The Old Pals Act, 2016

There can be few more frustrating exercises for a journalist than trying to elicit straight answers from police forces. Legions of press officers are, mostly, conditioned to stonewall newshounds in search of the truth behind a story.

Too often they are briefed by senior officers to provide obfuscating, misleading or, on more rare occasions, untruthful answers to the media. The latter invariably to either avoid, or at least minimise, reputational damage to the force or wider police service.

So, the opportunity to ask direct questions of chief officers in open forum is a vanishingly rare one in the post-Leveson era, and is not one that should be passed up lightly.

Every month or so, North Yorkshire Police and its Police and Crime Commissioner hold a meeting of senior warranted and civilian officers which goes by the grand title of Corporate Performance, Delivery and Scrutiny Board. It is live podcasted, and even has a Twitter hashtag, #NYPScrutiny.

Except that virtually no-one watches the podcast. Either live, or by way of catch-up on YouTube, and there is little, or no, public interaction on social media about the Scrutiny Board.

Those that have watched the podcast probably wouldn’t repeat the exercise, as it is a complete waste of time as far as scrutiny goes – there is none – and the self-indulgent backslapping over performance and delivery, by those officers present around the meeting table, verges on nauseating.

Indeed, it is true to say that the exercise may now be all a tad too tedious, even for Chief Constable Dave Jones and PCC Julia Mulligan, as the former has been absent on holiday for the last two meetings (he also missed the previous three whilst away on secondment) and Julia has also missed two of the last three meetings. The latest because she was also on annual leave, we are told.

As part of the theatre of the occasion and, they say, in the interests of ‘transparency’, the Scrutiny Board invite public questions. These can be emailed in beforehand, or tweeted using the #NYPScrutiny hashtag whilst the meeting is in session.

As yet, they have not excluded journalists from the process so I have availed myself of the opportunity several times in the past. Indeed, it is rare for anyone other than myself, or uPSDNYP, to ask a question.

Just before the most recent Board meeting, I was contacted by a complainant for whom I have advocated informally for almost four years. She is a rape and fraud victim – and there are long standing issues with both NYP and their big city cousins, West Yorkshire Police over failures to successfully prosecute the perpetrator.

She told me that her two most recent conversations with a senior officer in NYP’s professional standards unit, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Fincham, had resulted in him losing his temper on both occasions including, in one of them, slamming the phone down.

Mr Fincham is an officer about whom I already know a great deal. He has dealt with a large number of complaints with which I have been directly, or indirectly, involved. Apart from an increasing portfolio of case files, I also hold a significant amount of credible, anecdotal evidence concerning the way this particular officer approaches his professional standards role. The criticism is not all from the public making complaints, either. There has also concern amongst serving officers about his uncultured, bullying approach to the job.

A decision was quickly reached between the rape victim and myself that a public question to the Scrutiny Board about DCI Fincham’s conduct might be more prescriptive than a formal incivility complaint against an officer who has delegated Appropriate Authority powers from the Chief Constable under the Police Reform Act. How prescient that turned out to be.

This is the question, faithfully reproduced in picture form, on screen, during the section of the meeting devoted to public questions:

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What was not reproduced, specifically at my request, was background material given to the Police Commissioner’s office that was relevant to the question.

– That I have acted informally for the past four years for the complainant. We meet regularly, speak often on the telephone and share documents – and confirmation that I am strongly committed to doing everything in my power to see that she secures justice.

