Democracy dies another death

Just a few short weeks after publication of one of the most damning civil court judgments I’ve read in recent times, the council at the centre of that legal storm are in the news again: For all the wrong reasons.

North Yorkshire County Council, based in sleepy Northallerton , is the host Authority for the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel. It receives a substantial Home Office grant for its trouble.

jobs_workingforus
Constructed in the early 1900’s by architect Walter Brierley, the Grade 2 listed County Hall at Northallerton has, also, previously seen service as a Red Cross hospital and as a temporary wartime home for the local grammar school.

The senior officer in charge of the Panel Secretariat is Barry Khan, a qualified solicitor who also fulfils other roles within the county council: Assistant Chief Executive; Head of Legal and Democratic Services; and Monitoring Officer. He moved to North Yorkshire in 2014 after previously working for Stockport Council.

Khan’s short incumbency at Northallerton has not been without controversy. Apart from the desperately shocking Jeanine Blamires case [1], there has been an alleged ‘stonewalling’ over child safeguarding failures in at least one school in the quaint seaside town of Whitby.

His previous role as Solicitor and Monitoring Officer at Stockport Borough Council was not plain sailing, either. Most notably, over peaceful protester Michael Parnell, who died following a period where he had been repeatedly arrested, detained but was, eventually, cleared after a three day Crown court trial [2].

Khan’s role in the mistreatment of Parnell, particularly in securing a restraining order against Mr Parnell to prevent him protesting, has not been subject to complaint or application, as far as can be traced. But Mr Parnell’s supporters, including democracy campaigner, Sheila Oliver, continue to express disquiet over the council’s contribution to the illness that led to his death. On any view, it is a troubling case.

In my own sporadic, direct dealings with Khan there have been no notable communication issues. But, that is definitely not the case with the staff deployed beneath him in the Secretariat hierarchy:

I have been lied to by Ray Busby (for which I received an apology); addressed inappropriately by the same officer (for which I received another apology); had personal data released onto a public forum by Diane Parsons (a matter denied by the Secretariat and currently under investigation by the Information Commissioner) and treated to a display of ignorance and stubbornness over the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 2000, by the same officer, that simply beggars belief. To the extent that it would be a relatively easy step, given the history, to infer that the intention of the Secretariat was to vex, annoy and harass.

That history also includes a complaint that I made against Julia Mulligan, in July 2015, that concerned the failure of the Police Commissioner to hold the Chief Constable, Dave Jones, to account over a number of issues that included inter alia:

The £1 million funding of failed harassment prosecutions and a civil claim mounted by four very senior police officers and a political crony, Jane Kenyon [2a]; Poor communication/engagement: 101 service; Non-compliant Freedom of Information Act finalisations; Failure to publish Decision Notices:

The complaints were not upheld by the Panel, despite subsequent events proving, beyond doubt, that each one of those matters was, in fact, validly raised. In most cases, accompanied by seriously adverse publicity for the Commissioner, or the force. Or both.

The fact that I succeeded in a county court claim against the Police Commissioner, in February 2017, over data protection breach, has never appeared in Panel minutes either. Neither has reference to the £20,000 plus of public funds expended on defending that claim, and a parallel one against the Chief Constable.

More recent Panel failings include the chief executive farrago. Again, costing precept payers a fortune (latest estimates suggest a figure close to £80,000). Substantive post holder, Joanna Carter, is believed not to have been in post since very early in 2016. There have been two temporary ‘replacements’ variously imported from other PCC’s as acting, or interim, chief executive. Both Simon Dennis and Fraser Sampson, it is fair to say, arrived on the scene with ‘baggage’. Sampson and I clashed, repeatedly, during his tenure at, firstly, the disgraced West Yorkshire Police Authority and, later, the Office of the Police and Commissioner for West Yorkshire.

All questions to the North Yorkshire Commissioner’s office, concerning the absence of Ms Carter, are resolutely stonewalled: Even when they are legally obliged to provide answers, by way of an FOIA request [2b]. An insider has said that questions put by the Panel to the Commissioner, and Sampson, about Ms Carter’s unavailability have been fobbed off (unreported in the minutes it must be said). Another well-placed source says that Ms Carter signed off ill with stress, as a result of a series of disagreements with her ‘high-handed’ employer.

With Sampson now in post until 2019, the presumption is that Joanna Carter is not returning and, quite possibly, in legal dispute with Julia Mulligan. If this is the case, and absence of hard information only fuels speculation, then either a compromise agreement, or Tribunal proceedings, is going to cost the precept payer a mighty sum. Which would, of course, explain the wall of silence around the issue.

These are precisely the issues over which the Panel should be holding the PCC to account but, yet again, the meeting minutes (and Decision Notice) are silent on the fate of Ms Carter, a statutory appointment, and, as such, open to particular scrutiny.

It was a similar situation over the appointment of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Will Naylor. It is established, beyond doubt, that Naylor embroidered his employment history and had little, or no, relevant experience in taking on the role. Other than as a Conservative Party policy wonk [3].

