“Allegra and the Chief”
A Letter to the Editor from NUJ journalist, TIM HICKS.
I write concerning the recent scandal over alleged breaches of the Coronavirus regulations by members of staff from No 10 Downing Street has been handled and the way similar allegations have been dealt with in North Yorkshire.
It is alleged that there were at least six parties attended by various members of staff from Downing Street, at various locations including No.10 in November and December 2020, while the rest of the country was observing a strict lockdown.
It is further alleged that there was a cover-up over this and that denials issued by Downing Street and some Ministers were false.
The scandal has led to the resignation of the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Allegra Stratton (pictured above right).
The Cabinet Secretary Mr Simon Chase is investigating allegations of three gatherings last Christmas that are alleged to have contravened the Covid regulations. Two of them are alleged to have occurred at No.10 Downing Street.
In my view, if people in authority and influence who are responsible for implementing regulations on the rest of us have broken them, I consider this despicable. These allegations should be formally and openly investigated and, if upheld, the persons involved should be charged and fined the same as everyone else. This applies wherever the contravention occurs, be it London or North Yorrkshire.
Regular readers will be aware that the NYE ran a series of articles, with witness accounts and photographs from our readers, of over thirty Police Officers and members of Police staff as potentially/apparently breaching the lockdown regulations.
Locations included Force Headquarters, Scarborough, Filey, Skipton, Whitby and Fulford Road Police Stations, Scalby Mills and the Clifton Moor Shopping Centre.
These Officers included Chief Constable Winward (pictured above left), Deputy Chief Constable Cain, five inspectors, two sergeants, three motorcycle policemen from Cleveland Police and two Officers asleep in a lay-by, unmasked (the ‘Sleeping Beauties’).
NYP Officers sleeping on duty, ignoring emergency calls, endangering the health of their colleagues, and the public by contravening the Coronavirus Regulations.
I made a complaint to NYP about these Officers. I additionally asked that Chief Constable Winward, Deputy Chief Constable Cain and the Inspector commanding Scarborough Police Station each receive a £10,000 fine for organising a large gathering inside Scarborough Police Station for a retirement presentation – essentially the same offence being investigated by the Cabinet Secretary.
The response of Chief Constable Winward was to use the Independent Office of Police Conduct guidelines to proscribe me as an unreasonable complainant. She then used this as a pretext to ignore my complaints of breaches of the Coronavirus Regulations by herself and her Officers.
As a result, neither Chief Constable Winward nor any other officer of NYP has had the allegations made by the NYE’s readership investigated and no action has been taken against anyone.
Former PFCC for North Yorkshire, PHILLIP ALLOTT
Chief Constable Winward, Superintendent Mike Walker, Gold Commander for the NYP response to the coronavirus pandemic and Deputy Chief Constable Phil Cain. All were the subject of complaints for breaching the coronavirus regulations which were supressed by Chief Constable Winward.
In the No.10 controversy, Ms Stratton had the decency to resign and a full and open investigation is now underway. This is what should happen, in the public interest.
In North Yorkshire, no-one has resigned, apologised or faced disciplinary action and none of the allegations have even been investigated. The only action taken by Chief Constable Winward was to proscribe me for legitimately criticising her force in the public interest, on behalf of the NYE’s readership.
Happily, other Chief Constables do not conduct themselves in this way. On every other occasion of which I am aware, when Police Officers from other Forces have been accused of contravening the regulations, the Force concerned has responded openly, impartially and professionally.
As an example, on 15th May 2021, Officers of Sussex Police attended a party and found that Police Officers were present, which was a breach of the Covid regulations. Formal disciplinary action has been taken against a Sergeant and a Constable.
In short, Sussex Police has responded openly and properly to allegations that Police Officers have breached the Coronavirus regulations – thereby demonstrating that the Police are not above the law, thus maintaining public confidence in the Police Service. Detective Superintendent Rachel Carr said:
“We have taken Covid-related breaches very seriously and we do not tolerate this kind of behaviour which falls below the standards we expect of our officers and staff.”
Sadly the same cannot be said of NYP, which under the leadership of Chief Constable Winward, is the only Force in the UK that aggressively enforces the Coronavirus Regulations on the rest of us, while following a policy of ignoring all breaches by its own Officers.
Community Journalist (Proscribed)
NUJ Membership Number WO15306