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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(i) Operation Nixon

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

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

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

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

(iii) North West Counter Terrorism Unit

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

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

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

(iv) Shipman body parts scandal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Inappropriate relationship between ACC and junior officer.

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

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

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

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

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

7. The Metropolitan Police Peer Review of GMP PSB

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

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

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

8. Operation Holly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What has happened since? Nothing”.

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

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

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

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

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

12. Victimisation of Peter Jackson as a police whistleblower

Peter Jackson has this to say about his own experiences:

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Morale and staff survey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Local Policing Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16. The Grainger Inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

17. iOPS scandal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

  • This is a time for transparency, not secrecy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other scandals outside the scope of the police whistleblower disclosures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(vi) Death following police contact of Jordon Begley.

 

Page last updated: Wednesday 22nd August, 2019 at 1705 hours

Photo Credit: Getty Images/PA/Huffington Post

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

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

Barton beats an unexpected retreat

Earlier this week Durham Constabulary announced the retirement of its chief constable, Mike Barton, both on social media and via a press release issued to local, regional and national media. The story attracted little attention, given the controversial figure he has frequently cut.

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But this announcement took many people by surprise, not least policing colleagues whom he had told that he wanted to complete 40 years police service before contemplating retirement. That would have taken him through to at least 2020, having joined Lancashire Police in 1980. 

In a typically robust Sunday Mirror article (read here), published hours before the retirement announcement, there was absolutely no inkling that the Durham chief was about to abandon his post and the high profile, and hugely important, war on knife crime.

Born into a farming family, Mike Barton became a constable with his local force in Blackpool, where his beat included the resort’s famous Golden Mile. He was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2014.

Now aged 62, and a self-proclaimed ‘maverick’, Mr Barton agreed a five-year contract extension in November 2016 (read more here). That arrangement was intended to take him to the end of the current Police and Crime Plan agreed with his employer, the Durham Police Crime and Victims Commissioner, Ron Hogg,

For reasons that are unclear, for the present at least, the Sunderland Echo reported that Barton’s contract extension was only three years, and that ‘he had worked beyond his intended retirement date’.

News of chief Barton’s departure also came as a shock to those closely involved with Operation Lackan, a misconduct investigation into alleged dishonesty and disreputable conduct of Ian Hopkins, chief constable of under-siege Greater Manchester Police. The complainant is retired GMP superintendent, Peter Jackson. Currently, the country’s best known, and most widely reported, police whistleblower. The author of this article is, also, a deponent in those proceedings.

Mr Barton is Gold Commander of that highly vexed probe. A role he accepted at the very end of last year from Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the appointed body to deal with complaints against the region’s chief officer. At the present rate of progress, with terms of reference taking, it seeems, twelve weeks to agree, it is difficult to see Barton signing off the investigation outcome before he retires.

The question also hangs in the air as to why he took on the highly significant Manchester investigation if retirement was front of mind. His temporary replacement as chief will be present Deputy Chief Constable, Jo Farrell. Nothing in her police record, or via other open source material, suggests that she has experience of heading up such a controversial gross misconduct investigation. The major significance of that apparent deficiency unfolds as the sudden, and unexplained, departure of another chief constable is analysed later in this piece.

In these circumstances, the statement issued by his police force press office is worthy of further scrutiny: It begins by saying that the chief constable confirmed his retirement, in writing, that morning (11th March). Suggesting that he had already told his employer, verbally, that he was leaving the force. A leaving date of 7th June might imply that such a conversation took place during the previous week, on 7th March.

The usual valedictory prose pads out a substantial portion of the rest of the statement – and it is much nearer the beginning than the end where the reason for the sudden exit is given: Mr Barton wants to ‘spend more time in his greenhouse and with his grandchildren‘.

Earlier in the statement he is quoted thus: ‘There remain many challenges in policing that I would have relished tackling, but there comes a time when one should hand the baton to the next generation of talented and committed people who will bring their own style, thinking and approach’. Which is an oddity, of itself, as the National Police Chiefs Council, of which Mike Barton is a very prominent, outspoken member, openly admit there is a troubling, and worsening, dearth of senior officer talent in this country.

But above all, he said, the role as Durham’s chief constable had been ‘exciting’ and ‘enormous fun‘. His police colleagues in Durham, and possibly elsewhere, refer to him as a ‘nutter’. In the comedic sense, one assumes?

The statement concludes by saying that details of the procedure to recruit the next chief constable will be announced by the PCC’s office over the coming months. Which precludes any handover, by Barton, to his successor in the top job. The role currently attracts a remuneration of £134,400 per annum, plus the use of a pool car for private use and generous pension benefits.

