A ‘car crash’ of a judgment

On 20th September 2019, Mr Recorder Ben Nolan QC handed down his judgment in a £5 million civil claim brought by Dr Abdul Rashid against West Yorkshire Police. It followed a Bradford County Court liability hearing lasting two weeks, during which evidence was heard from three police officers repesenting the defendant. The claimant, a well-known Bradford GP and medico-legal practitioner also gave witness box testimony.

The claim concerns wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and trespass over events that happened in March, 2012 during a police investigation codenamed Operation Thatcham. It, ultimately, resulted in the conviction of 45 men over what have become known as ‘cash for crash‘ fraud offences.

A terrifying pre-dawn raid, in a middle class suburb of Bradford, saw eighteen police officers turn up at the doctor’s home where he, his wife and three young children were asleep. Other squads of officers had been despatched to his two surgeries and other business premises. It was alleged he was part of a conspiracy to defraud, relating to the cash for crash claims, although no particulars were ever put to Dr Rashid in thirty-five hours of police interviews, across a seven month period. He was never charged with any offence.

Interview records show that the questioning of the doctor, by purportedly experienced detectives, was largely infantile and almost entirely pointless. The police simply had no evidence of criminal offences, but were down a rabbit hole without an escape route. Not least, because there is no incentive for any medico-legal practitioner to commit fraud: He (or she) is paid by an instructing lawyer, whether an injury insurance claim succeeds or not – and irrespective of the content of the doctor’s report. A point that seemed completely lost on the police.

Dr Rashid was eventually released from police bail in June, 2013. The justification for the arrest or, in legal terms, the reasonable grounds for suspicion of the offence for which he was arrested, lie at the very heart of the matter.

Notable for his absence from the civil court proceedings was the arresting officer, DC Mark Lunn, described in court as ‘a bad apple’, and about whom much has been written elsewhere (read here, here and here). The police, via their barrister Olivia Checa Dover, had told the court at a pre-trial review, seven months earlier, that they were ‘unable to locate’ DC Lunn – a matter later denied at the substantive hearing. The detective (the term is used loosely) was, in fact, working for the police watchdog, the discredited and now dissolved Independent Police Complaints Commission (re-badged in January 2018 as the Independent Office for Police Conduct), just 300 yards from police HQ, in a job actually facilitated by those who said they couldn’t locate him.

Lunn pic 3
Mark Lunn, whom the police were ´unable to locate´

An account of that pre-trial hearing, before HHJ Neil Davey QC, can be read elsewhere on this website by clicking here and has stood unchallenged since that time, including by the police to whom right of reply was offered.

A comprehensive day-by-day account of the final hearing can also be read on this website by clicking here. West Yorkshire Police tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the author of this piece reporting on those proceedings in an attempt, not only to frustrate open justice (routine for them), but, more crucially, to prevent public exposure of the rotting effect of the ‘bad apple’ officer, culminating in what appears to be a shocking conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, by six of their officers in the same barrel, that has left an unpleasant stench hanging over the large number of Operation Thatcham convictions.

At the conclusion of those proceedings in Bradford Law Courts, conducted in a palpably toxic atmosphere throughout, Recorder Nolan dismissed the claim in controversial circumstances. Not least, because of the bitter and long-running battle over disclosure, or, more to the point, the lack of it, by the police. The handling of those matters, viewed from the press seats at least, appeared to fall short of the standards one might reasonably expect of an alert, fair-minded judge. It also must be said, by way of balance, that it is a feature of many civil or tribunal claims (and in some notable criminal trials) involving West Yorkshire Police; the latitude the force is frequently given from the bench, and a tame local media, simply encourages their bad practices.

A permission appeal to the High Court by Dr Rashid was, unsurprisingly, filed by his lawyers soon afterwards. It was granted on the papers (without a hearing) on 17th December, 2019 by Mr Justice Lavender. Not a common occurrence in such matters.

A full appeal hearing is listed for 14th May, 2020 before the same judge, sitting in the Leeds District Registry. It is, however, more than likely, in the prevailing SAR-COV-2 crisis, that the hearing will take place via video conference.

The written judgment of Recorder Nolan, typed, unusually, in 16pt with generous margins top and bottom, runs to 14 pages. It is littered with schoolboy syntax errors; headed ‘judgement’ not ‘judgment’; pages are not numbered; it is undated; and carries no unique case reference or details of the parties’ representation. It even includes an exclamation mark at the end of one sentence, unprecedented in the author’s experience, encompassing many hundreds of court judgments. Likewise, the sight of a barrister being addressed only by his surname is, similarly, unheard of.

All of which gives it an amateurish look: Surprisingly so, for a part-time judge who has been at the Bar for 49 years and, plainly, has a very high opinion of himself – and one not at all slow in derogating others, both in his courtroom and on social media. A memorable example being that hard-won press cards, hologrammed and with photo ID embedded, authorised by the National Union of Journalists and the National Police Chiefs Council, are “handed out to anybody“.

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There was no perfected copy of the judgment provided to the press and it was not published electronically by the court. So, this piece is grounded in what was handed, by the court clerk, to the two members of the press present at the time.

By the tenth, and last, sitting day, the claimant’s legal team knew what to expect. A hearing where one party, and their counsel, appeared to be favoured throughout was not going to end well – and so it proved.

But, it was not just the judge’s decision to dismiss the claim that caused dismay; that was already built into the claimant’s expectations. It was the perplexing way the background narrative was rehearsed, and the equally puzzling finding of fact, that gave rise to very considerable concern. As did the judge’s consequent rulings on the applicable law.

It is well-established case law that parties to a civil claim should be able to understand why they succeeded or failed. Indeed, it can be a ground upon which an appeal can, in some circumstances, be upheld.

In interview after the trial, Dr Rashid, a highly intelligent and accomplished individual with an acquired, if reluctant, knowledge of civil law and procedure, was, it is fair to say, completely bewildered. As was his legal team, Ian Pennock of counsel (the barrister simply referred to as “Pennock” in one section of the judgment) and his instructing solicitor, Simon Blakeley.

Moreover, taking the daily court reports as a starting point, it seems as though the Nolan judgment concerned a different trial altogether. Those reports, amounting to almost 12,000 words, stand unchallenged by both the police, and the judge, despite dark, but unspecified, mutterings during the trial.

The handed down judgment, most regrettably, gives the appearance of a pre-formed decision with threadbare, and in places, inexplicable or, indeed, a complete absence of cogent analysis or reasoning. The background narrative, and consequent fact finding, also appears to leave too many crucial issues unresolved and bizarre, apparently unsupportable, conclusions on at least two of the central matters: The credibility of the principal police witness and the diligence (and record keeping) of the Operation Thatcham investigation.

More crucially, to those adjacent to the applicable statutory framework, the judge appears not to have turned his attention to the state of mind of the arresting officer and each of his alleged reasonable grounds for suspecting Dr Rashid of committing the offence, for which he was arrested, and attached to them his reasoning for finding in favour of the police. That, one might say, was his primary function as sole arbiter of this claim.

From the press seats at least, the claim largely turned on the evidence of one police officer: Detective Inspector (DI) Mark Taylor. A sergeant at the time of the arrest of Dr. Rashid and the supervisor of the errant former detective constable, Mark Lunn.

Having previously served as a custody sergeant, DI Taylor was part of the Kirklees-based Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) recovery team. Lunn was seconded to that team from his previous role as a beat officer in Huddersfield and, later, that town’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

As reported contemporaneously, DI Taylor’s evidence underwent a remarkable transformation between examination on his evidence-in-chief by Miss Checa Dover and cross-examination by Mr Pennock. From a witness giving ready answers, with quite remarkable recall of detail from events 7 or 8 years previously, to a hesitant police officer constantly having to think carefully about what he was saying, and who answered thirteen times in the mode of ‘don’t recall, don’t remember, don’t know, can’t answer that, got that wrong’. Despite having been very closely involved in the police’s defence of the civil claim for almost three years before he gave his testimony in court – and in other connected regulatory proceedings, in which the police were the prime movers, since 2012.

In answer to Mr Pennock’s probing, he frequently had no explanation as to why many of the key documents that would have assisted the claim of Dr Rashid had either gone missing, been destroyed or were concealed from the claimant. Particularly, those that were effectively under his control, if the judge’s version of his role in the case is to be taken at face value. These include his own pocket books, day books, email trails, weekly reports to his superior officers, meeting notes, seized materials, copies of warrants and their supporting documentation (At the pre-trial review it was heard in legal submissions that DC Lunn’s emails were no longer available on the police’s ‘Cloud’ data storage. The judge at that hearing did pointedly observe that someone must have taken pro-active steps to remove them).

During cross-examination, DI Taylor was unable to direct the court to any document in the trial bundle – running to twelve densely packed lever arch files – where the reasons for a decision to arrest Dr Rashid are set out, and properly recorded, in accordance with authorised police practice. He did, however, concede, in evidence, that for such a major decision affecting a high profile and well-established local doctor he would have expected them to be recorded in the investigation’s policy log at the very least, together with pocket books or day books of those involved in the decision, meeting notes and his own weekly reports. It is a specific requirement under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984 (PACE) that notebook records are kept of actions preceding, during and after arrest of a suspect. DI Taylor, the supervisor of the arresting officer in Dr Rashid’s case, is unable to explain where those specific records are – or why they were not retained. Or, indeed, if they were ever made.

The court also heard that DI Taylor was centrally involved in the presentation, by West Yorkshire Police, of no less than five different versions of the ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’ that underpinned Dr Rashid’s arrest. The first, in May 2017, being in answer to the filing and serving of the claim form, by way of their formal Defence; the last one during the trial, at the request of the judge whom, presumably, like most others present in court, was bewildered at the constantly changing police landscape. The second version was in an Amended Defence filed in July 2018 when it became clear that the original Defence was unlikely to resist the claim; the third and fourth differing versions were, respectively, DI Taylor’s witness statement dated December 2018 and his oral evidence from the witness box at trial nine months later.

One of the three remaining grounds cited by DI Taylor as the support for the decision to arrest the doctor, in that witness box testimony, from a list that at one time comprised twenty-one purported reasons, concerned a matter that only became known to the police over five months after the arrest. The other two were (i) an appointments list found in the vehicle of a person arrested in the first phase of the crash for cash investigation, but not subsequently prosecuted, and (ii) the alleged inadequacy of Dr. Rashid’s medico-legal reports. Those two grounds alone, says the detective, are sufficient to resist the claim of wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

Examination of the trial bundle now reveals a different ground advanced by DI Taylor that is not in either of his witness statements or his court testimony. In an email to the Ministry of Justice he states baldly: ‘The main thrust of our fraud case: Was the doctor [Rashid] doing anything different to other professionals’.

The fact that all five (or now six) police versions of the reasonable grounds for suspicion are different is an important point; one that an independent reviewer might consider strikes at the heart of both the police force’s probity, and DI Taylor’s own credibility as a witness in these proceedings, yet is completely absent from the judgment. There is no reference to them at all, including the fact that the twenty-one shot West Yorkshire Police machine-gun had been reduced to just two weak blows on a pea-shooter.

Furthermore, on at least three occasions in the witness box, DI Taylor gave oral evidence that directly contradicted written evidence of his own that was to be found in the trial bundle. They were not minor points either, they were central to the police’s defence of the claim. It is more difficult to conclude that this class of historical revisionism was the product of innocent mistakes, or memory aberrations, given his remarkable powers of recall on his first day giving evidence.

Fortunately, for Dr Rashid, when taken to a compromised Third Party Disclosure Order (in successful proceedings wherein the decision of the General Medical Council to suspend the doctor from medical practice, at the instigation of DC Lunn, was quashed) which confirmed, many months after his arrest, that West Yorkshire Police confirm that [Dr Rashid] was not arrested on the basis of a specific allegation made by an individual outside, or within, West Yorkshire Police, DI Taylor, as Lunn’s supervisor, agreed that was how he understood the position to be. He was the disclosure officer in those GMC proceedings and, as such, attached to the persistent smearing of the doctor, by the police, then and ever since.

He could not, however, explain to the court why the note of a meeting, recorded on the policy log as taking place on 19th January, 2012, at which he claimed he was present, did not feature his name amongst the list of attendees posted by DC Lunn. That ‘team’ meeting was to assume high importance in the judgment, by way of deflecting Lunn’s central role in the arrest. DI Taylor claims that the grounds for Dr Rashid’s arrest were discussed there, even though the log only records that the decision to proceed was maintained. That strongly infers there was at least one other meeting, about which there appears to be no entry on the policy log, or entries in day books, or post-meeting email notes, or follow-ups. There was also conflicting testimony from DI Taylor as to whether the meeting was held in Batley or Bradford.