There were also serious concerns about the recruitment process for the Deputy role, which had all the appearance of a well-orchestrated sham. The upshot was that, in a rare flexing of scrutiny muscle, the Panel decided that the confirmation of Naylor’s appointment was conditional of sight of a personal development plan, and a six month trial period, after which he would appear before the Panel. Which all sounded fine, until Mrs Mulligan unilaterally decided that the plan wouldn’t be produced after all – and Naylor didn’t appear before the Panel as scheduled to have his capabilities, qualifications, performance further examined [4].

Another scandal to surface very recently, unscrutinised, is the dramatic increase in office costs of the profligate PCC. In one year, ending March 2017, they have risen from £741,000 to £908,000. Over 20%. Which does not include the legal costs referred to above, which are tucked away elsewhere in the accounts. This flies in the face of what Mrs Mulligan told the Panel when the decision to have a Deputy was thrust upon them, unannounced, last September. There has been nothing, whatsoever, noted in the Panel meeting minutes, or any warning given by the PCC, that such a steep rise was on the cards.

NYPCC office costs 2016-17

But the most recent scrutiny fail concerns a remarkable refusal to accept a public question, from myself, at the Panel meeting which took place on 20th July, 2017. This was the question exactly as framed:

Freedom of Information Act compliance
 
(A) Statement
In July and September 2015, in response to a complaint and a public question made by me, these were amongst the submissions made by Joanna Carter, the chief executive at the time.
(i) At page 18 of the complaint response it was said:
“The Commissioner would agree that the FOI performance could improve, and that the quality of answers given on occasion could also improve….”
(ii) At page of the PQT response it was said:
“All FOIA’s, including any relating to this issue (Operations Rome and Hyson) are routinely published on the NYP/NYPCC website”.
Since those answers were provided,
(i) It is evident that not all requests relating to Operation Hyson and Rome were not published on the force disclosure log. Indeed, it is the regular practice of the force to conceal requests that may be perceived as causing reputational damage.
(iv) The force has refused an information request from me to establish the extent of the issue. A matter presently before the Information Commissioner (see attached WhatDoTheyKnow file).
(v) FOIA performance has worsened. To the extent that over 500 requests per annum are finalised unlawfully (See attached FOIA finalisation). That is a quantitative analysis, the figure would be much higher addressed qualitatively. Poor quality finalisations still feature regularly.
(vi) The Information Commissioner has indicated within Tribunal proceedings that the Civil Disclosure Unit are now under a monitoring regime as a result of poor performance (I have requested disclosure from them of more complete details).
(vii) If the oral and written submissions of the police lawyer running the CDU, to both the County Court and the First Tier Tibunal, are to be believed there are now less staff deployed in that Unit, than two years ago.
(viii) The Commissioner and the Chief Constable are both spending substantial amounts of public funds defending civil claims and Tribunal proceedings concerning FOIA where, on their face, the prime motivation is to avoid scrutiny and reputational harm, rather than the preservation of information rights. In the past year that figure, in my own knowledge exceeds £30,000 with the potential for that figure to double in the present financial year.
(B) Question
What steps has the Commissioner taken to:
(i)   Apprise herself of the extent of the non-compliance issues extant within the Civil Discloure Unit?
(ii)  Hold the Chief Constable to account over these long-term, repeated failings to comply with the law and use of public funds?
(iii) Keep the Panel informed?

Firstly, the email sending the question and supporting documents was intercepted and quarantined.

The Panel Secretariat, in the form of the aforementioned Diane Parsons, came back the following day and refused permission to ask the question. She said: “Having consulted the Panel Chair on your submission, I regret that the Panel are therefore unable to take your questions at the meeting this week.  However, I have passed your correspondence and attachments to the OPCC so that they are aware of the concerns you have raised“.

The rationale appeared to be that these were not matters with which the Scrutiny Panel need concern themselves: “To clarify, the purpose of PQT is to enable members of the public who live, work or study in North Yorkshire to engage directly with the Panel and pose questions on its remit and functions.  I have attached, if helpful, a copy of the Panel’s guidelines on PQT.  Any statements or concerns which you feel require the attention of the Commissioner would need to be directed through her office“.

The email from Ms Parsons, unusually, was comprised of three different fonts, and had obviously passed through a number of hands before she was elected as message bearer. The unseen hand of Barry Khan was, no doubt, part of the behind-the-scenes subterfuge.

As a card-carrying member of the press, the residency issue is a non-starter; I have previously posed a question to the same Panel: complaints against the PCC have also been considered by the same Panel; and on any reasonable, independent view the questions I posed met the Panels own guidelines or, even if the Panel felt they did not, modification was a very simple process.

But that, plainly, did not suit the Panel, or its Secretariat’s, purpose. To conceal their own failings as a scrutiny body, yet again, was clearly paramount. There was also what some might view as an unattractive element of childishness implicit within the response – and the intercepting of the email even before it reached the intended recipient. Which rather suggests that North Yorkshire County Council are interfering with my communications.