– It was asserted on her behalf that officers at managerial rank who cannot maintain self-control should not have public facing roles.
– It was also pointed out that, like me, the complainant is astounded at the lack of knowledge of due process that DCI Fincham appears to exhibit at almost every contact. That is much more concerning to both of us than inappropriate behaviour on the telephone.
– Finally, it was drawn to the attention of those present at the meeting that the rape victim will not be complaining to the force formally about DCI Fincham’s conduct because again, like me, she feels there is absolutely no point. He is, seemingly, protected by the Command Team and is likely to remain so. Also, like me, she has also much more important issues to address with NYP.
From the response given in this short excerpt from the podcast it is clear that Deputy Chief Constable Timothy Madgwick had read the email. He claims, as you will hear, that DCI Fincham is not protected by senior officers:
What has happened since that Board meeting ended has played out rather differently to what the rape victim, myself and now, it seems, the wider public on social media might have expected.
The day after the Board meeting I contacted the Police Commissioner’s office by email and this was the final paragraph of that message:
In the meantime, we will await the formal response to yesterday’s public question. If DCC Madgwick requires witness accounts from other members of the public with whom DCI Fincham has interacted, please do let me know. That may give enquiries into the matter a much more solid evidential base. 
An answer was provided swifly by the Commissioner’s office, but it was unexpected to say the least: I don’t think there is an intention for a further response to be sent to you.  The matter was raised and responded to (in the meeting).
Further exchanges have taken place with NYPCC, conducted in the familiar cordial manner, to the effect that if DCC Madgwick is not minded to investigate or respond to either myself, or the rape victim, then a more detailed complaint will be submitted via the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Supported by at least four witness accounts previously referred to.
Which, on any independent view, would place a further burden on the police complaints system which is already overloaded and beset by lengthy delays. So, why doesn’t DCC Madgwick, who ran the force’s professional standards unit in 2003 to 2004, just answer the question, ‘look into it‘ as he says on the video clip and tell those affected by Fincham’s behaviour, and the wider public, exactly what he has found and if he has disciplined the errant officer? Is that really so difficult to do?
Well, it seems the reluctance of Mr Madgwick to investigate the matter, and censure DCI Fincham, might be found in a senational development two days beyond the Scrutiny Board meeting. In a letter to Tim Thorne, the owner of the North Yorks Enquirer internet news magazine it turns out that – wait for it – DCI Fincham is to ‘investigate’ DCC Madgwick over a complaint made about him by Mr Thorne in June, 2016.
You couldn’t make it up, except this is the Alice Through The Looking Glass world of North Yorkshire Police where everything is ‘amazing’, ‘fantastic’ or ‘great’ and no-one in #TeamNYP (another Twitter hashtag) can possibly be the subject of criticism, let alone found out over wrongdoing.
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Mr Thorne’s complaint concerned false evidence that DCC Madgwick had made in a witness statement in the well-chronicled Operation Hyson investigation, wherein it was claimed that ‘Tim Thorne’ was an alias used by Luxembourg-based chartered accountant, Tim Hicks. Madgwick had failed to correct the false assertion when first challenged by rebuttal evidence in October, 2015 and more publicly by me on Twitter in May, 2016 (see above picture).
Given that the complaint is now approaching three months old and is already non-compliant in a number of areas (failure to provide updates, wrong correspondence address used, wrong type of investigation ordered, officer of insufficient rank or hierarchal independence appointed to deal with the complaint) DCC Madgwick is hardly rushing to correct the mistake and front up with a public apology.
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DCC Madgwick (pictured above) is also the subject of another police complaint concerning a further alleged falsehood in that same witness statement. That issue is presently in the hands of the IPCC, by way of an appeal against a decision not to record the complaint by – you may have guessed it – DCI Fincham. A third complaint against Madgwick also rests with the IPCC over allegations connected with alleged attempts to criminalise me by way of contempt in the Hyson court proceedings. Fincham also refused to record this complaint.
This is another classic case of the police, and a compliant Police and Crime Commissioner, managing to make any complaint situation, however straightforward, into a publicity disaster.  The story will run and run for some time yet. Particularly, as Fincham, just three days after the Scrutiny Board meeting, flew off the handle yet again and put the phone down on a vulnerable and intimidated female for a third time. He lost his temper, yet again, when he was asked politely to behave properly and, particularly, as the complainant made Fincham aware of her having viewed the podcast. This was the tipping point, it seems, for PSD’s errant ‘golden boy’.
Both the North Yorkshire Police press office and the Police Commissioner’s office have been approached for comment but have yet to respond. These are the questions put to both:
1. The appropriateness of officers each investigating the other, over public complaints, at one and the same time.
2. The persistent and flagrant disposal of complaint issues by NYP/NYPCC outside the appropriate legislative framework.
3. The suitability of police officers at managerial rank, who exhibit repeated failures of self-control, to hold public facing roles.
The silence is, so far, deafening. As it is from DCC Madgwick, who has so far refused to respond to these matters put to him via Twitter:
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Four days after this article was re-published on the North Yorks Enquirer news website, a member of the public came forward to give his own views on the PSD officer at the centre of this storm. Nigel Rush from Tadcaster, in a letter to the editor of the NYE, describes detective, Steve Fincham, variously as “aggressive, “boastful” and “frightening”. Mr Rush’s phone call with Fincham also ended with the phone being slammed down on him. He is, however, at pains to point out that interaction with other NYP officers was of a much more pleasant and professional tenor. I have heard another family group of complainants against NYP – all highly respectable people – use almost identical words when describing Fincham. Except that they have met him, as opposed to speaking on the telephone. Another complainant, whose lawyers are presently prosecuting a civil claim against North Yorkshire Police on his behalf, says: “I found him (Fincham) totally untrustworthy and full of artifice. He turned my complaint against an officer who had assaulted me on its head”.
On the very same day, well known governance campaigner, Gwen Swinburn, who mainly – and successfully – holds City of York Council to account, stepped into the ‘NYP let’s investigate each other’ debate on Twitter. Gwen asked Julia Mulligan if she could intervene in what she felt was a situation that was an affront to democracy whereby police officers could investigate each other at one and and the same time.
Despite the snub to a request for comment on this article, the NYPCC twitter account jumped in on Gwen’s tweet and answered on Julia’s behalf by saying they would ‘look into’ the situation. Quite what that amounts to is unclear, given that both the creation and the escalation of this bizarre situation is all down to the Commissioner’s office.
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The fact that the ‘look into’ promise is exactly the same as used by DCC Madgwick at the Scrutiny Board meeting might be seen by some as ominous.With exactly the same outcome?

