Saturday 20th April 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

NYP Fails HMICFRS & RSM Audits

NYP Fails HMICFRS & RSM Audits

by TIM HICKS

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Introduction

It has not been a good week for North Yorkshire Police (NYP). Three events have occurred which have shone the spotlight on policing in North Yorkshire.

The Baroness Casey Report into London’s Metropolitan Police

Following the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by PC Wayne Couzens, of the Metropolitan Police in 2021. Baroness Louise Casey was appointed to review the Met’s culture and standards. While she was conducting her review, another Met officer, PC David Carrick, was convicted of a series of rapes, sexual offences and torture of women.

The first event was the publication of the Casey report, which alleges the Met is institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic.

It has been further alleged in the media that because the Met is contaminated with these attitudes they must also be prevalent in the County and Special Police Forces. This of course leads onto the question:

Are the same toxic behaviours present in North Yorkshire Police (NYP)?”

Homophobia in NYP

The NYE is unaware of any incidents of homophobia by officers of NYP.

Racism in NYP

For many years, NYP did not have any ethnic minority Officers. However, it made an effort to diversify its recruitment and this is no longer the case. There have been examples of racism in NYP recently:

  • In 2018 an employment tribunal found that Zaheer Ahmed, had been subjected to racial discrimination by NYP Officers in his career with NYP.
  • In 2021 Sergeant David France was found to have sent racist tweets from his personal Twitter account and found guilty of Gross Misconduct. He would have been sacked, but -predictably- was allowed to retire beforehand.
  • This month, Detective Constable (DC) Danielle Kirby and PC James Mills were sacked for exchanging offensive racist texts in 2018 and 2019.

In May 2022, Chief Constable Winward issued a statement following the publication of the National Police Race Action Plan:

“On behalf of North Yorkshire Police, and all our current and former employees, I accept that policing still contains racism, discrimination and bias. I apologise for where North Yorkshire Police has fallen short of the standards we hold ourselves to, and the impact that this has had on individuals, communities and police colleagues.

However, there is also frustration – both inside and outside of policing – that we have not been able to tackle the accusation of being institutionally racist.”

                (Extract) The statement can be accessed in full from the Force website.

The latter statement has to some degree been discredited by Baroness Casey’s finding that the Met – the largest force in Britain, which has national responsibilities – is institutionally racist and would seem to indicate that Chief Constable Winward is in denial.

That having been said, NYP has not had the same number of scandals that have afflicted other Forces and the decisive action taken against DC Kirby and PC Mills indicates that when racist Officers are detected, they are now dealt with robustly. North Yorkshire Police also has an Association of Culture & Ethnicity, Chaired by Sergeant Arfan Rahouf. This is all to be commended and indicates positive progress.

Misogyny in NYP

With misogyny, it is a different story.

  • The NYE has for some time been investigating the murder of a woman near Scarborough in 1979, who has never been identified. When a witness came forward who identified her as an alcoholic prostitute that plied her trade in Victoria Street, Scarborough, NYP did not follow up on this information for three years. There is no doubt that if she was suspected of being a teacher, housewife or the daughter of a policeman, NYP would have instantly investigated. But because she was believed to be a prostitute, they just weren’t interested.
  • In November 2022 the NYE broke the story that female detainees have been sexually abused in NYP Custody Suites. Specifically that male officers have been allowed to watch while female detainees are undressed for strip searching. This would appear at first glance to be an offence of voyeurism. However NYP has rigidly stonewalled any attempt to identify and charge the officers concerned.

These are both examples of institutional misogynism.

The HMICFRS 2021/2022 Audit

The second event was the publication of His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) PEEL Inspection of North Yorkshire Police on the 17th of March 2023.

The inspection assessed NYP in eight areas, which are shown below along with their grading.

  • Engaging with and treating the public with fairness and respect: Good
  • Managing offenders and suspects: Adequate
  • Preventing crime and anti-social behaviour: Adequate
  • Responding to the public: Requires improvement
  • Investigating crime: Requires improvement
  • Protecting vulnerable people: Requires Improvement
  • Building, supporting and protecting the workforce: Requires improvement
  • Strategic planning, organisational management and value for money: Inadequate

NYP Chief Constable Winward (pictured above) is quoted on the NYP Force website as saying: (Extract) The statement can be accessed in full from the force website.