This January 2012 meeting appeared to be the only area of his cross-examination where DI Taylor’s powers of recall were revived. Distinctly remembering detail of a meeting with a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer, Julian Briggs, whom, on his own admission, he either met, or spoke to on the telephone, almost every single working day during that era. Quite remarkably for a meeting of such purported gravity, no-one at that meeting, it seems, made any record of the grounds of arrest of Dr Rashid. Including the CPS lawyer. Or, if they did, the police chose not to disclose them. Another, one might say crucial, point absent from the judgment.

Under questioning, it emerged from DI Taylor that the policy log itself was a key part of the general shambles that threaded through the running and supervision of Operation Thatcham. DC Lunn, on the evidence and with his shocking disciplinary record, was an unwelcome cuckoo in the POCA nest at Batley Police Station. Curiously, as a lowly, inexperienced, self-aggrandising detective constable, with a history of unlawful arrest complaints against him, albeit unsubstantiated, and a stranger to the department, DI Taylor allocated Lunn an office of his own. In the face of him still being on a written warning over a previous internal police finding of misuse of the force’s computer systems.

The policy log created by DC Lunn did not, incredibly, form part of those same police systems and was not linked to either their force-wide servers or the more local Infoshare network. He could add, amend, delete any entry on the Word document and no-one would be any wiser. Operation Thatcham was, to all appearances, a one man maverick operation that breached any number of authorised police practices, management of police information protocols, codes of conduct and, very arguably, was operated outside data protection laws.

DI Taylor told the court Lunn had been ‘recommended’ to his POCA team, but he did not say by whom. It was not explained, either, why this major investigation did not fall under the remit of one of the specialist criminal divisions in West Yorkshire Police under the supervision of a qualified Senior Investigating Officer (SIO). [In response to a post-trial freedom of information request, West Yorkshire Police made a number of palpably false responses concerning these matters in order to further conceal Thatcham’s procedural shortcomings].

Although presented by the police as the officer in charge of Operation Thatcham, in an attempt to downplay the role of the discredited DC Lunn, DI Taylor gave conflicting evidence over the number of suspects arrested in the first phase of the investigation. He told Miss Checa-Dover it was ten, when it was put to him by Mr Pennock that the actual number was thirty-eight, it was conceded, reluctantly, that he ‘got it wrong’.

Thatcham was the biggest fraud investigation in the history of West Yorkshire Police with ninety one suspects arrested in total. DI Taylor, as noted elsewhere, had been involved in regulatory and civil proceedings against Dr Rashid for seven years, in matters arising from it. Yet couldn’t answer correctly a simple, basic question concerning the operation.

Mark Taylor’s dual role of supervisor of the discredited arresting officer in the criminal matter, then sole disclosure officer, conflicted but apparently unsupervised, in the civil claim, should have given rise to concern amongst those anxious to maintain public confidence in the civil justice system. But the seriously alarming catalogue of disclosure failings, with implausible explanations, or simply no explanation, attached to most of them, did not appear to cause any anxiety to the judge at all. Indeed, his verbal attack on Mr Pennock, on the last day of the trial, when the issue of disclosure failings was raised, yet again, was as unnecessary as it was unpleasant.

These were, in essence, the disputed disclosure points which should be read with these two comments from the judge very much in mind; (i) ‘I don’t want to deprive Mr Pennock of material which he quite rightly wishes to use’, (ii) ‘I don’t want this case to go wrong by dint of  disclosure error’ and also the admission from DI Taylor that he was ‘exhibits officer trained’:

– The reasons for arresting Dr Rashid do not, or no longer, appear in the operational policy log. No audit trail relating to that document has been filed and served by the police.

– The Word document setting out reasons for suspecting Dr Rashid of criminal offences, given to Dewsbury Magistrates’ Court by way of a formal application for search warrants of Dr Rashid’s premises, is not retained on the police server.

– DI Taylor’s workbook, covering, according to his own evidence, twelve significant police investigations during that period, and, more crucially, recording the reasons for arresting Dr Rashid, was missing. As is that of every other officer involved, including the arresting officer, DC Lunn.

– The police have not produced the weekly e-mail reports, from DI Taylor to his superiors, setting out the reasons why they wanted to arrest Dr Rashid. He told the court that they still exist and could be accessed via the force’s Enterprise Vault.

– During the phase one arrests in Operation Thatcham copies of scripts that were to be used by personal injury claimants, during their consultations with doctors, were seized. When both Mr Pennock, and then the judge, asked DI Taylor where they were, and why they had not been retained, there was an interjection from Miss Checa-Dover who asserted that ‘it has been years since the criminal prosecutions had ended [in fact, April 2014] and the civil claim issued [in fact, letter before claim issued December 2015].

– Appointment diaries seized by the police from other medico-legal practitioners involved in ‘crash for cash’ claims are missing. DI Taylor told the court, ‘they are no longer in the police’s possession because it’s [the criminal trials in Operation Thatcham] gone through the statutory appeals process’. He could not explain to the court, when asked by the judge, why, when the requirement is to retain such materials for 6 years, they were no longer available. He did confirm that a CD disc for each of the doctors’ diaries had been exhibited at the trial.

– Not one contemporaneous record of the reasons given for the decision to arrest Dr Rashid can be located anywhere in the many police records where one should find them or, indeed, where it is a serious breach of Police Regulations not to find them.

– The police seized Dr Rashid’s phone and laptop. From those devices they extracted text messages (SMS). They disclosed only part of those text messages (oddly enough those that might fit the police narrative). The PC and phone had been ‘wiped’ when eventually returned to him. DI Taylor, or the police lawyers when asked, have provided no plausible explanation beyond a haughty ‘we can’t disclose what we don’t have’.

– DI Taylor’s evidence in the witness box concerning both his own philosophy as an experienced detective and, more crucially, wider police force policy: ´If it is not recorded, it didn’t happen’.

Mr Pennock submits that these provide a more than a sufficient evidential base to advance the proposition that the police records had been ‘sanitised’ to remove (or conceal, or an admission that they never existed) all the contemporaneous reasons for deciding to arrest Dr Rashid. A plausible, indeed likely, reason is that the police subsequently believe such reason(s) to be insufficient to justify that arrest and, as such, resist the civil claim.

However, none of his highly questionable evidence, or witness box testimony that was not in either of his witness statements (very often fatal to the credibility of a live witness), or the list of disclosure failures, either of, or involving, DI Taylor, appeared to trouble Mr Recorder Nolan even slightly. Indeed, his judgment, incredibly, records him as ‘a truthful, reliable and extremely professional police officer of the highest calibre’. He embellishes that claim by asserting that ‘his evidence was wholly corroborated by contemporaneous evidence’ and, to top off, gives his ‘firm view’ that ‘this [Operation Thatcham] was a well-run, closely-monitored, highly competent criminal investigation’.

Mr Recorder Ben Nolan QC

It is, set against the evidence heard first hand in court, contemporaneous reporting and, for certainty, a review of the section of the transcript covering DI Taylor’s testimony, a passage in a judgment that is as astonishing as it is shocking. Even without taking into account the number of times he had to be ‘rescued’ or led by either the judge himself, or Miss Checa-Dover, when stuck for answers to questions put to him by Mr Pennock. Indeed, Dr Rashid’s lawyers submit that on at least three different occasions the judge appeared to stray into giving evidence himself.

The only conceivable explanation being, that if an objective conclusion had been drawn from DI Taylor’s variable and selective memory, and his contradictory, frequently unimpressive evidence; his troubling supervisory failings in the criminal investigation; and his highly questionable role as disclosure officer in the civil proceedings, then he would have been found as a witness whose reliability was open to serious question and the defence of the claim dangerously, and probably fatally, undermined.

Recorder Nolan, in the face of an invitation from Mr Pennock, also drew no adverse inference from the absence of the arresting officer from the proceedings, saying ‘although he is in name the arresting officer his importance to the case has been overblown’. An inexplicable finding given that it was drawn out in evidence that DC Lunn was the only officer working full time on Operation Thatcham during its first year, and, more particularly, the period leading up to the arrest of Dr Rashid, and, of over 200 entries on the investigation’s policy log in that timespan, the definitive record of decisions, rationales, actions and outcomes, every entry except one was made by that same officer. A policy log, under authorised police practice, is required to be the domain of the SIO, usually at detective chief inspector or superintending rank.

More crucially, the records of the trial clearly reveal that DI Taylor had conceded, very early in his cross-examination, by Mr Pennock, that Lunn was ‘the main man’.

DC Lunn was also, unusually, the author of the operational orders that were drawn up in connection with two different planned arrests of the doctor. DI Taylor said in evidence these orders would have been approved by a senior officer at chief inspector rank, or above. But couldn’t point the court to any written document evidencing such approval, although he asserted that the approval would not have been by telephone.

On any view, this was a one man band operating well outside conventional police constraints, with minimal and ineffective supervision. Indeed, the court heard that, in an email to a superior, Lunn described himself as ‘Team Thatcham’ in answer to a complaint about his conduct – and in a way that appeared to suggest that his pivotal role gave him a shield against any disciplinary action over any complaint from a member of the public.

The judgment is also absent of discussion, analysis, reasoning and reasons in relation to whether, or not, DC Lunn’s unauthorised, pirate activities as a private detective to the insurance industry; or an inadequately explained payment of £183,000 by a motor insurance company to that same serving police officer, via a bogus company, around the time of his arrest of Dr Rashid; the associated leverage to obtain the ‘scalp’ of a high profile medico-legal professional to promote both DC Lunn’s and motor insurance company interests; and, the startlingly deliberate decision by senior officers involved in Operation Thatcham, and three Professional Standards Department (PSD) officers to engage in what appears to be a prima facie conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, by keeping DC Lunn’s ‘extra-curricular’ activities secret from the criminal defence teams in the ‘cash for crash’ fraud prosecutions.

There is also no evidence that a thorough, proportionate investigation was ever carried out by the police, or the IPCC to whom the matter should have been mandatorily referred, into the whereabouts of that £183,000, or whether Lunn was acting alone, or in concert with other police officers, over monies that give off the strong whiff of an inducement to extend his powers beyond what was, necessarily, lawful. The judge again strays into error with his finding that, by leaving West Yorkshire Police in August, 2013, Lunn “jumped before he was punched (sic)”. It is clear from the trial bundle that disciplinary proceedings had concluded with ‘words of advice’ and DI Taylor’s testimony, during the hearing, is that he left because he had been sent to work back on the beat and was unhappy about no longer having detective status.

Even though in almost every other civil claim of this class he would be the very first port of call, DC Lunn never even provided a witness statement in the these proceedings, and West Yorkshire Police have gone to the most extraordinary lengths to conceal both his true role in the Thatcham investigation and the full extent of his own misdemeanours – and those, it appears, of many others involved in this case. In Lunn’s case that included lying in a post-arrest report about ‘patient records being strewed about the doctor’s home and car’. A matter that both the judge and DI Taylor found very uncomfortable to deal with when when taken to the evidence by Mr Pennock that there was no such occurrence.

The police were, and still are, condoning that alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in order to do so. At least one person, convicted via the tainted Operation Thatcham, has complained to their PSD about the conspiracy, since the conclusion of this civil claim, and the police have sought to disapply the requirement under the Police Reform Act to investigate this very serious matter.

The IOPC (formerly the IPCC), the notoriously toothless ‘police watchdog’, with so much to lose themselves, have also chosen to further break the law by not ‘calling in’ the investigation as a Recordable Conduct matter arising out of civil proceedings. They stonewall any questions about their shielding of the corrupted ex-DC Mark Lunn for over three years in their Wakefield office. The Home Office similarly block any press enquiries on the topic.

Returning to the Nolan judgment, Dr Rashid and his lawyers point to some of the matters that the judge sought to highlight in the background narrative that did not appear to have the necessary relevance to the matters to be determined in this trial or carried disproportionate weight. For example:

– Reference to a company named NK Business Consultants Ltd, and a payment of a £825 administration fee by Dr Rashid to that company, when the police had no knowledge of either the company, or the payment, until alerted by Stuart Davies of the Ministry of Justice on 17th August, 2012, over five months after the arrest. The fact that NK never appeared on the policy log supports that fact. [The judgment goes so far as to say that the payment to NK raised ‘intense suspicion’ pre-arrest based on DI Taylor’s witness box evidence].

– The appointment of his 19 year old nephew as a director of a company Dr Rashid has formed.

– A tenant of Dr Rashid who runs a claims management company, completely unrelated to the organised crime group featuring in Operation Thatcham, or any fraudulent claim, from the downstairs shop premises of the doctor’s private medico-legal offices above (thus keeping his private practice completely separate from his NHS surgeries), is suspected to be his brother. DI Taylor had confirmed in his testimony that ‘there was nothing unusual in this’.

– The police claim that Dr Rashid’s reports are of a poor standard [relying on an ‘eccentric’ doctor who admits to the police he ‘is no expert’ and just happens to be a friend of DC Lunn’s mother] and the scale of fees charged for the reports [which DI Taylor conceded in evidence were consistent with the market rate in the personal injury arena].

– Whilst being questioned about Dr Tedd, DI Taylor conceded that despite the entry on the policy log that the doctor was a family friend of DC Lunn, he knew nothing at all about the relationship until asked about it by Mr Pennock during the trial. ‘It´s actually news to me, even at this late stage’ said the officer purorted by West Yorkshire Police to have been running Operation Thatcham.

– How quality of medical reporting became a police matter rather than a regulatory issue [The GMC in a protracted four year investigation found nothing untoward with the reports].

Conversely and perversely, Dr Rashid and his legal team might well contend, taking the contemporaneous reporting, and their own legal note-taking during the trial, as guides, that much more relevant points were either omitted from the judge’s discussion of the case, or understated as to their relevance within the factual matrix:

– The police were told pre-arrest, by a number of personal injury specialists, that the way in which Dr Rashid runs his private medico-legal practice was not uncommon and the impact that would have on any of the alleged reasonable grounds for arrest or, indeed, its necessity. This was also confirmed by DI Taylor in oral testimony as was the fact that the police had omitted to disclose this in trial documents.

– The refusal of the police to call the arresting officer to give evidence of what he considered the reasonable grounds to be. Or for him to provide a witness statement when at the material time he was working, as a public servant, and for the police watchdog no less, in very close proximity to WYP HQ.

– The failure to preserve, or disclose, one single document where the reasonable grounds for arresting Dr Rashid could be expected to be contemporaneously, and expressly, recorded.

– The alleged failure to apply for an arrest warrant for Dr Rashid at the same time that they applied for a search warrant [In earlier preliminary hearings the police had told the court that there was no arrest warrant, a position they appeared to resile from at the final hearing].

– The failure of the police to produce evidence they seized, showing block appointments, appointment duration, fee charged, standard of reports, payments made and to whom, by other doctors. Especially, those in claims that were ultimately proved to be fraudulent.

– The fact that it is common ground that Dr Rashid never reported on any of the numerous proven fraudulent claims, or the fact that the police cannot prove and refused to disclose, any evidence that could even form a basis to say Dr Rashid had actually reported on a claim even suspected of being fraudulent.

– All the transcripts of Dr Rashid’s audio tapes, taken during patient consultations, are entirely consistent with his subsequent reports. The judge might have anxiously considered whether tape recording these interactions was consistent with alleged wrongdoing. If he did, it was omitted from his verdict.

– The fact that West Yorkshire Police knew pre-arrest that a number of other doctors actually reported on numerous proven fraudulent claims, and at least one of those doctors reported on all 14 fraudulent claimants in a completely fabricated ‘accident’ wherein all were said to have been in the same mini-bus, yet did not suspect that doctor of complicity with those fraudulent claims.

– There is no reference to the use of scripts by personal injury claimants or the fact that the police offered a ludicrous explanation for their absence from the trial bundle.

– The lawfulness of alleged reasonable grounds for arrest to be determined on a communal basis between a team of officers against the alleged reasonable grounds having to be held and believed by the actual arresting officer alone.

– Assuming there were reasonable grounds to suspect Dr Rashid of the stipulated offence, the law requires the police to also prove it was ‘necessary’ to effect an arrest. They already had search warrants for all Dr Rashid’s premises (obviating the need to arrest him to invoke powers of search). DI Taylor’s evidence in court was  that he had no reason to suspect Dr. Rashid would not co-operate with them and would have voluntarily attended for questioning. The priority, he said, was obtaining access to his mobile phone.

– The failure by the police to put even one specific allegation to Dr Rashid during 35 hours of interview over a five month period subsequent to the arrest.

– The immediate revelation, within six hours in fact, to the GMC and local Primary Care Trust of the fact that Dr Rashid had been arrested, the grotesque exaggeration of the alleged offences for which he was arrested and the avoidance of required protocol by DC Lunn, and his supervisor DI Taylor, and the circumventing of the WYP Force Disclosure Unit, who would normally undertake such sensitive matters involving regulated professionals. [The extraordinary and unauthorised missives from DC Lunn asserted to the PCT the commission of very serious offences as fact, even before one question had been put to Dr Rashid in interview. They were never, subsequently, corrected].

– The police repeatedly failed to identify any actual fraudulent claim or even suspected fraudulent claim, that Dr Rashid was even involved in.

– None of the medico-legal practitioners who were proved to have reported on fraudulent claims within Operation Thatcham, or indeed on a wider view, were arrested. This included Dr Ayoub whom had reported on the ‘headline’ case in that investigation, a bogus mini-bus crash that resulted in 14 fraudulent claims.

Other mistakes, ambiguities, under- or over-statements in the judgment include:

– No mention of the number of officers attending at Dr Rashid’s arrest (16) or its timing (6.15am).

– Dr Rashid’s release from bail in June 2013 came after a review of their original decision not to charge by a more senior lawyer, requested by the police, not after ‘a review of the evidence’.

– The false, improper and malicious notification to the GMC by DC Lunn is simply noted by the judge as ‘in the course of the investigation WYP notified the GMC’

– The judgment is silent on the point that Dr Rashid’s suspension was quashed by the High Court in September, 2012 after a senior judge presiding in that review, HHJ Mark Gosnell, had observed that ‘the police evidence against him was sparse’. Evidence gathered and put to the court by DI Taylor.

– Judgment records that the Insurance Fraud Bureau ‘assisted with’ Operation Thatcham which is a position from which their press office resiled when asked.

– The judgment asserts that one of the ‘crash for cash’ organisers, Nadeem Khaled, was a Director of Advanced Claims (UK) Ltd. That was not heard in evidence and, in any event, has no grounding in fact – as a simple check at Companies House reveals.

– The judgment repeatedly refers to Concept Accident Management Ltd as ‘Concept Claims’. It also asserts that Khaled was ‘replaced as a director’. It is a matter of public record that he never was an officer of any description in that company.

– A Lamborghini car leased from a finance company in Portsmouth was described as being ‘of dubious provenance’. It was the driver about which there were police and Ministry of Justice concerns, not the vehicle.

– The driver of that vehicle, Fouad El Habbal, was said in the judgment to be 19 or 20 years old. It is a matter of public record that he was 21 years old at the time of his arrest (born May 1990).

– The judge describes the prestigious 4 star Cedar Court Hotel as ‘a budget hotel’.

– The judgment states that CPS lawyer, Julian Briggs, ‘was present on earlier occasions when the team had met’. That, put shortly, was not the evidence of DI Taylor.

– The judgment makes no mention of DI Taylor’s unequivocal evidence that ‘the policy log was compromised‘ by the lack of time, date, entry identification (usually by author’s initials) and its remoteness from police systems.

– A passage in the judgment concerning how the nefarious activities of DC Lunn first came to the attention of senior officers also falls into error. The judge’s acceptance of DI Taylor’s account of events, against the factual matrix and another of the detective’s losses of memory is concerning to say the least.

– The judgment refers to pre-arrest interview notes (that were, strangely, undated and with no author identified): Because they refer to events that only came into the knowledge of the police many months later, they were plainly post-arrest notes.

– During the proceedings the judge referred to a payment by Dr Rashid to a solicitor as a “backhander” (in Yorkshire, and probably elsewhere, a term for a bribe). That is not how the GMC characterised it during their lengthy investigation into Dr Rashid, nor was any such suggestion, oblique or otherwise, heard in evidence from the police officers. The solicitor has never been subject of complaint, application or arrest over that payment.

– The judgment refers twice to the number of Operation Thatcham convictions as 48. That was not heard in evidence and no source is quoted. West Yorkshire Police, by way of a freedom of information request, say the number was 45.

That is a long and troubling list and readers are invited to form their own view as to what might, in the interests of fairness and balance, have been an appropriate level of care, attention and impartiality from the bench and, more crucially, might reasonably be included in the judgment of Mr Recorder Nolan, or excluded, and the impact on his decision to dismiss the claim. His almost complete absence of note-taking, throughout the trial, may have contributed to this catalogue of errors.

There are also similar misgivings from Dr Rashid and his legal team as to how the law was applied to the judge’s finding of fact. They will be dealt with more fully, in a separate article, after Mr Justice Lavender has unpicked the competing arguments and made his decision.

Mr Justice Lavender

Whatever the outcome of the this appeal by Dr Rashid, neither the police, for the manner in which they routinely conduct civil or tribunal litigation, or the judge who was, arguably, prepared to overlook too many of their shortcomings and sharp practices, emerge with credit. The latter, in the twilight of what appears to have been a distinguished legal career, might well, in future, take a leaf out of the book of the Recorder of Bradford, HHJ Jonathan Hall QC, when presiding over court proceedings. An exemplar in how to conduct any hearing.

Page last updated: Wednesday 13th May, 2020 at 0900 hours

Photo Credits: Twitter (@F10BENQC); Serle Court Chambers

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.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Chickens come home to roost

On 3rd February, 2019, during a pre-trial hearing held in Bradford Combined Court Centre, a barrister, Olivia Checa-Dover, made several quite remarkable submissions to the judge, His Honour Neil Davey QC.

One of those was to the effect that West Yorkshire Police had, incredibly, instructed her to say they did not know where to locate one of their former officers.

More experienced, right-minded counsel might have told the instructing solicitor, Alison Walker, Deputy Head of Legal Services at WYP, not to place her in such a compromising position.

At the final hearing of a controversial, high profile civil claim, seven months later, Miss Checa-Dover denied making such a submission. The transcript of those earlier proceedings will tell a different story, as does the contemporaneous reporting of them, that has stood unchallenged by WYP, and their legal team, since its publication (read in full here).

The man in question, Mark Lunn (pictured above), was the lead investigator, and the only officer working full time, on a police operation codenamed Thatcham: The largest fraud investigation in WYP history, and one that ultimately led to the arrests of 91 men, and convictions for 45 of them, over ‘crash for cash’ insurance claims.

He was the arresting officer of a number of those men. One of which was a Bradford doctor, Abdul Rashid, who ran two general practice surgeries and a private medico-legal practice in the city.

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Dr Abdul Rashid, arrested by Mark Lunn in March 2012

On 7th March, 2012, Lunn turned up at the doctor’s home with fifteen other officers at 6.15am. His wife and three children were asleep when the knock was made.

Dr Rashid was not, subsequently, charged with any offence and he had issued a civil claim against WYP on the grounds that his arrest and detention by the police was unlawful. As such, Lunn was at the very centre of those legal proceedings and the police were doing all they could to justify not producing him as a witness.

The reason the police say they ‘couldn’t locate’ Lunn is because he had, by a catalogue of dishonest actions, tainted Operation Thatcham and placed the entire investigation in jeopardy. If this was revealed by way of cross-examination of Mark Lunn, in open court, the public and the press would come to know that the 45 ‘crash for cash’ convictions are, very arguably, unsafe.

Appropriate disclosure of Lunn’s misdemeanours would have also greatly aided Dr Rashid’s claim for unlawful arrest.

It has only very recently been discovered, by a painstaking journalistic investigation (read more here), that by November, 2012, the police knew about the extent, and effect, of Lunn’s wrongdoing and its devastating impact on Thatcham. They chose to conceal that disclosure from the Crown Prosecution Service, and the suspects’ criminal defence lawyers, and thus began a sustained and far reaching WYP ‘cover-up’ that is now well into its seventh year.

The first stage of that audacious cover-up was to conceal Lunn’s wrongdoing from all except a small group of officers who had been involved in the internal misconduct investigations.

The second stage was not to prosecute him for what appears, arguably, to be at least one criminal matter (a second offence of computer misuse and associated data, licence breaches) and to apply no disciplinary sanctions at the end of that process, so that the misconduct investigation would attract no undue attention amongst the rest of the police force (at that time, misconduct findings against officers were published on police notice boards every Monday). A prosecution of Lunn would have also blown the cover-up.

The third stage was to keep Lunn under the WYP cloak, and out of harm’s way, until Operation Thatcham suspects were charged and the prosecutions of the ‘crash for cash’ perpetrators, and beneficiaries, were in chain. He is regarded as a loose cannon and his record both in the police and, subsequently, bears that out.

The fourth stage was to allow him, in August 2013, to resign from West Yorkshire Police with little, or no, adverse disciplinary record that would be a barrier to future employment. A reasonable hypothesis is that a deal had been cut with Lunn on this basis: Salary paid, and pension preserved, for at least another year; no adverse notes on his Human Resources (HR) file (the court heard during the civil trial that Lunn’s HR file had been ‘weeded’ and that disciplinary records had gone missing).

There is no other reason that WYP could justify overlooking a catalogue of serious misconduct issues, compounded by the fact that there is incontrovertible evidence that he repeatedly lied to two senior officers when confronted by some of the misdemeanours.

Mark Lunn’s lying did not stop when he left West Yorkshire Police. Before he had even left the force his name had already appeared, according to Companies House, on the list of Directors of a firm called Quo Vadis Investigation Services Ltd (QV). His biography on the company website was a fiction and he was forced to resign from QV after less than 3 months service. Lunn’s ‘success’ on Operation Thatcham was, apparently, the leverage for the appointment and the main feature of the bio, which included the claim he had been a detective for 20 years. The truth was he had been a CID officer for less than 5 years before forcibly removed from Thatcham, almost 2 years before the trial at which the men were convicted.

By 2014, Lunn was again attempting again to trade on Thatcham in a private venture. This time the vehicle was to be ‘Pennine Investigations‘. But a company of that name has never been registered and a Google search draws a blank.

In January, 2015 Mark Lunn started work at the Wakefield office of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). But, true to form, that is not what it says on his LinkedIn biography. Enigmatically, he is recorded as working for the Home Office as ‘an investigator’ and is still listed as working there.

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Justice campaigners protest outside Pioneer House, Woolpacks Yard, Wakefield. The IPCC’s regional base in the North East.

This, on any view, was an extraordinary turn of events: An ex-police officer who has a string of misconduct investigations against his name turns up at the policing body charged with maintaining public confidence in the police complaints system. The IPCC purported to do that by oversight of the investigation of complaints made by members of the public against police officers. It is hard to imagine someone less suited to such a role as Mark Lunn.

These are just some of his misdemeanours that have been uncovered so far: He was subject to a large number of misconduct investigations whilst a serving police officer, including what appears to be a major covert operation codenamed Waffleedge; another covert operation codenamed Wademere; seriously compromised WYP’s largest ever fraud investigation; has twice been found to have misused police computers and software (many police officers are sacked after a first offence); appeared to obtain £183,000 from a major motor insurance company using a bogus company as an investment vehicle whilst a serving police officer; discussed details of a sensitive police operation with unconnected third parties; is an obsessive and persistent liar; a fantasist who invents competencies and past vocational experience on his CV’s and biographies: and has confessed, in police interview, to having a very bad memory.

Lunn’s complaints record includes allegations of unlawful arrest (four); assault (four); neglect of duty (three); incivility (two); oppressive conduct and harassment of a female; and false imprisonment.

It is also more likely than not he was part of the conspiracy, along with a number of other police and civilian officers, to conceal his wrongdoing from the Operation Thatcham suspects. The driving force for that conspiracy appears to be the present Head of WYP’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET), Chief Superintendent Nick Wallen. He was a detective inspector in the force’s notorious Professional Standards Department at the time.

It is anticipated that, when the full story eventually emerges, the list of Lunn’s misdemeanours may well be longer. Two former high ranking WYP colleagues describe him as “thick as a brick” and, not uncontroversially, lacking in the necessary integrity and intelligence to have ever been selected as a detective. Their actual words were much more direct and colourful.

Examination of documents authored by Lunn, and some of his emails, appear to bear that out. He is also given to inaccuracies, wild exaggeration and disparaging remarks about members of the public, and in one case a criminal defence solicitor, where and whenever it suited.

So the BIG questions are, how did Mark Lunn wangle a job with the IPCC in the first place, and why did he want to conceal that appointment from his LinkedIn connections, first and foremost, and anyone else amongst the wider public, curious enough to know what the miscreant officer was up to?

A subsidiary question is why did he leave the IPCC (now IOPC) fairly recently with, apparently, no other permanent employment to go to? Lunn is currently self-employed as a jobbing builder and free range egg vendor in rural Huddersfield, where he lives. Connexions Property Maintenance, ‘a family run business owned by Mark Lunn’, trades on the fact that he is a former police officer.

In what appears to be a regular ploy, Lunn sought external funding for Golcar Free Range Eggs. He raised £50 out of a crowdfunding target of £3,000. Rather less than the £183,000 he sought from 1st Central Motor Insurance to fund his private investigation business in 2012.

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A further question is why did the police tell a circuit judge that they couldn’t locate him when he was working at the IPCC, amongst other former police officers, less than 300 yards from WYP headquarters in Wakefield?

Press enquiries have been made of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the successor organisation to the IPCC. Contact has also been made with Derrick Campbell, the IPCC Commissioner who controlled the Wakefield office at the material time.

The Home Office and West Yorkshire Police have also been approached for comment. The latter has been asked why a circuit judge was also told by Miss Checa-Dover that Mark Lunn was not the man leading the Operation Thatcham, before he was forcibly removed. Evidence heard, and documents exhibited at the final hearing of the civil claim last month plainly showed that he was (read more here).

The Police Federation press office has also been contacted. The present Chairman of their West Yorkshire branch, Brian Booth, is a friend of Mark Lunn. Mr Booth has been contacted previously but has not replied.

Enquiries have also been made of West Yorkshire Trading Standards regarding Connexions Property Maintenance. The Trading Standards mission is to aim to ensure that the people of West Yorkshire are well informed and empowered consumers who have the confidence to interact with businesses safely and securely. Mark Lunn’s history of misrepresentation and his naked attempt to solicit business by purporting to be an honest, ethical, professional police office is concerning to say the least.

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A series of questions has been put to Mark Lunn. He has also been offered right of reply.

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Page last updated at 1620hrs on Thursday 3rd October, 2019

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.

Photo credit: Telegraph & Argus

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

The Smoking Gun

Earlier this week, an exclusive article revealed to an unsuspecting public the known misdemeanours of a ‘bad apple’ West Yorkshire Police detective (read in full here).

It is an important story because the reckless and, at times, dishonest actions of former Huddersfield based detective constable, Mark Lunn, may have placed the convictions of 45 men at risk.

Lengthy and forensic, the piece was almost entirely grounded in police emails and reports, together with notes from nine days of court reporting from the hearing of a high profile, high value civil claim in Bradford (read more here).

But, within the most explosive and damning piece of evidence, it has emerged that Lunn is only a bit part player: On 28th November, 2012, at the conclusion of an internal inquiry into his wrongdoing, Detective Inspector Nick Wallen, as he was then, wrote to a number of WYP colleagues in these terms:

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Chief Superintendent Nick Wallen (centre) receiving an award recently at the Police Superintendents’ Association

“Subject: DC 3602 Mark Lunn

“Ladies/Gents. Our investigation. is now concluded, there is no need for me to re-iterate what is in this report.

“My own view is that Kirklees SMT and PSD were right to remove DC Lunn from the investigation [Operation Thatcham] and to investigate respectively (sic). There is no doubt that had this issue been raised, in the first instance, at Crown Court, that the case would have been seriously compromised and may have lead (sic) to the prosecution being withdrawn.

“Mark will have undoubtedly learnt lessons from this, and his removal from CID duties to his current post [Huddersfield South Neighbourhood Police Team] may be the most suitable sanction for him.

“So, I thank everyone for their efforts regarding this matter, PSD will contact DCI Jeffrey regarding any other sanction for Mark that might be considered appropriate.

“Regards, Nick W”

The internal inquiry was one of a number of investigations carried out into Lunn’s misconduct. Another followed a complaint raised by Opus Law, a leading firm of Bradford solicitors, on 14thMay, 2012. Opus were not made aware of the internal investigation, or its outcome. It is understood, from a lawyer formerly employed by Opus, that their complaint was not concluded before Lunn left the force in August, 2013.

The most senior of the recipients of the Wallen email, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Jeffrey (as he was then), retired in July 2017 at the rank of superintendent and was central to the previous article about Lunn.

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Paul Jeffrey – who retired from West Yorkshire Police in 2017

Jeffrey hails from a family of police officers (read more here) and had first been made aware of the concerns over Lunn’s conduct, and the Opus Law letter, at a meeting on 8thJune, 2012. He instructed the local Professional Standards Department officers to carry out a scoping exercise. He was not aware that a covert police operation, codenamed Waffleedge, was already investigating Mark Lunn.

Nick Wallen is now a chief superintendent and Head of WYP’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team: A remarkable rise for an officer whose career is littered with controversial investigations and faux pas. Not least the murder of Leeds schoolteacher, Ann Maguire, about which her widowed husband, Don, has repeatedly and justifiably complained and the ‘Bradford 4’ acid attack murder in which clear, and unchallenged, findings of evidence tampering forms part of the miscarriage of justice case of Andrew Feather Jnr, who was found on that evidence to be the secondary getaway driver. Mr Feather’s case presently rests with the Criminal Case Review Commission. He and his family has received widespread and positive publicity from a large number of regional and national newspaper articles, plus broadcast packages from the BBC and Sky.

The author of this piece has spent many hundreds of hours, collectively, on both cases. In the Maguire case there is a bizarre restriction on access to documents that were used in the inquest touching on Ann’s death, that Don has scrupulously observed, much to the frustration of both of us. Those include such as the investigation policy book (or log).

In the Feather case, unrestricted access was given to all the materials disclosed to the family, and the fruits of the remarkable post-conviction sleuthing of Andrew Feather Senior, which drew warm praise from no less than the bench at the Court of Appeal.

To be clear, there is no direct evidence that links Nick Wallen to any wrongdoing, but he was the senior investigating officer (SIO) in both cases and, as such should have signed off every action and decision in the policy book. If, indeed, actions that led to grotesque incompetence, or wrongdoing, were ever recorded there, about which there has to be considerable doubt, given the force’s very long and troubled history where policy logs and similar procedural or evidential requirements are concerned.

It can, however, safely be said that, in both cases, the timings relating to the murders, and the movements of those at or near the scene, now meticulously plotted and at variance to the police version, give rise to suspicion about the integrity of the rest of the investigation. Only a robust, thorough, independent enquiry, by another police force or policing body, can begin to allay those doubts.

The internal investigation into Mark Lunn, and the Wallen email at its conclusion, is concerning, to say the least. Taken at its face, it appears that a conscious decision was made not to disclose material, either to the Crown Prosecution Service or the criminal defence teams of the defendants, in a trial in which Lunn was centrally involved. As he was ‘officer in the case’ in only two investigations, Operation Thatcham and the one that preceded it, the field is very narrow.

The Criminal Procedures and Investigation Act, 1996 is explicit about what should be disclosed in criminal trials and failure to meet those statutory obligations could amount to an offence of perverting the course of justice. Or a conspiracy of the same, as this decision to deliberately conceal disclosure appears to involve at least five officers, including Paul Jeffrey.

West Yorkshire Police has said, in writing, that it is not investigating the matters exposed in the first Lunn article and, in those circumstances, a copy of the Wallen email was sent to Gerry Wareham, Chief Prosecutor for the Yorkshire and Humber Region, with a request that the matter be further examined by him and then referred to an appropriate policing body for a more complete investigation.

Mr Wareham, who features elsewhere on this website in a seriously troubling case (read more here), responded promptly and to the effect that he had no locus to investigate any offences that may be disclosed within the Wallen email. He has written to West Yorkshire Police, effectively passing the buck back to them, knowing they have no intention of progressing a matter that would cause the force huge reputational damage.

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CPS lawyer Gerry Wareham pictured outside Bradford Combined Court Centre

Mr Wareham expressed no alarm, or even mild concern over what had been disclosed to him which, put shortly, was that the police had duped the CPS in high profile trials, leading to the conviction of 45 men, that now appear, on their face, to be unsafe.

He also appears to be unaware of the Attorney General’s robust, zero-tolerance stance on this very issue (read more here).

As expected, following the publication of the first Lunn article other material has emerged: A former Kent, Essex and Metropolitan Police officer, Darren Jones, says that the account of their interaction, given by Lunn in police interview, is false. They did meet in London on one occasion, but ‘Operation Thatcham was never discussed’ says Jones.

It has also been revealed that, in 2014, Lunn renewed contact with Mr Jones.  He told him that he was still looking to start up his own fraud investigation company. This time the trading style was set to be Pennine Investigations. There is no such company registered at Companies House.