This unexpected, and largely unexplained, departure is in a similar mode to that of a another experienced, long-serving, recently retired chief, the enigmatic Dave Jones, who ended his service at neighbouring North Yorkshire Police. Except that Jones did what was, effectively, a ‘moonlight flit‘. On the day his departure was announced, 9th April, 2018, after a period of annual leave over the Easter period, he put in a three month sick note and never appeared at force HQ again. NYP were then forced to seek a successor in his absence, with no smooth transition period, and the consequent cost and operational penalties.

Pertinent public interest questions put to the disgraced North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, concerning proposed action over a possible contract breach, drew the usual blank. Jones’ had willingly committed to remain at NYP until May, 2020. Turning his back on around £350,000 in salary and benefits to ‘spend more time with his family‘. His three months of sick leave was worth over £40,000 in pay and benefits.

It is worth noting, in a wider context, that Dave Jones spent the first 21 years as a Greater Manchester Police officer and was, at one stage, a CID colleague of Peter Jackson.

Mike Barton has walked away from a similarly large sum, and given much the same reason for doing so. Which, in both cases and taken at their face, appears scarcely credible.

Jones was facing a mounting series of operational problems, adverse inspection reports, quite astonishing criticism from an appeal court judge, and other serious questions about his competence and integrity posed in the media. Other possible reasons for his departure are explored in another article on this website (read here).

But Barton has, previously, faced none of the sort of relentless journalistic scrutiny which came the way of North Yorkshire Police before, and during, the Dave Jones era, and he appears to have an excellent relationship with local and national media. Basking in the glory of being rated as the country’s best police force, according to Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, and being a ‘colourful character’ to boot. Relations between chief constable and police commissioner also appear to be always positive. A situation that could not be said of Jones and his own controversial, and soon to depart, PCC.

But taking on the Hopkins investigation has brought about a different type of scrutiny, not least from this quarter, from whence, and with ample justification, Durham Constabularly is frequently referred to as “a grubby little police force” – and it is already very clear that Durham are not enjoying the oversight. Blocking posts on social media would be a particularly peurile, and futile, example. If a detective chief inspector, and a senior professional standards officer to boot, doesn’t want to hear the truth about the failings of her police force, then Victoria Martin might reflect on her Oath of Constable and whether she is, in fact, deployed in the right vocation. 

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Operation Lackan is very likely to turn out to be highly toxic and Mike Barton has appointed as his Silver Command an officer who appears, on all the evidence seen so far, to neither have the requisite competencies, judgement, resilience or the temperament, to cope with what faces him across the Pennines: Investigating the chief officer of a police force beset with very serious organisational and leadership issues, at least six times the size of his own. A journey so arduous he has, on at least one occasion, required the services of both a detective sergeant AND a driver.

Darren Ellis, a civilian investigator who appears to be Barton’s favoured bag-carrier, has already been placed on written notice concerning some of the professional failings identified, so far, and reacted to reasoned, and well evidenced, criticisms with a grotesquely unprofessional, spiteful, childish response. Ellis also appears to be highly sensitive to fair, and plainly expressed, comment on social media. Even though, surprisingly, and for one who has such an extraordinarily high opinion of himself, he appears to have no presence on Twitter. He was, also, previously a close working colleague of DCI Martin (and may well still be a subordinate in her department). Which may well imply a cultural, or organisational, issue within Durham Constabularly in dealing with hard truths. 

The obsession, stoutly maintained by Ellis, of the existence of a partnership, or other influential or advisory arrangement, between Peter Jackson and Neil Wilby does him no credit. He has been told, repeatedly, by both, it simply does not exist. There is simply no evidence to support his near-frenzied repetition. 

Neither does his bizarre authorisation of the release of lengthy, and unredacted, email correspondence between complainant and police investigator, to an investigative journalist, and all the consequent breaches of the Data Protection Act.

In a previous investigation in which Darren Ellis was closely involved, as lead investigator, Durham Constabularly were criticised, for apparent lack of understanding of data legislation, by Police Scotland’s Deputy Chief Constable, Rose Fitzpatrick. In the same letter, which can be read in full here, she also noted that Durham had stepped outside of the agreed terms of reference.

The Lackan investigation, conducted with appropriate rigour, and following the evidence, will see the end of the career of Hopkins, if he hasn’t already joined the ranks of disgraced senior officers from the Manchester force who have either resigned, or retired over the past few years. These include ACC Rebekah Sutcliffe (Titgate), ACC Steve Heywood (lied to Grainger Inquiry; forged policy log entries), ACC Terry Sweeney (Operations Poppy 1, 2 and 3), ACC Garry Shewan (Operation Redbone; Operations Lamp/Redhill; £70million iOPS failure).

Sweeney’s departure, whilst facing gross misconduct investigations, including the Shipman body parts scandal, infuriated many policing commentators and, actually, led to a change in the law. The other three departed on Hopkins’ watch as chief constable. He was deputy chief when Sweeney slid out the back door of GMP HQ.

