Saturday 19th August 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer

The Strange Case of DC Lane

The Strange Case of DC Lane

  • Crime & Parliamentary Affairs Correspondent TIM HICKS reports on a litany of policing failures in the protection of vulnerable persons.

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In a major step forward towards more open policing, police forces in the UK have started publishing the outcome of misconduct hearings. This follows a directive from the Prime Minister implemented when she was Home Secretary, forcing police forces to hold disciplinary enquiries in public and to publish the results. In my view this has led to more effective scrutiny of the police, an example of which is the recent Boobgate scandal, covered by the North Yorks Enquirer

North Yorkshire Police (NYP) have recently started publishing the results of misconduct hearings in accordance with this directive. The outcome of a misconduct hearing into the actions of Detective Constable (DC) Nick Lane of the NYP Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit caught my attention.

I am a firm believer in Leadership by Example and that police officers should be subject to strict sanction when they are convicted of misconduct. Unusually, I felt very sympathetic to the plight of DC Lane, which in my view warrants deeper examination and comment than has emerged so far. Comment from NYP was as follows:

Outcome of DC Lane misconduct hearing

On Tuesday 25 October 2016 a misconduct panel upheld allegations that DC Nick Lane of North Yorkshire Police had breached standards of professional behavior in respect of duties and responsibilities and discreditable conduct. The panel determined that he should be given a final written warning.

During the misconduct hearing, the panel considered evidence regarding the officer’s:

  • Failure to record allegations and comply with on-going duties of disclosure
  • Failure to follow up basic lines of enquiry in investigations
  • Failure to progress investigations in a timely way
  • Failure to disclose information according to schedules

Following a seven day hearing, the panel, led by an independent Chair, found that a number of the allegations regarding the officer’s breaches of the standards of professional behaviour were substantiated. Some of these breaches were gross misconduct, and some were misconduct. However the panel also concluded that DC Lane’s individual failings were not due to a lack of personal integrity and that the organisational context at that time had been a factor.

Scrutiny of press reports (the hearings are open to the press) in the Darlington and Stockton Times and York Press has revealed a deeply disturbing picture.

The misconduct hearing was convened after DC Lane failed to release key documents which contributed to the acquittal of a rape suspect and criticism of North Yorkshire Police from an appeal court judge over the most “total and abject failure to deal with disclosure” he had seen in 50 years. This a very outspoken form of words from a judge and constitutes serious and damning public criticism of NYP.

According to press reports above it was stated in the hearing:

  • They relate to the failure of DC Lane to execute his duties properly whilst a member of the Protecting Vulnerable Persons (PVP) Unit of North Yorkshire Police.
  • North Yorkshire Police failed to follow its own policies when the officer commanding the PVP Unit allocated a rape case to DC Lane to investigate, when it should have been investigated by a more experienced Detective Sergeant.
  • DC Lane had raised concerns over his lack of training.
  • Officers working for the unit had raised concerns over under manning.
  • A wellbeing study of officers in the unit stated they lacked knowledge.
  • The senior officer who gave the go-ahead for the hearing could not have made an impartial decision about his conduct as he had been responsible for managing officers’ workloads.
  • There were basic investigative failings.

This situation was summed up by DC Lane’s Counsel: “North Yorkshire Police was operating in breach of its own policy and the consequences of this were foreseeable and grave.” 

It appears from the press reports that no senior officer spoke for DC Lane, but unusually his colleagues in the PVP unit broke ranks and spoke out in support of him. They are quoted as having made the following remarks:

  • The North Yorkshire Police PVP unit was described as a “slow car crash”; It is only by the grace of god the wheels don’t come off.” Some staff aren’t trained properly. Something down the line is going to go wrong, we are just trying to keep our heads above water.”
  • We are investigating the worse type of offending here – child rape and rape cases, the most complex cases you could imagine, and I have got my hands up saying ‘help’, and I don’t get it.”

It was not just one rape case that was involved. According to the list of allegations in the NYP Statement above, multiple investigations were affected by the situation prevailing in the PVP Unit over a considerable period of time. All of this is completely at odds with the view put forward publicly by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for North Yorkshire Julia Mulligan, who is responsible for holding the Chief Constable to account.

Following on from the public concern caused by the Rotherham child abuse case, in September 2014 PCC Mulligan very properly ordered a review of the ability of North Yorkshire Police to undergo a thematic in depth ‘health check’ into its practices and procedures relating to Child Sexual Exploitation, to ensure nothing like the Rotherham scandal could occur in North Yorkshire. Full press release from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner here.