Materials relating to the now defunct Quo Vadis Investigation Services Ltd (QV) have also been disclosed. They show that Mark Lunn was listed as ‘Operations Director’ and made several outlandish claims in his biography on the company website. Not least that he had ‘over 20 years of experience as a CID officer with West Yorkshire Police’. In truth, he only served as a police officer for 19 years, and less than 5 of those were as a detective.

Companies House records show that Lunn became registered was a Director of QV on 31st July, 2013. He didn’t leave West Yorkshire Police until the following month. By October of that same year he had resigned, following a letter sent to QV, by Opus Law, pointing out why he had been removed from Operation Thatcham and the falsehoods on his biography.

A fraud investigator who made fraudulent claims about his own credentials was more than the other directors could countenance.

A consultant to QV, Peter Taylor joined and left on the same days as Mark Lunn, so there appears to have been a link between the two and Lunn was, very likely, leveraging the ‘success’ of Operation Thatcham to make these connections and secure positions that appeared well above his station. Taylor, rather immodestly, describes himself as ‘a highly regarded Counter Fraud professional with over 25 years experience’. He currently runs a company called Peter Taylor Consultants Ltd. Mr Taylor has been invited to prove further insight into his apparent association with the disgraced Mark Lunn.

In 2015, according to Lunn’s LinkedIn page, he joined the Home Office as an investigator. At the civil trial in Bradford the court heard that the belief of the claimant’s legal team was that he was working for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) at their Wakefield office. On that same CV, Lunn lists ‘well versed in police misconduct procedures’ as one of his self-stated competencies. That appears to support that hypothesis.

There is an unexplained gap 16 month gap in his LinkedIn CV, from when Lunn left WYP until he joined the Home Office. There is no mention of the ill-starred association with QV Fraud Investigation Services or Pennine Investigations. He is still listed as working at the Home Office up to the present time, but also now runs a jobbing builder business and sells free range eggs in the village where he lives. A man of many parts.

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The press office of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) was approached on 20th September, 2019 to confirm, or otherwise, whether Mark Lunn had worked for their predecessor organisation, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and, if so, how would public concerns over such an appointment be addressed. No response has been received from the ‘police watchdog’. Adverse inference can, of course, be drawn from that silence from an organisation that lists openness and transparency as two of its core values.

John James, a Leeds solicitor, has not responded to the email sent to him seeking an account of his interaction with Lunn. It was claimed, in police interview, by Lunn, that James was a ‘prospective co-director’ of a bogus company ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’. It was also claimed in that interview that the two had met during police investigations upon which Lunn was engaged.

The Chairman of the perpetually noisy West Yorkshire Police Federation, Brian Booth, also failed to respond to the enquiries made of him and his association with Mark Lunn.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) promised answers to these questions put to them concerning their involvement in Operation Thatcham: 1. A short statement from Insurance Fraud Bureau, covering the police decision to, effectively, conceal the serious misdemeanours of the lead investigator in Operation Thatcham from the CPS, and the defendants’ legal teams, would be helpful. 2. It would also assist, also, to know if WYP received any funding from IFB for Operation Thatcham.

After an inexplicable delay, they provided this statement which ducked both issues: ‘IFB’s role is to provide evidence of insurance fraud to UK police forces and to assist forces with their investigations into this criminal activity. In these circumstances, the relevant police force takes the lead with IFB providing information in an administrative role’.

A series of questions was put to the press office of 1st Century Motor Insurance in connection with the business plans for ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’ that Lunn had compiled on police computers. After a series of meetings with two of their Directors at their Sussex HQ, he was asking the insurance company to make an investment of £183,000 in the bogus company. Police documents appear to show that at least some of that money was paid to Lunn. Clarification over the questions put to 1st Century was sought by their press officer and, following receipt, answers to at least some of the questions are promised in the near future.

In response to a freedom of information request that asked if West Yorkshire Police had undertaken a risk assessment, or a process whereby the they would have confirmed the authenticity and legal standing of the IFB, WYP said: ‘We hold no information. The Insurance Fraud Bureau has been contacted for basic information about the car insurance industry. They are not funding any aspect of the enquiry, it was a police-initiated operation. No risk assessment has been undertaken’. 

Of greater concern is that the police gave what appear to be false answers to other questions in that same request. Firstly, about the transfer of officers from other duties to run Operation Thatcham: They say there were none, Mark Lunn was certainly one as he was transferred from Huddersfield CID to the Proceeds of Crime Team at Batley Police Station to run Thatcham. Secondly, when asked whether any complaints had been received as a result of this investigation, they said there were none. In reality, there appears to be, from documentary evidence, at least three against Lunn, one of which it is known was from Opus Law.

The West Yorkshire Police press office has not repsonded to questions put to them about Mark Lunn and Operation Thatcham. Or provided a statement, as requested.

Nevertheless, and in spite of the obfuscation and false trail left by the police and the stonewalling by their perenially disgraced ‘watchdog’ and the ultra-defensive CPS, enquiries from this quarter are continuing, The next ports of call are the Police Superintendents’ Association, the Home Office, the Attorney General and the Justice Parliamentary Select Committee to test whether any amongst them has the resolve to tackle this disgraceful situation.

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Page last updated at 1130hrs on Saturday 28th September, 2019

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.

Photo credit: Telegraph & Argus

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did ‘bad apple’ taint the Thatcham barrel?

In March 2008, an investigation began into two Huddersfield brothers. Concerns about their extravagant lifestyle, following an anonymous tip-off, appeared to be the trigger for the police probe.

At the subsequent trial in Bradford Crown Court in March, 2011, it emerged in evidence that Nadeem and Thazeem Khalid had exaggerated their earnings to obtain £968,000 from three financial institutions; Lombard, Birmingham Midshires and Kensington Finance.

They had used loans, fraudulently obtained, to buy a £75,000 Ferrari car, and two houses in Salendine Nook; a £650,000 detached house and another, valued at £160,000, that was subsequently used as a rental property.

After the trial, the detective constable based with the Kirklees CID response team, Mark Lunn, told a local newspaper:

“They were living a fast and loose lifestyle well beyond their means.

“Throughout our investigation they both showed an air of arrogance and were always of the opinion the case would never be proved. They were wrong.”

DC Lunn added: “They may believe they are untouchable and they may be enjoying a lavish lifestyle when the honest, hard working members of the public are struggling in times of austerity. But they can rest assured the police will catch up with them”.

At the time of their arrest, and conviction, the brothers were said to be running a company called Advanced Claims UK Ltd although their names have never appeared amongst the directors listed at Companies House. In both the evidence used for the fraud trial, and in the unused materials (for the legally minded, the MG6(c)), there were documents relating to the running of that company that aroused suspicion of bogus motor insurance claims.

Mark Lunn, who lives in the Golcar area of Huddersfield, joined West Yorkshire Police as a special constable in 1988. He served in that role for 6 years. He became a warranted officer in 1994 and remained, in relative obscurity, at the rank of police constable until around 2007 when he passed his basic exams and became a detective constable with the CID Response team in Huddersfield. He was a ‘rookie’ when he was given the task of investigating the Khalid brothers. It is said by the police that he was the ‘officer in the case’ for that investigation.

Following the conviction of the Khalid brothers, Lunn was ‘recommended’ to join the specialist Kirklees Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) Unit at their base in Batley Police Station. The sergeant leading the team, Mark Taylor (now an inspector in Bradford CID), says ‘it was a close knit unit’. Unusually for a detective constable, Lunn was allocated an office of his own. He was also tasked with leading an investigation, codenamed Operation Thatcham, to look further into the activities of not only the Khalid brothers but, more particularly, one of their associates, Sahir Mohammed.

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Batley Police Station

But Lunn was harbouring a dark secret of his own, and the fine words he gave to the Huddersfield Examiner would come back to haunt both him and West Yorkshire Police.

Revelling in his new found ‘celebrity’, he was, soon afterwards, planning a very large loan (or investment) of his own whose provenance was questionable. The leverage for that payment was the success of the Khalid investigation and his position as lead investigator on Operation Thatcham, a joint operation that included the private, not-for-profit Insurance Fraud Bureau (read more here) and the Ministry of Justice as partners.

At around the same time, the IFB had been involved in a controversial prosecution at Southwark Crown Court of doctors and solicitors. It concluded in December, 2011, after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped all charges, with the judge, HHJ David Higgins, describing the conduct of the case as “scandalous”.

That police investigation, codenamed Operation Triassic, had been funded and driven by the insurance industry and Ian Lewis, at the time the fraud partner at Manchester law firm Lewis Hymanson Small, representing BCR Legal Group, a London-based insurance intermediary, said: “Despite repeated requests to be provided with details of the complaints, the CPS and the police failed to do so, raising speculation that this was an investigation led by the insurance industry with a suspicion of an agenda to continue the civil cost wars in the criminal courts”.

IFB, for their part, maintain that they “….provided good evidence to the City of London Police to investigate the matter further and bring charges against the professionals concerned”. An article published by Legal Futures, covering the case, can be read here.

Questions concerning IFB’s role and whether they contributed funding to Operation Thatcham have been put to both them and West Yorkshire Police.

Police documents show that Mark Lunn added to his publicly available LinkedIn profile, sometime in 2011 he says, the fact that he was a director of private investigation business using a bogus company, ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’, as its trading style. It was not registered at Companies House at that time. He was, it seems, looking to ride the tidal wave of money being thrown at tackling insurance fraud by the big players in that industry. ‘Crash for cash’ motor insurance frauds were one of the biggest concerns for underwriters and brokers.

He subsequently approached two senior managers of a large, well established insurance company based in Haywards Heath, Sussex. They were Glenn Marr (Fraud Director) and Clare Burrell (Claims Director) who both worked for 1st Central Insurance. They are part of the much larger, Guernsey based, First Central Insurance and Technology Group.

Lunn says he had been introduced to 1st Central by an, as yet, unidentified contact made through the ‘crash for cash’ investigations. He made three visits to the insurer’s head office, whilst not on West Yorkshire Police business, during the time he spent running Operation Thatcham.

A business plan for the bogus company was produced by Lunn, on police computers, although he told Detective Chief Inspector Paul Jeffrey, in interview, that he had worked on it ‘only in lunch breaks’. He also admitted sending out emails connected to ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’ using his police email account.

The plan was for 1st Central to pay him £183,000, based on that spreadsheet. Apparently, whilst Lunn was leading one of the highest profile fraud investigations in West Yorkshire Police history. A series of questions has been put to the press office of First Central Group concerning the provenance of this arrangement, given they must have known that Mark Lunn was a serving police officer and it directly conflicted with his leader role on Operation Thatcham.

Lunn had already sourced an office and agreed a rental with a well-known local businessman, Ian Pogson, who passed away suddenly in July, 2014. The premises were situated at Brougham Road, Marsden a short drive from the police officer’s home. Police documents reveal that 1st Central rejected that location as they wanted Lunn’s business premises to be situated in Leeds, the recognised regional economic centre.

Mr Pogson is named, by the police, as someone who could give advice on the drawing up of Lunn’s business plan. The link to Mr Pogson was via a former Metropolitan Police detective, Darren Jones.

Lunn says he met Mr Jones through enquiries as part of the Thatcham investigation. The latter is the principal shareholder in Fraud Consultants UK Ltd (read more here). Mr Jones was asked to verify if Mark Lunn’s account of his intermediary role is true. He states that it isn’t: Mr Jones was not a serving officer at the time and he says that Lunn approached him for advice, out of the blue, as someone who had started his own fraud investigation business. He knew Ian Pogson, as he was a client for whom he was doing professional work. Beyond that, he says he has little or no recollection of Lunn. Operation Thatcham was never discussed between them.

 

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Andel Ltd was the business controlled by the late Ian Pogson

According to DCI Jeffrey, based on the account Lunn gave to him, a Leeds solicitor, John James, was also involved in the plans involving the bogus company, ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’. He is a personal injury specialist presently working for a firm called Legal Studio (read more here). He was described by Lunn ‘as a prospective co-director’.

At the time of the alleged association with Lunn he was working for one of the largest law firms in Leeds, Ford and Warren. His CV on the LinkedIn website describes his role there as ‘Specialising in Insurance Fraud litigation, investigating and defending fraudulent motor claims on behalf of insurer clients’. Both Mr Walker, and Weightmans Solicitors, who took over the business of Ford and Warren, have been invited to give an account of any interaction with this ‘company’, a serving police officer and what appears to be a very large sum of money.

This private enterprise, apparently involving variously, and not necessarily limited to, a serving West Yorkshire Police officer, a former Metropolitan Police officer, a solicitor, and one of Huddersfield’s most successful businessmen, was, plainly, a very serious undertaking. The fact it was being organised from Batley Police Station, using police resources (office space, computers, phones at the very least), a police email address, software licenced to the police, and relying almost entirely on a number of professional connections made whilst on one of West Yorkshire Police’s largest ever fraud operations, is concerning.

