Stonewalling: Non Essential Journeys #15
by TIM HICKS
Regular readers will no doubt be aware that in accordance with our duty as journalists, the NYE team has been holding North Yorkshire Police and Cleveland Police to account over allegations of breaches of the Coronavirus Lockdown Regulations by police officers from both forces.
In pursuit of this objective, I made a complaint about Assistant Chief Constable Walker, Chief Constable Winward, Deputy Chief Constable Cain and three police officers from Cleveland Police that have apparently breached the lockdown regulations through the “Tell us about possible breaches of Covid-19 measures website” (see below).
The complaints are as follows:
- Deputy Chief Constable Phil Cain: (1) Made an unnecessary visit to Scarborough Police Station on the 8th or 9th of April 2020 and attended a police retirement ceremony there for a colleague. (2) Did not observe social distancing during his visit to Scarborough Police Station, thereby potentially transferring infection from Scarborough Police Station to Force Headquarters, and/or vice versa. (3) Failed to set an appropriate example to the officers under his command. (4) Failed to comply with the College of Policing Code of Conduct requirements for Honesty and Integrity and Conduct.
Deputy Chief Constable Phil Cain ignoring social distancing rules, while undertaking an unnecessary visit to Scarborough Police Station
- Chief Constable Lisa Winward: (1) Made a series of unnecessary visits to police stations all over North Yorkshire on various dates, thereby potentially transferring infection from one station to another and to Force Headquarters. (2) Distracted two Police Sergeants from normal police duties during an emergency, so that they could “look after her” during her visit to Skipton Police Station. (3) Supressed complaints of breaches of the lockdown regulations by herself and four other police officers in her force area. (4) Failed to set an appropriate example to the officers under her command. (5) Failed to comply with the College of Policing Code of Conduct requirements for Honesty and Integrity, Conduct and Challenging and Reporting Improper Conduct. (6) Failed to follow North Yorkshire Police media policy in respect of enquiries on this matter.
- Three motorcycle policemen from Cleveland Police: (1) Came to Whitby and enjoyed a fish and chip lunch on a bench next to the Whitby RNLI Station. During which they did not observe social distancing and were witnessed by many people in uniform blatantly flouting the lockdown regulations. (2) Viewed a holiday cottage when they were supposed to be on duty and again did not observe social distancing rules. Thereby endangering their own health, the health of their colleagues and the health of the lady that showed them around the cottage. (3) Failed to comply with the College of Policing Code of Conduct requirements for Honesty and Integrity, and Conduct.
- Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker (pictured above): The Officer in charge of the response of North Yorkshire Police to the Coronavirus pandemic. (1) Did not respond to correspondence on breaches of the lockdown regulations follow up on allegations of breaches of the lockdown regulations by the above five police officers. (2) Supressed a complaint against five police officers for breaching the coronavirus lockdown regulations. (3) Failed to set an appropriate example to the officers under his command. (4) Failed to comply with the College of Policing Code of Conduct requirements for Honesty and Integrity, Conduct, and Challenging and Reporting Improper Conduct.
The situation appears to me to be very much worse than the scandal surrounding Mr Dominic Cummings, who is a senior government adviser who also deliberately broke the Lockdown Rules. This is because the public expect a very much higher standard from police officers, particularly Chief Police Officers.
Chief Constable Lisa Winward and Mr Dominic Cummings
Master strategists of stonewalling and evading accountability
I commented in an article later that:
“Contrary to what ACC Walker asserts in his letter, I have not had any response to my correspondence with North Yorkshire Police since April 2020 that addresses the issue of alleged breaches of the Coronavirus Lockdown Regulations by police officers, prior to his letter above. So what was said in this previous response, that I have not received?
I have gone back to ACC Walker and asked for the previous correspondence he refers to. I will publish it in due course when it is received.”
Clarification has now been received. It transpires that Assistant Chief Constable Walker was referring to an e mail from Chief Constable Winward I received on the 15th of April to the effect that:
“Please treat this email as confirmation that your correspondence regarding non-essential travel has been received and that Chief Constable Winward does not wish to provide any comments.”
And a letter from the Chief Constable dated the 12th of June 2020:
“In relation to your queries about the three motorcycle officers from Cleveland who were seen in Whitby, I feel that your questions may be better directed towards Cleveland Police, and so you may wish to contact them for further information.
In respect of any offences being committed in North Yorkshire Police area, social distancing is not a crime or an offence and is not legislated for in the Covid regulations. It is health guidance and not enforceable by the police.”
It is clear to me that there has been a genuine misunderstanding here. To me, “Please be advised that your comments have been ….responded to in previous correspondence.” concerning complaints about police officers, means that I have had a full explanation, or that a complaint has been lodged and is being investigated by the Professional Standards Department.
In fact, it appears that Chief Constable Winward has refused to record a complaint against Deputy Chief Constable Cain and the three Cleveland officers on the basis that:
- “In respect of any offences being committed in North Yorkshire Police area, social distancing is not a crime or an offence and is not legislated for in the Covid regulations. It is health guidance and not enforceable by the police.”
