This is a disturbing story of the arrest of a shy, innocent, hard-working, single mother – also a highly respected Bradford community worker – that provides another stark signal of a police Professional Standards Department completely out of control.
Iris Gabriel’s ‘crime’ was simply exercising her legal right in not providing a statement to officers from West Yorkshire Police’s PSD who harassed, threatened and bullied her, at her place of work, over a period of nine months.
This led to Iris’s solicitors making a written complaint to the CPS regarding the way in which officers were behaving towards her. They specifically set out that any approach to Iris by the police should have been through them. The reality is, there was nothing for her to tell the police as proved later in open court.
The formal complaint following Iris’s unlawful arrest was made in August 2010 to West Yorkshire Police and the IPCC.
It alleged prima facie criminal behaviour by officers from the Professional Standards Department. Almost two years later in June 2011, and completely out of the blue, Iris received a letter from DCI Osman Khan at WYP informing her that that her complaint had been investigated by South Yorkshire Police’s C/Supt Robert Varey. Through very reliable sources uPSD already knew that Bob Varey had retired in October 2011 and been replaced by DC/Supt Neil Jessop (more on Jessop here).
No explanation has been forthcoming from WYP or the West Yorkshire Police Authority to explain away the unacceptable delay. WYPA’s hapless Julie Reid wrote to Iris to say: ‘We have been reassured that the force took all reasonable steps to inform you of the decision as soon as it was able.’ Now, just exactly what does that mean, Julie, after an investigation lasting almost two years?
What is now readily apparent is that the investigation broke every rule in the IPCC book and some that aren’t even in there. Starting with the fact that neither Iris nor her solicitors were even aware that an investigation was taking place, or that it had been referred to another police force. No victim statement was taken from her at any stage, which should have been the starting point. Most astonishingly of all, the investigation outcome signed off by DCI Khan, flies completely in the face of statements made by Circuit Judge, HH Judge Peter Benson at the trial of her friends Shamim Khan and ex West Yorkshire Police officer Kash Ahmed. Both of whom, incidentally, were fully exonerated. Iris was, of course, never charged at all with any offence.
“Yes, I have to say, I was somewhat troubled by D/Supt Bennett’s justification of that. They went to Mrs Gabriel three times previously saying, “Will you be a witness?” and when she said “NO” for the third time they said: “All right, we’re going to arrest you then”. Either she was suspected of being complicit in it or not, and the fact that she exercised her right not to give a statement does not add, should not of itself add, to any grounds of suspicion, if none existed and before that they were complicit”. Judge Benson then added “An objective observer might consider that it (the arrest) smacked of oppressive conduct.” And finally summed up by saying: “I have to say that the treatment of those witnesses did give me cause for concern”.
It obviously didn’t concern DCI Khan in trying to cloak a West Yorkshire Police criminal investigation that Judge Benson described as having “a very serious irregularity and impropriety at it’s root”. At the trial, Rogue Officer Supt Steve Bennett stated the decision to arrest Iris was his. Guy Kearl QC cross examining Bennett averred that it was not a responsible use of PACE powers. There were, in fact, nine separate prima facie breaches of PACE involved in Iris’s arrest, detention, search of her work premises and handling of her retained property. DCI Khan managed to identify one: Which, on the evidence of case after case reported in uPSD, is a fair reflection of his detective skills and integrity.
The OIC in Iris’s case was Rogue Officer main man DI Peter Howarth who went on to attempt to deceive Iris’s solicitor regarding the purpose of arrest and the pre-interview disclosure.
Howarth’s partner at the time of the arrest was another Rogue Officer DS Penelope Morley, much favoured by Supt Stephen Bennett. HH Judge Benson was not quite so enamoured with her and described DS Morley as untruthful at the trial: In other words, a liar. Yet the police rely on Morley’s accounts in Iris’s complaint as though they were the Gospel itself.
More crucially for the public of this County, Morley has faced no charge or misconduct hearing for providing perjured evidence in a Crown Court. DCI Khan did however state in his letter: “In relation to the discrepancies on the search record, this complaint is upheld and the officers concerned be subject of management action and receive words of advice.” Really?
Iris Gabriel comments: “By continuing to behave in this calculatingly deceptive manner in covering up criminal acts by their own officers, this only serves to further undermine my trust and confidence in police service. This was shattered by their appalling behaviour leading up to my arrest. It is apparent to me or any other reasonable person that South Yorkshire Police were only provided with evidence that assisted the police and not the complete picture”.