On Lunn’s own account, he had been working on the satellite project for up to a year.

A series of questions has been put to West Yorkshire Police press office in order to shed more light on how this could have possibly happened and why Detective Constable Mark Lunn was not dismissed from the force. There is also the latent question of whether any of his conduct met the criminal threshold, particularly the deception over the bogus company.

The police’s position, regarding the sanctions Lunn faced over a lengthy list of serious demeanours, is that he was placed on an Unsatisfactory Performance Plan (UPP). A three-stage process that is more aligned to Human Resources than Professional Standards. Routinely used to tackle issues such as lateness or poor attendance record.

The UPP proposition, advanced by West Yorkshire Police, intended to divert attention from the investigation that it is known did take place into Mark Lunn, is, quite simply, preposterous. Those making it, and those maintaining it, should, themselves, face disciplinary or regulatory investigation.

There are also the residual and more serious issues of (i) what happened to the money that the police say was paid to Lunn and (ii) was it legitimately obtained? Public confidence in the police will suffer a serious detriment if answers are not provided to these questions.

On 14th May, 2012 a Bradford firm of criminal defence solicitors, Opus Law, wrote to the Professional Standards Department of West Yorkshire Police and drew the force’s attention to at least some of Lunn’s nefarious activities. Opus, a ‘Legal 500 Leading Firm’, represented one of the persons arrested, two months earlier, as part of Operation Thatcham: Dr Abdul Rashid, a Bradford GP and medico-legal expert.

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It appears as though PSD was either slow to act, as the third of Mark Lunn’s three visits to 1st Insurance took place eight days later, on 22nd May, 2012, or, by then, they had him under covert surveillance. He had taken that day off as unplanned leave, telling his supervisor, Detective Sergeant Taylor that he had ‘child care difficulties’.  He later told DCI Jeffrey he couldn’t remember saying that and, according to DCI Jeffrey’s notes, Lunn ‘made great play of how bad his memory was these days’.

On Monday 4th June, 2012, Mark Lunn started a planned two week period of leave. At a County Court hearing that concluded recently in Bradford Combined Court Centre, DI Mark Taylor (as he is now) gave evidence about how he came to know of Lunn’s burgeoning private enterprise. It can be paraphrased in this way: ‘On or about the first day of Lunn’s leave, DC Andrew Barrett came to his office and blew the whistle on Lunn, whom had been heard in telephone conversations obviously not to do with his police work’.

In police documents it emerges that, on DI Taylor’s account, DC Barrett was not the only team member to have heard, or seen, Lunn conducting such activities. Others were aware that he had compiled a business plan and had travelled ‘down south’ to make a ‘pitch’ for investment in his business. There was a huge concern as to how this would impact on the integrity of Operation Thatcham’.

DI Taylor’s further evidence in court was that he telephoned DI Andrew Leonard on that day, which he said was ‘at the end of May or beginning of June’ to share the knowledge of DC Barrett’s whistle blowing. There is no contemporaneous document available to support this account by DI Taylor. No emails, entry in pocket note books (PNB’s), or day books, and nothing on the investigation policy log relating to this. A ‘big red flag’ to borrow a phrase the police’s barrister, Olivia Checa-Dover, is fond of using, was not raised anywhere, it seems. Just an internal phone call, of which there is no audit trail.

A remarkable feature of those proceedings was the extent to which DI Taylor’s recollection of events varied from question to question, put to him in his examination-in-chief and, later, his cross-examination.

Another feature was that a significant number of other documents that would have supported DI Taylor’s oral evidence had either gone missing, been inexplicably destroyed or not searched for.

A third feature was how little DI Taylor appeared to know about the day to day running of the Thatcham investigation. For example, on a policy log with a very large number of entries he could not point to a single entry he had made. Almost every single one was made by DC Lunn. He told the court he was involved in thirteen other investigations or prosecutions at the time.

A fourth feature, very obviously of course, was the massive private enterprise, with a dangerous conflict of interest, being organised by the officer leading the investigation, right under DI Taylor’s nose. For up to a year, Lunn must have regarded his supervisor, working in an adjacent office, with scarcely concealed contempt.

Without the letter from Opus Law, it is possible that Lunn would have got away with his plans and scammed both West Yorkshire Police and, possibly, 1st Central Insurance, who were being asked to invest very heavily in a bogus company whilst the principal was a serving police officer.

On 7thJune, 2012, DI Taylor was copied into an email sent by D/Sgt Lockwood. Attached to the email was the letter from Opus Law.

When asked in cross-examination, at the County Court trial, if he had ever seen the Opus letter, before being shown the email in the trial bundle, he answered firmly in the negative.

He didn’t repeat the regular mantra of ‘I don’t recall’ or ‘I can’t remember’. He said: ‘No’

When shown the Lockwood email, he conceded that he must have opened it and seen the letter. The judge, Ben Nolan QC, sitting in this case as a Recorder, characterised this type of evidence as being tendered by a ‘truthful, reliable and extremely professional officer’. The judgment also gratuitously praises DI Taylor’s ‘very good recollection of his role as supervisor of DC Lunn’.

There is, very evidently, a tension between the daily reports of the hearings posted from the press seats and those judicial findings (read here). Not to mention the dangerous enterprise Lunn was perpetrating right under DI Taylor’s nose.

It now transpires, after further investigation, that the Opus letter featured in a meeting with DCI Jeffrey that took place on the day following receipt of the Lockwood email. DI Taylor had actually taken the letter to the meeting for the purpose of bringing it to the attention of ‘the boss’. The letter was not an item on the agenda, this was a routine operational review meeting of POCA team activity, and it seems, from DCI Jeffrey’s own account that this occasion was the first he knew of the Lunn complaint. It was only raised by DI Taylor when the review turned to Operation Thatcham, not as a matter of very considerable importance at the outset. Yet DI Taylor’s best evidence to the court was that he had never seen the Opus letter before being shown it in the witness box.

In DCI Jeffrey’s detailed notes of that meeting there is no mention of the Taylor phone call to DI Leonard. Or, indeed, any contact between Leonard and Jeffrey. It appears that, on all the available evidence, it was the first DCI Jeffrey, the Head of Crime in Kirklees, had heard of the complaints made against Lunn by Opus Law. 25 days after their letter had been sent to West Yorkshire Police.

The apparent delay by the POCA team, and the seeming lack of urgency in managing the complaint up the command chain, over what were, on any independent view, serious allegations, is troubling. Particularly, in the light of knowledge held, by both PSD and those senior officers, over a ‘written warning’ sanction Lunn had received, previously, at the end of a misconduct investigation into misuse of police computers. Given what was alleged, and the fact that the latest complaint came from a leading firm of solicitors well acquainted with policing matters, with documentary evidence supporting it, gives rise to suspicion that other dynamics were in play.

Frequently, police officers are dismissed from the service for computer and data misuse. It is, quite rightly, viewed very seriously and, as such, a curiosity as to why Lunn escaped with such a relatively minor sanction over his previous breach. Nevertheless, in the light of that disciplinary finding, the decision to allocate Detective Constable Lunn an office of his own in Batley Police Station, away from the gaze of the rest of his colleagues, appears highly questionable and smacks of poor supervision and decision making.

There was also one other live PSD complaint running at the time, from a member of the public, over the failure of Lunn to return seized property. The outcome of that complaint is not known. In his written response to PSD, Lunn had declared that he was ‘Team Thatcham‘ and that status, apparently, gave him immunity from any criticism, either internally or from members of the public.

In the same County Court proceedings, featuring the unlawful arrest of Dr Rashid, the court heard at the pre-trial review that there had been three previous complaints made against Lunn, by members of the public, alleging unlawful arrest. None were upheld by PSD. Under force policy at that time, West Yorkshire Police should, however, have placed a ‘red flag’ against Lunn’s name for having three complaints of the same classification made against him, irrespective of whether they were upheld or not.

Dr Rashid’s unlawful arrest claim was also dismissed, after a ten day court hearing, but is presently subject to an appeal to the High Court (read more here). He was never charged with any offence, but kept on police bail until June, 2013.

DC Mark Lunn, the officer in charge of the Thatcham investigation was, on the documentary evidence provided by the police to the court, clearly a detective who was prepared to persistently lie; misuse police assets; misrepresent himself using a police email account to further a private enterprise; repeatedly deceive fellow police officers working in the same team; engage in conduct that placed a huge fraud investigation at risk; gratuitously embellish his CV (which he still does to this day); repeatedly breach Police Conduct Regulations and place self-interest well above public service. Added to all that ‘he made great play of how bad his memory was’.

Unsurprisingly, that is not the view Mark Lunn projects about himself.

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Incredibly, this was the officer who planned and executed the arrest of Dr Rashid and wrote the operational order that included a massive, pre-dawn police raid at a residential property in an upmarket suburb of Bradford, the home of a well known professional man deeply embedded in the local community, and in which children as young as seven years old were asleep.

The findings of the judge, at the conclusion of the Rashid trial, seek to strongly downplay the impact of Lunn on the lawfulness of the doctor’s arrest and his role in it. Not only in the face of what was known in court about an officer whose very presence, let alone his position as its leader, appears to taint the entire investigation, or at the very least, up to the point he was removed from it, but the fact that almost all the documents, upon which Lunn might reasonably have noted the reasons he relied upon for the arrest, appear to have been ‘sanitised’. This formed part of the closing submissions of Dr Rashid’s barrister at the end of the trial. A point seemingly not addressed in the judgment.

The officer in charge of disclosure, on behalf of the police legal team, was DI Taylor. Warmly praised by the judge as ‘extremely professional’. From the press seats, at least, across three hearings, beginning in December, 2018 and ending in September, 2019 the drip-feed disclosure process had the appearance of an exercise whose principal aim was not to reveal anything that would undermine the principal plank of the police case.

The police’s various and changing explanations for the absence of key documents, including some of those provided by DI Taylor on oath, pose some difficulty when reconciling what is known as Authorised Professional Practice (formerly issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, more latterly by the College of Policing), and the internal management of police information (MoPI) policies of a well-run police force. Not to mention their lawful obligations, Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and duty of care.

One reasonable hypothesis, given what is now known about his general character and integrity, is that DC Lunn had exaggerated the reasons for the arrest in the contemporaneous documents pertaining to the arrest, for the purpose of enhancing his ‘pitch’ for investment in his private business by 1st Century – and giving the motor claims industry a ‘prized scalp’, as Dr Rashid was described in pre-trial court proceedings.

Significant support for this line of reasoning is that within hours of Dr Rashid’s arrest, Lunn had written to the General Medical Council to tell them that the doctor had been arrested over ‘serious fraud, money laundering and was part of an organised crime gang’. The words ‘on suspicion of’ or ‘alleged’ were notably absent. Lunn had also told the GMC that Dr Rashid was using drugs, but did not specify their nature, or application.

Lunn went on to say that patient records were found scattered in his home and the boot of his car. That was a baseless allegation, unsupported by evidence, photographic or otherwise. The ‘money laundering’ was an invention, as was the allegation that there was a misuse of drugs. None of these matters were ever put to Dr Rashid in interview.

Apart from this grotesque, and arguably libellous, smearing of Dr Rashid, it was a serious breach of West Yorkshire Police’s policy for disclosure to regulated professions. A task, for very obvious reasons, almost always undertaken by a specialist, qualified officer in the Force Disclosure Unit.

The General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practice Panel rejected West Yorkshire Police’s submissions and cleared Dr Rashid of any wrongdoing.

On 18th June, 2012, on the first day back on duty after his holiday leave, Lunn was summoned to Divisional HQ in Huddersfield for a meeting with DCI Jeffrey and DI Leonard, who was Mark Taylor’s line manager at that time.

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DCI Paul Jeffrey pictured after the conclusion of the Opertion Thatcham trials

Perversely, given what was alleged, and Lunn’s past history of police computer misuse, this was arranged as an informal meeting. The public might reasonably have expected that, given the suspicion of at least one criminal offence, Lunn would have been arrested and interviewed under caution.

A countervailing argument might be that admissions could be coaxed from Lunn by informal questioning, rather than when represented by his lawyer and a Police Federation representative at a formal interview under caution, where he might be advised to give a ‘no comment’ interview and provide a statement prepared by the Fed’s own lawyers at its conclusion.

Dr Rashid, for one, might well point out that he was never given such opportunity. Instead, Lunn and sixteen other police officers turned up at his home at 6.15am banging on the door.

