Page last updated Monday 28th April 2014 at 1055hrs
In May 2012 investigative journalist, Neil Wilby, was a Deponent in a civil damages claim against West Yorkshire Police to be heard at Bradford High Court later this year. His sworn evidence is no longer required by the Claimant so it can be reproduced here.
“It is my confident assertion that there is a well entrenched culture of perversion, misconduct and criminality amongst the officers of the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of West Yorkshire Police. This is supported by my own specific experiences with a number of officers where lying, forging documents, removing documents, procuring false reports, witness statements and investigation outcomes is routine. In addition to overt criminality there is a completely unregulated approach to the Police Reform Act 2002 and in particular Section 22 IPCC Statutory Guidelines. Of a lesser concern, but an aggravating factor nonetheless, is the foul mouthed, short tempered, bullying approach of a number of the officers in that Department”.
The number one target of that evidence was DCI (as he was then) Stephen Bennett. Head of Professional Standards (Eastern Area) based at Wakefield HQ.
Neil Wilby went on to say: “Throughout my extensive dealings with police officers through newspaper publishing and my social and sporting connections I have never encountered such a slippery individual. He is, in my informed and entrenched view, a villain in police uniform and would be precisely the type of officer to which Sir Robert Mark (pictured above right) alluded in his noted inaugural speech to Metropolitan Police senior detectives: “The test of a good police force is that there are more criminals out of uniform than in it”
Bennett’s corrupt practices are aggravated firstly by the fact that he is one of the most senior officers in the Professional Standards Department and, secondly, by the fact that he plainly procures corrupt acts by officers under his direct supervision. He is in my informed view a serious danger to the public he is charged to protect.
He (Bennett) routinely lies in person, on the telephone and in writing. More seriously he lied in his evidence on oath in R v Kashif Ahmed & Shamim Khan (subsequently retracted when he realised that he had told officers not to go searching for financial material). At the conclusion of Mr Ahmed and Mrs Khan’s case HH Judge Peter Benson described the prosecution as having ‘this very significant irregularity and impropriety at the root of the investigation’. Bennett was the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) in that case. The Judge also roundly criticised two PSD subordinates for providing what he described as ‘evasive and untruthful evidence’. I name those here as DC Karen Wade and DS Penelope Morley. I met the latter very briefly when she returned a bundle of documents to my office during the course of the investigation of my complaints.
The investigative impropriety identified by HHJ Benson has also been a feature of the police complaint cases made by me (Neil Wilby) and in which Bennett was SIO. I mention here the wholesale destruction of relevant and/or incriminating documents in which the evidence trail leads back to Bennett, and his immediate subordinate DI Peter Howarth (see below). There are now seven such incidents which is five more than the general rule that would allow for coincidence. The police have steadfastly refused to progress investigations into the whereabouts of these documents and have forced me, and the Force, into expensive and very time consuming Data Protection searches on a repeated basis to force the admissions that the documents referred to above cannot be located. I estimate that a sum well over £100,000 will have been expended by the police in investigating my complaints and covering up the truth. It is astonishing misuse of public funds and a serious abuse of process.
Added to this is his (Bennett’s) refusal to investigate and prosecute prima facie crime identified as a result of investigations into my wrongful arrest. These include theft and deception on a considerable scale (in excess of £30,000) and non reporting of POCA/MLA suspicions to the police by the suspect’s solicitor. This aspect is particularly relevant in the extant case when viewed in the context of the extraordinary lengths that were pursued by Bennett as SIO in the criminal case against the Claimant regarding matters of a relatively minor nature.
Bennett is also believed to be the officer responsible for the commissioning the unauthorised intercepton of my emails and or smartphone. This was the substance of a formal complaint made by a former Notts Constabulary police officer against Bennett and Howarth in three letters to the Chief Constable in the period May to September 2010. Those letters have now been admitted as missing by PSD. The first of those letters was answered by Bennett to Mr Guise, the Notts officer, in complete contravention to Police Regulations and IPCC Statutory Guidelines as he was specifically the subject of those complaints.
My own and Mr Guise ‘s suspicions of hacking are supported by at least two other witnesses in the extant case and, indeed, the Claimant”.