Page last updated: Friday 2nd September, 2016 at 1445hrs

© Neil Wilby 2015-2016. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Code of Ethics Confidence Trick

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The College of Policing‘s Code of Ethics has often been described via my Twitter feed (@Neil_Wilby) as an Emperor’s New Clothes fairy tale, straight from the Hans Christian Andersen portfolio.

It is a joke, a confidence trick, a scam or any other similar name you would like to call it.

The only function for the ethics code, that I can realistically identify, is as a counter-offensive to the constant battering given to the reputation of policing in the relatively new internet age of social media and weblogs. Major corruption scandals have followed one after another over the past four years and, whatever the surveys might show, confidence and trust in the police has never been lower. Most people expect things to go wrong after contact with the police, in one form or another.

Whatever bright face they may wish to put on the posters, this reputational damage has rocked the police service to its core. It has also led to the total discrediting of the police complaints system – and action to rescue a sinking ship was urgently needed. This is where the Code of Ethics plugs the leak, according to the College of Policing. But it is nothing more than a convenient re-painting of the same old hulking wreck.

Chief Constables and their Heads of Communications can no longer rely on cosy, or in some cases coercive, relationships with local and regional editors to ensure the media stay ‘on message’. The police misconduct cat is now, more often than not, well and truly out of the bag, and up on the internet, long before it hits the columns of the local newspaper and their cumbersome, advertisement-riddled websites.

I base my views in this article on extensive scrutiny of the four police forces within my immediate locality. They are Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire. As a justice campaigner, investigative journalist and complaint advocate I have almost daily contact with all four.

Whilst not, on weight of evidence, the worst offenders, this article focuses on the Code of Ethics failings of the smallest, and only county force, in that grouping: North Yorkshire Police (NYP).

A key part of the Ethics problem at NYP rests fairly and squarely with the Chief Constable, Dave Jones. He is old school, with a large city force background and, like many of his era and chief officer rank, deeply resents any form of scrutiny and, essentially, regards himself above any law, regulation or code. His force’s hapless, hopeless Professional Standards and Civil Disclosure departments serve only to amplify that point.

Chief Constable Jones also happens to run a police force that has a history of failure hanging over it like a black cloud, at almost every level. Operation Essence is the most recent, visible and high level example of that, where the murderer(s) of Claudia Lawrence still remain undetected after seven years. Alienating the locals who knew Claudia best – not to mention her family – was always going to present difficulties for NYP, and so it has proved. The police are derided and mistrusted in the Heworth area of York. The chances of obtaining crucial information from that vital source is, correspondingly, diminished.