Child Sexual Exploitation is quite rightly a top priority for both myself and North Yorkshire Police, and on behalf of the public I need to by fully reassured this is being dealt with appropriately. I have asked the Chief Constable for a comprehensive update on our plans to tackle this issue, how we are working with partners, and most importantly, what we are doing to safeguard children from sexual exploitation.”

The report was issued by Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Mason on the 15th of October 2014 and published by PCC Mulligan shortly afterwards.  It can be read here.

simon_mason

To quote PCC Mulligan’s comments on the report:

“There is evidence of effective practice and risk management to safeguard children and prosecute offenders……A culture of continuous improvement in policies and procedures when dealing with Child Sexual Exploitation”

To quote Detective Chief Superintendent Mason in the report:

Operationally NYP works to a nationally recognised method of gathering, accessing, developing and acting upon information and intelligence called the National Intelligence Model (NIM). NIM processes are such that they create a series of well established daily, fortnightly and monthly operational meetings. All key managers attend and through analysis of current intelligence and information are informed of dynamic events that effect the operational plans and priorities set by senior police commanders.  Regionally NYP form part of the Yorkshire and the Humber (YaTH) force CSE sub group. That group meets quarterly with Intelligence and PVP managers to discuss and share best practice and understand cross border issues from a regional perspective”.

Good stuff.  All very reassuring……..

At the same time as the report was being issued, according to a Judge’s remarks in July 2014 and the police officers that were working in the North Yorkshire Police PVP Unit, it was in fact a shambles.

Then one month later on the 12th November 2014 it was announced that the IPCC was to investigate the failure of North Yorkshire Police to process intelligence about paedophiles. BBC report here. IPCC report which upheld allegations that the NYP force intelligence did not process intelligence on paedophiles here.

I have raised concerns in the columns of Real Whitby and the North Yorks Enquirer about the evident inability of North Yorkshire Police to investigate sexual offences and the abuse vulnerable people for some time. This has covered amongst other things:

  1. The way North Yorkshire Police failed to prosecute Peter Jaconelli although numerous complaints were made about him to Scarborough Police and he was arrested for rape in 1972;
  2. The initial investigation which concluded that Jimmy Savile had no connections to North Yorkshire, which resulted in NYP being excluded from the IPCC and HMIC investigations into Savile, although in fact he was known to be resident in Scarborough and committing multiple sexual offences against children;
  3. The failure of North Yorkshire Police to prosecute Jimmy Savile following a 2003 investigation and a complaint of rape of two little girls who were told to “toddle off home” revealed in a Daily Star articlesue_cross

Until NYP was forced to act by revelations to the BBC from the North Yorks Enquirer team.

  1. The investigation into Jaconelli and Saville conducted by Assistant Chief Constable Cross (Chief Officer responsible for the PVP Unit) , which ignored the witnesses and concluded there was no evidence of any offending.  Following a BBC investigation of the claims made by Real Whitby, North Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC and was subsequently forced to admit that it had failed the public.
  2. The failure of Operation Hibiscus to get to the truth of the allegations about corruption in North Yorkshire Police and the Jimmy Savile/Peter Jaconelli paedophile ring.

It appears that according to the evidence of police officers from the PVP Unit and the remarks of a judge, the concerns raised in the North Yorks Enquirer and Real Whitby were entirely valid. Although it is nice to be vindicated, on this occasion it give me no pleasure. My overwhelming feeling is of sadness. The key question is how many other cases have failed or been compromised by this failure of leadership in the PVP unit, that has been acquiesced to for some time by North Yorkshire Police.

This follows on from the collapse in August 2016 of an investigation into sexual offences at Ampleforth school in which it has been alleged that:

  1. Witnesses had been misled by North Yorkshire Police.
  2. As with the investigation into Jimmy Savile by Assistant Chief Constable Sue Cross, NYP did not interview some of the witnesses.

