Or, how to make a molehill into a mountain. West Yorkshire Police style.
Page last updated on Tuesday 6th May 2014 at 1935hrs
This is the story of a minor incident in a city centre street involving three neighbourhood police constables in a video van and a member of the public filming and taking photographs.
A bullying, gobby cop who cannot impose his will resorts to lying, and giving a very public demonstration of his ignorance of PACE. A second cop who, seeing that the efforts of the first to verbally intimidate the member of public fails, alights from the vehicle to physically intimidate the man and assault him. The third cop sits there like a lemon (with a facial expression to match) and fails to challenge the misconduct of the first two.
To say that it has all now escalated out of all proportion would be an understatement. A matter that could originally have been resolved by a simple apology to the victim by the officers’ supervisor has now spread through the upper reaches of West Yorkshire Police and beyond.
The matter, and its attempts at resolution, has so far involved:
(i) The Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, Mark Burns-Williamson, who has directed that complaints be recorded against the disgraced former Chief Constable, Sir Norman Bettison, and the current Chief, Mark Gilmore. (The PCC has, however, doggedly refused to meet the victim or assist him in any way. Burns-Williamson, as with all other public complaint matters simply swallows the police version whole and fobs off his constituent). Burns-Williamson is pictured above left, and Gilmore above right.
(ii) The Force Solicitor, Mike Percival, who has tried to “buy off” the complainant.
(iii) The Divisional Commander, C/Supt Andy Battle, who viewed a video of the interaction (in the company of Mr Percival) and then, for months, failed to take action against the officers and, latterly, did his level best to see that they were not identified and to frustrate any complaint being made against them.
(iv) The Area Neighbourhood Police Inspector for whom The Video Van Three work, Geoff Carter, also refused to identify them.
(v) The Chief Constable’s Staff Officer, Inspector Richard Close, claimed he didn’t know them and refused to identify them. Close was, until recently, a Neighbourhood Inspector in the same Wakefield Division and two of the miscreants are Ward Managers in that Division. The reader can judge for themselves whether Close would be identify them, or not.
(vi) Sarah Morris, a reviewing officer in the Professional Standards Department, also refused to identify the officers despite being told they worked at the small outpost police station of South Kirkby. The same Mrs Morris who dealt with the recording of the formal complaint arising out of the incident. Amongst the specific issues missing in the recording of the complaint were those against herself, Battle, Close and Carter for refusing to identify the miscreant officers. Only in West Yorkshire Police PSD do you get to be judge and jury in complaints against yourself.
So, how did West Yorkshire Police get to this state of affairs is the burning question? The answer is very simple: Poor judgement by senior officers and the usual seeming sense of invincibility that imbues every officer from the front line officer to the Command Team, whose Force motto is “We do what we want”.
The member of the public at the centre of the storm is Huddersfield businessman, Stephen Bradbury, who has long-running, and well-rehearsed, complaint issues with West Yorkshire Police. These largely concern a number of violent and unprovoked assaults on him by police officers that have occurred in Huddersfield (twice) and Wakefield (three times). After the “roughing up” of Mr Bradbury, these incidents have usually been followed by the unlawful arrest and detention of Mr Bradbury on made up grounds such as him being a “terrorist”.
He has been repeatedly obstructed by the Force in his search for the truth and appropriate remedy, lied to repeatedly by Professional Standards detectives (well known bent cop DI Damian Carr is amongst the main suspects) and other investigating officers; evidence pertaining to those assaults tampered with (or destroyed); and a legal undertaking breached by a senior HMET officer, DCI Simon Bottomley, in disclosing material belonging to the complainant when expressly restrained from so doing. Bottomley’s atrocious investigation into one of the assaults (by TSU officer DC Shaun Hurd) has been subject of High Court action in which Mr Bradbury has succeeded. He was forced to take matters to court after yet another cocky, incompetent, lying PSD officer, Supt Gary Baker, claimed he had reviewed CCTV film of the Hurd assault and found that prima facie evidence of common assault and criminal damage did not amount to breaches of Professional Conduct.
Having exhausted all reasonable approaches to the Force – and in almost every case been rebuffed – part of the Mr Bradbury’s search for the truth and appropriate remedy has involved him seeking to identify his police assailants, photograph them and then compile a composite video for public broadcast on the internet. He is lawfully entitled to do this and feels it is his public duty to make widely known the behaviour of these dangerous thugs, masquerading as warranted police officers.
When in attendance outside Huddersfield police station, Wood Street police station or Force HQ in Wakefield he always attempts to conduct himself in a courteous and reasonable manner. He is small in stature, aged 62 and not at all aggressive in any way. Indeed, anyone meeting Mr Bradbury would find him highly convivial company.
There have been five different occasions when assaults have been visited on the complainant: On one occasion, involving eight officers against a compliant member of the public. On another occasion, six officers wrestled him to the ground on a busy city centre street, forcibly handcuffed him and left him with torn clothing and badly bruised all over his body after being knelt and stamped on.
