referral to the Court of Appeal after their first review which began in, or around, 2009.
It is, in my informed submission, now unlikely the CCRC will ever make that crucial referral back to the Court of Appeal, without the necessary conviction of the officer(s) in Leeds Bridewell that night who did assault Sean Rimmington. The list of suspects is small, but the evidence necessary to prove it is now, very likely, inaccessible. Also, the will of both the Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire police forces to instigate such a prosecution simply appears not to be there. How else can a second investigation, to simply review the first (which over-ran by two years), take four years, unless there are political machinations being ground out in the background?
Some of those political machinations will, doubtless, involve such as Angela Williams (famously described as “thick as a brick” by Bernadette Major) who is now an assistant chief constable in WYP. As a superintendent in PSD she was the first officer to make adverse decisions concerning the Major family’s complaints.
John Robins, the present WYP chief constable has twice held the command team portfolio for Standards (District) or Professional Standards (HQ) since July 2012 when he was promoted from chief superintendent.
Five heads of WYP’s Professional Standards Department all participated, to some degree at least, in the ‘cover-up’ of the Danny Major scandal and the persistent offending of Kevin Liston: They are Mark Bradley, Ian Kennedy, Sarah Brown, Andy Battle, Marc Callaghan. Kennedy labelled me “a crackpot” and Battle told me to my face, at police HQ, I was “a security risk”. Bradley I had nothing to do with. Brown I found lacking in integrity; ineffective and inefficient, Callaghan styled himself “Big Boss Hogg” on social media and the Dukes of Hazzard TV characterisation of “ineffectual, amusing bad guy” did seem to fit in with my own dealings with him.
The IPCC casework manager who rejected the appeal against Williams’ decision is now a senior figure within the disgraced police watchdog which was forced to change its name in 2018 to the IOPC.
The pivotal roles of Fraser Sampson and Mark Burns-Williamson in the Major ‘cover-up’ will also be a political factor in what is an election year for police and crime commisssioners.
Finally, would it have made any difference if the Major family had continued to have me at their side, rather than trading me out in exchange for Ian Hanson and what appears to be a bag full of empty promises?
Personally, I think it would:
More searching questions would have been asked over Operation Lamp than appeared to be the case at the time, notably the ‘where the evidence takes you’ issue and why GMP had ducked out of it.
The Major case would have been a platform – and pinch point – from which to help expose other serious corruption matters within West Yorkshire Police and visibly assist others in bitter struggles for justice.
The terms of reference and timescale for Operation Redhill would have been fought over tooth and nail – and both GMP and WYP left in no doubt that private prosecutions would be laid against Kevin Liston and Michael Green if the police were not prepared to see the job through inside twelve months.
The Redhill investigation would not have taken almost four years, either, because , after one year, there would have been a group of us camping outside GMP HQ in North Manchester, accompanied by video cameras broadcasting daily on social media.
Pressure would have been brought to bear in Parliament. Most notably with an evidence session at the Home Affairs Select Committee.
But, regrettably, we are where we are, and the last words, of course, must go to Danny Major himself:
“This case has been all-consuming. I still wake up in the night thinking about it,’
“But I am very determined to clear my name. I will never stop. In fact, everything that I worked so hard for is based upon me clearing my name.”
Page last updated at 1445hrs on Sunday 26th January, 2020.
Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.
Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.
On Thursday 16th January, 2020, at the Leeds Employment Tribunal centre, a final hearing into claims of racial and religious discrimination against West Yorkshire Police opened. A serving police sergeant, Umer Saeed, is the claimant. An accomplished individual, with a BSc degree in Business Administration and Management and over 20 years experience as a police officer; a large part of that in specialist roles.
The hearing was listed for twelve court days with some highly-charged evidence likely to be heard from the witness box. Cross-examination was set to be a lively affair as WYP’s ‘go-to’ counsel, Olivia Checa-Dover, yet again takes the stage. She has recently represented the police in two other high profile civil court cases, featuring a Bradford doctor, Abdul Rashid (read more here) and a retired police constable, Kerry Perkins (read more here).
In the event, the hearing was adjourned and the parties agreed to a judicial mediation process. That process has now broken down and, in the interim period, Sgt Saeed has issued two further claims against his employer alleging victimisation and disability discrimination.
Umer Saeed is represented by Rebian Solicitors and their instructed barrister is Adam Willoughby of Broadway House Chambers.
In an extraordinary development, the full extent of a dispute between those two barristers was revealed at a case management hearing held on 14th December, 2020. Both have now recused themselves from the claim. Full details here.
As many have done before him, Saeed alleges that the ‘cover-up’ of discrimination, both against him and others in the force area, goes to the very top of the force’s hierarchy. It is anticipated that around twenty witnesses will give testimony to the tribunal, unless their witness statements are admitted into evidence in the meantime. It is customary in these proceedings for the police to turn up with a small army of lawyers, witnesses and observers, regardless of cost to the taxpaying public.
The well-informed might, quite rightly, muse as to why the chief constable did not take steps to compromise the Saeed claim, with its high potential for serious reputational and financial damage to the force. But it may well be that he was overruled by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s highly litigious chief executive, Fraser Sampson. A noted wastrel when public funds are in issue. His wider role also encompasses general counsel to the police, giving him overall control of the force’s legal department. Indeed, from personal experience, I can say that he regards the WYP Head of Legal Services with scarcely concealed disdain.
The PCC signs off all cheques for the police, of course, as part of his statutory remit. His office has not responded to a press enquiry on the subject of diversity and inclusion – and how they come to be facing the class, and scale, of allegations made by Sergeant Saeed.
Interest in the case is, undoubtedly, heightened when one takes into account the standing of Umer Saeed as a nationally known figure in Black and Muslim staff associations. He is Chair of the West Yorkshire Black Police Association, and General Secretary and a Cabinet Member of the National Black Police Association.
He is also a trained Police Federation representative and speaks four languages; Arabic, Punjabi, Slovak, Urdu. He joined the police service in June, 1999.
In February 2015, he received national prominence when he broke into the kitchen window of a burning house and saved the lives of a mother and two young children in Ireland Wood, Leeds. It was an outstanding act of bravery and Saeed had this to say of his heroism: “The smoke was acrid and I couldn’t breathe but I was focused on finding them and getting them out in one piece. It was quite a disorientating situation with the smoke alarm going off.”
His District Commander, Temporary Chief Superintendent Mabs Hussain, quite rightly commended the officer’s work: “PC Saeed clearly displayed the qualities of bravery and professionalism that we so often see from our officers and staff in situations where people are in danger.
“He could see this family needed immediate help and his training gave him the confidence to assess the situation and intervene to bring them to safety from a potentially life-threatening situation.”
Hussain has since moved onto Greater Manchester Police, in controversial circumstances (read more here), and a well placed source on his old patch tells me he has not sustained that support for his fellow BME officer over Saeed’s discrimination claims. This would surprise few close to the seat of the action at both GMP and WYP, as ‘top brass’ closing ranks at the first sign of trouble for them, either individually or as as a police force, is de rigeur. Indeed, Hussain has been reported recently as claiming that well-evidenced and highly publicised criticism of his present chief constable, Ian Hopkins, by some distance the worst in the country (read more here), constitutes ‘a hate campaign‘.
As a footnote, and by way of balance, it should be noted that, back in 2013, Umer Saeed also featured in the high profile Anthony Ramsden case, involving WYP and the thoroughly disgraced Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), following an assault at Leeds United football ground in 2011. A widescale, dishonestly grounded ‘cover-up’ by both the police force and watchdog was, eventually, exposed.
A High Court case that followed is now an oft-cited legal authority in police complaints cases. Saeed was one of six Police Support Unit (PSU) officers giving evidence whom the force, and the IPCC, claimed ALL corrobated one another. When disclosure was eventually wrested from WYP, not ONE single statement corroborated ANY other. The judgment (read in full here) did not reflect the full transcipt of the proceedings which, at very considerable expense, Mr Ramsden took the trouble to obtain. Another demonstration of the seemingly unwritten public policy of at least some of the local judiciary that demands every conceivable accommodation be granted to West Yorkshire Police when determining matters potentially adverse to the public’s confidence in them.
No criticism of PC Saeed (as he was then) should be inferred: Even though he was the only officer who admitted striking a member of the public, in the subject area outside the Elland Round ground, with his long baton, and, therefore, the one most likely to have hit Mr Ramsden, his witness statement was easily the most frank, and credible, of the six.
I declare a professional interest, having acted as police complaints advocate for Mr Ramsden, and being adjacent to the facts throughout. I also assisted in the placement of widespread local, regional and national media coverage of the case.