Following the re-direction of the public questions to the Police Commissioner’s office there has been a deathly silence. Which has also been the case from Deputy Chair of the Panel, Ashley Mason, who was passed full details of the questions prior to the Panel meeting taking place, by a well-known local democracy campaigner. Cllr Mason was rather more loquacious when, as if on cue, another unmitigated 101 disaster befell NYP during the first week of August, 2017 [4a].

This is a story that has some way to run yet as more information is passed to me by a source close to the Panel. This includes the claim, surprising to me at least, that the Panel chair, Cllr Carl Les, and the PCC do not see eye to eye, and that at least one conscripted Panel Member is very reluctant to take on her duties, having been pressed into service following the abrupt departure of another Member last year. A situation that chimes with a number of senior Conservative figures turning on Mrs Mulligan over her ‘crazy’ plans to take control of the North Yorkshire fire service [5].

There are also, it is said, serious frustrations at the PCC’s frequent refusal to provide requested documents, information to the Panel Secretariat. Again, a matter unreported in the minutes. There is also another controversy concerning the minutes as they are sometimes not, according to my source, a true record of what actually transpired at the Panel meetings. That would fit, certainly, with the known modus operandum of Fraser Sampson.

North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel is, obviously, not a happy ship and needs an rapid overhaul, tip to stern.

The Police Commissioner’s office and the Panel Secretariat have both been approached for comment. Neither acknowledged the request.

Page last updated: Wednesday 2nd August, 2017 at 1745hrs

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.

[1] Leeds County Court, 21st June, 2017: Judgment of District Judge Joanna Geddes in Jeanine Blamires -v- Local Government Ombudsman

[2] Manchester Evening News, 19th September, 2013: ‘Protester who held three year vigil outside Stockport Town Hall dies

[3] Neil Wilby, 22nd October, 2016: ‘Where there’s a Will there’s a way

[4] Neil Wilby, 23rd November, 2016: ‘Pick of the crop’

[4a] York Press: 4th August, 2017: Police apologise after telling public NOT to call 101

[5] Harrogate Advertiser, 25th July, 2017: ‘Police tsar plan for fire service branded ‘crazy”

© 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.

Pick of the crop?

On Monday 21st November, 2016 an item was posted on the website of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire (NYPCC) [1]. It was unheralded elesewhere. No local press coverage. No announcement on the busy NYPCC Twitter feed. No mention on the ‘News’ section of the PCC’s website. Nothing.

The announcement concerned the beginning of a new era for the public of the county as Will Naylor was confirmed in his new role as Deputy to the Commissioner, Julia Mulligan.

will-naylor
William Naylor: Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire. This is the first picture of Will published on the internet after spending the entirety of his past career in virtual obscurity.                                Picture credit: NYPCC

An article published on this website in October, 2016 ‘Where there’s a Will there’s a way‘ has already covered some of the controversy surrounding the selection process. Since that exposé first appeared it now has the makings of a full-blown scandal – that may well bring about the downfall of some of those involved in this increasingly convoluted tale.

What has emerged is that the PCC’s chief of staff was, seemingly, the ‘chosen one’ some months ago, and a process subsequently devised with no other apparent purpose than to hoodwink both the public and the Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel for North Yorkshire (PCP).

The investigation that has followed the ‘Where there’s a Will there’s a way‘ article has pieced this picture together:

– The job of Deputy PCC was advertised by NYPCC externally just the ONCE: On the Guardian newspaper’s website [2], at a cost of just £900. Which buys very little, as can be seen from the publisher’s rate card [3].

– The job was promoted just ONCE by the PCC’s Twitter account (on 16th August, 2016). Compared, say, to activity connected with a recent ‘Tell Julia’ survey which was promoted regularly TEN times per DAY.

– The job was NOT advertised in the two conventional recruitment outlets in the area – The York Evening Press or the Yorkshire Post. Despite the fact that Mrs Mulligan was, apparently, insisting that the successful candidate would be required to live in North Yorkshire.

– The job was NOT advertised with either Police Oracle or Police Professional (PP) which, as their names imply, carry the overwhelming bulk of jobs connected to policing bodies. A fact not lost on NYPCC Interim Chief Executive, Fraser Sampson, as he and PP’s editor, Paul Lander, are former West Yorkshire Police contemporaries.

–  The recruitment advertising, minimal as it was, took place in the middle of the Summer school holiday period.

– Julia Mulligan arranged for what she describes as an INDEPENDENT recruitment process to take place. Except that there was nothing ‘independent’ about it at all. It was, to all intents and purposes, a sham managed by her former Acting Chief Executive, Simon Dennis.

– The composition of the selection panel is still unknown, even after a another freedom of information request made by York governance campaigner, Matthew Laverack. Despite the usual positing of Mrs Mulligan that the process was ‘open and transparent‘ [3A].

– The Naylor application was, taken at it’s face, unlawful. Section 18(6)(h) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 sets out that a PCC cannot appoint a member of her own staff to the role of the Deputy PCC.

– There were sixteen ‘expressions of interest’ for the job. All ‘met the minimum standards’ according to Julia Mulligan in her report to the PCP.

– Only four of the sixteen applicants were selected for interview. Two dropped out prior to interview, leaving Will Naylor, complete with the doubts about the legitimacy of his application, to bid with just one other shortlisted candidate for the £45,000 – £50,000 role.

– No explanation has been provided as to why a further two candidates were not selected for interview from the remaining pool of twelve candidates.

– The interviewing panel comprised four people. Three of whom were either working with Will, or had been very recently: Julia Mulligan, Fraser Sampson and Simon Dennis. The fourth was York city councillor and former schoolteacher, Keith Aspden.

– None of the interviewing panel recused themselves, despite the glaring conflict of interest.

– Neither of the two solicitors on the interviewing panel, Messrs Dennis and Sampson, gave due consideration to the point that Will Naylor should not have even been there. No external opinion was sought according to disclosure via a freedom of information request.

– Will has falsely claimed in his biography on the NYPCC website that, before joining NYPCC in January, 2013, he was ‘Chief of Staff’ to Helen Grant MP. It is not known whether that falsehood was repeated in his job application.

– The false claim has now been removed. An updated bio says he was a SENIOR parliamentary assistant for Mrs Grant. Or, in other words, a Conservative party political researcher. A press enquiry has been sent to Mrs Grant; it seeks clarification on Will’s role in her office, the duration of his employment and whether she was asked to provide a reference to the selection panel.

– He has also claimed that he ‘worked in Parliament for two other MP’s‘ prior to working for Mrs Grant. There is no trace of this employment on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) website. Clarification has been sought from IPSA, .

– On social media, NYPCC has steadfastly refused to answer the question as to whom these mystery MP’s are. The reason for not doing so, given via a direct message on Twitter is ‘because the answer could be perceived as political and the OPCC is politically independent, we feel that Twitter is not the place to respond‘. The provisional assumption is, therefore, that if Will has worked for MP’s other than Helen Grant, they were Conservatives and he doesn’t want the wider world to know that.

– There has been a protest from NYPCC’s Digital Engagement Officer, Simon Jones, that he has been misrepresented by the above (verbatim) quote. He claims that details that would support claims made by Will Naylor over his past employment history is a personal matter – and for Will to respond privately rather than in an open space such as Twitter. That use not a view that is widely shared by those paying both Simon and Will’s wages. Particularly, as the new Deputy PCC has been caught out in a lie once already.

– Will has also claimed that he has worked for ‘Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) based at the Home Office’. HMIC have ducked a press enquiry on the topic, after having been pressured to respond at all. It has now been necessary to submit a freedom of information request in an attempt to elicit the information [4].

Some other pieces of the jigsaw were fitted together following the response to a freedom of information request was submitted to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland (COPCC) on 2nd November, 2016 [5].

– The preamble to the response contained a palpable falsehood. It claimed that ‘the majority’ of the information sought had already been published by the PCP. A claim as ludicrous as it is untrue.

– It is now revealed that not a single piece of paper exists to formalise this ‘independent’ recruitment process – and it was organised on the back of what appears to be an off-the-cuff discussion between Simon Dennis and Mrs Mulligan in the period during which they were working together (April to mid-July 2016) as chief executive and commissioner, respectively.

– No invoice has been raised from COPCC to NYPCC in connection with that provision of services. Not even for the cost of the Guardian advertisement.

– The following information concerning the shortlisted candidates has now been revealed:
The four shortlisted candidates were all male.  Two held a Masters degree, one a BA (Hons), the fourth was not a graduate. Two were resident in North Yorkshire, one in Nottinghamshire and one in Sussex.

– Incredibly, it is claimed that COPCC who conducted the recruitment and selection process do NOT know the ages of the four shortlisted candidates. A decision that has already been appealed. Whilst there are guidelines that preclude employers discriminating on grounds of age it would be remarkable, indeed, if no date of birth was given on ANY of the CV’s of those men who made the ‘final four’.

– Similarly, they say that revealing the job titles (not their names, or the names of their employer) of the three unsuccessful candidates would constitute PERSONAL information and, as such, exempt from disclosure. Again, a decision that has already been appealed.

– As revealed above, four shortlisted candidates became two. No reason for withdrawal was given by one, the other backed out over the residency issue.

–  COPCC make the incredible claim that, as recruitment facilitors, they do NOT know if the three other candidates shortlisted were made aware of Will Naylor’s extant close working relationship with most of the other members of the interviewing panel: Julia Mulligan, Simon Dennis and Fraser Sampson? Even though Dennis is Chief Executive of COPCC.

– What steps were taken by COPCC to establish that the application of Will Naylor was lawful, given that he was already an employee of NYPCC and, as such, ineligible by way of Section 18 (6)(h) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
b. If external advice/opinion was sought please provide name of solicitor/counsel.

The information request would, doubtless, have been finalised under the supervision of the aforementioned Simon Dennis, and in consultation with NYPCC as to what might give the game away, or otherwise.

As Simon, and doubtless, the others involved in it, now realise that the full nature and extent of this ‘sham’ recruitment process is on the cusp of being exposed, it is expected that issues over the remaining disclosure will end up before the Information Comissioner for determination.

Draft minutes have also been sought from the Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel, which are expected to shed further light on this increasingly troubled matter [6]. Their statutory report, and conditional confirmation of the appointment of the PCC’s ‘preferred candidate’, is now in the public domain and provides some interesting insight [7].

From the report it can be gleaned that at least some of the Panel member’s had reservations about the successful candidate’s relevant experience and ability. Or, rather, lack of it. His independence was also questioned, having been an employee of the Commissioner for almost four years.

In personal submissions made to the Panel, Will asserted his honesty and said that he was committed fully to the policing code of ethics, and to upholding the highest professional standards. Which present a condundrum in the face of the deceit and obfuscation over his own career history – and that fact that the office he has run for the past three years has little recognisable regard for either ethics, or professionalism. The most glaring, and public, examples are the perpetual non-compliance over information requests or data access – and routine chicanery over published Decision Notices. Compounded by the seeming inability of anyone at PCC HQ, including the Commissioner herself, to give a straight answer to a straight question.

But the question that needs answering most of all is: Was Will Naylor truly the pick of the crop of sixteen candidates, in a honestly held process, for the role of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner? It is one that should be put to Mrs Mulligan, in public, at the next PCP meeting in January, 2017.

The new Deputy Commissioner, who cited a commitment to better public public engagement as part of his job pitch, has declined to respond to an invitation to comment on the article.

[1] North Yorkshire PCC: 21st November, 2016. ‘Deputy PCC – Will Naylor’

[2] The Guardian: 18th August, 2016. Situations vacant advertisement Deputy PCC for North Yorkshire

[3] The Guardian: Situations vacant rate card

[4] WhatDoTheyKnow: 23rd November, 2016. Deputy PCC for North Yorkshire’s previous employment with HMIC

[5] WhatDoTheyKnow: 2nd November, 2016. Appointment of Deputy PCC for North Yorkshire

[6] WhatDoTheyKnow: 26th November, 2016. Draft Minutes of Panel Meeting

[7] North Yorkshire Police & Crime Scrutiny Panel: 19th October, 2016. Report of Confirmation Hearing

Page last updated Thursday 1st December, 2016 at 1820hrs

Corrections: Please let us 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.

Copyright: 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.

Where there’s a Will there’s a way

Over the past two years, I have had a considerable amount of dealings with Will Naylor in his role as Chief of Staff to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in North Yorkshire. He is a personable man, generally courteous and, mostly, helpful insofar as the limitations of his present role allow.

Will appears popular with both the PCC and the two of his staff with whom I have the most dealings, Digital Engagement Officer Simon Jones and Caseworker, Sheree Evans. It is also to Will’s credit that Simon and Sheree are a reflection of himself as polite, largely helpful public servants. There is also a good ‘feel’ as visitors walk into the their HQ in Harrogate, which is usually a sign of a happy, functioning team. (Since this article was first written Sheree has now left the PCC’s employment in a sudden, unexplained departure).

169917119
‘House of Secrets’? Only a small sign on the front of the building reveals that it is the NYPCC headquarters in leafy Granby Road, Harrogate.

But, for all of that, it came as something of a shock when I saw that his name had been put forward as the preferred candidate for the newly created position of Deputy PCC. The concept of feather duster to peacock immediately sprung to mind.

Setting aside his present, or future, capabilities for the job, I couldn’t visualise the transition from a virtually anonymous, innocuous office manager role to the PCC’s Deputy. Type ‘Will Naylor‘ into Google and you learn nothing. No image, no background, no colour, no public persona. Nothing. It is as though he landed at PCC HQ from Mars.

Whereas, according to the perpetually unreliable PCC website, he arrived from the office of Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone, whose relatively short incumbency in Parliament has been dogged by controversy. It will come as no surprise that they have included expenses and staffing scandals [1].

Rather more surprising is that Will is described on the PCC’s website as Mrs Grant’s former chief of staff. The local Kent press described him as her parliamentary assistant. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority website clearly shows that there is no such recognised position as chief of staff in an MP’s office. So who is kidding whom?

Also, my understanding of the legislation (section 18 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011) is that a PCC cannot appoint a member of his/her own staff as a Deputy PCC, a point taken up by others, to some effect, later in the process.

There had been considerable controversy when a rather better known Labour policy wonk, and failed MP candidate, Isabel Owen, made the transition from working as a ‘consultant’ for the PCC, in neighbouring West Yorkshire, to Deputy PCC [2]. It didn’t harm Ms Owen’s cause that she is married to Peter Nicholson, the Regional Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Labour Party.

Interestingly, one of the key facilitators of Will Naylor’s candidacy, interim NYPCC chief executive, Fraser Sampson, was also closely associated with the Owen appointment in his role as WYOPCC’s substantive, and hugely rewarded, chief executive.

Some have argued strongly against the need for such a Deputy position in North Yorkshire, such as the Police Federation’s voice in the county, Mike Stubbs. He says the timing is ‘unfortunate‘ and there are ‘damaging perceptions of cronyism and jobs for the boys‘ around the appointments of Deputies.

I am not in that group. Having seen the level of her own personal commitment, and the number of hours Julia Mulligan puts into the job, I take the view that if she is able to weave such a role into her office costs budget there are significant operational benefits in having a reliable Deputy to take on some of the more time-consuming parts of the PCC’s remit, such as constituency surgeries.

Whether Will Naylor is the right man remains to be seen. A key reservation would be, in my own experience, is that, like Julia, awkward issues are invariably fudged away, or ducked altogether. A very vivid example of this is the nationally-known scandal over Operations Rome and Hyson. About which, much has been written elsewhere.

Between the two of them, I have never once heard, or read, any criticism whatsoever of the chief constable, or the shortcomings of his force, over whom they have holding to account responsibility. Either publicly, in meetings, or in correspondence.

chief-constable-dave-jones-and-commissioner-julia-mulligan
Chief Constable Dave Jones in a familar PR pose with PCC Julia Mulligan. Jones has escaped any criticism from Mrs Mulligan since his appointment in April 2013, but both face three emerging scandals concerning: the infamous  ‘Pink Gun’ tribunal case; a Court of Appeal judgment over a failed rape case that was scathing about both Jones’ and the force’s conduct; and a third matter, also concerning a failed rape case in which the victim has been treated poorly by both the force and PCC.

It is a statutory requirement that a confirmation hearing takes place, once a PCC decides on his/her preferred candidate for Deputy Commissioner. This is part of the remit of the Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel (PCP) and an agenda item was set aside for the purpose at their meeting on 6th October, 2016. The full agenda for that meeting, including some interesting background papers relating to the appointment process can be read here [3].

The report that flowed from that hearing, also a statutory requirement, was published on 19th October, 2016 [4]. It revealed a surprising amount of rigour, for a committee noted in the past only for its torpor, and the findings were very much in line with my own views.

Will Naylor was recommended by the Panel only by a majority verdict – and provided certain conditions are met. That is unsurprising, given some of the questions that were asked of him by the Members and the obvious flakiness of some of the material presented, both by Julia Mulligan in her own report on the recruitment process, and Will himself in his personal statement, which was absent, for example, of any substantive details of qualifications, previous employment and relevant experience.

It can be seen from their report that the Panel challenged the preferred candidate in a number of key areas. Particularly his professional competence, personal independence and experience in a public-facing role. The outcome being that there are considered to be  ‘gaps’ in his competencies and doubts about his independence – and the Panel require a Personal Development Plan (PDP) in place if the PCC can demonstrate that the appointment is, indeed, lawful and she formally offers the position to Will Naylor, once he has resigned his post as Chief of Staff.

However, to my eye there were also some obvious shortcomings in the Panel’s report: The number of candidates who applied and were then, subsequently, interviewed is not disclosed. Or declared by the PCC in her report. That is now the subject of separate information requests to both the PCC’s office and the PCP, after repeated refusal by Simon Jones (presumably acting on istructions from above) to provide that information via Twitter. This in spite of the written claim made by Julia Mulligan to the Panel that the recruitment process was ‘open and transparent’.

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-09-53-27
Twitter interchange with Simon Jones (no relation to chief constable) who is the PCC’s Digital Engagement Officer and runs their Twitter account which has, since November 2012, accumulated just 2,350 followers. Many of them outside of North Yorkshire’s pool of  602,000 constituents and 1,500 police officers and staff.

There is also mention in the PCC’s report of a well qualified pool of candidates applying for the post, who met all the selection criteria, and Will being the best of the bunch. That on it’s face appears counter-intuitive, given the potential shortcomings in his candicacy highlighted in the confirmation hearing. Put shortly, it doesn’t add up.

There is also no mention of his CV, or previous employment references being taken up, or whether they were satisfactory. Although this may well be covered under the ‘vetting’ procedure.

The freedom of information finalisation [5], which came 26 days after the questions were first asked, has now opened up other interesting lines of enquiry into this selection process [6]. What is now known is that there were, allegedly, 16 candidates who responded to a single, small press advert in The Guardian, costing just £900. The job was not advertised in the conventional outlets for recruitment advertisements of this nature, the Yorkshire Post, Northern Echo or York Evening Press, which would strike most commentators as odd, to say the least.

Of the 16 whom expressed interest, 4 were selected for interview by an unnamed ‘Selection Panel’. Curiously, two did not appear before the interviewing panel. This left Will Naylor and one other. The rest, as they say, is history. Of the interviewing panel three were past or present close working colleagues of Will’s: Julia Mulligan, the aforementioned Fraser Sampson and Simon Dennis. The latter had orchestrated the entire selection process at the invitation of NYPCC. Simon is also featured in another article on this website [7]

So, it seems, where there’s a Will there’s a way to make him your Deputy if, of course, your name is Julia Mulligan and you have the backing of Chair, Carl Les, and the Conservative hardcore on the Panel. Even if it means bending the law – and not quite being as frank as you ought to be about the recruitment process.

But, good luck to Will. He may yet turn out to be the people’s champion on policing matters in North Yorkshire, and be the first to stand up to some of the wilder excesses of the chief constable. In his personal statement to the PCP he cited, quite oddly, that he wanted to ensure that harassment allegations were investigated much better by the police. Perhaps he was mindful of this case [8] which has caused the PCC’s office and the force so much damage to their good standing?

Page last updated Saturday 5th November, 2016 at 1150hrs

Annotations

[1] Wikipedia: Helen Grant MP

[2] Yorkshire Post 11th April, 2013: ‘Police role given green light after crony row’

[3] North Yorks PCP 6th October, 2016: Meeting agenda including Deputy PCC papers

[4] North Yorks PCP 19th October, 2016: Report on Deputy PCC confirmation hearing

[5] What Do They Know 12th October, 2012: ‘Appointment of Deputy PCC’

[6] What Do They Know 2nd November, 2016: ‘Appointment of Deputy PCC’

[7] Neil Wilby 22nd May, 2016: ‘The Inn of Last Resort’

[8] Private Eye 31st August, 2016: ‘North York Boors’

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

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Copyright: 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.

There are more questions than answers

So goes the 1970’s song by reggae artiste, Johnny Nash, from his iconic, chart-topping album ‘I Can See Clearly Now’. And so it is with my dealings with the slightly less famous Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner. Who is now recognisable to at least 10% of the populace at the rural end of God’s Own County.

For the past eighteen months, Julia has ducked my every question over the funding and conduct of a controversial civil harassment claim, brought by the police force to which she was elected to provide oversight. Indeed, her reputation as a ‘question dodger’ extends far beyond my own domain. Even the nodding placemen on the local Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel have admonished her over poor community engagement.

But, back to the matter in hand. Her reasoning was that by commenting on the court case it might prejudice proceedings. Which, actually, has little merit given that it was heard by a very experienced single judge sitting firstly in the High Court and, latterly, in the County Court in Leeds.

If ever a day comes when His Honour Judge Gosnell is influenced by anything said outside of his courtroom that is exactly the moment when the sky falls in on the entire civil justice system.

On 29th July, 2016, three days after the case concluded at a final hearing, I posted an open letter on this website which posed fifteen public interest questions about the case, the way  it had been handled, the conduct of Julia’s two most senior police officers and, of course, the funding. That letter can be read here in full. It is by no means an exhaustive list and there at least as many more yet to be posed.

On the same day, I emailed Julia’s Chief of Staff, Will Naylor, and invited a response from the Commissioner. With a promise that an appropriate reply to the questions would be published in full.

What was provided, almost exactly a week later, could scarcely be described as adequate. Or, in any way appropriate, in the present circumstances.

Indeed, the letter has been passed to my solicitors for appraisal. As to publish it may well be defamatory of well known Whitby citizen journalist, Nigel Ward. It is understood that Mr Ward has also passed the letter to his own solicitors, who will be seeking clarification over some of the remarks made by the disengaged Commissioner. Particularly, as Julia contends that Mr Ward has ‘harassed’ some of the claimants, which is not the finding of the court. She has also made what appear to be similarly misinformed comments concerning the matter of costs that have been ordered, by the court, against the claimants.

I have the overwhelming advantage over the Commissioner by not only being in court for every hearing of this case except the first (when I was ill) but also having read, with appropriate care, all the relevant court pleadings and orders.

There are also concerning references in her letter to my ‘close’ association with the three defendants in the civil claim. This is the latest in a lengthening number of attempts to smear me, by association with Grandma B campaigner and military historian, Peter Hofschröer, who was recently sentenced at Teesside Crown Court to two and a half years in prison over thousands of indecent images found on computer equipment connected to him (read York Evening Press coverage here).

The plain facts are: I have never met Mr Hofschröer; never spoken to him on the telephone; and never emailed him, as far as I can trace. The only time I have ever seen him is when he has twice given evidence, via video link from HMP Hull, whilst I have been sat on the press benches in Court 19 at Leeds Combined Court Centre.

It matters little – and I certainly didn’t scream ‘harassment’ – that Mr Hofschröer has also been abusive towards me in open forum. Simply because I wouldn’t assist in his campaign. That is not to say that the Grandma B crusade was without merit. It certainly raises many questions about the conduct of a number of NYP officers, but it was the manner in which the campaign was being handled that caused me deep concern. A view shared by everyone else I represented at the time, as police complaints advocate.