Two of their replacements are already mired in controversy, ACC Mabs Hussain (read more here) and T/ACC Annette Anderson, who is currently on a three month absence from the force, whilst attending a senior leaders’ course at the College of Policing. Hopkins is directly involved in the former and, indeed, created it. His deputy, DCC Ian Pilling is closely involved with the Anderson scandal and is also the subject of robust, well-evidenced, criticism over a series of alleged ‘cover-ups’ that have already featured, regularly, elsewhere on this website. He presently faces no misconduct proceedings, but will definitely be cited in evidence supporting the section of the Jackson complaint that deals with institutionalised deceit.

Ex-ACC Dawn Copley could also, feasibly, be added to the list of controversial ex-Manchester retirees. She became the shortest ever serving chief constable in police service history when her tenure lasted just 24 hours at South Yorkshire Police. It has been well reported that ‘Big Dawn’, as she is commonly known, and Peter Jackson, clashed a number of times, as he repeatedly insisted that an investigation should be launched by another police force concerning the ill-starred Operation Nixon (read more here).

Both Copley and Pilling are former Lancashire Police colleagues of Mike Barton, and therein at least part of the answer to the latter’s sudden departure may lie. If, as might be expected, the dishonesty complaint against his chief constable colleague, Ian Hopkins, widens to examine an institutionalised culture of deceit and ‘cover-up’ that cascades down from the top of the Manchester force. A point presciently made in one of a series of articles by The Times journalist, Fiona Hamilton, who is also likely to give witness evidence in the Lackan investigation.

On any independent view, Greater Manchester Police, absent of any meaningful oversight from those public bodies responsible, principally the Deputy Mayor and the perenially hopeless Independent Office for Police Conduct, is a ‘bandit’ police force that, to maintain public confidence, requires urgent intervention from the Home Office. Reminiscent of the dark days of the infamous Leeds City Police in the late 1960’s and eary 1970’s. In slightly different terms, The Times newspaper has twice called for a public inquiry, via its hugely influential leader column. Read by every Prime Minister since 1788.

Which poses a second question concerning Mike Barton: In the twilight of what is reported to be a long, illustrious, and decorated, police career would the Durham chief want to risk being dragged, wittingly or unwittingly. into a situation that has already stained the careers of so many other senior police officers – and likely to end several more? 

Comment about any investigation would normally, and quite properly, be reserved until its outcome is published, so as not to engage prejudice. But this particular matter is wholly exceptional, as it has almost entirely been played out in the public domain. The complainant is a very high profile police whistleblower and the misconduct complained of concerns the chief constable of the UK’s fourth largest police force. Two of the witnesses are journalists. Another one is a retired police officer, a fourth is a serving police officer. There are a large number of national newspaper articles, and publicly accessible investigation reports, concerning the Jackson disclosures, which date back to 2014. Indeed, Operation Lackan centres around one of those articles, published by The Times in June, 2018; the Hopkins response; and two follow-ups in The Times that destroyed both the police statement and one made in support of it by the Deputy Mayor of Manchester, Beverley Hughes

In my own extensive and informed knowledge, there can only be one conclusion: Hopkins has, on any view of the facts, misconducted himself and, with it, brought disrepute to the door of his force. The only matter to be determined is one of degree. Which may be the third reason why Mike Barton has decided to go.

Fourthly, Operation Lackan promises to be neither ‘exciting’ nor the ‘great fun’ that the Durham chief says is his more familiar experience in police HQ at Aykley Heads. Far, far from it. There is likely to be a some banging of heads against brick walls dealing with the Manchester Mayor’s office and Barton may have decided, after his experience of the Police Scotland investigation, that enough is enough (read more here).

By way of another curious coincidence, a gross misconduct investigation, carried out on behalf the the Cheshire police commissioner, into another chief constable, Simon Byrne, was one of the reasons mooted for the abrupt departure of Dave Jones. Described by John Beggs QC as ‘sub-optimal’, at the subsequent disciplinary hearing, the much-feared barrister was being uncharacteristicly over-generous. As the public hearing unfolded in Warrington Town Hall, it became clear that Jones had been out of his depth: The investigation was a shambles, almost from start to finish. He had previously told the commissioner, David Keane, that he was experienced in such matters. It appears as though he was not. What was not disclosed to Mr Keane was that Jones and Byrne had a professional association, via the Scrutiny Board of the National Police Air Service. A member of that same body, at the material time, will say that the two ex-chiefs were friends. Both Byrne and Jones were also senior ex-Greater Manchester Police officers.