Over the past ten years there has been persistent, and often very damaging, publicity over the way West Yorkshire Police treats its black and minority ethnic (BME) officers and, on the evidence of some troubling civil court cases, members of the public of colour, too.
In May 2009, the Sunday Telegraph published an article following the leaking of a dossier that was highly critical of the force’s notorious Professional Standards Department and their discriminatory handling of complaints against BME’s. This followed a series of accusations from the officials at the local branches of the Police Federation and the National Black Police Association. The WYP talking head was Deputy Chief Constable, David Crompton, later to fall into repeated disgrace as chief constable at beleagured South Yorkshire Police (read more here). He denied there was a problem.
In March 2011, PC Kashif Ahmed had all ten charges against him dismissed by a judge at Bradford Crown Court after revelations about the seriously flawed way officers had investigated the case. HHJ Peter Benson, ruling in his favour to stay the prosecution, found that there was a “very significant irregularity and impropriety at the root of the investigation” and the whole process was “tarnished”.
Judge Benson described two police witnesses, Detective Sergeant Penny Morley and Detective Constable Karen Wade who gave evidence in court during Ahmed’s application to dismiss the case, as “evasive.” He went on to say that Morley, who opened a CD document containing privileged contact between Mr Ahmed and his solicitor, had not told the truth. It is beyond incredible that Morley remained a much-favoured officer in WYP’s Professional Standards Department until ‘retiring’ late last year. Her personal friendship with ACC Angela Williams, who has publicly described Morley as ‘wonderful’, enabled her to re-start at WYP as a civilian officer immediately after her warrant card was handed in. Obviously, on this evidence, being called a liar and rubbish at the job, by a circuit judge, is no handicap in the ranks of West Yorkshire Police.
Angela Williams is the force lead on Diversity and Equality. Her Twitter account has now been deleted.
Kash Ahmed later issued a civil claim against the police alleging a “witch hunt” against him by the PSD officers, led by another disgraced officer, DCI Steve Bennett (read more here). Having to represent himself in court against the force solicitor, experienced counsel and a small army of officers giving evidence against him, his claim, perhaps understandably, only succeeded in part and he had a sizeable costs award ordered against him.
Dr Rashid, whose civil claim is referred to in the second paragraph of this article, is a highly respected professional, of Asian origin, who also claims, with considerable justification, that he was the subject of a “witch hunt” by WYP and that, in the particular circumstances of his case, if he had been a white, middle-class doctor he would not have been subjected to the same degrading, disproportionate, disgraceful treatment. His civil claim was dismissed after a extraordinarily one-sided hearing, but he was recently given permission to appeal the decision of Mr Recorder Nolan QC, by a High Court judge. The hearing of the appeal is presently listed for 13th February, 2020 in the High Court in Leeds.
Olivia Checa-Dover unsuccessfully sought to have me removed from the press seats during the Rashid hearing, questioning my accreditation and claiming (unspecified) inaccuracies in the reporting of the case (read in full here). The other two articles flowing from that ten day court hearing stand unchallenged. One exposes a prima facie case of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by six WYP officers (read the damning details here). Miss Checa-Dover also objected, unsuccessfully, to my presence in the press seats at the hearing of the Kerry Perkins claim, telling opposing counsel that I had a “vendetta” against her. Yet another in an increasingly long line of ludicrous and unsubstantiated submissions. Unsurprisingly, that gained no traction, either. Miss Perkins has also robustly appealed the judgment of HHJ Neil Davey QC, whose decision did not appear to reflect what I heard from the press box. Indeed, one might say that Miss Checa-Dover might well have written it for him.
Dismissing the remaining parts of the Kashif Ahmed claim against the police, which had included negligence, false imprisonment and theft, HHJ Mark Gosnell said: “I fully accept that Mr Ahmed was convinced in his belief that he had been the victim of a witch hunt, but I consider the officers involved merely carried out their jobs to the best of their ability and were not motivated by any ulterior motive in dealing with the claimant.”
West Yorkshire Police then sought to bankrupt the promising young officer, who holds two law degrees and a diploma in policing. Ahmed now works in Bradford as a legal consultant. The genesis of the entire dispute between force and BME officer was over the use of a car parking space behind Millgarth Police Station, in central Leeds, to which DCI Bennett took exception. The same Bennett whom three years earlier had called a junior Asian officer into his office to verbally abuse him, including calling him a c**t, in an attempt to bully the constable into pulling back on an investigation.
That action was later to unravel in the conjoined Operations, Lamp and Redhill, into the ex PC Danny Major miscarriage of justice (read more here). An allegation has been made that Bennett perverted the course of justice in an attempt to protect PC Kevin Liston, arguably one of the worst officers to ever wear a police uniform (read more here) and the key witness against Major.
After the Ahmed and Danny Major ‘investigations’ (the term is used loosely), in which he was senior investigating officer, Bennett was rewarded with promotion to superintendent. I declare a further interest, insofar as I was the on-record complaints advocate for the Major family betwen 2012 and 2015.
A close working colleague of Bennett’s was Chief Superintendent Sarah Brown. In fact, from 2010 to 2011 she was head of WYP’s Professional Standards Department. I had significant dealings with her and found her unreliable and lacking in integrity. Like Bennett, she had also been city commander of Leeds, with its dreadful history of racism, in the earlier part of her career (read more here). Whilst in that role, and under her previous name and rank of Chief Inspector Sarah Sidney, she was at the forefront of a racial discrimination case involving Detective Sergeant Raham Khan that ultimately reached the House of Lords (the senior appellate court in those days) where a damages award to Sgt Khan, upheld in the Court of Appeal, was set aside by three Law Lords. The full judgment can be read here. Put plainly, Khan alleged that Sidney did not promote him on account of his skin colour. A matter she, of course, denied.
In March, 2011 a Bradford minority ethnic, Anwar Gillespie (whom I have met in his home), received substantial damages and an apology from WYP after the intervention of specialist police complaints lawyer, Iain Gould (read more here). Whilst racism was not alleged, Mr Gillespie told me at the time that he felt the colour of his skin was a factor in him being singled out for an unprovoked, unwarranted and brutal attack upon him, outside of his home and in front of his neighbours.
In June 2012, BBC Radio’s File on 4 reported on alleged widespread and serious racism within WYP. The least impressive of the six serving and former police officers interviewed on the programme was Temporary Chief Constable, John Parkinson. He did little, or nothing, to allay concerns. Of the six officers, past and present, interviewed by the BBC, Parkinson came across as the least impressive. Listen to the full broadcast here.
Karma was to visit Ajaz Hussain, who was the force solicitor (later promoted to Legal Services Director) who drove the Raham Khan case all the way to the Lords. In early 2012, there was a reshuffle of the top management in West Yorkshire Police and he lost his job. The roles of Legal Services Director and Force Solicitor (at that time carried out by Mike Percival) both disappeared. A new role was created and Percival was selected to fill it. Hussain then alleged racial discrimination against David Crompton and issued a claim form in the employment tribunal (read more here). The outcome of that claim has never been made public, but it did not pass without controversy and resulted in the suspension of Hussain’s ‘ACPO police friend’, Neil Rhodes, whom at the time was the chief constable of Lincolnshire Police (read more here) and had fallen foul of the duplicity of Fraser Sampson.
In 2013, two police whistleblowers opened up a can of worms into how certain aspects of vital police operations were badly run and lives put at risk by their superior officers within West Yorkshire Police. One of those was a minority ethnic. They were both then subjected to a series of detriments in what appeared to be a concerted campaign to humiliate and smear them. Because of the roles that the officers undertook, for at least parts of their careers, it is unwise to do any more than make reference to the tribunal appeal finding, available in the public domain, which forensically sets out the matters in issue (read more here). It does not make pretty reading for WYP.
In April, 2014 a Bradford woman of African descent, Oluwatoyin Azeez, was viciously assaulted by a police officer who had unlawfully entered her home on the pretext of checking on her lodger. The force went to the most extraordinary, and sustained, lengths to cover up for the perpetrator, who falsely alleged that he had been asaulted by Ms Azeez. That miscreant officer, instead of being drummed out of the force, didn’t even face a misconduct meeting, let alone a criminal court. But, once more, the intervention of solicitor, Iain Gould, was pivotal. At the end of a bitterly fought three year legal battle – again irregardless of the cost to the public purse – Ms Azeez finally received a substantial damages payment and, much more crucially to her, an apology (read the full harrowing story here).
In April 2016, the incumbent chief constable, Dionne Collins, appointed an Asian police constable as the force’s Positive Action Co-Ordinator. The following month Amjad Ditta, a trained firearms officer, was alongside her giving evidence at the Home Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee.
