Rebecca French (pictured above) is a Barnsley lass who had a brief, but chequered career, as a West Yorkshire Police officer. She would be known in her South Yorkshire home town as a “bit of a rum ‘un”
Her wayward tendencies led to a first ‘final’ warning from her police employers after she admitted turning up off-duty at her former base at Wood Street police station, Wakefield (pictured top left), under the influence of alcohol in October 2008. She was disrespectful to on-duty colleagues, about whom she made derogatory and obscene comments. She also left the force ‘open to considerable reputational damage’ according to the PSD investigators on her case who found she had caused a member of the public to be wrongly incarcerated.
This was one instance where PSD detectives were somewhere near the truth, but they blotted their copy book in judging that behaving in this manner didn’t amount to gross misconduct. As one would rightly expect in any other major organisation..
In December 2009, Rebecca received a second ‘final’ warning (in real terms a time extension of the original written warning) when she admitted failing to turn up to Pontefract Magistrates’ Court to give evidence in a driving offence case. The driver escaped any form of judicial sanction. Again this was deeemed to be below the threshold of gross misconduct by PSD investigators.
A third disciplinary hearing took place in August 2010 following another seious incident: Rebecca had met a man, Richard Hanks, who was awaiting trial on charges of possession and cultivation of cannabis and she was the investigating officer in that same case. They hit it off at the iconic Buzz bar in Wakefield’s famous Westgate in October 2009, a popular watering hole for West Yorkshire police officers. The pair later went on to another club where it was alleged PC French became very drunk, was sick on the floor and acted in a sexually inappropriate manner towards Mr Hanks.
The charges against Mr Hanks were subsequently dropped due to her behaviour, which included discussing the drugs case with him. She claimed her drink had been spiked and she could not remember what had happened, but there was no evidence to support her protestations. The allegations were found to be proved and she was dismissed from West Yorkshire Police.
There was, however, a sting in the tail for West Yorkshire Police and their PSD. Due to the incompetence and lack of procedural knowledge of two senior detectives, Rogue Officer Supt Stephen Bennett and soon-to-join-him Supt Angela Williams, Rebecca French almost kept her job. Judge John Behrens sitting at the High Court in Leeds, and hearing a Judicial Review of PC French’s Disciplinary Hearing outcome (Read here), found in favour of the police but was critical of Bennett and Williams. He described the reasoning in the case of Williams as ‘plainly bad’ and Bennett then tried to cover-up Williams’ mistake with his own flawed rationale that made things procedurarly worse, not better.
Rebecca’s parting shot outside the Court was: “I don’t want to say anything. It’s a pack of lies”. We have no view on that except it seems most PSD detectives in West Yorkshire Police do tell a lot of lies but whether that impacted on PC French’s future as a police officer is open to doubt.
Where uPSD do have a strong view is that there is ample evidence of other misdemeanours by both Superintendents involved in this investigation of which only a small proportion see the light of day in a courtroom (Bennett was also found seriously wanting in the trial of R v Ahmed & Khan at Bradford Crown Court).
It is this lack of rigour, absence of professionalism and propensity to make things up as you go along that produces false outcomes, time after time, in public complaints against West Yorkshire Police. Amazingly, D/Supt Williams has recently been promoted to C/Supt which, on all uPSD evidence, simply beggars belief.
There is also the ancillary aspect of the ruthless pursuit of other West Yorkshire Police officers and civilian employees on allegations much less trivial than Rebecca French’s first two, that open up the notion of a highly prejudicial and discriminatory approach by Professional Standards. Those whose ‘cards are marked’ get the full treatment of intrusive, elongated, ever-widening investigations. Best examples: PC Kashif Ahmed, PC David Blair and Gary Marsden. Others on a more charmed existence can get away with almost anything. Worst examples: PC Kevin Liston, DI Damian Carr, DI Peter Howarth.