By contrast, there is no doubt at all that, given a free hand, Mike Barton could, and very probably would, investigate the Hopkins allegations effectively, and report back efficiently, with appropriate findings. But the big issue is, whether his terms of reference from the Manchester Mayor’s office, where knowledge of the applicable statutory framework appears seriously limited, would have allowed him such liberty. That could be advanced as the fifth and most crucial reason. Who wants to conduct an investigation with their hands tied behind their back? But now, with Barton’s impending retirement, we will never know.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority, on behalf of the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, confirmed, in a press statement dated 15th March, 2019, that Chief Constable Hopkins would not be either suspended, or placed on gardening leave, whilst the misconduct investigation is in progress. That strongly implies that Mayor Burnham has not passed the matter over to Durham Constabulary as a ‘gross misconduct’ investigation, but a much lesser one of ‘misconduct’. GMCA has not confirmed, as yet, whether a Regulation 15 notice has been served on the chief constable. Enquiries to Greater Manchester Police press office on this subject were referred to the Mayor’s office.

Terms of reference for the investigation have now been disclosed by Durham (read here), after unnecessary delay, apparently as a result of invervention by Darren Ellis, and, put shortly, fall well short of what Ellis promised the complainant in correspondence with him and, it appears from that email chain, assurances given in the face-to-face meeting they had. Peter Jackson has emphasised two key points throughout his contact with Ellis:

– Firstly, that a term of reference be included to the effect that the investigation will ‘go where the evidence takes it’. In layman’s terms, that means if other offences, either misconduct or criminal, are uncovered during the taking and examining of the evidence, then the investigating officers would pursue those appropriately.

– Secondly, Jackson has maintained that the very public and deliberate smearing of himself, Fiona Hamilton and her newspaper by Chief Constable Hopkins cannot amount to anything other than an abuse of his position, and conduct that brings disrepute to both his own force and the wider police service. Hopkins has made no attempt to put the record straight with a correction statement and that fact simply adds an aggravating feature to the offences.

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Allowing the scope to be limited in this way, after a delay of what appears to be almost three months, does not bode well for the efficacy of the Mike Barton investigation. Neither does the secrecy surrounding his sharp exit from it.

The acquisition of further knowledge behind the Durham chief’s retirement decision, and the PCC’s enthusiastic endorsement of it, are now the subject of two searching freedom of information requests (read here and here). 

Page last updated on Sunday 24th March, 2019 at 1335hrs

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.

Picture credit:  Durham Constabulary

© 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.

 

 

Staring into the abyss

As an eight year old lad, I was hit by a car whilst crossing the main road near the tied colliery cottage in Whitwood, Castleford that was my family home at that time (number fifteen, the house with the unkempt gable in the picture).

The injuries were not life threatening, but I was detained in hospital for five days. I retain little, or no, memory of what was, most fortunately, a glancing blow impact.

When consciousness returned the next day, a policeman from the now defunct West Riding Constabulary was soon at my bedside, along with my parents. They were, of course, anxious to hear an account of what had happened. I told them about my errand to the newsagents, almost opposite the landmark Rising Sun public house, coming out of the shop, looking both ways before attempting to cross, seeing a car coming from my left, nothing from my right. Judging that I could beat the car, as a notably fast runner, I sped across the road.

It wasn’t possible to say whether the car, later identified as a Wolseley sedan used in a post office robbery in neighbouring Normanton, had hit me with its offside or nearside wing. It, very obviously, hadn’t struck me head on. The driver may have stopped, briefly, to ascertain my condition, but he didn’t remain at the scene and was never caught.

All I could usefully report was that it appeared grey in colour with a large chrome radiator grille and bumpers. My elder, much loved, and now sorely missed, sister found me in the road, nearer the centre than the far kerb. It was Jacqueline that had despatched me to the shop with the usual inducement of a penny for sweets. By the time she was at the scene, other cars had stopped and an ambulance, called for from the nearby pub, was on its way.

After the police officer left, my father robustly challenged my account and suggested I had been reading the evening newspaper, the purpose of my errand, or had my nose in my bag of Sports Mixtures, and not looked before crossing the A655.

It was my fault – according to my father – and I’ve never forgotten the words he said, thereafter: “If you tell one lie, you will end up telling five or six more to cover up the first one”. They are quoted by me, often, to this day.

To a young lad lying in hospital, with broken bones and crushed pride, when, in reality, he should have been on a mortuary slab, the accusation was deeply wounding. The pain is still felt over 50 years later. More excruciating because there was no apology from my father when, a couple of weeks later, our local bobby told my parents about the escaping villains in a stolen vehicle. Which appeared to support my account, in part, at the very least.

I had told the truth, and had been caught out by the speed of the car, but that flawed, and summary, parental guilty verdict was etched in the front of my mind. As was the fact, that I learned over the years, my father very rarely explained or apologised for anything, up to the day he died in 2014. But, in that regard, he was no different to most other men hewn from coal mining stock in the many surrounding pit villages.