Following publication of the Committee’s Inquiry Report, which called for “urgent and radical” action, Collins acknowledged more needed be done to increase diversity and inclusion among the workforce and said she was determined that the organisation should be more representative of its communities.
“We are currently recruiting police officers for the first time in five years and this gives us an excellent opportunity to increase our workforce not just by people from black and minority ethnic communities, but from all diverse groups, such as people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual.
“The police service has been in the media headlines a lot recently, often for negative reasons. My challenge to people who may be put off by that is, come and find out what West Yorkshire Police is about in 2016. A career with West Yorkshire Police offers genuinely exciting opportunities, but we can only properly serve all our communities by building a truly representative Force and I am determined to do that.”
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson added: “I have worked with the Temporary Chief Constable (Ms Collins) to ensure we are doing all we can to ensure communities are aware of my commitment to equality and diversity within the organisation and in the police service”.
Whilst Collins and Burns-Williamson were shamelessly uttering these shallow words, before MP’s and the television cameras, they were jointly, ludicrously and very cynically, frustrating the civil claim of Oluwatoyin Azeez. In reality, and grounded in hard evidence, what West Yorkshire Police is about is lying and covering-up – and the commitment to equality and diversity is an expensive box-ticking sham.
Eighteen months after his televised appearance in Parliament, PC Ditta disappeared without trace. With both the force press office and the chief constable refusing to answer my questions regarding his whereabouts or his reason for the removal both from his diversity role and other front line duties. He dramatically re-appeared, over two years later, at Bradford Magistrates Court charged with sexual touching. Supported by his staff association, he is expected to plead not guilty at a plea and trial preparation hearing at the city’s Crown Court on 20th January, 2020. He now answers to the name of Amjad Hussain.
In December, 2017 another race and religious discrimination claim against West Yorkshire Police was compromised on the second day of the final hearing. It is assumed that a confidentiality clause was part of the settlement. No others details are available at present, but enquiries are ongoing. Again, this is on the watch of Dionne Collins: On the one hand preaching diversity and inclusion, on the other officers having to go to court as the force continues to discriminate against them.
At least two other WYP BME officers appeared Tribunal with racial discrimination claims during this period. Both were, regrettably, unrepresented and had their claims dismissed. One was yet another Collins favourite, PC Tayyaba Afzal, having designed the force’s specialist niqab headwear for Muslim female officers. The other was an applicant for a role as a Driver Trainer.
Dionne Collins was approached for comment. She did not even have the courtesy to acknowledge the communication.
In September, 2018, another case involving a BME officer surfaced as an exclusive on this website, later picked up from here by the national press. The officer concerned, C/Supt Tyron Joyce, was also another favourite of the now retired Collins. Joyce was peremptorily removed from his post as Chief Operating Officer at the National Police Air Service, which shares headquarters in Wakefield with West Yorkshire Police, amidst bullying claims. The complaints investigation into the allegations against Joyce was, unsurprisingly given the incompetents that populate the force’s Professional Standards Department, described as ‘a cack-handed debacle’. He also told a junior colleague at the time: “I’ve been in trouble before with PSD. They tried to do my legs, so I have to be careful what I say to staff” (read more here).
Joyce does, however, always have a trump card to play: In 2013, after the present chief constable, John Robins, (at the time an assistant chief constable) had recommended him for the Police National Accreditation Course (PNAC) it was said by Robins to Tyron Joyce; “You are now my tick in the diversity box“. That may explain why, at the end of the disciplinary process, Joyce was handed the plum chief supers role within WYP: Commander – Operational Support based at, and in charge of, the entire Carr Gate Complex on the outskirts of Wakefield.
I will be reporting from the opening of the Umer Saeed hearing. It promises to be an interesting case: A retired and highly decorated WYP officer told me recently that, whatever the outcome of the tribunal proceedings, the force may well be set back at least a decade in terms of BME recruitment as a result of the adverse publicity the case will attract. As a well-connected person of Asian origin, and one who has defeated WYP in court several times, it is taken as read that he knows exactly what he is talking about.
Finally, it should be remembered that the ‘mother’ of all tribunal claims is a West Yorkshire Police case. Angela Vento, a probationer BME officer, took her force to tribunal following serious discrimination against her in the late 1990’s. Her claim form pleaded racial and sexual discrimination, but the former allegation was dismissed at an early stage by the tribunal.
Eventually the Court of Appeal ruled on the matter and the framework for tribunal awards – and the scales of damages accounting for different levels of detriment – is still in use today. Albeit, the figures have been adjusted upwards to reflect inflation. For the legal nerds amongst my readers they may wish to check out the full CoA judgment (read here).
Page last updated at 09250hrs on Friday 18th December, 2020.
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In April 2012, Chief Inspector Elizabeth Belton of West Yorkshire Police achieved national notoriety as the ‘Sexin the sauna’ cop.
The incident resulted in a punch-up between Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse and Ms Belton’s husband, Sergeant Chris Beddis and was splashed on the front page of the Yorkshire Post newspaper. National newspaper coverage soon followed .
This steamy tale was one of a number of exclusive pieces upon which I worked with the award-winning investigative journalist, Rob Waugh. Another major scoop was the outing of convicted paedophile, Mick Vause, who, at the time, was a long-serving detective constable in the force’s perenially disgraced Professional Standards Department .
Following the sauna debacle, Ms Belton, a graduate of Brigshaw Comprehensive School on the outskirts of Castleford, took on extra duties which included responsibility for the Standards Unit for North East Leeds, signing off investigations into complaints made by members of the public.
She also chaired misconduct meetings with officers whose fell foul of police regulations. West Yorkshire Police clearly didn’t see the irony in either of those two situations.
Mr Whitehouse retired in 2016 from his job as Director of the National Police Air Service (NPAS), having transferred out of his role as Divisional Commander of the North West Leeds Division, based at Weetwood, shortly after the sauna incident. NPAS are currently mired in their own sex scandal as lurid allegations emerge of South Yorkshire Police officers using an aircraft to film members of the public having sex, or sunbathing naked.
A Professional Standards Department (PSD) source has also revealed that the police helicopter has, allegedly, been used on covert surveillance of at least one fellow officer. It is also said that the necessary authorisation to do so was not lawfully obtained. This impropriety would involve criminal prosecutions of those responsible – and a bigger story than the ‘sex in the sky’ farrago. There is no suggestion that Whitehouse knew of the deployment of the aircraft for this purpose. The information to hand suggests that the helicopter crew were deployed on ‘pre-planned operations’ tasked by PSD. Many flights are involved.
Ms Belton has said on social media that Ian Whitehouse definitely did not know about this misuse of police resources.
At the time of the ‘sex in the sauna’ scandal, West Yorkshire Police and their Police Authority, after the damaging story reached the press, focused on trying to root out my ‘whistle blowers’ rather than imposing either criminal, or disciplinary sanctions upon either Whitehouse, Ms Belton or the unfortunately cuckolded Mr Beddis.
The decision not to pursue the three officers was taken by Deputy Chief Constable John Parkinson (who retired from the force shortly afterwards after a brief, but troubled, spell as chief constable) and nodded through by the current Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson.
Instead, an enquiry, believed to be headed up by another chief inspector, Jim Dunkerley, was later launched against me to try to uncover police whistle blowers – and stem the flow of information that was leading to damaging press, radio and TV coverage of misconduct within the force. There was also widespread opprobium brought about by the launch of the uPSD whistleblowers website  and, particularly, on social media as scandal after scandal surfaced.
Allegedly based in an outbuilding in the car park at HQ, and reporting to Deputy Chief Constable John Robins, the investigation is believed to have involved intrusive surveillance and RIPA authorisation. A matter always denied by the force when I have pressed them on this.
In a face-to-face encounter with his Command Team colleague, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle at police HQ in 2015, I was asked to leave the inner sanctum of the Laburnum Road, Wakefield building on the basis that I was a ‘security threat‘. Invited to add substance to his claim, Battle declined to do so.
The uPSD website has been subject of repeated denial of service attacks over the past two years. The perpetrators have a very high level of technical sophistication, according to the webmaster and a security specialist consulted over the issue (he provides services to police forces as a retired intelligence officer).
In March 2017, Liz Belton hit the headlines, again, for all the wrong reasons. It was revealed, in a series of national newspaper stories, that she had been placed on ‘restricted duties‘ following a complaint over an alleged racist remark made at a detectives’ three day Christmas celebration.
By this time, she was a senior investigating officer (SIO) in West Yorkshire Police’s elite Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET) and was leading the cold case enquiry into the historic, and high profile, murder of Wakefield teenager Elsie Frost in 1965, as well as a probe into the murder of 27-year-old Nicholas Dean Williams, who was found murdered in his home in Stanley, near Wakefield.
It was a blow to the Frost family, who are known to have built a good, and fruitful, relationship with the SIO. It is also well known, locally, that this was regarded by DCI Belton as a seminal case in her career and she was very hopeful it could be solved.
Just a week later, it was revealed that the West Yorkshire Police press office had, not for the first time, misled both the media and the public: Ms Belton had, since a Regulation 15 notice was issued in January 2017, alleging gross misconduct, been arrested in a pre-dawn raid on her family home. She was detained on suspicion of two criminal offences: Misconduct in public office and police computer misuse. She was suspended whilst those criminal investigations continued.
According to a well placed source, a section 32 search was also carried out after the arrest, that included vehicles and outbuildings, as well as Ms Belton’s house. It is believed that she was taken to Huddersfield police station and held there all day.
Given what is at stake both for the force and, more particularly the officers concerned, it has to be assumed that officers with exemplary records, and the necessary investigative competency and rigour, have been deployed by the chief constable. Otherwise, the twin pillars of reassurance, and public confidence, would crumble.
In July, 2017 Chief Inspector Belton appeared in the dock at Leeds Magistrates Court along with two other police officers. PC Judith Mulligan and Sergeant Mohammed Gother. They are all charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Allegations relate to an investigation into a burglary at PC Mulligan’s home in 2013, in which it is claimed that the victim, an officer who began her service 27 years ago at Morley Police Station, was shown a photograph of suspects ahead of an identification procedure
Ms Belton is also accused of seven offences of breaching data laws. It is said that she misused police computers knowingly, or recklessly, obtaining personal data in relation to four named individuals.
A plea and case management hearing took place in August, 2016. Two subsequent hearings were listed in March and April 2017, and then vacated at short notice due to disclosure issues.
All three police officers deny the charges and a trial is set for 11th September, 2017 before the Recorder of Leeds, His Honour Judge Peter Collier. The accused are all on unconditional bail.
In the usual course of events, a pre-trial review (PTR) would be listed by the court around six weeks before the trial start date. As of 24th July, the court confirmed to me that no Order concerning a PTR had been made. This may well be connected to the long-running police/CPS disclosure issues that have, so far, dogged the process.
The September trial concerns only the perverting justice charges. No date has been set for the data breach hearing.
Mr Gother has now retired from the force, having completed 30 years service. A fourth officer, PC Chris Davey, a neighbourhood patrol officer based at Pudsey police station – and a subordinate of Sergeant Gother at the time – was also arrested in the early morning raids, and detained as part of the same investigation, but no charges were laid against him.
A source close to the gross misconduct investigation into Chief Inspector Belton, the subject of the first round of press coverage in March 2017 , claims that there was reluctance from a number of officers present at the Lake District Christmas junket to give evidence against a fellow officer. This included the well-liked junior detective at the centre of the ‘racism’ furore, PC Bud Wasti.
It is understood that PC Warsi was not the complainant against Ms Belton, in any event. The officer mainly involved was the aforementioned DCI Dunkerley, together with another senior officer, Superintendent Mark Ridley (since promoted to chief super and Head of HMET).
After this article was first published an informant came forward and advanced the proposition that two senior officers (both of superintending rank) had ‘suggested strongly‘ to PC Wasti that he was to become ‘a victim‘. That does not give the impression that an investigation was being conducted at the necessary levels of independence and procedural rigour. If this allegation – and it is no higher than that at present – were found to be true, then the entire misconduct investigation would be tainted.
It has also been alleged that during a very lengthy drinking session, a female officer, not Ms Belton, lifted her dress in the public area of the hotel, and revealed a pair of very skimpy, designer brand (according to the exhibitionist) knickers. Whilst that might be considered perfectly normal behaviour in some social circles, it could be construed unseemly when you are known to be part of a large group of West Yorkshire Police employees occupying a significant portion of an upmarket Lake District hotel?
This officer, it is said, was not the subject of any misconduct proceedings or even informal words of advice. Which, given the furore caused nationally by the Greater Manchester Police ‘Boobgate‘ scandal, might strike the reasonable minded, independent observer as concerning.
In any event, it certainly sounded as if the detectives’ party went with a swing, reminiscent of the Wakefield CID days of yore.
The Belton probe was downgraded to misconduct after the first round of witness statements had been taken. The racism allegations were not proven. The usual sanction in those circumstances is ‘words of advice‘ or, in the police vernacular, a ‘standards awareness meeting‘.
It is also also understood that the internal investigation fell short of the required standard on a number of other levels, including failure to sieze CCTV and other documentary evidence from the Red Lion in Grasmere; and interview independent, non-police witnesses who were on hotel premises at the time.
This ‘investigation’ was, according to another well placed source, carried out by Chief Inspector Simon Bottomley and Detective Sergeant Penny Morley. Both, to my certain knowledge, work in the force’s discredited Professional Standards Department, and have featured in a number of investigations of which I have close knowledge.
In 2010, Mrs Morley was found by a judge, His Honour Peter Benson, at Bradford Crown Court, to have lied in her evidence during a voir dire and, as a result, stopped a criminal trial concerning another West Yorkshire Police officer, PC Kashif Ahmed, as an abuse of process .
It is claimed by Mrs Morley, that no disciplinary proceeding, or criminal prosecution, was mounted against her following a three year investigation, involving many officers, and a collapsed trial that was reported to have cost the taxpayer over £500,000.
I recently had her removed from one investigation, where I act as complaint advocate. Her unwillingness to consider CCTV, Go-Pro Film evidence of alleged assault and criminal damage, led to an information being laid at Kirklees Magistrates Court by the victim and a warrant being issued against the perpetrator, Acting Inspector David Rogerson: Dealing with an officer, such as Mrs Morley, who lied in a a criminal trial is not something either the complainant, or myself, was willing to countenance.
Mrs Morley’s husband, Jon, is a retired police officer cum civilian investigator (by a curious twist of fate employed in HMET). A situation which must create certain tensions, both professionally and domestically, when one of them is a proven liar. Her close friendship with another well known PSD miscreant, Superintendent Steve Bennett, certainly caused tongues to wag at the time of the Ahmed case, especially after she escaped sanction for her perjured evidence. But allegations of any improper relationship came to nothing.
In 2013, Mr Bottomley had an adverse finding made against him, by his own PSD colleagues, concerning mis-handling of evidence and breach of a legal undertaking. Since then he has been at the forefront of an alleged force wide cover-up over the John Elam miscarriage of justice . A matter presently being considered by the Criminal Case Review Commission.
Mr Bottomley has also been responsible, in a field of plenty, for one of the worst complaint investigations I have ever seen concerning a filmed assault on Huddersfield businessman, Stephen Bradbury, and, in yet another ‘cover-up’ farrago, attached himself, outwith the relevant statutory framework, to a ‘love triangle’ investigation into Police Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.
In December 2015 I sought, but failed, to have Mr Bottomley removed from any involvement in Operation Lamp, the Greater Manchester Police investigation into the infamous PC Danny Major ‘cover-up’ by PSD . His presence, in my entrenched view, taints the process and I recused myself from it a short time afterwards.
Simon Bottomley was also involved in beating off whistleblower submissions made by a management rank detective, with 30 years exemplary service, over well-rehearsed concerns about the provenance of the investigation into the a murder of a male in Headingley, Leeds and flaws in the investigation of the murder of another male, in the Leeds Road area of Bradford, that led to the conviction of three Asian men. The latter case is known by campaigners as the The Bradford Three .
The whistleblower’s identity is known to me. He claims he is in fear of his life after the disclosures made in meetings with Mr Bottomley and the SIO on the Bradford Three investigation, ex-Chief Superintendent Andy Brennan. The latter exited the force, under very strange circumstances, shortly afterwards and re-surfaced as Head of CEOP at the National Crime Agency.
The same whistleblower supported the miscarriage of justice campaign around the John Elam case. As part of his specialist role within the force, the whistleblower had been involved on that investigation in a significant role.
It is not known whether either Mrs Morley, or Mr Bottomley, was involved in the criminal investigation that followed the dramatic arrests and searches of homes, police premises and equipment that has led to the impending court case. That would, no doubt, be revealed at trial if it were the case.
So it seems, for a second time, at the very least, Ms Belton has escaped disciplinary sanction after high jinx involving other senior officers. It is believed that Ian Whitehouse was also present at the HMET party.
In a dramatic turn of events, news reached me, from a number of police sources, that on Friday 7th July, 2017 the force had circularised all officers with information to the effect that DCI Elizabeth Belton had ‘resigned’. Which, in all the circumstances, would be extraordinary under the new Police Conduct Regulations, specifically framed to prevent officers leaving the police force when facing gross misconduct disciplinary proceedings, or criminal investigation. There are special exemptions to those Regulations, but it is not known if these were engaged.
It is a move by the DCC Robins, as Command Team PSD portfolio holder, that is certain to attract a great deal of controversy. It also begs the question as to why a senior officer would ‘resign’ over misconduct matters that are largely unproven and likely to be disposed by way of words of advice?
A counter-allegation by Ms Belton of sexual assault, by a senior male detective (whose identity is known to me), at the same Christmas party, has been recorded as a crime but the present status of that investigation is not known. But, as actus reus was in Cumbria, it is assumed that the county police force there is handling the investigation.
There has also been a employment tribunal claim issued by Elizabeth Belton against West Yorkshire Police over alleged sexual discrimination. This pre-dates her arrest, or the misconduct investigation. It is believed that this action may be connected to a promotion board for a vacant Superintendent post. The aforementioned Jim Dunkerley was also an applicant. It appears that neither got the job.
Ms Belton could not be contacted for comment on the misconduct or tribunal matters.
The force press office issued a terse one line statement: “As proceedings are legally active in this case, we are unable to comment further“. They refused to be drawn on the apparent contradiction in the Regulations concerning the ‘resignation’ (or retirement) of Ms Belton.
The Police Commissioner’s press officer, Dee Cowburn, did not respond to a request for comment.
The force’s chief constable, Dee Collins, has recently issued a press statement, along with Mark Burns-Williamson, saying some of her officers are ‘exhausted‘. A three day drinking and partying spree by her top detectives might add some context to those remarks.
Page last updated 1950hrs on Monday 7th August, 2017
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The recently suspended Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, David Crompton, joined the police service in 1982. He is the son of Sir Dan Crompton, a former Manchester officer who later became Chief Constable of Notts Constabulary.
Crompton senior topped up his post-retirement pension by serving with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, a sinecure which is now most noted for him describing Hillsborough justice campaigners, in writing, as ‘vindictive, vexatious and cruel’ as a result of them opposing the appointment of Norman Bettison as Chief Constable of Merseyside.
15,000 Liverpool people, led by the indomitable Sheila Coleman, signed a protest petition – and it has never been clarified whether those scandalous words applied to the entire throng. For more background on the disgraceful conduct of Crompton Snr, and sight of a copy of that shocking letter, click here.
Crompton junior, a public schoolboy educated at fee-paying Bury Grammar School, and later a geography graduate of Salford University, was always going to have advantages not open to, shall we say, an ordinary bobby. He rose to the rank of Chief Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police, during which time (in 1994) he graduated through the Common Purpose programme, and transferred to West Yorkshire Police (WYP) in 2004, taking up the role of Assistant Chief Constable.
At that time, WYP was embroiled in a huge corruption scandal that was being investigated by neighbours, North Yorkshire Police, under the codename Operation Douglas. Crompton seems now, with hindsight, to have been a highly appropriate choice to assist in the orchestrating of a cover up in which no WYP officer, out of the eighteen that were identified as committing serious criminal offences, was ever prosecuted. Indeed, it is true to say that not one criminal in uniform even faced a disciplinary hearing.
Lord Justice Simon Brown, in a withering Supreme Court ruling, described some of those offences by West Yorkshire Police officers as part of the worst prosecutorial misconduct he had ever encountered by a police force. A full report on Operation Douglas can be found here.
David Crompton became Deputy to the infamous Bettison in 2006 after the disgraced knight returned to policing following a two year sabbatical at CENTREX, an ACPO-funded police training organisation. Crompton’s other failings, apart from Operation Douglas, some of them equally disastrous, in those WYP roles, before and during the Bettison years, are covered elsewhere in some detail by uPSD (click here).
Given what was already known about David Crompton, his father’s callous attitude towards bereaved Hillsborough families, and following the disastrous tenure as an ACPO ranked officer at WYP, it would strike the independent observer as incredible that he could ever be chosen to lead a police force, even one as thoroughly discredited as its South Yorkshire neighbour.
But South Yorkshire Police (SYP) had become desperate by the Spring of 2012, having first advertised the post of Chief Constable the previous Autumn, at the time of the departure of the now disgraced, Meredydd Hughes (pictured below). That initial selection process resulted in all the candidates, including Crompton, being rejected as not good enough.
A second attempt to hand over the poisoned chalice was undertaken and Crompton applied again (he was, according to a well placed source, being plugged for the role by Labour Party contacts close to the appointing body, South Yorkshire Police Authority). Two candidates came through this renewed process, including Crompton (even though he had been passed over first time around), but once Stuart Hyde withdrew his candidacy to take up the Chief’s role at Cumbria Constabulary, SYP and Crompton were stuck with each other.
Some may even say, deserved one another.
One of Crompton’s very first acts, as a newly promoted Chief Constable, was to try and bury a perjury/perverting the course of justice complaint against one of his own South Yorkshire road traffic officers, PC 480 Gary Garner. Aided and abetted by his Head of Professional Standards, DCS Neil Jessop, who was one of the on-duty Hillsborough officers referred to the IPCC in September 2012. Jessop was, however, allowed to scuttle off into retirement in February 2013, even though his 30 years service were not completed until three months later. This neatly avoided any awkward questions over the Hillsborough cover-up, but would not protect Jessop if a rigorous criminal enquiry was instigated over the Garner cover-up.
The intended victim of the frame-up was none other than the author of this piece, Neil Wilby. But the Crown Prosecution Service withdrew the charge against him, less than a month before the intended trial date. There was no longer a realistic prospect of a conviction grounded in Garner’s deliberately false evidence. But pursuing their police officers for perjured CJA Section 9 witness statements – and prosecuting them – is not how things work in South Yorkshire Police, as Hillsborough and Orgreave justice campaigners well know.
Notwithstanding, of course, the comment attributed to Crompton in this BBC piece: “I think that if people (police officers) are shown to have acted criminally then they should face prosecution”. Click here to read full article.
Crompton himself was under investigation by an outside police force – supervised by the IPCC – at the time of publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report (12th September, 2012). This investigation had commenced in May 2012 and followed discrimination allegations made against him by no less than the former Legal Services Director at West Yorkshire Police, Ajaz Hussain. A fact Crompton conveniently forget to mention to reporters, TV crews and millions of readers/viewers around the UK, and beyond, on the fateful day that the truth emerged about the sheer depth and reach of the Hillsborough cover-up.
Crompton is now famously exposed by the Daily Star as needing ‘a hug and re-assurance’ from ACPO’s Sir Hugh Orde on the day the Panel Report was published. It might have been said a bucket of ice cold water to wake him up would have been more prescriptive. Crompton didn’t even know who Margaret Aspinall was, until Mark Thompson, the now-departed Head of Media at SYP reminded him: “David, she’s chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group. She lost her 18-year-old son James in the disaster.” Readers will draw their own conclusions from that gaffe.
In February 2013, even worse emerged when Crompton was forced to apologise as emails, that he had tried desperately to conceal from public view for months, were forced into the public domain. He accused one of the campaign groups representing Hillsborough families of “lying”. He made the comments in the offending email four days before the publication of the Panel report in September 2012. He said the families’ “version of certain events has become ‘the truth’ even though it isn’t“.
Crompton has not specified what falsehoods he was referring to and has consistently refused to make himself available to answer any further questions. Which is typical of the man known as a “walking disaster” at West Yorkshire Police.
In that particular round of correspondence, Crompton emailed the force’s Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt (also ACPO lead for football policing matters), and Mark Thompson (see above) on 8th September 2012, four days before the HIP Report was released. The offensive email was ordered to be disclosed by the then South Yorkshire Police & Crime commissioner, Shaun Wright, following a Freedom of Information request by the Daily Star’s Jonathan Corke. The game was up for Crompton as soon as that decision was reached.
The Police Commissioner said the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, had both been informed of the existence of the email and Wright was “disappointed at the use of such languaged” by Crompton. IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long concurred – and noted that the content of David Crompton’s email was “at best ill judged, and at worst offensive and upsetting”
In the email, Crompton asked for a meeting with Holt and Thompson to discuss launching a web page about Hillsborough, with links to documents. Including previous apologies and memos. He continued: “We then publicise it on Twitter. In effect, it amounts to the case for the defence. One thing is certain – the Hillsborough Campaign for Justice (sic) will be doing their version…..in fact their version of certain events has become ‘the truth’ even though it isn’t“. A quite astonishing passage in the light of subsequent revelations and jury determinations at the new Hillsborough inquests.