In May, September and October 2013 meetings took place between Mr Bradbury and C/Supt Battle in order to try and resolve issues between the parties. On the latest occasion Mr Percival, the Force Legal Services Manager was present. He is, of course, best known by uPSD for coercing a detective sergeant to lie in the witness box in a high profile civil matter. C/Supt Battle made a number of representations on behalf of the Force and two of those were (i) DNA, fingerprints, photographs taken from Mr Bradbury following unlawful arrest would be removed from all police databases (ii) Mr Bradbury’s Subject Access Request made under the Data Protection Act on 31st December 2012 would be lawfully fulfilled (it was already eight months overdue at that point). In a follow up letter of 5th October 2013 C/Supt undertook on behalf of the Force that both these items would be effected on or before 31st October 2013. This did not happen, in either case, and thereafter C/Supt Battle refused to engage further on these points.
At that meeting, and later confirmed in writing by Mr Percival, a without prejudice offer was made to Mr Bradbury as compensation for excessive force, wrongful arrest and unlawful detention of the complainant. The offer also required the complainant to drop all complaint matters against officers engaged with Force.
The Percival letter also invited a counter-proposal which rather implied that the offer, such as it was, would be regarded as a ‘first bid’. After taking appropriate advice, a perfectly reasonable counter-offer to the Force was made by Mr Bradbury’s advisor. This produced no cogent response.
After the counter- offer was made Mr Bradbury telephoned C/Supt Battle’s office three times, sent him two letters and copied him in on no less than five emails. He did not respond in any way to those communications. In the second of the two letters Mr Bradbury asserted his right to proceed with the various complaints arising out of the incidents and the wholly inadequate investigations that followed. One of the complaints concerned The Video Van Three.
It soon became apparent that the police were very reluctant to name the officers concerned, after extensive communications in which even the Chief Constable joined in. In the course of the correspondence with the Chief’s office it also became apparent that no-one in Wakefield Division (and by extension probably the other four police Divisions in West Yorkshire as well) knew of the ACPO Guidance given to Chief Constables in November 2011. In fact, the Chief Constable had never heard of it, he claimed. The clear inference being that the Chief Constable at the time Sir Norman Bettison (and his successor Mark Gilmore) had ignored it: This is the substance of the complaints referred to in para (i) above as the Guidance sets out the rights of members of the public taking photographs (or filming) in public places and where police officers are the subjects of that activity. A copy of the Guidance can be read at Chapter 4 of the document by clicking here. If police officers in Huddersfield and Wakefield had been in possession of that Guidance then it is highly arguable that Mr Bradbury would not have been assaulted and then arrested once, let alone five times.
The identities of the two female officers has been established, the thuggish-looking assailant is PC 5395 Sally Court who is at the far side of the vehicle and the female in the centre seat of the van is PC Sian Simons. The latter is a Ward Manager in Wakefield South East NPT. The driver was originally – and wrongly – identified by a former WYP officer as PC Stewart Rae. We are now certain that he was not involved in any way in this incident. The matter was further confused by the fact that Stewart Rae, Sian Simons and Sally Court together comprised “Team No 1” in the locality at the time of the incident.
Once the detailed complaints against The Video Van Three were submitted . there was a further delay, of over two weeks until PSD then recorded the complaint, but they took away most of the substance of it in doing so. This in the face of highly probative camera evidence against all three officers in the van – and audit trails of correspondence between all the other more senior officers named in the complaint document. PSD had also further declined to name the third officer, despite that being part of the complaint allegations. As Mr Bradbury says: “You couldn’t make it up”. Except this is West Yorkshire Police PSD we are talking about and they “make it up” on a daily basis.
So, the story now moves onto the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by way of a non-recording appeal concerning the sections of the complaints inexplicably removed by PSD. The Appeal by Mr Bradbury will also ask the IPCC to direct West Yorkshire Police not to have the matter “investigated” by C/Supt Battle’s own Division (Insp Lisa Kirkland is the present Battle nominee) as there is plainly no hierarchal independence in doing so. Incredibly, that was part of PSD’s recording decision. To send it to the very officers who had done everything they could to bury the matter.
This IPCC exercise will, no doubt, waste another few weeks and a few more thousands of pounds. In the meantime, uPSD are back on the case seeking to identify the third officer which will no doubt take the Force on the “short journey to ridicule”. Yet again.
A recent trip by uPSD to South Kirkby police station, timed to arrive during a shift changeover, brought a sighting of the third officer. Dressed in paramilitary black and showing no collar number we now know she is not a PCSO and expect to be able to name her within a short space of time. In the meantime, a request for an investigation update by the ducking and diving PC Russ Noon has produced nothing more than a wall of silence.
The plot thickens…….