Latterly, I’ve been drawn into another ‘car-crash’ investigation, this time in North Manchester, the site of the region’s police headquarters, rather than a quiet West Riding backwater, just off the M62. There has also been a second incident in Central London, at New Scotland Yard, as the country’s largest police force has failed to apply the brakes and prevent a slow-motion collision with a pedestrian, plodding investigative journalist unnaturally driven to uncover the truth.

Again, allegations of lying, lack of explanation or apology are the central themes. Its aftermath has already spawned three articles on this website.

Mystery of the missing peer review

Your cheque is in the post

Peering into the gloom

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is a force that has attracted a lot of adverse media attention over the past few years and, in particular, its seeming ability not to come clean about its shortcomings, explain them, learn lessons, apologise and move on. Instead, it has a senior leadership team that is perenially mired in deceit and ‘cover-up’.

The present chief constable, Ian Hopkins, having joined GMP in 2008 as one of Sir Peter Fahy’s assistant chiefs, promoted to deputy in 2011, then taking over the top job, unopposed, in 2015, has been at the scene of much of the controversy.

This latest, and still expanding, investigation into alleged GMP impropriety started with a notion that the force was, once again, hiding the truth over internal failures. But, taken at its face, appeared relatively innocuous at the outset, compared to those by other newspaper, radio and TV journalists covering, for example, death or industrial scale rape and trafficking of children.

On any view, it is a quite extraordinary tale and GMP has now dragged the Metropolitan Police Service under the bus with them. It began, in November, 2015, with an entire front page of a newspaper taken up with a photograph of a newly invested chief constable, accompanying a hard-hitting story of a repeatedly called for, long-overdue corruption inquiry.

The once-mighty Met was, it was said, to spend six weeks in Manchester investigating GMP’s much-criticised internal affairs department, otherwise known as the Counter Corruption Unit (CCU). A root and branch process that would settle the ‘corruption’ argument one way or the other. Hopkins vigourously denies any wrongdoing of his police force and, by implication, himself.

Of some concern at the time, but not, apparently, to the newspaper’s reporter or editor, the Met invasion was designated to be a process known within policing as a ‘peer review’. A long way short of a misconduct or criminal investigation, by another police force, that many deemed essential.

The CCU, a secretive, undercover investigative unit, forms one limb of GMP’s Professional Standards Branch (PSB). Another is the PSBi, known as the Professional Standards Investigation Unit, which, ostensibly, deals with overt resolution of public complaints. A third is the Force Vetting Unit, and, lastly, Legal Services.

The role, and importance, of the latter is often misunderstood by the public, as the primary function of the PSBi is to prevent, at source, civil claims being successfully mounted by complainants. That applies to the professional standards departments of every police force in the country. If they came clean to the public, and properly explained the dynamics, it would save so much time and frustration to those wronged by the police.

An unseen, and too often unseemly, activity of the CCU is to target officers who become a problem to the reputation of the force by speaking out against wrongdoing by other officers. They are subject to intensive and, often, seriously intrusive scrutiny in order to discredit and ultimately drive them out of the police service.

Ex-Superintendent John Buttress is the highest profile example of this tactic as the CCU were, for example, permitted, without sanction, to seriously tamper with witness evidence and criminally hack the phone of his partner as part of a grotesque, highly-publicised witch-hunt. By contrast, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood was allowed to retire after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute him on the most compelling evidence. The working hypothesis is that the CCU attack dogs were not unleashed on Heywood to dig up other dirt, just in case the CPS ‘bottled it’ over his lying in oral evidence to a public inquiry, and forging a document disclosed to it.

The Met’s peer review team did not look at the Buttress file. Nor is their any suggestion in their final written report that any of the other controversial files were examined, either.

The three previous ‘peer review’ articles covered the genesis, execution and aftermath of the Met’s visit to Manchester, in forensic detail. A fifth article will follow this one, demonstrating that GMP’s professional standards function, post peer review, is as deplorable as ever.

The focus of this fourth article is the huge gap between expectation and delivery: What the local newspaper projected as a robust, thorough, warts and all investigation and the pale imitation, talking-shop that actually took place at Manchester police HQ.

After the third article, a highly critical take down of what can only be described as an inter-force ‘whitewash’, a statement from the GMP chief constable was sought, via his press office, in order to explain the difference. This is the lengthy response, attributed to a force spokesperson.

“In late 2015 a programme of work to transform Greater Manchester Police’s Professional Standards Branch was put in place. As part of this work a range of activities were undertaken including a full, in depth independent review, a peer review and oversight from an external group.

“The Peer Review by the Metropolitan Police originally planned for 6 weeks in late 2015 had been delayed due to operational matters. This was rescheduled to May 2016 by which time substantial work was already underway as part of the independent review. The peer review therefore was focused as an assessment of the progress that had been made and changes which were planned. This was reduced from the initial scope to two days as this was sufficient for its revised purpose – to support the independent review and transformational change programme which had started in Nov 2015. The Peer report was provided to GMP in December 2016.

