CPOSA Legal Fees debacle

In this section of ‘Courtroom Disasters’ it is incumbent on uPSD to shine a light on another West Yorkshire Police Authority (WYPA) debacle of Keystone Cops proportions. It also further highlights how ‘weak and ineffective’, in the words of Policing Minister Nick Herbert, WYPA were under the stewardship of Chairman Mark Burns-Williamson and Chief Executive Fraser Sampson.

West Yorkshire precept-payers have provided over £100,000 to pay for the personal legal expenses of the County’s most senior police officers. These ACPO – Association of Chief Police Officers – include those involved in recent and very costly misconduct or Tribunal cases such as former Legal Services Director, Ajaz Hussain and the country’s most notorious policeman, Sir Norman Bettison. The latter has availed himself of one of the leading – and most expensive – criminal lawyers in the country in John Harding of Kingsley Napley’s London office.

Others recently benefiting from the West Yorkshire Police Authority scheme include former Deputy Chief David Crompton who was under investigation between May – October 2012 and current Temp Chief Constable John Parkinson, currently under investigation concerning three separate misconduct complaints.

Other highly paid officers who are covered include civilians Nigel Brook and Kerry Holden, as well as current DCC  Jawaid Akhtar, ACC’s Geoff Dodd, Mark Milsom, Craig Guildford, Rogue Officer in waiting, John Robins and Temp ACC Ingrid Lee

In addition to the legal expenses cover costing £2,197 and rising per officer each year, annual subscription fees to the chief police officers’ trade union, the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA), were also inexplicably paid by the sleepy Members of West Yorkshire Police Authority. This amounts to £275 per member.

A Police Authority insider said: “Only as a result of the misconduct issues recently did we discover that this legal expenses scheme provided ACPO officers with a ‘war chest’ with which to defend disciplinary proceedings brought by their own police authority”.

Which does, of course, beg the question: Why are we paying out well over £225,000 pa to a Chief Executive and a Treasurer, Dr Judith Heeley, who cannot be bothered to read the small print attached to contractual obligations with huge consequential losses attached to them?

West Yorkshire Police Authority, which was replaced by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in November 2012, was the first alerted to the CPOSA legal funding debacle in 2011 as it provides Treasurer and Audit services to its sister Authority in North Yorkshire. NYPA ran up a bill of over £350,000 paying legal fees for themselves and solicitors/counsel engaged by Graeme Maxwell and Adam Briggs.

Ex West Yorkshire Police detective Maxwell subsequently received an ex-gratia severance payment from NYPA of almost £250,000, despite having been found guilty of gross misconduct and avoiding dismissal on a split Authority vote.

The issue was then highlighted further by a marked increase in the number of chief officers facing disciplinary or criminal investigations, such as Crompton, Parkinson and Bettison highlighted above. Ajaz Hussain is believed to be the first ever civilian chief officer to use the scheme in the Employment Tribunal arena

Bettison also has unfettered access to the CPOSA legal expenses fund to defend various misconduct allegations laid against him and, potentially, criminal prosecutions arising out of metal theft allegations first reported here in the Yorkshire Post at the end of November 2012 and those surrounding his role as a ‘Black Ops’ South Yorkshire Police chief inspector in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster.

The former Chief Constable resigned from his West Yorkshire post last October once it became apparent that he was about to be suspended amid the fallout from his threatening telephone call to WYPA Chief Executive, Fraser Sampson, three days after the Hillsborough Independent Panel report was published.  Bettison denies any wrongdoing at all. On any of the various counts being scoped by the IPCC.

West Yorkshire Police Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson has now signalled, belatedly, that the scandalous leeching of public funds may soon be reduced or ended altogether: “The package for the new chief constable will not include the payment of CPOSA fees. In relation to the other ACPO ranks, this will be a matter for the chief constable in consultation with the Commissioner, who ultimately provides the budget to the chief. Employment terms for Deputy and Assistant Chief Constables are generally decided by Chiefs. However, I understand most Police Commissioners are expecting chief constables to end CPOSA payments”.

Burns-Williamson added that the Home Office had written to WYPA Chief Executive, Fraser Sampson, last autumn clarifying the legal framework for payments to ACPO officers. What MB-W omitted to say was that he had been Chair of West Yorkshire Police Authority for almost ten years and Sampson the Chief Executive for the last four of those and they had allowed this fiasco to continue during that period costing the taxpayer a six figure sum.

Another shameful episode for the unDynamic Duo of Sampson and Burns-Williamson. More on those two here.