My friendship with Nigel Ward is not a secret. I respect him as a courteous and helpful man, and a relentless warrior in the battle against public sector misconduct and criminality in his local area. Interestingly, he has just registered another notable success against the notorious Scarborough Borough Council over the ‘whitewash’ of yet more corruption within that ‘Rotten Borough’, part of which entailed the victimisation of a whistleblower.

All this came to light this week in Employment Tribunal proceedings in Hull, before Judge Humphrey Forrest, in a case that saw whistleblower, Ben Marriott, succeed in his claim against the Council. North Yorkshire Police are very tightly aligned with Scarborough Borough Council and the latest corruption exposure will not have gone down well with the boys in blue who, on past experience, will be happy to look the other way.

As far as the third claimant goes, I have not spoken to, or heard from, Luxembourg-based Tim Hicks via email or phone since May, 2016 and have met him just the once, apparently surveilled by North Yorkshire Police, at the Hilton Hotel in Leeds in February, 2015. I discovered that Mr Hicks claim with NYP had reached a compromised settlement at the end of June, via my own enquiries and sources. Not from him. That is entirely his prerogative, of course, but scarcely supports the PCC’s assertion that we are ‘close’.

Turning now to the fifteen questions that were asked of Julia Mulligan in the open letter. They can be usefully grouped together so that it is easy to see just what the Police and Crime Commissioner wants to bury out of public sight:

Operation Rome

Questions 1,2,3 and 4 all concerned the ill-starred criminal investigation that sought to prosecute Messrs Hicks, Hofschröer and Ward for harassment. The whole episode has been shrouded in deceit and my questions essentially sought to identify the senior officer driving it and publication of the investigation report. If, as Julia has consistently maintained, £409,970 was spent by North Yorkshire Police then the public are entitled to see what they got for their money.

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In her letter, Julia makes no reference whatsoever to Operation Rome and does not address ANY of the questions, let alone provide the answers.

Much more background on Operation Rome can be found in earlier articles by me here and here.

Operation Hyson

Questions 5,6,7 and 8 (part) all concerned Operation Hyson. The codename given by North Yorkshire Police to the civil harassment claim. All four questions are not only ignored by Julia in her reply she doesn’t rate Operation Hyson worthy of mention. The pointed question as to how much she, herself, knew about the civil action is, of course, ducked as well. Just as she ducked the same question repeatedly throughout the proceedings.

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The public, quite rightly, expect their elected representative to not only know about key issues affecting finance and performance of the police force serving their constituency, but to report on them openly and honestly as well and where necessary challenge them.

Much more on Hyson can be read here and here.

Finance and budget

Questions 8 (part), 9, 10 and 11 all concern public funding with particular focus on the grotesque sums allocated to Julia’s Conservative Party crony, Jane Kenyon-Miller, whose evidence against Nigel Ward in both the civil claim and the failed criminal prosecution before it, left a great deal to be desired and appeared, on its face, highly vulnerable to forensic cross-examination.

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In her letter, Julia makes no reference whatsoever to the financing of the claim, except a vague threat about me not repeating that costs had been awarded against the claimants. In short, she does not address ANY of these four questions, let alone provide the answers.

Misconduct matters

Questions 12, 13, 14 and 15 all concern alleged misconduct by her most senior officers. The matters cited in the questions are well evidenced and would not have been introduced in a public forum, otherwise. Julia has, not only a duty as the elected policing representative to deal openly and effectively with these issues, but a statutory duty as well. One in which, she has performed less than satisfactorily of late, and her reply to my open letter leaves the very strong impression that she is perfectly prepared to tolerate any sort of behaviour from the senior ranks of North Yorkshire Police, provided their, and her, reputation doesn’t get damaged in the process.

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Having not answered one single question out of fifteen, Julia signs off her letter by imploring that I do not challenge her again on the subject of Operations Hyson and Rome. She doesn’t want any more well-founded journalist’s questions about her senior officers making false statements in court proceedings, scandalous frittering away of public funds, and cronyism.

This, from a Police and Crime Commissioner who freely, and persistently, proclaims that she is ‘open and transparent‘ in everything she does. Readers of this article are invited to form their own view on that. They may even be minded to hum, or sing, Johnny Nash’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ whilst musing on that question.

In the meantime, I will conduct further, legitimate enquiries in order to winkle out the answers that so many in North Yorkshire are keen to learn. This will include another round of freedom of information requests, involving further needless expense both to me, and to North Yorkshire Police.

It is, of course, also my prerogative (or that of anyone else) to ask public questions at successive ‘open and transparent’ North Yorkshire Police Scrutiny Board meetings over the next year or so. Or, who knows, some bright spark may ask all fifteen at once?

All because the public’s elected policing representative can’t face unpalatable truths about the way her own staff, and the police force she monitors, go about their work.

 

Page last updated: Saturday 6th August, 2016 at 1945hrs

© 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.