“The external reference group was established in Feb 2016 with an independent chairperson. Representatives on the group included a wide range of individuals with expertise and views about the work around professional standards. They continued to provide support and advice until June 2017.

“The programme of work has led to changes being made to the way professional standards operates in GMP and we are continuing to review and develop this work. Since then there have been reviews by HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Service) and the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) who have raised no issues of significant concern.”

There was no comment, as specifically requested, from the normally voluble chief constable.

A request for clarification of a press statement that, plainly and unexpectedly, introduced a tranche of what appears to be significant new information, regarding the alleged review of GMP’s PSB was, however, plainly necessary. There is no open source material available to support any of the assertions made by the press office about independent and external scrutiny, other than the Met’s peer review. A search of the two police watchdog websites was not immediately fruitful, either.

The second press request was thus formulated:

“There is no wish to be a burden to a busy press office but this is a matter directly affecting public confidence, not only in GMP, but in the wider police service.

Independent review: Who carried it out, when did it start and end, was there a closing report (the latter would be subject of an FOIA request, of course)?

External reference group: Please provide details of name of the group, and its constituent members, and, also, direct me to any publications made either by GMP, or the group, before, during or after the review. This is necessary to establish their credentials for carrying out the work. Only the Chair would be named in the article, unless the other Members raised no objection to being named, or their names are already in the public domain.

HMICFRS and IPCC (IOPC): Can you please direct me to the ‘watchdog’ reports referenced in your press statement?

“These require scrutiny, and further comment from them, as my own extensive experience of PSB (which is the subject of the next in the series of peer review articles) leaves me in no doubt, whatsoever, that the department is still quite shockingly run, with little or no discernible commitment to the requisite ethical or professional standards. A matter I have articulated, at some length, to DCC Pilling, over a lengthy period, including the email dated 24th March, 2018 which is attached as a pdf.”

 

The press office replied as follows:

“We have nothing further to add to the statement and report you have received on this. If you wish to seek further information then please put in an FOI request.

“With regards to where the reports are, you will need to speak to those respective organisations if you want to find/access their reports.”

This, from a police force that jumps on any ‘open and transparent’ bandwagon that rolls past. Even by press office standards, and GMP are one of the better ones it must be said, it is a woeful abdication of ethical and professional responsibilty.

Quite apart from which, it could safely be argued, the information sought, via the press office, should be part of a police force’s publication scheme on their own website, or that of the elected policing body that provides oversight. That is the effect of guidance given to public authorities by the Information Commissioner, a statutory regulator.

In any event, the questions, as framed, should have posed no difficulties at all if there is nothing to hide: Who undertook the reviews, when did they start and finish, where are the reports?

The irony is, also, completely lost on the press office that the peer review, and the transformational change programme within which it was embedded, was designed to improve the experience of those engaging directly with the force, and stakeholders who had lost confidence in GMP as a result of swathes of adverse publicity connected to corruption allegations.

A sub-optimal response, as this one can safely be characterised, is simply an open invitation to a journalist for the delivery of more stinging criticism. Kicking off with the wasting of substantial amounts of not only my time, but those dealing with freedom of information (FOI) requests within GMP, HMICFRS, IOPC, College of Policing, National Police Chiefs Council and the Greater Manchester Mayor’s office. All avoidable, with a minimal amount of effort from a GMP press officer and one GMP PSB administration assistant, or low ranking detective.

What follows, by way of further investigation, is a piece by piece dismantling of the GMP press office statement, with, almost inevitably, more deceit and double-speak exposed. It will be re-assembled after the disclosures from the various FOI requests are received, around the end of January, 2019. A delay which appears to be the only motivation for GMP providing a statement of such obviously poor quality.

The starting point has to be the introduction, by the press office, or the directing mind behind their statement, into the peer review ambit, of the “independent review” and the “external reference group”. In a five month, fairly intensive, journalistic investigation of the peer review, this is the first heard of this additional form of scrutiny.

I was alert to the possibility that they could be one and the same, but the press office would have made that clear, surely? So, this analysis proceeds taking the force spokesperson’s words at their ordinary meaning.

Returning to the genesis of this saga, there was no mention by Chief Constable Hopkins of anything other than a peer review on the now infamous Manchester Evening News front page. The Metropolitan Police were put up as the solution to the problem, and no-one else. It also begs the question that if GMP have the country’s largest, and much the most important, police force giving an organisational problem the ‘once over’ during a six-week review, why would anyone else be needed?