Three days after the publication of the HIP report, during which the Prime Minister apologised twice for what the bereaved families, and survivors, had suffered at the hands of South Yorkshire Police, Crompton made his now infamous ‘The Cupboard is Bare’ statement, concerning what had already been disclosed to the Panel, exclusively to a local newspaper (click here to read the full article). Subsequent events showed that Crompton had lied to the Sheffield Star (as he set out to deceive throughout almost all of his WYP tenure) as revelation after revelation emerged about what had not been disclosed to the Hillsborough Independent Panel by South Yorkshire Police. A situation that was to repeat itself during the IPCC’s two year scoping investigation into events at the Orgreave coking plant in June 1984 and the fitting-up of striking miners with false criminal charges arising from events of that fateful day – and beyond.
The Orgreave miscarriages of justice were referred by Crompton to the IPCC in November 2012, following a David Conn piece ‘Hillsborough and the Battle of Orgreave: One police force, two disgraces’ that appeared in The Guardian (click here for full story), which then led to a BBC Inside Out documentary outlining the criminality of South Yorkshire Police officers (click here).
In fairness to Crompton, he was a beat bobby in Manchester when the criminal acts by SYP officers at Orgreave (and in other mining communities) took place. He was, however, in charge of the force when the IPCC complained publicly, more than once, about their scoping investigation being obstructed by SYP’s failure to release all relevant documentation.
At the outcome of the IPCC’s exercise it was very clear from their two reports that serious criminal offences were disclosed (read full IPCC reports here). Instead of arrests and charges being brought against the mainly senior officers responsible, Crompton ducked in behind the quite incredulous line peddled by the IPCC: The offences took place too long ago and it’s not proportionate to deal with the perpetrators through the criminal justice system. The unspoken proposition being that if a police cover-up can be kept going long enough no officer will be charged at the end of it.
Also laid bare was the lie that Crompton told the whole country in September 2012 when he said anyone guilty of a criminal offence should be prosecuted. Orgreave justice campaigners are presently awaiting news from the Home Secretary as to whether she will order a public inquiry, following a recent meeting with her in Westminster.
The Rotherham child sex abuse scandal had already been broken open by The Times’ Andrew Norfolk (pictured above) in the same month as the Hillsborough truth day – and it was to reveal a scale of police incompetence, indifference and, in some cases downright wickedness, exhibited whilst hundreds and possibly thousands of young girls were being raped, trafficked and tortured.
What the The Times investigation was also to reveal, once more, was the permanent mindset of the already discredited chief of South Yorkshire Police. David Crompton immediately tried to downplay the piece and sought to discredit Norfolk’s reporting, which has, of course, subsequently received universal acclaim and won many awards.
Crompton’s November 2012 letter to Home Affairs Select Committee can be read by clicking here. In it, Crompton falsely and, it is believed deliberately, claimed that the problem of children being systematically raped was nowhere near as extensive as had been claimed in the newspaper reports and he, further, attached credence to a 2010 co-agency child sex exploitation report, in which South Yorkshire Police were key stakeholders. This ‘whitewash’ has subsequently been entirely discredited by first, the 2013 Jay Report (read here) and later, the 2014 Casey Report (read here). Both of which were hugely critical of the roles of South Yorkshire Police (and Rotherham Council).
The criticisms were not confined to historic events either that, in theory, would leave Crompton, largely, in the clear. The condemnations of the police inaction, up to the time of writing of both reports, were both stinging and relentless: Crompton’s force was still badly letting down victims, long after he became Chief Constable.
He has made two subsequent appearances at the Home Affairs Select Committee when his evidence has, at best, appeared unconvincing and, in places, hopelessly inadequate. These dressings-down by the cross-party panel of MP’s have led directly to the National Crime Agency being appointed to take over primary responsibility for child sex investigation in South Yorkshire – and indirectly to an external inspection of the force being ordered by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings. It is, therefore, safe to say that Crompton has lost the faith and trust of his masters – not to mention victims and the wider public – to be able to deal effectively with the protection of children on his patch.
The hardworking and inspirational Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion, also has very little faith in Crompton as she rounded on him as recently as February 2015 in this Helen Pidd interview in The Guardian. Miss Champion didn’t mince her words and accused the Force of “crass policing” when dealing with CSE victims (full Guardian piece here).
For those that have the time, and the specialist interest, the full portfolio of The Times investigations into grooming and child sexual abuse, spread over five years and across into many areas of the country, can be read by clicking here. Whilst the shocking and wilful negligence, and seeming complicity in child sexual exploitation, by South Yorkshire Police looms large – other forces such as Thames Valley and Greater Manchester also fare badly. The latter, of course, one of the other forces scrutinised by Neil Wilby and uPSD.
Turning attention back, specifically, to Crompton, he is not only incompetent and dishonest, proven many times over, he is also incredibly thick-skinned (or possibly just thick) and largely indifferent to criticism, in whatever form that arrives. He also cares little for the feelings of victims, or for public opinion. Despite his constant bleating to the contrary.
A vivid demonstration of those characteristics came in August 2014 when he recruited his old West Yorkshire Police chum, Ingrid Lee, as an Assistant Chief Constable. Lee has three major claims to fame in her policing career: none of which look too attractive in the cold light of day. During her tenure as Head of Organised Crime in WYP, her team managed to have £3.5 million of Class A drugs (cocaine, heroin and cannabis largely) stolen from their property and exhibits store at the showpiece Carr Gate complex in Wakefield. These drugs were then recycled back on to the streets of Leeds and made the thieves, which included one of her own detectives (DC Nick McFadden), around £1.8 million in cash.
Incredulously, after he was first arrested, McFadden was offered a plea bargain, sanctioned by Lee, that if he admitted to theft by finding (he had claimed he found a bag with a large quantity of cash in it by the M62 motorway) then no drugs, or money laundering charges, would be brought. He would get a sentence of 4 years, rather than the 23 years in prison that he actually received.
Another former member of Lee’s aptly named Organised Crime Group found himself in jail soon after. This was long serving Detective Sergeant Chris Taylor, who was sentenced to three years in prison for his part in the infamous multi-million pound Muldoon timeshare fraud.
Lastly, but most crucially, Ingrid Lee was the subject of derision in every national press and broadcast outlet following her disgraceful Operation Newgreen report which ‘whitewashed’ West Yorkshire Police’s role in allowing Jimmy Savile to evade capture for almost fifty years, during which time he was regularly sex offending against children in and around his home city of Leeds. It was an astonishingly inept piece of work, dishonestly grounded – and a kick in the teeth for Savile’s many victims. Why then, did David Crompton, just months later, pick Lee as a member of his Command Team and then earmark her for a role as CSE spokeswoman for the Force?
It is almost as if he is mocking child sex abuse victims.
In September 2014, just a month after Ingrid Lee (pictured above) had joined the SYP team, Crompton was in hot water again with the Home Affairs Select Committee. This time a bungled house raid of pop star Sir Cliff Richard‘s home in Sunningdale, Berkshire which was filmed throughout via helicopter and ground cameras and broadcast live by the BBC.
It was a hapless freak show organised personally by Crompton and his Head of Communications, Carrie Goodwin, who is another ex WYP recruit to the Crompton ‘gang’. Goodwin, incidentally, was part of the WYP Comms team that put out the infamous Sir Norman Bettison ‘blame the Liverpool fans’ press release which, indirectly, led to Bettison leaving the police service six weeks later. (Miss Goodwin is also responsible for recruitment of a SYP Hillsborough PR specialist on £45,000 pa, who worked for three months and spent the subsequent nine months on sick leave).
Cliff Richard has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. He was interviewed by the police ten days after the televised, five-hour trawl of his property in connection with an offence that took place 30 years ago and 160 miles away. Keith Vaz, on behalf of HASC told Crompton that he, and his police force, were guilty of ‘sheer incompetence’. The beleaguered chief then wrote to Vaz in February 2015 to say that the investigation into Cliff Richard ‘had increased significantly in size’. This was yet another example of Crompton’s economy with truth: The investigation by then comprised of just three allegations in total, now reduced to two as one of the allegations has proved incapable of substantiation.
There has, to date, still been no arrest or charges brought against the alleged perpetrator in an investigation that now stretches almost into its nineteenth month. It is a shambles and it is not difficult to hypothesise that, ultimately, this will lead to a hugely embarrassing climbdown by Crompton. It would also lead to immediate civil action launched by Richards’ solicitors, Kingsley Napley, who will be seeking a huge sum in damages from South Yorkshire Police on behalf of their client.
At a more basic policing level, South Yorkshire Police under its hapless, hopeless chief constable are a disaster: In October 2014 following freedom of information requests it was discovered that the force has a staggering 75% of its crimes unsolved which begs the question what officers do all day apart from create a villain’s paradise.
Crimes which have not been solved in just the past four years include four murders, 14 attempted murders, 13 child abductions, over 100,000 thefts and 61,320 reports of criminal damage. A full newspaper report on the crisis can be read here. Just two months later, it was revealed in the same newspaper that a staggering 28 murders remain unsolved by SYP and that the force’s cold case review team faced extinction. So, apart from thousands of children being raped, trafficked and tortured in the area for decades there are probably two dozen, or more, murderers running loose on the patch.
Most recently, South Yorkshire Police have come under yet another stinging attack following the publication of a report compiled by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. It finds that, up to June 2015, the force are still letting victims of child sex abuse down. Of 28 investigations examined by HMIC, only 2 (two) were up to scratch. The report (which can be read in full here) is yet another damning indictment of Crompton and the force he commands, including his CSE lead, Ingrid Lee. Calls for Crompton’s resignation have been led by former Sheffield Council leader and now life peer, Lord Scriven.
So, the Teflon Man survived yet anther crisis – and ten years of the most alarming catalogue of quite catastrophic failures both at South Yorkshire Police and, before that, in the West Yorkshire force still see him serving as a police leader. Little wonder that morale in the force is at rock bottom and the rank and file officers are leaving the force in droves, according to local Police Federation chairman, Neil Bowles.
David Crompton has endeared himself little to front line bobbies, almost from the moment he arrived in post as Chief Constable. Within the first two weeks, he had announced a barmy plan to replace all beat constables with community officers, a scheme that was widely condemned by police commentators and senior politicians, which included the Labour leader at the time, Ed Miliband and a former Home Secretary and Sheffield MP, David Blunkett. Crompton excused the fiasco by describing it as ‘a storm in a teacup’ but many viewed it as a clear signposting of the chaotic shambles that has been a feature of his reign, ever since. (The full Daily Mail story on the PCSO plan can be read by clicking here).
But the final nail in the Crompton coffin may come sooner rather than later with the publication of Operation Lamp. An investigation by Greater Manchester Police into widespread corruption in West Yorkshire Police that led to the malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment of one of its own officers (read more here). The man who dismissed ex PC Danny Major (pictured below with father Eric) from the Force in a quite breathtaking kangaroo court was – you’ve guessed it – David Crompton. It may not be the biggest surprise, either, to learn that the man who has advocated on behalf of the Major family for the past three years, and brought about the GMP investigation, is the author of this piece, Neil Wilby.
Page last updated Wednesday 27th April, 2016 at 2220hrs
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‘This report will blow West Yorkshire Police apart’.
Sounds melodramatic, but these are the words to me of a well placed insider about an investigation into the fit-up of an up-and-coming young police officer, by his Leeds Bridewell colleagues, twelve years ago.
That bombshell revelation also fits into my own sphere of knowledge. Which is much more than most, as I was instrumental in setting the Terms of Reference for phase one of the investigation, in my role as complaint advocate to the family of ex-PC Danny Major.
Danny had only one dream as a boy. To follow in the footsteps of his devoted father, Eric, as a career policeman. On my frequent visits to the Major family home I watch Danny’s young nephew play with the toy police cars that have become family heirlooms. Soon Danny’s own bright-as-a-button little boy, Matthew, will be dreaming of driving those same police cars, as he plays with them.
It is a travesty that the conviction against Danny’s name is not yet quashed and relief brought to his inspirational, hard-campaigning mother, Bernadette Major, who has never once doubted, in over twelve years, that her son was innocent.
A trusted and well-liked bobby of the old school, Eric Major retired in 2011 after 31 years exemplary service with West Yorkshire Police. Danny’s own rise through the ranks ended abruptly in 2006 – after only six years – when he was convicted of assaulting a drunken, violent teenager he was attempting to arrest in the centre of Leeds three years earlier. He was subsequently jailed for fifteen months (released after only four) but Danny, a university graduate, feels he is still serving a life sentence as he waits for the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to consider his case for a second time.
In November 2006, after three trials, Danny was convicted of actual bodily harm and common assault. He was acquitted of a second assault charge. It was alleged that on 6th September 2003, he arrested Sean Rimmington for being drunk and disorderly while on duty near Millgarth police station. The prosecution claimed that Danny kicked Rimmington twice in the ribs whilst the prisoner was handcuffed in a police van parked in the docking area outside Leeds Bridewell. It was further alleged that Danny removed Rimmington from the van by throwing him head first onto a concrete floor and punching him in the head on at least four occasions.
In the police cell within the Bridewell, the prosecution claimed that he assaulted Rimmington, by punching him five to six times in the face, causing injuries to his nose. Danny says he committed none of the alleged assaults, which either didn’t happen at all or were, instead, committed by other police officers.
Crucially, the police failed to disclose CCTV footage that could have helped Danny’s defence team. It was produced in the final days of third trial when it was too late to be used in court. The footage was subsequently presented to the CCRC, who refused to refer the Major case back to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it did not materially enhance the defence case at trial and would not be seen as new evidence, or argument.
Danny’s imprisonment was a police trade-off for, what the court heard at the second trial, the concealment of the “shambolic” state of affairs in the Leeds Bridewell custody suite. Judge Linda Sutcliffe QC was not wrong: Amongst the many failings were the falsification of an entire night shift’s custody visiting records, right under one of the CCTV cameras (belatedly disclosed to the Major family) and with running, comedy-act, commentary provided by the officer involved, PC Richard Roberts. Better known to colleagues as ‘Ivan’. A senior PSD detective commented that “there was no proactive supervision” in the Bridewell, which resulted in prisoners not booked in, cell visits not made and others taken to wrong cells. Twelve years after Sean Rimmington received a series of injuries whilst in custody, West Yorkshire Police still have no explanation for concealing the missing 13 hours of CCTV footage that would have cleared Danny Major’s name at Court. Nor have they produced any film from the other five cameras they alleged were not working on that night.
In the hours after the incident, and whilst he was at the city’s St James’s Hospital receiving treatment for injuries inflicted by the prisoner, Danny was accused by another police officer of punching the comatose teenager thus causing his injuries. He was suspended from duty but, he says, was not overly concerned, initially. “The Bridewell has cameras everywhere,” he says. “Alarms go off if film is not in them. It is not somewhere you commit offences. When I heard the allegations I told them: ‘Just look at the CCTV cameras’. Then, my own force’s Professional Standards Department claimed that at least five cameras weren’t recording.”
It was, to say the least, an operational and mathematical improbability that so many cameras had failed on one night in and around the main custody cells in a city the size of Leeds.
The first Danny Major trial was stopped following an abuse of process submission by his defence counsel. There were a number of flaws connected to disclosure of evidential materials to the defence team by the police and CPS – and the Crown’s overall presentation of its case was criticised by the judge. At the second trial, at Bradford Crown Court, the jury heard that officers at Leeds Bridewell failed to follow even basic procedures, as outlined above. The jury was unable to reach a verdict and discharged by Judge Sutcliffe. The third and final trial also saw another circuit judge, the late Roger Scott QC again repeat the view that the custody suite was “a shambles”. He criticised senior police officers, including Detective Inspector Michael Green, and called the Rimmington custody record “a document of fiction”. Perjury, by any other name, once its contents were relied upon, by Green, under oath. Indeed, the judge went on to say further: ‘We saw an unorganised, unsupervised rabble. In my view, it requires further investigation and possible charges against a large number of officers”.
The Leeds Bridewell “Shambles”, as described by Judge Scott in court, was the headline that covered most of the front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day.
Danny was acquitted of assaulting the teenager whilst putting him in the van on a jury count of 12-0. The jury simply did not believe his accuser, PC David Oldroyd. Danny was, however, convicted of assaulting him while taking him out of the van which, once the proximity of another police vehicle in the caged and CCTV’d Bridewell van dock is confirmed, that alleged attack becomes a physical impossibity. He was also convicted, by a majority of 10-2, of the cell assault.
The police’s key witness PC Kevin Liston has now left the force in disgrace, after committing a series of assault/drug/sex based offences before and after the trials. Liston was kept ‘clean’ by the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of West Yorkshire Police, racking up at least twelve serious crimes over a ten year period. That was the price the force had to pay for the lid not coming off the huge cover-up that was in play. Much more can be read about Liston here.
In January 2013, Greater Manchester Police was appointed to review the PSD investigation that led to Danny’s conviction. The codename is Operation Lamp and it began with Superintendent Peter Matthews as Senior Investigation Officer. From Matthews’ first visit to the Major’s home – a meeting at which I was present – the shock at what he and his fellow officer, DC Natalie Kershaw, were seeing, when viewing the evidence for the first time, was palpable.
It was an investigation that was expected to last six months, but the amount of previously undisclosed material, plus the lines of enquiry flowing from that, extended the time required for both the detective work and report writing.
Matthews retired at the end of 2013 and was replaced as SIO by an officer who had worked on the case from the outset, DCI Julian Flindle.
Both Matthews and Flindle – and indeed the rest of the Manchester detectives involved on Lamp – developed a very good rapport with the Major family from the outset, and have been impressed by the sheer scale and reach of Eric Major’s own detective work on the case, before their more formal investigation began.
There has also, clearly, been some behind-the-scenes political wrangling as phase one of the investigation was, to all intents and purposes completed in December 2014. It is expected to at the very least infer, if not expose directly, that the drive to convict, and then remove, Danny Major from the police service extended to the top management of West Yorkshire Police.
David Crompton, the recently suspended and thoroughly disgraced Chief Constable at South Yorkshire Police, was the officer who dismissed Danny at a misconduct hearing following what his mother, Bernadette, described as nothing more than a “kangaroo court”. At the time, Crompton was the infamous Sir Norman Bettison‘s Deputy and, in correspondence between the IPCC Commissioner at the time, Nicholas Long, and the IPCC’s current Senior Oversight Manager Rebecca Reed, it is clear that is was Bettison himself who made the decision to hold misconduct proceedings, before the outcome of Danny Major’s appeal against his conviction had been heard.
Crompton (pictured above) made an excruciating ‘gaffe’ at the opening of the disciplinary hearing that revealed his mind was already made up about dismissing PC Major and the hearing, thereafter, was a sham. It is also clear from the same batch of IPCC documents, to which I have exclusive access, that the hearing itself was potentially unlawful. No appropriate notice had been served on the IPCC by the police, who were yet to determine what disciplinary measures were to be recommended in Danny Major’s case. West Yorkshire Police later claimed – and the IPCC tamely accepted – the S75 notice was “lost in the post”. The two IPCC officers who made this discovery withheld this, and other, crucial information from the Major family for five years. This revelation would appear to seriously compromise the IPCC’s Chair, Anne Owers, who sits as a non-executive director of the CCRC.
One of the most damaging effects of that delay is that the Crown Prosecution Service disposed of their files relating to the three trials that ultimately led to conviction of PC Danny Major, prior to launching of the GMP outside force investigation.
The Operation Lamp report was presented to the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, and the Chief Constable, on 11th December, 2015. Mark Burns-Williamson, who for so long frustrated the family’s fight for justice, released this press release shortly afterwards (click here).
Ex DI Michael Green, Ex-PC Kevin Liston and former West Yorkshire Police Band leading light, David Oldroyd (promoted to sergeant immediately after Danny’s conviction at the third trial) are expected to face criminal proceedings, if the report is acted upon appropriately by the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police. Another Band member at the heart of the Major scandal is Force Solicitor, Mike Percival, who has been excluded from any further dealings with the case at the request of the Major family.
The Manchester detectives have also been liaising with the CCRC throughout the investigation and Lamp’s key findings are expected to be presented to them, shortly. The new evidence uncovered should be sufficiently persuasive for the CCRC to refer the matter back to the Court of Appeal for a second time.
Danny Major continues to be represented in his dealings with the CCRC by Maslen Merchant at Hadgkiss, Hughes and Beale, a Birmingham firm of solicitors.
In the meantime, battle is joined with the West Yorkshire PCC, and the force, over the provision to the Major family, as key stakeholders, of an unredacted report to Danny’s solicitor. Given the track record of Mark Burns-Williamson and his Chief Executive, Fraser Sampson, in repeatedly blocking this family’s fight for justice in the years prior to 2013, it is not expected to be easy. It is also noteworthy that Burns-Williamson did not contact any member of the Major family even once, in the period between the referral in January 2013 until the day the report was delivered to him almost three years later.
A redacted version of the Operation Lamp report was made available to the Major family on 29th January, 2016. Channel 4 covered the event with this loop broadcasted on their main evening news slot: click here to view. The interview with Danny Major revealed only what has been known for some years and what I have been publishing for over three years. Curiously, C4 made no comment over the concerns about the referral by Mark Burns-Williamson and the Chief Constable to the IPCC.
Burns-Williamson was expected to announce phase two of the Operation Lamp investigation early in the new year and Greater Manchester Police are keen to take on the task with the same team of detectives who completed phase one. This follow-up investigation should probe the WYP PSD and IPCC cover-up, from 2006 onwards, that prevented the Major family getting justice much earlier than 2016. Instead the referral has been made to the IPCC which will, inevitably, mean another long delay whilst the police watchdog decides how it can best step around the fact that they were an integral part of the problem ten years ago and, of course, ever since. There is also the deeply unhealthy relationship between the Wakefield office of the IPCC and West Yorkshire Police to factor in, which is not at all good news for the Major family.
In the event, the IPCC quickly washed their hands of Operation Lamp and referred it back for ‘local investigation’ and GMP have now been further tasked with investigating ‘whether, in their view, there are any criminal and/or misconduct matters to answer’ according to a statement issued by T/Chief Constable, Dee Collins. Who shares the Command Team table with two officers who must certainly have known of the sustained Danny Major ‘cover-up’ through their senior roles within Professional Standards over the years. They are ACC Andy Battle and ACC Angela Williams. The latter was involved from the outset, dealing with Mrs Major’s original complaints about the crude fit-up of her son by his own police colleagues. Battle was Head of PSD in 2011 to 2012 when PC Kevin Liston was still being ‘protected’ whilst commiting offences.
On a more positive note if, as now seems very likely, Danny Major’s conviction is quashed at the Court of Appeal he will be reinstated in the police service, by right. It his wish that he joins the Manchester force who will have done so much to help that cause.
My own view, and one, I must stress, not shared by the Major family, is that GMP should not have been given the second investigation into the shameful conduct of their West Yorkshire neighbours. They took far too long on the first investigation, without properly explaining why, and with ACC Garry Shewan in charge – a police officer in whom I have absolutely no trust or confidence – there is the ever-present risk of tainting (Shewan is pictured below). I also have good reason to believe that, whilst Shewan is keen to see the Danny Major conviction quashed at the Court of Appeal, he is not a police service boat-rocker and, in my informed view, lacks the stomach to see through a conviction of the perpetrator of the assault on Sean Rimmington in 2003. Unless and until that happens, Danny’s name will not be cleared.
My choice for phase two of Operation Lamp would be Devon and Cornwall Police, who conducted an investigation in 2013 which was codenamed Operation Garnett (read the redacted report here). This also concerned deep-seated corruption within WYP’s Professional Standards Department dating back to 2006 and was brought about following complaints by a retired Northumbria Police officer, Supt Trevor Fordy. All Mr Fordy’s complaints were upheld by the Devon force and some of the discredited officers were common to both the Garnett and Lamp investigations. Notably, ex-Supt Trevor Kerry. As an experienced major crimes SIO, Mr Fordy’s best collar was Curtis ‘Cocky’ Warren, the infamous Liverpool drug baron who was, reportedly at the time of his sentencing, the country’s biggest ever drug dealer.
There is also the spectre of two outside force investigations and a Metropolitan Police ‘peer review’ into alleged corruption within the Professional Standards department at Manchester which, on the face of documents I have seen, may involve both Shewan and DCI Flindle.
Aidan Kielty, a former GMP Police Federation official, now turned whistleblower, made some startling revelations to the BBC on this topic in September, 2015. Read more here. His views reinforce my own, insofar as the Major case would be best served well away from GMP, once all the implications from phase one of Operation Lamp have been dealt with. Mr Kielty was interviewed as a potential witness in a recent BBCFile on 4 broadcast featuring the GMP scandal, but was edited out due to time constraints. There is a curious symmetry here as it was co-producer of the GMP programme, Sally Chesworth, whose views on the merits of the Danny Major case were one of the keys in forcing the Operation Lamp enquiry to be opened. The full GMP File on 4 podcast is available here.
However, the Danny Major scandal is a story that still has some way to run, and with the sensational collapse of the high profile Dennis Slade murder re-trial in November 2015, together with the Inspector Keith Boots alleged £1million drugs theft trial due to commence in January, 2016 it leaves the beleaguered West Yorkshire Police facing three more huge corruption scandals, to add to an already bulging tally.
With the next PCC elections due on 5th May, 2016, will beleagured Burns-Williamson be sticking to his 2012 election mantra? “There is no corruption in West Yorkshire Police”