It is clear from Paul Jeffrey’s detailed account of the meeting that an internal investigation had been launched against Lunn on 8th June, and a significant amount of information and material seized prior to the interview on the 18th. It is now apparent that the investigation was codenamed Operation Wademere.

At the outset of that meeting with two of his superiors, Lunn was dismissive of the complaint against him and maintained that the Opus Law letter was ‘a bit of a joke’. The bogus company was ‘only an idea’ he said. He was unaware that an investigation into the complaint by PSD, or, more likely, the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) that falls under the PSD umbrella, had started ten days ago, at DCI Jeffrey’s instigation.

Lunn’s approach to the interview was described by fellow police officers as ‘closed’ and ‘evasive’. He was prepared to lie to two senior officers in an attempt to bluff his way out of the Opus complaint. He only made admissions, they said, when he belatedly realised that his superiors already had the answers to the questions they were putting to him.

Eventually, and reluctantly, it was admitted by Lunn that he had misused police computers again; he was running the private investigation business from his home, rather than the office he had agreed to pay £50 per month to rent; he was using contacts gained specifically through the Operation Thatcham investigation to set up his business; he had breached force policy in not disclosing his business interests; most crucially, there was a clear conflict of interest with his duties as the Officer in the Case and the acknowledged lead investigator in Operation Thatcham.

To the extent he had, potentially, placed the entire investigation in jeopardy. Not least, it seems, by procuring the services of a chartered physiotherapist, Lee Robinson, as a director of the bogus company. Robinson was already a retained expert witness on Operation Thatcham.

That conflict, the police admit, would have led to the collapse of the Thatcham trials if the information was disclosed to the Crown Prosecution Service. The decision was made by a group of officers to deliberately conceal that crucial information from the CPS and the legal teams of those on trial.

Lunn denied any other police officers were involved in the plans.

He was removed from Operation Thatcham on the same day, but neither suspended nor placed on restricted duties (normally a non-public facing role and not adjacent to any evidence chains). Instead, Lunn was posted to the Huddersfield South neighbourhood team. Policing the area both where he lived and planned to set up his private investigation office, with the locals unaware that, in their midst, was a ‘bad apple’ police officer. One with a history of complaints of unlawful arrests (at the time, four), one who had twice misused police computers, and one who had repeatedly lied to, and deliberately deceived, other police officers. With a bad memory, to boot.

DCI Jeffrey also noted after the meeting with Lunn on 18th June, 2012 that there was a clear risk of ‘reputational damage’ to West Yorkshire Police if details of Lunn’s activities emerged into the public domain. The risk to the public of rural Huddersfield appeared not to have even been considered, let alone assessed, by DCI Jeffrey or the Professional Standards officers. That, despite the conclusion being drawn by Paul Jeffrey: ‘There are misconduct issues apparent in the information gathering exercise conducted today and I have no doubt that there is significantly more information [about Lunn] that will come out over time’.

Some of that information may have concerned a registration that was made at Companies House, in the name of ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd.’, very shortly after Mark Lunn was removed from Operation Thatcham. It is unclear whether Lunn has any connection with any of the officers named as having control of the company. West Yorkshire Police were asked to clarify. They declined to do so.

Following the report of the Jeffrey/Leonard/Lunn meeting, in correspondence circulated to seven officers, up to the rank of superintendent, and who were, in one form or another, stakeholders in the investigation into Lunn’s activities, it was clear that there were serious concerns about what had been extracted from the police systems, by Lunn, to further his own commercial enterprise. Sgt Jonathan Dunkerley (as he was then) said: ‘It worrys (sic) me what he may have ‘taken’ with him from WYP systems that is clearly for personal gain. It’s obvious the monies and stakes are high’.

It also appears that Lunn was involved in another covert ACU investigation, codenamed Operation Waffleedge. ACU investigations are normally given operational codenames, Professional Standards investigations are given unique reference numbers (URN’s). For example, the Opus complaint had the URN ‘CO/797/11’.

The covert investigation was confirmed in an email between the Intelligence Unit in PSD and Stephen Bywater, following additional concerns raised with PSD on 8th June, 2012 by D/Sgt Lockwood, regarding Lunn. It was obvious that DS Lockwood was not in the ACU loop. The Waffleedge investigation was already under way:

‘We have received this request from Andy Lockwood about Mark Lunn. We are working on Mark LUNN for Op Waffleedge. What do you want to happen. Does someone contact DS Lockwood and let him know of our concerns? Or does the Intelligence Unit just do the work as requested?’

The police, in defending the unlawful arrest claim made by Dr Rashid, have given a variety of explanations for the Waffleedge investigation at pre-trial hearings, at the final hearing and in documents disclosed to the court. Including the proposition, submitted in court, that ‘Waffleedge was not a covert operation’. Taken together, they arouse the reasonable suspicion that the true findings of that investigation are being concealed, to the significant detriment of both Dr Rashid, the integrity of the Operation Thatcham investigation and, most crucially, public confidence in the police force.

There is also a freedom of information request in which West Yorkshire Police have refused to provide any information at all. They will not even confirm or deny Operation Waffleedge exists (read more here).

An appeal against the refusal by the police to disclose uncontroversial details about the investigation is, presently, being considered by the Information Commissioner. It is likely to be, ultimately, determined before an information rights tribunal. That is the only conceivable chance of prising at least part of the truth about Waffleedge from West Yorkshire Police.

Mark Lunn was, remarkably, not called to give evidence at the hearing into the unlawful arrest claimed by Dr Rashid. One of the reasons heard in court was an incredible submission by Miss Checa-Dover, at the pre-trial hearing before HHJ Neil Davey QC, that ‘the police couldn’t locate him’.

Amongst Lunn’s Facebook friends are Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigator, Mohammed Ejaz, and the present Chair of West Yorkshire Police Federation, Brian Booth. Which, apart from laying to waste the proposition that Lunn couldn’t be found, presents an interesting challenge to those organisations, and damages public confidence in both by exhibiting a close association with a ‘bad apple’ police officer. Questions have been put to them both, individually, and to their respective press offices. No response was received from either.

Quite apart from which, it took less than 20 minutes, using open source material, for the author of this article to locate Mark Lunn. His home address, the names of the two businesses he now runs (jobbing builder and free range eggs vendor), his mobile telephone number, his Facebook account, and his LinkedIn account.

The trail of destruction he left behind as a police officer has lasted rather longer than 20 minutes – and it may not have ended yet. It appears from the various police correspondence, and reports, forming the rump of this article, that senior officers may have taken the decision to hide Lunn away, in what they believed was a noble cause and until the Thatcham investigation was completed, and not disclose his misdemeanours to those charged with offences arising from it. That may have influenced the defendant’s decision whether to plead guilty, or not, at court.

There has to be considerable doubt as to whether the trials would have proceeded if the fruits of the ACU and PSD investigations into Mark Lunn had been properly served on the CPS and the defendant’s legal team, as part of the police’s strict duty under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, 1996.

Dr Rashid’s barrister, Ian Pennock of Park Lane Plowden Chambers in Leeds, raised this issue in court during his final submissions. He said that if the Lunn disclosures were not made, and it is more likely than not they weren’t, this could amount to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and required further investigation.

The judge observed that it didn’t matter as the defendants had pleaded guilty and the time for any appeal against conviction had lapsed. He did not address the core point of alleged police wrongdoing, or explore with the police legal team whether the criminal defence teams (or the CPS) of those convicted were, in fact, notified of Mark Lunn’s role in the investigation and his taint upon it. The CPS has been approached for comment. Gerry Wareham, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humber, in the manner of Ponsious Pilate, referred the matter back to West Yorkshire Police saying he had no power to investigate how or why the police had deliberately concealed information from the CPS.

A complaint is being made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, by Dr Rashid’s legal team, with a request that another police force is appointed to investigate those allegations of perverting the course of justice.

That, regrettably, is founded more on hope than reality.

Recent history shows that the disgraced police watchdog and their local ‘masters’, West Yorkshire Police, will not want to lift the lid on this stinking Thatcham barrel. Both have steadfastly resisted calls to instigate a proportionate and independent investigation into the alleged serious failings of senior police officers over the industrial scale child sexual abuse, drug dealing, human trafficking in Huddersfield by Asian gangs – described recently by one outspoken media commentator as ‘Grooming Gang Central’.

A common link is that the Divisional Commander of Kirklees from 2009 to 2012 was Chief Superintendent John Robins, now, no less, the chief constable of that same West Yorkshire Police (read WYP biography here).

The child sex scandal and the Operation Thatcham debacle both happened on Robins’ Kirklees watch. As were the seeds of the outrageous lawlessless sown that has now seen  ‘Horrible’ Huddersfield grow into the worst place to live in the UK (read more here).

 

Page last updated at 0900hrs on Wednesday 30th June, 2020

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Photo credit: Huddersfield Examiner

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

 

Court set to hear £5 million civil claim against police

A county court claim filed in October, 2015 by a Bradford doctor, Abdul Rashid, is, finally, set to be heard later this year. The defendant is the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police.

A second trial, to determine quantum, will follow if the claim succeeds in establishing liability against the police. The first trial is listed for hearing in Bradford County Court between 9th and 19th September, 2019.

Since July, 2018, two case management hearings and a pre-trial review have focused mainly on unresolved disclosure issues.

The court has already heard that the claim, for aggravated, exemplary and special damages, including loss of earnings, concerns events that took place over seven years ago.

Shortly after 6.15am on Wednesday 7th March, 2012, eighteen police officers attended at Dr Rashid’s home in a pre-planned operation, threatened to break down the front door, arrested him in front of his wife and three children, then searched the house before taking him to Trafalgar House police station in Bradford, a short time later.

The arresting officer was Detective Constable Mark Lunn, who features centrally in a claim that turns upon the lawfulness of this officer’s actions before, during and after the arrest of Dr Rashid. Expressed succinctly by HHJ Neil Davey QC at the second case management hearing: ‘There is only one issue: Did the arresting officer have reasonable grounds‘.

The court has also heard that the large group of WYP officers, led by DC Lunn, not only searched Dr Rashid’s home, in full view of his neighbours, but also seized computers, other electronic devices, as well as life-saving medication for the use of one of Dr Rashid’s three children, putting that child’s health and safety at risk. The police deny the latter allegation.

DC Lunn was, at the time, involved in an investigation codenamed Operation Thatcham, seeking to disrupt a large scale ‘cash for crash‘ fraud in Huddersfield, where he was based. Lunn was working under the supervision of Sergeant Mark Taylor (now an inspector in Bradford CID) and the operation was led by DCI Griffiths and later, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Jeffrey. Counsel for WYP, Olivia Checa-Dover, has told the court that Sergeant Taylor (as he was then) will give evidence in these proceedings and the police will rely on his account for the necessity of the arrest.

The Ministry of Justice and the Insurance Fraud Bureau were partners assisting the police in the investigation. It followed a similar, three year investigation that had led to conviction of two Huddersfield men at Bradford Crown Court in March, 2011 (read more here). DC Lunn had been ‘officer in the case’ and police spokesperson (unusual for a detective constable) in that investigation. Operation Thatcham began the following month.

The court has heard that a Huddersfield-based insurance claims management company, trading as Advanced Claims UK Ltd, was at the heart of the second investigation. A large number of men were convicted of fraud at Leeds Crown Court in April, 2014. Counsel for Dr Rashid, Ian Pennock, has told the court that disclosures within the course of this civil claim have revealed that the police knew before they arrested Dr Rashid that it was unrealistic to connect him to that company. That assertion is disputed by WYP.

Dr Rashid’s surgery and other premises were also raided on that same March morning in 2012. At the time, he also ran a very successful medico-legal practice, employing four people, in addition to his two general practices at Thornton and Denholme. This involved travelling the country at the request of many different firms of solicitors, providing expert medical reports upon predominantly soft tissue injuries such as ‘whiplash’. The loss of his private medico-legal practice alone is said to have cost Dr Rashid at least several hundred thousands of pounds per year.

Very shortly afterwards DC Lunn told others, including the Bradford Primary Care Trust (PCT) and the General Medical Council (GMC), that Dr Rashid was involved in a conspiracy to defraud insurance companies by assisting fraudulent ‘cash for crash’ claims. Mr Pennock asserts that such an allegation was ‘without foundation, baseless and ludicrous’.

He also told the court that ‘there was no evidence at the time, and there is still no evidence, whatsoever, to even reasonably suggest he has acted dishonestly within such an alleged conspiracy, or otherwise’.

Following his arrest, a large squad of WYP detectives carried out a protracted investigation of Dr Rashid’s private and personal life. Ranging from his early educational life at school, university and, thereafter, his early career as a doctor.