In an article published by the MEN in September, 2016, it was noted that the peer review by the Met had taken place, but attributes no source and, most certainly, does not mention either of the other two reviews. The working hypothesis being that the local newspaper was also blissfully unaware of their existence:

“The peer review by the Metropolitan Police was carried out at the request of Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, in a bid to draw a line under the [corruption] allegations which stretch back at least two years and which it vigorously denies.

“A separate investigation has been carried out by Kent Police into 17 allegations of corruption made by sacked former chief inspector John Buttress.”

The thrust of the MEN article was that a member of GMP’s counter-corruption team was under investigation for alleged fraud. The CCU officer, believed to be of managerial rank, is one of several being investigated after the force received information from a whistleblower concerning the alleged inappropriate disposal of £100,000 worth of vehicles.

* Since this article was first published on 18th December, 2018 information has come to light that the CCU officer, an inspector (whose name is known), was cleared of any wrongdoing. He was formerly a covert officer in GMP CID and the alleged fraud concerned members of his team selling vehicles previously used in undercover operations at below book value. *

The next stop in the search for the peer review truth was a trawl of the Manchester Mayor’s website. He, and his Deputy, are the de facto police commissioner for the region, with a statutory remit to appoint, dismiss and provide oversight of the chief constable. It did shed some light, but does not assist either Mr Hopkins, or his press office. Quite the opposite, in fact.

This is an extract from the Deputy Mayor’s Independent Ethics Committee meeting on 28th January, 2016 tucked away under Any Other Business:

“Ian Hopkins gave the Committee a brief update with regards to the general review of the Professional Standards Branch in GMP, and in relation to individual cases. Reports in relation to this are expected within the next few months.”

No questions relating to the ‘general review’ were raised by any Ethics Committee Member and, it appears, no advance notice of the Manchester Evening News article, loudly trumpeting the Metropolitan Police peer review, was given to the Committee by Mr Hopkins, at their previous meeting on 15th November, 2015. Even though it occupied the whole of the front page of that newspaper just four days later.

Neither the words ‘independent review’ or ‘external reference group’ were mentioned to the committee on either occasion. On that basis, the Ethics Committee, led by the Bishop of Manchester, Right Reverend David Walker is dismissed as having partaken in any meaningful ‘independent’, or ‘external’, review of GMP’s PSB or CCU. The Bishop has previously served as a human rights panel member at the College of Policing. Which would make for an interesting brainwashing competition.

The Ethics Committee was the brainchild of the previous Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Lloyd, who instituted it in early 2015. In a letter to HMICFRS talking head, Zoe Billingham, Lloyd signalled that a process of reform in GMP was already under way, with particular focus on both PSB and CCU (read in full here). This, of course, differs from the press statement wherein it states the process began in November 2015.

In the months after the Met’s peer review was said to be delivered to GMP, there were two meetings of the Ethics Committee. Attended, respectively, by Deputy Chief Constable Ian Pilling and Ian Hopkins. The minutes of those meetings reveal that there is no mention of the peer review, or any other review of PSB.

After elimination of the Ethics Committee as a reviewing body for PSB transformation, the College of Policing and HMICFRC websites were the next locations searched for open source data connected to the various alleged reviews of GMP’s PSB and CCU. It was a short process. There is none. Freedom of information requests have, subsequently, been submitted to both.

Chief Superintendent Annette Anderson, who played a key liaison role with the Met, before and during the peer review, served for two years with HMIC, prior to its change of name, after they took over inspections of fire and rescue services. During her time with the inspectorate, a report was published that bears the title ‘Police Integrity and Corruption – Greater Manchester Police’ and is dated November 2014 (read here). It is a largely unimpressive piece of work, given the most serious of subject matter, that appears to be lacking in the necessary investigative rigour.

My own experience of dealing with HMIC, on disclosure and press issues, is memorable only for that organisation’s underwhelming mediocrity, led by a man with a chronic over-estimation of his own ability and judgement. Sir Thomas Winsor’s characterisation of the disgraced David Crompton, a former senior officer with GMP, and later chief constable of South Yorkshire Police (SYP), as ‘an exceptional police officer’, in civil proceedings fought out in the Royal Courts of Justice, defied comprehension. I sat in the press seats, a few feet away from both, quite simply agog.

HMICFRS has, also, fairly recently formed an External Reference Group to advise on policing protests (read here). Incredibly, its panel includes another disgraced ex-SYP chief, Meredydd Hughes, who gave, arguably, the worst evidence ever, to a Parliamentary Select Committee, when questioned over his knowledge of industrial scale rape and trafficking of children, over the entirety of his period in charge of that disgraced force (view video here). Hughes is also on the list of discredited ex-GMP senior officers, having served there as an assistant chief constable from 1999 until 2002.

The suspicion is now raised over the efficacy of such groups, if this is a sample of the selection of its constituents. It may well explain why the GMP press office were reluctant to reveal more details of their own?

