Operation Redbone


Page last updated Tuesday 1st October 2013 at 1140hrs

For many months uPSD have highlighted integrity issues surrounding Fraser Sampson, Chief Executive to the West Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner. These concerns are centred on consistently producing calculatingly false notes of meetings, patently dishonest FoI responses and, most significantly, the determined and relentless protection of dishonest West Yorkshire Police officers operating in their Command Team and/or Professional Standards Department.

Another well worn Sampson tactic is to seek to discredit individuals whose tenacity in seeking out the truth, and justice, places his own position at risk. His favourite is to smear such members of the public with issues against West Yorkshire Police or the Police Commissioner as “persistent complainants”.

Sampson was, of course, previously Chief Executive to the thoroughly discredited West Yorkshire Police Authority under whose so-called “oversight” some of the worst corruption/miscarriage of justice scandals in the history of the police service have emerged. Operation Douglas, Norman Bettison, Jimmy Savile, Colin Norris and Danny Major amongst them. There has also been a stream of West Yorkshire Police officers jailed for serious criminal offences during Sampson’s reign, the most notable of which was sentencing of DC Nick McFadden to 23 years for stealing over £3 million drugs from a police property store (Read more here).

Given this background, it came as no surprise whatsoever when the report of the investigation into Sampson’s interaction with Lincolnshire Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes (pictured above left), was made public on 15th August 2013 and it showed that Sampson had been plainly caught out deploying a number of his regular “tricks”. The probe into the now nationally known case was carried out by Greater Manchester Police’s Chief, Sir Peter Fahy (pictured above centre), under the operational name of Operation Redbone. The full report can be read by clicking here.

The investigation was ordered after Mr Rhodes was controversially suspended from duty on February 25 by Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Hardwick. It was alleged Temporary Chief Constable Rhodes mishandled an ACPO colleague’s constructive dismissal/racial discrimination employment tribunal claim against West Yorkshire Police.

The police chief returned to work after Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith sitting at the High Court in Manchester quashed his suspension at a Hearing on March 28, 2013 which cost the Lincolnshire taxpayers around £500,000. The  Independent Police Complaints Commission had previously sent the matter back to Mr Hardwick after their North East Region Commissioner, Cindy Butts, found no serious corruption or misconduct, but said that the matter required investigation. Former ITV Calendar journalist/presenter, Mr Hardwick, then asked Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy to probe a misconduct allegation about Mr Rhodes.

Sir Peter’s report has concluded that no proof has been found to substantiate Sampson’s allegations and he recommends the misconduct allegation against Mr Rhodes be formally withdrawn. The investigation team concluded that Mr Rhodes did not exceed the intended boundaries or scope of a Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA)  “friend”, as he properly understood them, while representing former Director of Legal Services, Afzal (Ajaz) Hussain, in his fight against dismissal from West Yorkshire Police, after seventeen years’ service with them. Mr Hussain had, in fact , founded that Force’s internal legal team in 1995 at the invitation of the then Chief Constable, Keith Hellawell. Hussain had previously headed up the Department in Wakefield Council that dealt with civil claims against the police.

Mr Hardwick stepped in after Mr Rhodes phoned Fraser  Sampson in December 2012 to try to get the various parties around the negotiation table. Sampson had written to Mr Hardwick’s Chief Executive claiming Mr Rhodes acted improperly by backing the claim, despite allegedly knowing it to be ‘unfounded’. Neil Rhodes argued, quite reasonably, he did not know enough about the case to have an opinion on it and insisted he was merely seeking to broker talks.

Sir Peter, who took over as head of Manchester police in 2008 following the sudden death of predecessor Mike Todd (Read more here), recommends a written protocol and clear definition of the role of CPOSA friends in employment grievance and other similar cases to help clarify the rules over without prejudice conversations, appropriate negotiating channels and conflicts of interest. This, it is expected, will be produced as part of the Police Ethics Code currently in the study stage at the newly formed College of Policing.

uPSD has drawn a number of key points and, indeed, errors from Greater Manchester Police’s Operation Redbone report and these are summarised below:

1. The most glaring omission is the failure to follow up the knowledge within Greater Manchester Police (GMP) that Fraser Sampson had produced no less than three sets of false meeting notes in the widely known corruption case involving the wrongful conviction of ex West Yorkshire Police officer, Danny Major. GMP are currently conducting an outside force investigation into that miscarriage of justice (read more here) and it was made clear from the very first contact with the Major family that there were deeply held (and long standing) concerns about the integrity of Sampson. GMP were also made aware that Sampson had been covertly recorded by another police complainant in a meeting and, as a result, there was prima facie evidence that Sampson had again produced false notes at the outcome. For Sir Peter Fahy, in those circumstances, not to investigate this similar fact evidence leaves a great deal to be desired of him professionally and undermines both his own standing as a competent investigator and the police service, as a whole, as a body capable of investigating itself.

2. There were doubts about the timing of the attendance notes written up electronically by Sampson following the 12th December 2012 with Chief Constable Rhodes. Lengthy and varied experience has taught uPSD to always work from the premise that Sampson is evasive and untruthful in the first instance. Why were steps not taken forensically to establish precisely when those notes where made – or alternatively why did Sampson not volunteer an electronic audit trail that would verify his assertion that they were made soon after the call? Not rocket science. Just basic investigative practice.