And, additionally, in respect of the three Cleveland Officers:
- That the appropriate authority to investigate officers from Cleveland Police for allegations of misconduct committed in North Yorkshire by officers of Cleveland Police is Cleveland Police.
I would observe that whilst Deputy Chief Constable Cain and the three Cleveland Officers are alleged to have failed to observe social distancing, that is irrelevant to the main complaint against them. Which is that they have all been breaching the regulations by making unnecessary journeys. This has not been commented on at all. Further, irrespective of the fact that publicly failing to observe social distancing is not a crime, in my view it nevertheless constitutes misconduct for police officers, because it serves to publicly undermine the government’s efforts to protect the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Concerning the three officers from Cleveland Police, my understanding is that the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police has sole jurisdiction over policing in North Yorkshire. This information was submitted to North Yorkshire Police via the national COVID-19 reporting system https://www.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/c19/tell-us-about-possible-breach-coronavirus-measures/. If intelligence of offending comes into North Yorkshire Police, which should have gone to another force or the Chief Constable’s decision is that it should be dealt with by Cleveland Police, then in my view she should have informed Cleveland Police, so they could take over the investigation. This does not appear to have happened, so effectively the complaint has been withheld from Cleveland Police.
So, in summary, whilst it is fair to say that North Yorkshire Police has acknowledged receipt of my correspondence, nevertheless it has in fact refused to address the comments contained therein. Or, put another way, ignored them. So in my opinion, on any reasonable view Assistant Chief Constable Walker cannot reasonably claim my comments have been responded to – although some people may not agree with me on this.
What happened next?
I responded to Chief Constable Winward on the 10th of July 2020 asserting that my complaints should have been recorded and actioned in the normal way, either by North Yorkshire Police or by Cleveland Police and asked her to:
- Notify Cleveland Police of my complaint and jointly agree which force has jurisdiction.
- Confirm my understanding that she has refused to record a complaint in respect of herself, Deputy Chief Constable Cain and the three Cleveland Police Officers, and to confirm the reasons she is refusing to record a complaint.
- Advise A/ACC Walker of my comments and ask him for a full response to my concerns and a statement of what action he has taken in his capacity as Gold Commander for the North Yorkshire Police operational response to the COVID 19 epidemic and Chairman of the Strategic Coordination Group of the Local Resilience Forum over police officers that breach the lockdown rules.
- Confirm that both she and Deputy Chief Constable Cain have stopped unnecessary visits to police stations and are observing social distancing. This last request is to try and protect our police officers from cross infection by their Chief Police Officers conducting totally unnecessary visits to police stations.
On the 15th of July, Chief Constable Winward responded:
“I am responding to your email of 10th July on the understanding that you are a member of the public, I am not responding to your correspondence as a journalist.
I refer you to my previous reply in respect of these matters. Given that your email also relates to my conduct the matter has been forwarded to the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.”
Please note that the detailed points 1 – 4 have been ignored and the Chief Constable’s response is vague. Further, the Office of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire can only consider complaints against the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, not Assistant Chief Constable Walker or officers from Cleveland Police. So it appears that the complaints against ACC Walker and the three Cleveland Officers have been supressed by Chief Constable Winward.
I have heard nothing more from the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire Mrs Julia Mulligan, so both complaints against the Chief Constable and the Deputy Chief Constable appear to have been skilfully kicked into the long grass.
Tactics in stonewalling include giving sparse, vague responses, refusing to answer questions, or responding to questions with additional questions.
I have been corresponding over various aspects of this matter with PFCC Mulligan and Chief Constable Winward since April, still with no definitive response, or any admission of any act of misconduct by any police officer. A classic example of bureaucratic intransigence backed up by some very skilful Stonewalling. Game, set and match to the Chiefs and the PFCC for North Yorkshire.
North Yorkshire Police and the PFCC Mulligan have had sight of a draft of this article. At no time have any of the three Chief Officers or Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Mulligan denied the factual accuracy of the allegations contained in my correspondence and articles.
Leadership NYP style: “Do as we say, not as we do”
These disreputable tactics of stonewalling have been successful for Chief Constable Winward, Deputy Chief Constable Cain and Assistant Chief Constable Walker in the short term. Acting with the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, complaints about their conduct that are apparently valid appear to have been supressed.
The sight of Chief Police Officers committing the offences that they are simultaneously arresting and prosecuting members of the public for is deeply concerning. It serves only to undermine the Government’s response to the COVID 19 epidemic. It generates a culture of impunity within the police, which encourages junior officers to engage in misconduct.
Worse, it brings the British Police Service and the Office of Police Fire and Crime Commissioner into disrepute. A leadership policy of “One rule for the police and one for everyone else” is unacceptable in a democracy.
Despite the actions of a few, I remain impressed with the response of North Yorkshire Police to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The NYE will also continue to do everything it can to support the efforts of the vast majority of NYP officers to protect the public, by promulgating information on the lockdown rules. Please see the links below.
- Our information and advice on coronavirus and policing
- Government coronavirus guidance on Gov.uk
- Tell us about a possible breach of coronavirus (Covid-19) measures
This BBC article explains police powers during the lockdown.
This BBC article explains the masking rules in England.
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