That statement filed at High Court was not at any time the subject of Rebuttal Argument. If West Yorkshire Police wish to belatedly submit that to uPSD we will take that into account in the context of what is written on this page. They may also wish to include in their submissions a response to the material set out below.
Normanton man, DCI Bennett, was also the SIO in the PSD “investigation” of the “fit-up” of PC Danny Major which is now a nationally known miscarriage of justice case. The term investigation is used loosely as this is a matter in which no rigour or expense was spared in extending the cover-up, not exposing it. His conduct towards the Major family was also personally very offensive and included a threat to obtain a search warrant and search their family home. Bennett was concerned that the Majors through their own efforts were getting a little too close to the truth.
This is the relevant extract from a deposition made by PC Eric Major (Danny’s Father) in the same civil case referred to above.
My interaction with DCI Stephen Bennett
26. I was told by DCI Bennett in what he described as a ‘private meeting’ that he was very keen to investigate all the misconduct and criminality that he himself had identified but told me that there were legal challenges by the solicitors representing the eight officers, apart from Green who was represented elsewhere.
27. It is a subject of record that even if I had recognised any merit in those challenges – and I didn’t – the reasons given did not apply to three of the officers in any event.
28. It was my over-riding suspicion that DCI Bennett’s entire agenda as SIO was to avoid reputational damage to the police. I genuinely did not believe, informed by my 31 years as a police officer that DCI Bennett was ever engaged in a search for the truth and the appropriate sanctions applied to any miscreant officers.
29. In short I did not trust him and that realisation came much harder having worked on the same police team earlier in our careers. A clue when he was lying was that he coloured up in the facial area. He was also prone to losing self-control and, in one uncontrolled outburst, even threatened to turn up at my home with a search warrant
30. In Mr Ahmed’s case the Court only needs to draw comparisons with the zeal in which criminal matters against him was pursued by the same officer – Bennett – over what were relatively minor allegations or offences concerning irregularities on a buy to let mortgage and finance for a motor car. In that case in which no party suffered any loss and there was in effect no complainant another Judge, HH Benson ruled at the end of an abuse of process hearing that there was this ‘very significant irregularity and impropriety at the root of the investigation’ and that two PSD officers, under Bennett’s direct command had been ‘evasive and untruthful’.
31. All this makes Bennett’s decisions and rationale in dropping my complaints case even more inexplicable and very deeply upsetting. I am convinced that he was breaking the law in both cases and should face misconduct/criminal charges himself.
32. I also believe that DCI Bennett was the officer responsible for the tapping of my phone at home. This suspicion was confirmed by a colleague still in the job and after I had retired from the Force. I believe that this interception would not be authorised appropriately and recorded on RIPA logs. It would be on what I would describe as an unofficial basis. I have also received reliable intelligence that this illegal hacking happens on a regular basis in West Yorkshire Police
33. The key issue for me given my police experience was that it became apparent that the rationale and overall strategy of DCI Bennett, and the Command officers above him, was closely connected to protection of the witness whose false evidence effectively condemned my son to prison. That witness was PC Kevin Liston.
That damning indictment of Bennett by an officer in the same force, who served with distinction for 31 years, produced no PSD investigation into Bennett or any sanctions whatsoever. Instead, he was promoted to Superintendent and placed in charged of authorising phone taps. You couldn’t make it up, except this is West Yorkshire Police we are discussing here.
Instead, it took inexorable pressure applied by Neil Wilby and uPSD to ensure that the allegations concerning the Danny Major fit-up and the role of Bennett covering it up to be investigated externally. That Greater Manchester Police investigation is now entering its sixteenth month and even on what is known by uPSD, and will eventually be revealed, will shock the police service to its core. The reasonable expectation is that GMP have uncovered much, much more damning evidence.
However, the truth is now out about the penetration and reach of Bennett’s cover-up and the expectation is that he will, along with a number of others, face a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Bennett is a bent police officer who flaunted his corruption in the belief he could never be trapped. He clearly underestimated the burning sense of injustice that drives the likes of Bernadette Major (Danny’s mother) and Neil Wilby and he will pay a full price for that folly.
More to follow…….