A FOI request has also been submitted to the IOPC, seeking details of their alleged involvement in the subject reviews. Whilst not attributable to the IPCC (as they were then known) an undated, 22 page document did surface. It appears to have been produced internally by un-named officers in GMP’s professional standards team for the consumption of the police commissioner at the time, Tony Lloyd (read here). It is largely statistical, but in one interesting paragraph it reveals the appointment in 2014, by Lloyd, of a Greater Manchester Complaints Ombudsman, retired judge William Morris, to work alongside Lloyd’s deputy, Jim Battle, dip sampling PSB files. It appears that files were inspected, and reviewed, on this basis once, but there is no trace of further activity, records or minutes, via open source. Battle continued to sit on the Ethics Committee until recently.

Absent of substantive responses to the FOI requests, the preliminary view is that the ‘independendent review’ and ‘external oversight group’ activities, relied upon by the GMP press office, amount to much the same as the fabled Emperor’s New Clothes.

Attention is now turned to the other anomalies in the GMP statement:

Firstly, it is claimed that the peer review report was delivered by the Met to GMP on 22nd December, 2016. But the document is clearly dated on its front cover, 7th January, 2017.

Secondly, it is claimed that the peer review was delayed by ‘operational matters’. The reality is that, the terms of reference, a two page document, was not drafted by DCC Pilling until the end of March, 2016. The Met responded extraordinarily quickly after that. GMP had previously claimed, in writing, that the terms were drafted by the Met, not by Pilling. They have not responded to a request for an explanation of that anomaly.

Thirdly, the GMP claim that the work of the Met’s peer review team could be reduced from six weeks to two days, on the basis of the other claimed reviews, simply has no evidence base and appears fanciful, at best: The Met’s peer review report and appendices, within its 42 pages, make no mention at all of the work, or findings, of any other reviewer, or how their own task was related, or joined, to them.

Fourthly, as alluded to earlier in this piece, an informed insight into the inner workings of GMP’s PSB, post peer review, is that it is still in a desperate state. Not assisted in any way by its two principals, Anderson and Pilling, lacking the necessary grasp of the applicable statutory framework. Or, failing to adhere to it, if they do. Also, deploying a hopelessly incompetent Complaints Manager, Mike Thornton, whose very presence blights the whole department.

Thornton, unbelievably, is a delegate of the chief constable in a role known as Appropriate Authority. Which more than anything, informs on the importance, or lack of, that GMP attaches to ethics, professionalism and the effective, efficient resolution, or disposal, of public complaints.

Following the email sent to DCC Pilling in March, 2018 – a blistering, fully evidenced condemnation of the PSB under his leadership – and sent to the press office to assist their reply, I wrote again to Pilling, in early November, 2017, following the exposure of subsequent calamities. He was invited to reflect on the wisdom of having the key role of complaints manager filled by an officer plainly unsuited to the role. His reply, which, I believe, was drafted by Thornton, was both vacuous and peurile, and, as is usual in my dealings with him, fails to address the core issue.

Any implication of improvement in PSB following the various reviews, as alluded to in the press statement, is simply untrue. A matter put to them, with some force, in my follow up questions. To which, of course, they declined to answer, at all. On any independent view, a continuation of the organisational lack of truthfulness which has characterised this investigation from the very outset.

My father’s body was cremated in April, 2014 after a short, poignant, private service. When the coffin was touched in a last farewell, I wanted to believe he may have gone to a better place. The last few years of a life that lasted almost 86 years were blighted by the most terrible dementia, having previously survived bowel cancer, first diagnosed in 1980-81. At that time, he was given only 6 months to live, but he was a proud Yorkshireman, with the love of a wife, Vera, utterly devoted to him for all their adult lives, to cling to. He survived 33 more years, although his propensity for evidence-free, snap judgements did, thankfully, diminish over the years. It is also true to say that my own indulgence of them increased, correspondingly, with advancing maturity.

Alan Wilby may look down on his son, or up, who knows, and say to himself: ‘Might have been a bit hard on the lad, but he certainly learned the difference between right and wrong, truth and lies’.

My promise to the old man is that I will get to the bottom of this peer review farrago, and change for the better, for the taxpaying public in Manchester, will be brought about, one way or another.

As a footnote, my dear mother, who passed away in January, 2018, did not approve of anything that was critical of the police. Including my own investigative journalism. She had this unswerving, old-fashioned faith in their efficiency, effectiveness, fairness and honesty. As so many of her generation did. The liars and deceivers in the present day police service should deeply reflect upon where all that went wrong.

 

Page last updated on Sunday 23rd December, 2018 at 0720hrs

Picture credit: Roy Hampson and Shirley Schofield

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 2015-2018. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

When the ‘cover-up’ becomes the story

Hi, Mabs. Ian Hopkins speaking.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Has this poisoned chalice been handed to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Greater Manchester Police

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