Yorkshire Post article covering the case here

Despite PCC Mulligan’s positive sound bites, the PVP unit was obviously a disaster waiting to happen. Worse, the Ampleforth investigation leads me to believe nothing has changed. This is a catastrophic failure for PCC Mulligan. She ordered a health check which gave the PVP unit a clean bill of health She accepted this without question when in fact it was obvious that there were serious long term issues in it, which were not addressed. So far as we can tell has taken no action over this investigative failure. She has been shown to be incapable of exercising oversight over the force she is supposed to be responsible for, or of holding the Chief Constable to account. I have never read of PCC Mulligan ever making any negative remark about the performance of North Yorkshire Police, or taking action to demand or force improvement. She appears to be completely ineffective and failed to deal with an obvious ongoing policing failure in the PVP Unit.

julia_mulliganmd-m

Returning to the opening theme of this article, I felt sorry for DC Lane and his colleagues because he was set up for failure by being placed in charge of investigations he did not have the experience to manage properly. He had only been a detective for two years before being put in charge of harrowing and complex sexual offences investigations. Investigations that should not have been allocated to him by the officer commanding the PVP Unit. The officer commanding the unit bears command responsibility for the failings of the PVP generally and personal responsibility for the failure to supervise DC Lane. Yet nevertheless, no misconduct hearing has been initiated against this officer, no senior officer has resigned, only an inexperienced junior officer has faced disciplinary action.

In particular, DC Lane and his colleagues all raised issues with under manning and lack of experience or training with their superiors and were ignored.  Had their concerns been listened to and the PVP reformed, this would not have happened. This is indicative of a leadership that is arrogant, incapable of accepting constructive criticism or concerns, not interested in service to the public, or the views of their subordinates. It appears that North Yorkshire Police is more interested in siphoning off police funds to pay for Chief Officers expenses, than it is in protecting the vulnerable in our society (PCC Mulligan’s top policing priority).

We should not forget that the truth has only come out due to:

  1. The observations of His Honour the Judge in the rape trial in July 2014.
  2. The decision of the Prime Minister while Home Secretary to order police misconduct hearings to be held in public.
  3. Coverage of the hearing by a free press.

Even then, the mainstream press quoted above only gave the case minimum coverage.  It took the more focused and specialist type of forensic investigative journalism practised by citizen-journalists to bring out the wider ramifications of this case.

On the 28th of November 2016 I forwarded a copy of this article to PCC Mulligan for comment and to ascertain what she intends to do about reforming the PVP Unit and holding North Yorkshire Police to account.

Dear Police and Crime Commissioner Mulligan, 

Please see below an article I intend to run shortly.  As you can see it is highly critical of your failure to ensure that the NYP PVP Unit is fit for purpose.  I would like to give you the opportunity of commenting and will wait twenty four hours before sending the article off for publication, so you have time to comment.  I would also invite comment from North Yorkshire Police should they wish to respond. 

The press release does not mention who was on the misconduct panel and what their qualifications were.  Nor does it state which offences were determined to be gross misconduct and which were misconduct.  Please can you provide this information for the article.  Please can I also ask that this information is provided going forward in force press releases on disciplinary hearings.

Finally, please can you confirm the full remit of the PVP Unit, which I believe is sexual offences against all persons and also offences committed against the young, elderly and mentally ill.

I trust this is satisfactory and thank you in anticipation of a comprehensive response.

Yours sincerely, 

Tim Hicks

My letter was promptly and courteously acknowledged and assurances given that Police and Crime Commissioner Mulligan would respond. Predictably no response was forthcoming

A subsequent reminder elicited this response from a member of Mrs Mulligan’s staff:

“Thank you for getting in touch, and I am sorry that we have not been able to respond to you properly yet. I can assure you that we will do so as soon as possible.”

But that is all that I have received. This causes me even greater concern.

Quite apart from the fact that she has a duty to reassure the public she also has a duty to respond to correspondence and press comment.  When faced with irrefutable evidence that North Yorkshire Police is incapable of supporting her top policing priority, I had expected that Mrs Mulligan would respond with either a robust denial and correction, or a statement of what measures she had implemented to address these issues.

According to her website:  http://www.northyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/

“Julia’s job is to represent the public and to ensure your views are heard and reflected as decisions are made and priorities set.”

There are many ways to talk with Julia including through this website or in person at one of her surgeries or public meetings around the county

Correspondence is also a way to contact Julia about policing policy and priorities, but apparently that doesn’t work because Julia simply ignores inconvenient correspondence and evidence.  However, not to worry.”

According to an article on the website, on the 28th of November “Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan joined young people at new horticultural activity paid for by her Community Fund”.

Good to see the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire has her priorities right.

Should I receive a response, I will of course publish it.


 

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