3. Whilst it did not appear to materially affect the investigation in the final analysis the Fahy report should have noted that Temp Chief Constable John Parkinson and Sampson have a very long standing relationship that dates back to their time together as cadets in West Yorkshire Police in 1982.

4. The accumulation of minor errors of facts, mathematics, grammatical errors and spelling of names tends to undermine the overall credibility of the report, given the seniority of the officer who has signed it off. For example, if Neil Rhodes was appointed as complaint friend to Ajaz Hussein in April 2012 it could not have been nine months later when he spoke to Sampson. If one receives advice from a barrister they are generally referred to as ‘counsel’ not ‘council’. The IPCC’s Name redacted for legal reasons finds her surname spelt ‘Reid’. Sir Norman Bettison would not be amused to find his name spelt ‘Bettinson’ many times in the report, especially by a fellow Chief Constable and ACPO luminary. It is claimed that Sampson worked with Ajaz Hussain “over many years”: That is, on the face of Sampson’s career history, palpably false. Sampson joined West Yorkshire Police Authority in October 2008. Hussain left West Yorkshire Police in January 2012. There may have been some contact between the two when Sampson worked at Leeds solicitors Walker Morris at the turn of the century. In between he worked for Civil Nuclear Authority and prior to Walker Morris had been employed for a number of years at the Police Training facility at Pannal Ash near Harrogate, on secondment from British Transport Police.

5. Operation Redbone also fails to identify a major source of antipathy between Sampson and Ajaz Hussain. This arises out of a high profile civil claim launched by Forensic Telecommunication Services Ltd (FTS) which was ultimately successful and cost West Yorkshire Police severely both in terms of costs, damages and loss of prestige/reputation. This case was run on behalf of the Force by Hussain – and Sampson laid the blame for the debacle on his shoulders. There is taped evidence of this in existence which arises out of a meeting that took place between Sampson and a retired senior detective from Northumberland who was, at the time, a consultant to FTS. It appears that Sampson was not seriously questioned about his relationship with Ajaz Hussain which may have explained, in part or whole, the extraordinary and quite irrational response to the telephone call by Neil Rhodes.

6. Sampson recorded his phone call to Malcolm Burch, Chief Executive of the PCC’s office in Lincolnshire in February 2012. It is not made clear by the Operation Redbone investigation whether Mr Burch was aware of that fact or, indeed, the rationale behind Sampson taking such a step. Nor do the investigators appear to pursue why if Sampson recorded the Burch call why did he not record a pre-booked call from Neil Rhodes when the subject matter would have been readily apparent.

7. The Operation Redbone outcome describes Fraser Sampson as being of exemplary character when there was evidence readily available to suggest to investigators that a proposition of that nature required validation, even at a basic level. There was evidence available to Greater Manchester Police that he was far from that – and serious doubts about Sampson’s integrity had been raised specifically with ACC Garry Shewan as part of the Danny Major investigation. In plain terms, Fraser Sampson is a practiced liar and a singularly deceptive individual who should have been removed from public office well before the incident with Neil Rhodes arose. There is ample substantive evidence to support what are very serious allegations against Sampson and this was all available to the Greater Manchester Police team on request. This would have provided a very different hue to the entire Operation Redbone investigation and may well have led to Sampson now facing misconduct in public office proceedings. That, in the opinion of uPSD, would have been an entirely warranted outcome. Shewan himself is now the subject of formal complaint to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester concerning integrity and dereliction of duty issues surrounding both Operation Redbone and the Jordan Begley death following police contact.

8. Investigators do not appear to have pursued why between 10th February 2013 and 5th August 2013 there was, apparently, no response from the Home Office regarding Sampson’s “concerns” over CPOSA friending. His request for a meeting with Ann Marie Field appears to have gone unheeded for which there is also no explanation. From a public interest perspective these matters should have been disposed of, at little cost, or delay, to the investigation as a whole.

9. There is a disparity in evidence of the number of telephone calls between West Yorkshire Police’s John Parkinson (who, prior to the unscheduled departure of Norman Bettison, would have been DCC at that time) and Neil Rhodes. Parkinson says two calls, of which only one he can date. Rhodes states only one which appears to be the first one referred to by Parkinson on 30th July 2012. The investigating team have not, seemingly, pursued the point.

10. Given the number of references to the Whatton report that seemingly cleared former West Yorkshire Police DCC, David Crompton, of racism allegations made against him by Ajaz Hussain it is surprising that the outcome was not published as an Appendix to the Operation Redbone findings. David Whatton is a former DCC of Greater Manchester Police who is now Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary. He found himself mired in his own controversy at the very time Operation Redbone was in full flow. The full Manchester Evening News story of huge termination payments made by Mr Whatton to a civilian worker in GMP can be found by clicking here.

11. After the IPCC had considered the so-called corruption referral from PCC Alan Hardwick they sent it back saying that it was a misconduct matter, rather than gross misconduct. In layman’s terms that meant that even if found guilty Neil Rhodes would likely receive sanction at the bottom end of the disciplinary scale. For example, “words of advice”. The IPCC also recommended a ‘local investigation’ ie one conducted by Lincolnshire Police’s own Professional Standards Department. Not even under the supervision of the IPCC. Why then did Mr Hardwick seek an expensive outside force investigation by Greater Manchester Police? This is not covered off in the Operation Redbone outcome and for the sake of transparency – and in the public interest – it should have been.