The court has heard that the investigation into the minutiae of Dr. Rashid’s life failed to reveal any criminal offences, or any other wrongdoing, by Dr. Rashid, in relation to any of the medical reports which he compiled, and submitted, on behalf of solicitors acting for insurance claimants. Mr Pennock says that this was an unsurprising conclusion given that it is widely known within the insurance, medical and legal arenas that such ‘expert’ reports are prepared, independently, by doctors, for the benefit of the courts. Not for either the underwriters or injured parties and their legal representatives.

This detailed and seriously intrusive investigation, says Mr Pennock, was motivated by the police’s increasingly urgent need to justify the wrongful arrest and detention of Dr. Rashid. The police deny such a motive and say that there were a number of identified defects in the medical reports, and Dr Rashid appeared to charge solicitors above the ‘going rate’ for the work. Both gave rise to suspicion of other wrongdoing.

At the forthcoming trial, says Mr Pennock, Dr Rashid will rely upon that same police investigation to prove that he is a man of integrity, who fully deserved the respect and standing he had in the Bradford community at large, together with his well deserved reputation amongst other doctors, solicitors, barristers and other fellow professionals, prior to the arrest. The police have told the court that Dr Rashid will be put to proof on those points.

The court has heard that the mere fact that Dr Rashid, along with other doctors, accepted instructions from solicitors of good standing to examine a claimant, and report upon the same, makes him no more involved with any alleged fraudulent claim than any other professional such as a barrister, psychologist, psychiatrist, doctor, occupational therapist,  or other such expert also instructed by those same solicitors. As such it was an insufficient basis for any reasonable grounds, or belief, to justify the arrest and detention of Dr. Rashid says Mr Pennock.

The court also heard that it has not been alleged, or even suggested, during the numerous and prolonged interviews by the police, that he was knowingly involved in any claim that was said to be fraudulent, and upon which he is said to have reported. He played no part in the Thatcham prosecutions, either as defendant or witness

In those interviews, lasting many hours, and cumulatively days, in various police stations in the Bradford, Huddersfield and Wakefield areas, the detectives only concerned themselves with matters such as Dr. Rashid’s qualifications, income, properties and background. Not one specific allegation was put to the doctor by the police. The interview transcripts, says Mr Pennock, summarise the police’s position at that time: “You are guilty of committing crimes and should own up to them, this is your last chance to tell us”. The court has heard that Dr Rashid was released from police bail in June, 2013. A file had been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, later reviewed at the police’s request, but no charges were authorised as a result.

The court has heard, on at least two occasions, that the arresting officer, Mark Lunn, appeared to claim he was also the officer in charge of the investigation against Dr Rashid and others. Ms Checa-Dover says that Lunn was not in charge and he, in fact, reported to Sergeant Taylor (as he was at the time). She went on to say that the basis for the arrest of Dr Rashid is set out in some detail in the witness statement of Inspector Taylor (as he is now).

At the time of Dr. Rashid’s arrest, and subsequently, DC Lunn purported to be a director of a company called “Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd”, an operation which sought work from insurance companies, including a well known name in Sussex, to investigate suspected insurance fraud claims. But no such company existed in official records at Companies House.

Ms Checa-Dover told the court that WYP has not admitted that such an enterprise was in place, or that such records existed on police systems, or that they did exist and were, subsequently, deleted.

Enquiries with Companies House revealed that the purported company did not exist before the arrest of Dr Rashid. But, on the same day that DC Lunn was removed from the Operation Thatcham investigation, a company of that name was incorporated at Companies House.

The company was dissolved in 2014, and this was, Mr Pennock says, shortly before Mark Lunn started work for the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) in January, 2015. Ms Checa-Dover has told the court that WYP will not be calling Mr Lunn as a witness at the trial and that her client does not know where to locate him, in any event.

She has asserted, on instructions from WYP’s Deputy Force Solicitor, Alison Walker, that his actions were at all times lawful and proportionate. The police also deny that DC Lunn was acting as ‘a malicious, lone decision maker’.

DC Lunn did not have the authority of the chief constable to undertake this additional employment and/or have any involvement with the so-called “Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd.” The claimant’s lawyers have sought an explanation from the police, or Mark Lunn, to refute the fact that he held himself out as being a director of IFCL, who sought work from insurance companies to investigate suspected insurance fraud claims. The court has heard the claimant’s allegation that Lunn, for his own financial gain, was allegedly acting wrongfully, in purporting to represent a company that did not exist.

The court has heard details of a specific allegation that Lunn prepared a detailed business plan, using police computers, and may have received a payment of £183,000 from an insurance company as a result. Ms Checa-Dover has told the court that searches of WYP files, systems and archives, conducted by Sergeant (now Inspector) Taylor, have not, so far, revealed the information sought by the claimants.

It has also been asserted by Mr Pennock that this unauthorised business association created a serious conflict of interest with DC Lunn’s Oath of Constable, and his obligations as an independent and impartial police officer. Particularly, when coming to assess the involvement of Dr Rashid in examining personal injury claimants, and the decision to arrest him. Mr Pennock told the court that Dr Rashid was a ‘prized scalp’ for Lunn in his attempt to establish credibility for his ‘burgeoning private enterprise’.

After complaints by Dr Rashid’s criminal defence solicitors, DC Lunn was removed, by his superiors, from the investigation into Dr. Rashid. That was in July 2012. Mr Pennock asserts that Lunn was, following those complaints, subject to a professional standards investigation, Operation Waffleedge, and no longer works for the police. He left the force in August, 2013. Ms Ceca-Dover told the court that Lunn resigned of his own volition. He was not forced to, or asked to, resign by the police, or dismissed. Any wrongdoing by the officer is denied. She added that the police admitted he was the subject of a UPP (Unsatisfactory Performance Plan), more of a human resources sanction than a disciplinary process, she explained. The police also say that Operation Waffleedge was not a covert investigation into Lunn.

The court also heard that reference had been made, in earlier disclosures by the police to Dr Rashid, to a written warning given to DC Lunn by WYP regarding misuse of police databases, and an admission that he had used WYP computers during his lunch hour to send correspondence, on his official police email account. This was alleged to be in connection with his own business interests. The police position is that their professional standards department has no record of this written warning.

HHJ Davey asked, during the pre-trial review, if the written warning was part of the materials that Ms Ceca-Dover says the police have ‘weeded out’ as part of their data management obligations. Ms Checa-Dover, after taking instructions, told the judge that would be dealt with in later disclosures and after further internal enquiries had been made by the police.

Mr Pennock also told the court that Lunn has ‘a track record of unlawful arrest allegations’, citing the reference numbers of five complaints. The relevance being, Mr Pennock added, that there was a ‘wrongful motive’ by DC Lunn to arrest Dr Rashid and that this would, in any event, negate any reasonable grounds. Mr Pennock has told the court, on several occasions, that Lunn is presented by the claimant in this case as a “bad apple” and asserts that is why he left, or was asked to leave the police force.

The police force’s Professional Standards Department say DC Lunn did not have any disciplinary findings against him and that Sergeant (now Inspector) Taylor gives an explanation in his statement, as credible evidence, as to why DC Lunn left WYP.

On 7th March 2012, the day of the arrest, Detective Constable Lunn approached and informed Dr Rashid’s ’employers’, Bradford Patient Care Trust (PCT), of the fact that he had arrested Dr Rashid, whom he said ‘was involved in a serious and substantial conspiracy to defraud’. Mr Pennock says that the wording forming that contact is important. DC Lunn did not, he says, describe Dr Rashid as a suspect and, instead, asserted guilt.

As a result of DC Lunn’s approach to the PCT, they wrote to the General Medical Council to initiate complaints against Dr. Rashid, which included his previously unpublicised arrest that day and the reasons for it, as provided by DC Lunn.

At the end of that month, the court heard, Dr Rashid’s contract as a general practitioner with the PCT was terminated and he lost his practice, built up over a number of decades, operating from two surgeries. Mr Pennock asserts that this was all as a direct consequence of the wrongful actions of the police. An allegation they strongly deny.

He went on to say that DC Lunn again circumvented police policies and procedure for deciding if, and when, to make any disclosure to professional bodies and communicated directly with the GMC. Ms Ceca-Dover denied their had been any breach of protocol by her client. Mr Pennock lifted up a bundle of papers, approximately 300mm thick, to demonstrate to the judge the welter of information given to the PCT, and the GMC, by the police. Which, he says, consisted mainly of improper disclosure of selective and prejudicial material. The police assert that all disclosures were made in good faith, lawful, proportionate, in line with force policy and bore on their responsibility to keep the public safe.

On 24thApril 2012 the GMC suspended Dr Rashid from practice for a period of 18 months, as an interim measure pending a final hearing, if any, before the Fitness to Practice Panel of the GMC. The court heard that the final hearing did not take place until October, 2016. Dr Rashid had challenged the interim suspension in the High Court in Leeds in September, 2012 and, as a result, it was quashed.

The police evidence supporting the GMC’s interim suspension was described by the judge, HHJ Mark Gosnell, as ‘sparse’. A point noted by HHJ Davey at the pre-trial review.

Mr Pennock says that even though the suspension was lifted, by this time irreparable damage had been done to Dr Rashid’s personal and professional reputation. Mr Pennock has told the court that Dr Rashid fears that his reputation may never be restored.

The GMC Panel found that Dr. Rashid’s fitness to practice was not impaired, because he was not culpable of any of the misconduct previously alleged by the police. Mr Pennock says that the allegation he was actually involved in a large scale conspiracy to defraud, involving false personal injury claims, rather than merely being a suspect, is particularly damaging.

It was, he says, also demeaning and offensive to a respected and well established medical doctor working within that particular sector of personal injury claims.

The court has also heard of an Application, made in the same Bradford County Court, for third party disclosure from WYP to identify the complainants (if any) and reasons for his arrest. This court action, instigated in August 2012, was compromised by the parties, ahead of a scheduled hearing, after West Yorkshire Police confirmed, in writing; “…not one specific allegation has been made against him by any individual outside, or within, the West Yorkshire Police”.

At the pre-trial review, there was a lengthy examination, by HHJ Davey, of the progress of disclosure requests made by the claimant, and the responses so far made by the police. The court heard that despite the protracted investigation into Dr Rashid’s private and professional life the police have only been able to conclude that, out of thousands of professional medical reports compiled by Dr. Rashid, only nine were not entirely accurate, or that his examination of them was not entirely proficient.

Mr Pennock asserts that this conclusion is drawn by the police despite those, as yet, ‘anonymous insurance claimants’ having read and approved Dr. Rashid’s report, and signing confirmation that it was accurate, and that they wished to rely on that same report in support of their claim for damages.

He further contends that the police sought to frustrate Dr. Rashid’s ability to practice as a doctor by disclosing only limited, and highly selective, details of those alleged nine complainants to the GMC as a basis for suspending, or terminating, Dr Rashid’s licence to practice. The police do not rely on evidence from any of those nine as part of their defence in this wrongful arrest claim. Their identities are known to the police.

Mr Pennock complained to the court that the police had ‘drip-fed’ disclosure to his client and previous searches for relevant materials by WYP had been ‘inadequate’. This amounted to Dr Rashid, and his lawyers, being given ‘the runaround’ by the police, he says. ‘The object of the exercise is to establish what the arresting officer knew, why was Dr Rashid arrested, and a definition of the offence over which he was arrested, beyond being told at interviews he was being detained over a cash for crash conspiracy’. The police have refused to inform the claimant whether any other doctor was arrested in connection with Operation Thatcham.

One of the main, and repeated, complaints by Mr Pennock was that the police appeared to have weeded out materials relating to the ‘cash for crash’ investigations and prosecution, when that criminal case concluded only the year before the claim form in this case was filed at court and served on West Yorkshire Police. He maintains that, in such instances, and as required by the Criminal Investigation and Procedures Act, all documents should be retained for six years after conclusion of the Advanced Claims UK Ltd trial. Ms Ceca-Dover told the court, on behalf of WYP, that all documents would have been destroyed at the end of the statutory period. Further, she said that her clients did not consider that such materials were relevant to the issues in this case (the civil claim).

HHJ Davey told the court that the submissions for the pre-trial review amounted to 621 pages – and that he had read all of them by way of preparation for this hearing. He retires in June, 2019 and will not be available to preside over the trial of a case he describes as “interesting”. It is uncontroversial to note that Neil Davey QC’s steady hand, wise words and pleasing court manner, will be missed on the circuit bench in Bradford.

Proceedings continue. A further pre-trial review is expected to be listed for hearing in July or August, 2019.

 

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