Under that same dark sky are the Jimmy Savile and Peter Jaconelli scandals that were only brought into the light by the assiduous, and relentless, work of two citizen journalists. Before the exposure by Nigel Ward and Tim Hicks – together with a BBC Inside Out programme that exclusively featured their investigation – NYP’s position was that neither of these prolific child sex abusers were known to them and two whitewash probes had been produced by the force to, specifically, underscore that position. It was a shameful passage in the history of North Yorkshire Police.

Down at the basement level things are no better in this badly run, shambolic police force. The 101 contact centre service operated by NYP is, on any independent view, deplorable. Tens of thousands of calls to the force are abandoned each year. Yet it has taken several years of relentless criticism for the force to actually begin to rectify the problem.

Again, like others of his ilk, Jones relies heavily on his press and public relations team to cover those failings. I can think of no other force, even outside of the four with whom I am most closely involved, that indulges itself with as much gratuitous self-congratulation. Anyone with two hours to spare once a month to watch the podcast of the so-called NYP Scrutiny Board will see the living proof of that (click here).

Much of my recent involvement with NYP has concerned two of their investigations which are codenamed Operation Rome and Operation Hyson. Rome was another of the force’s costly, spectacular and well-publicised failures and, it seems, Hyson may yet go the same way.

During my own probe into the workings of Rome and Hyson it has already been necessary to make three Code of Ethics complaints. The first, in December 2015, was against the Force Solicitor, Jane Wintermeyer, following interaction connected to a contemplated judicial review application. The full complaint can be viewed here and it alleges amongst other failings that she was discourteous, disrespectful and derelict in her duties. The complaint also sets out the harassing aspect of her conduct throughout our dealings.

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The filing of the Wintermeyer complaint was followed by another NYP farce. It was not recorded by Professional Standards and an appeal was made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). They upheld the non-recording appeal, but by that time NYP were claiming that the complaint had been recorded, after all. The evidence very much suggests otherwise. A trivial point but one that illustrates the troubling lack of candour that taints almost every communication with NYP.

The Wintermeyer complaint is presently the subject of a second appeal to the IPCC (read in full here). Amongst other serious matters, it leaves the police with a stark choice: They either admit to breach of my Article 8 convention rights by interfering with emails and letters sent via Royal Mail, or have their own Force Solicitor marked as dishonest about her claim that she didn’t receive them. It is, also, almost certain that the way the complaint was dealt with by Joanna Carter, the Chief Executive of the Police Commissioner’s office, will lead to a breach of ethics complaint being filed against her once the investigation into her colleague is complete.

A second complaint was filed on 9th March, 2016 against another very senior NYP officer, Jane Palmer. She is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accountant for the police force. A full copy of the complaint can be read here. The allegations are similar to those made against Ms Wintermeyer and a clear pattern begins to emerge as to how NYP view their responsibilities under the Code of Ethics. The particulars of the complaint also set out the rationale for a concerted attempt to subvert process by the two most senior civilian officers in the force, encouraged by none other than the Chief Constable. The latter has a clear personal interest in the concealing of information by Ms Palmer as he is the recipient of taxpayer funded legal fees of around £30,000 and rising from Operation Hyson.

The complaint against Ms Palmer was acknowledged on the same day by the IPCC and forwarded to the Professional Standards Department of NYP. A ludicrous determination of the complaint by T/DCI Steve Fincham, via an entirely inappropriate local resolution process, is now the subject of a further appeal to the IPCC.

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A third Code of Ethics complaint has now been lodged against the Chief Constable himself. It also enjoins the Deputy Chief Constable, Tim Madgwick and Chief Superintendent, Lisa Winward. The allegations include breaches of honesty and integrity, and discreditable conduct and the full text of the complaint can be read here.

This complaint against Jones was submitted to the PCC for North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, who is the Appropriate Authority for complaints of this nature on Tuesday 12th April, 2016. Those against Madgwick and Winward fall to be determined by the force’s Professional Standards Department.

This is a policing story with some way to run, yet. In the meantime, if you spot a police officer in North Yorkshire ask him (or her) if he (or she) (i) has ever heard of the Code of Ethics (ii) he/she understands what it required of him (or her) under the Code (iii) the disciplinary consequences of being found in breach of the Code?

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Page last updated Thursday 14th April, 2016 at 2040hrs

© Neil Wilby 2015-2016. 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.

Photo credits: College of Policing and Office of Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire