Friday 07th August 2020,
North Yorks Enquirer

North Yorkshire Police Essential Journeys #9

by TIM HICKS

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NYE Media Operations during the coronavirus pandemic

Along with everyone else, the NYE team have feelings of admiration for the NHS and the emergency services and the way they are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic at the risk of their own lives.

The NYE has tried to support the efforts of the NHS and North Yorkshire Police (NYP) to ensure public safety. It has run an article disseminating advice from NYP on crime prevention during the pandemic. NYE article here. We have also published police notices on the new coronavirus lockdown rules.

Deputy Chief Constable Phil Cain

As part of our coverage we discovered that Chief Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain have been breaching the Coronavirus Regulations. Between them they have:

  • Made journeys that are not absolutely necessary.
  • Not maintained the two metre social distancing rules, thereby endangering the health and safety of Police staff.
  • Publicly ridiculed members of the public that committed the same offences they themselves committed.
  • Taken advantage of their rank and position as Chief Police Officers to ensure they will not be arrested by officers of North Yorkshire Police for contravening the lockdown rules.
  • Failed to set the appropriate example to the public and their subordinates in North Yorkshire Police as Chief Police Officers.
  • Publicly undermined the efforts of every other Police Officer in North Yorkshire to protect the public by preventing unnecessary travel.
  • Issued public statements on social media approving of this conduct, when they should be following the example of the NYE by doing everything they can to discourage it. Thereby making fools of themselves, bringing the force into disrepute and opening it up to ridicule.

Private Eye article

In my opinion, this represents a catastrophic failure of leadership that has endangered lives. So to prevent further abuses and thereby protect the health and lives of police officers, firemen and their families, I have submitted a complaint about both officers to Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire Mrs Julia Mulligan. I have received an acknowledgement, but nothing further.

The complaint can be read here.

Right of Reply

I have offered Chief Constable Winward the opportunity of responding and putting her justification for her actions and those of her deputy, but she has declined to respond. Should she choose to do so in the future, then her response will be published.

However, following the announcement below that the Chief Constable would be attending a meeting by video conference to publicise the measures her force was taking during the coronavirus epidemic, I put forward a question to the meeting to ensure that the Chief Constable would be held to account over her conduct.

Mrs Julia Mulligan,
Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire,
12 Granby Road,
Harrogate,
North Yorkshire,
HG1 4ST 

Dear Mrs Mulligan,

Open letter re: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020

I hope this e mail finds you and all of your colleagues well and safely self-isolated at home. 

I read the announcement below with great interest.  

On behalf of all of the NYE’s readers, I would like to ask a question. As you are aware, the NYE has been supporting the efforts of yourself and the officers of North Yorkshire Police to contain the Coronavirus outbreak. Our coverage is below:

Article North Yorkshire Police Essential Journeys #1 – DCC Cain, here

Article North Yorkshire Police Essential Journeys #2 – DCC Cain, here

Article North Yorkshire Police Essential Journeys #3 – CC Winward, here

Article North Yorkshire Police Essential Journeys #4 – Complaint, here

Article Scarborough Police break the law here

Article North Yorkshire Police Essential Journeys #5 – Complaint, here

Article North Yorkshire Police Essential Journeys #6 – Cressida Dick, here

Article North Yorkshire Police Essential Journeys #7 – Private Eye, here

 In all of these articles, the NYE has taken the opportunity to disseminate the information published by your office and North Yorkshire Police on their respective websites.  

Irrespective of our past differences, I would like to state that I think you and your team have done your best to protect the public during the Coronavirus epidemic. I fully agree with the views you have expressed below: 

“For me, it’s simple – anyone can catch this brutal disease, and anyone can spread it, so those who do not follow the rules are putting themselves and others at risk. We must ensure the huge effort put in by the many who are selflessly complying is not undone by the dangerous few who aren’t.”

However, as a result of social media postings and an NYE investigation, it has emerged that both the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constable have been recklessly endangering the lives of police officers by flagrantly disobeying The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 and undertaking non-essential journeys to visit police and fire stations. On at least one occasion they did not observe the social distancing regulations and on another participated in an unlawful public gathering. This concerns me because: 

    1. When the police arrest someone or take them into custody, police officers cannot maintain social distancing rules. They sometime have to go hands on and that inevitably increases the risk of becoming infected and then passing on the infection to their colleagues, either in a police vehicle, the cells, an interview room, or the narrow confines of a police station. Police Officers are therefore more at risk of contracting COVID 19. Consequently police officers are at a much higher risk of infection from their colleagues and the public, which in turn endangers their families. It only takes one police officer to contract COVID 19 and an entire police station could be infected, with the infection only showing after the incubation period two weeks later.
    2. Firemen are also particularly vulnerable to COVID 19 because when on night shift they sleep in dormitories above the fire station and when on duty attending an emergency, they share the cab of the fire engine in close proximity to each other. Thereby increasing their vulnerability to contracting coronavirus, then returning home and infecting their families.
    3. Chief Officers that do not observe the social distancing rules when visiting police and fire stations risk spreading a COVID 19 outbreak in one police station, to every police and fire Station in North Yorkshire and Force Headquarters. This could lead to loss of life, an outbreak of illness amongst policemen and firefighters requiring several weeks of sick leave that could lead to manpower shortages and a partial failure of policing, and fire fighting in the county.

In my opinion it is unacceptable for Chef Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain to commit criminal offences, then evade being arrested, cautioned or prosecuted because they are senior policemen, while at the same time issuing statements criticizing members of the public that are being prosecuted for lesser breaches. The media are right to hold the police to account and raise this. As you are aware, to prevent further abuses and thereby protect the health and lives of police officers, firemen and their families, I have submitted a complaint about both officers. Please can you confirm: 

    1. That these unlawful gatherings at Police and Fire Stations have been prohibited.
    2. If Chief Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain have had the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 explained to them and been told not to conduct unnecessary journeys.
    3. When I can expect to have a response to my complaint, or if it is your intention to ignore serious misconduct by senior police officers.

Please can you also ensure that Chief Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain are given the opportunity of responding to my concerns during the meeting. 

If you do not wish to respond to these requests in the meeting, please can you respond to this letter in writing. I look forward to hearing from you in due course. 

Yours sincerely,

Timothy Hicks

The Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner’s response

Encouragingly, I got a response within an hour from PFCC Mulligan as follows:

Thank you for your question. It will be presented to the Coronavirus Response meeting.”

Then, no doubt realising that this could result in the Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable being criticised I public, I got a revised response: 

“Your enquiries about the meaning and effect of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, and the specific legal points you have raised have been referred to the Commissioner’s Chief Executive & Monitoring Officer, Mr Simon Dennis, who will respond separately to you. 

Given that you raise specific matters relating to the regulation of Chief Constable conduct, these matters are not suitable for this afternoon’s live update meeting, which is focussed on the provision of information to the public at large, rather than issues referable to specific members of police personnel.”

A number of points should be made here:

  1. PFCC Mulligan had reversed her position from “Thank you for your question. It will be presented to the Coronavirus Response meeting” to “Thank you for your question. It will not be presented to the Coronavirus Response meeting.
  2. My first question related to policy on banning unnecessary travel to gatherings at fire stations for the purpose of clapping. This had nothing to do with specific Police Officers. So this was being used as an excuse by Mrs Mulligan to evade her duty to respond to my question.
  3. The remaining questions are matters of public interest relating to the conduct of the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constable. They have been raised in the national press and are legitimate matters of public interest that are in the public domain. I raised them at a public forum because it has been impossible to get a press comment from PFCC Mulligan or the Chief Constable.

As a way forward, I asked for a media statement from PFCC Mulligan, Mr Dennis or Chief Constable Winward, but needless to say, none was forthcoming.

I nevertheless settled down to watch the conference, video here it was actually quite good, with some very important points being made. Commendably, the conference was by video conference from laptops without a face to face meeting, thereby complying with the coronavirus regulations. This does confirm that there was no reason for Chief Constable Winward or Deputy Chief Constable Cain to visit any police station for any reason, given that they could communicate perfectly well with the station using a the video conferencing facility on their laptop.

During the conference, there were numerous references to the Police arresting people that were contravening the Coronavirus Regulations. Conveniently no one mentioned anything about the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constable being arrested, prosecuted or receiving a Police warning and there was no apology, or justification for their actions.

The circumstances appear to be similar to those which led to the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland receiving a formal police caution, for making unnecessary journeys. Exactly the same offence alleged to have been committed by Chief Constable Winward and Deputy Chief Constable Cain.

In the latter case, First Minister Sturgeon made a full and public statement to the media and Doctor Calderwood issued a public apology, before resigning. I thought both ladies behaved with commendable honesty, integrity and openness. I also thought it admirable that Dr Calderwood was treated the same as everyone else.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (left) and Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Doctor Catherine Calderwood (right) at a televised briefing on the Coronavirus pandemic shortly before her resignation

We are all equal under the law and it is wrong in principle for Chief Police Officers to evade prosecution for breaching the coronavirus regulations because of their rank. This is clearly an abuse of power and an issue of legitimate public concern.

The issues are described perfectly by Piers Morgan in this interview with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon following her decision to sack Dr Calderwood here. Hence his appearance along with Chief Constable Winward in the photoon above.

Yet compare the open and decisive response of First Minister Sturgeon and Dr Calderwood, to the devious and evasive response of PFCC Mulligan and Chief Constable Winward.

Media policy of North Yorkshire Police and the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire

To quote David Davis MP, a leading advocate of press freedom:

“A truly free press must be able to expose uncomfortable truths, highlight underperforming governmental departments and be a nuisance to the establishment.  

Journalists must be able to investigate, probe and expose issues of legitimate public concern. 

If our press is unable to do this, then society will suffer for it.”

None of the local media outlets has run with the news that the Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable have been breaching the lockdown rules even though it has run in the national press. There has been a wall to wall media blackout in North Yorkshire, thereby denying the people of North Yorkshire access to information on a controversial issue.

Only the NYE is publicising this issue of legitimate public interest in North Yorkshire.

Both Chief Constable Winward (pictured above) and Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan have a policy of ignoring media requests from the NYE.

In my opinion this is because the NYE is the only media outlet in North Yorkshire that holds NYP to account. Their response to this latest issue of misconduct by North Yorkshire Police Chief Officers is in my experience typical of their attitude. This is consistent with principles 1 – 6 of their media policy SAVILEFOXWIN:

  1. Immunity: Elected representatives, public officials and bodies should be immune from criticism or being held accountable for their personal conduct, actions, policy and/or stewardship of public money.
  2. Secrecy: The public should have no right to any official information or any knowledge of how their money is spent. Information should only be divulged if it is non-controversial and then only as a gratuitous/unnecessary act of kindness on the part of the public body.
  3. Protection: Whenever there is crime, misconduct or waste by elected representatives or public officials, the public body has a duty to conceal it from the public, to protect the individuals concerned from any consequences for their actions.
  4. Censorship: Public bodies should uphold freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom of the press, unless it involves of criticism of elected officials, public servants and/or public bodies. If this occurs, censorship is acceptable to protect them from criticism and protect the public from the truth.
  5. Intransigence: All criticism must be ignored, no matter how much it costs the taxpayer, or the reputational damage to the public body.
  6. Unaccountability: Public bodies and officials should not be accountable to the public. They have no duty to respond to criticism or public concern.

The Lockdown Rules

The NYE will continue to do everything it can to support the efforts of Assistant Chief Constable Walker and the vast majority of NYP officers, who are doing their best to police a pandemic at some considerable risk to themselves, by disseminating police advice on the Coronavirus pandemic.

  • The lockdown rules are explained in this excellent article from the BBC, here.
  • Latest advice from NYP, here.
  • Excellent source for official advice from the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, here.
  • Advice from the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire to stay away from the Yorkshire Coast and save lives, here.
  • Advice from the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire on protecting the vulnerable, here.
  • Statement from North Yorkshire Police on its enforcement strategy, here.

Right of Reply

If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know and your views and/or a correction will be published if appropriate.

Comments are closed.