“The publication of the HMICFRS PEEL inspection report shares the findings of an independent and detailed audit of the force and I value and welcome the scrutiny of the inspectors and thank them for their work. The report highlights a number of areas that the force delivers well….”

This is misleading. Only one area was assessed by HMICFRS as “Good”.

Contrary to what Chief Constable Winward implies, the report is a disaster. To put this in context for our readers. The PEEL Inspection Cleveland Police 2021/22 was only marginally better than NYP’s and Cleveland is one of the six Police Forces in England and Wales that is in special measures.

NYE Vindicated Again

I was not at all surprised to read many of the findings passed by the HMICFRS Inspection. They mirror the NYE’s observations on NYP. A few examples:

Strategic Planning, Organisational Management and Value for Money: Inadequate

For years, the NYE has been raising the misuse of Police funds by Chief Officers for hobby payments and junkets abroad, disguised as training.

The worst example was Operation Hyson, which the Chief Constable participated in, in which NYP Chief Officers used Police funds to fund a legal action against journalists which failed and left the North Yorkshire Taxpayer with enormous legal bills, for no benefit. National press comment below.

This profligate attitude still infects Force headquarters.

Investigating Crime: Requires improvement

Chief Constable Winward has adopted a media policy of proscribing the NYE because it has criticised her and her Force. This has inhibited its ability to investigate crime because it will not follow up on information obtained by the media. The conduct of the Claudia Lawrence investigation led me to conclude some time ago that NYP CID is just not capable of conducting large complex investigations and that although the case is solvable, this will only occur if an outside force is called in.

Protecting Vulnerable People: Requires improvement

NYP took no action over the Peter Jaconelli/Jimmy Savile paedophile-ring in Scarborough, other than to declare that Savile had no connections to North Yorkshire and then that there was no evidence or intelligence that he had committed any crimes. In fact the NYE forced them to admit that Savile and Jaconelli had been committing multiple rapes of children for years and NYP ignored the evidence of it.

NYP Officers, including the then Chief Superintendent Winward, acquiesced to a veteran of the Second World War, in her eighties, being locked out of her home while she was abroad, so her house could be sold from under her. This was because NYP – in common with many other forces – followed a policy of not involving itself in domestic disputes.

Building, Supporting and Protecting the Workforce: Requires improvement

An essential part of maintaining an efficient Police workforce is having rigorous standards and taking action against those who fail to meet them.

We have exposed multiple cases of NYP Officers apparently breaching the COVID-19 Regulations and no action was taken against any of them. The most famous involved Deputy Chief Constable Phil Cain. National press comment below:

The third event was the publication of NYP Auditors Report on NYP’s vehicle fleet management.

NYP’s auditors have published their report on the way NYP manages its fleet of vehicles. It is truly shocking and has been comprehensively investigated by YorkMix in this excellent article Report reveals catalogue of vehicle mismanagement by North Yorkshire Police | YorkMix. Amongst the scandals the report reveals are:

  • NYP has no fleet management strategy or approved fleet management plan, which “could lead to inappropriate vehicles being purchased… impacting value for money”.
  • Police cars and vans listed in documents are not physically verified. So the force “may not identify any missing vehicles, should any discrepancies exist… This could have a range of implications, including the insurance of Force vehicles.”
  • There is “limited” oversight of the police’s vehicle repair system. “It is therefore not clear whether the Force is achieving value for money in respect of repairs, maintenance, and equipment costs.” As an example, NYP spent £38,614 on a vehicle when the same vehicle cost only £21,000 new.
  • Forty-five vehicles needed replacing in 2022/23 but were not replaced because there was “minimal budget” left – but the Chief Financial Officer was not informed. “This may result in an ageing fleet, meaning the Force cannot deliver operationally.”
  • The ‘wrong’ vehicles were sometimes ordered. In one case a BMW was listed but a different model delivered. In another case, documents said “cell vans would be replaced with Ford Transit vans; however, the orders had been placed for Peugeot vehicles instead.”
  • Used Police vehicles sold on at auction lacked a paper trail, which means “there is a risk that vehicle disposals are not processed correctly and the Force may not receive all monies due.”
  • The auditors identified a fleet replacement budget in 2022/23 of £1.4 million – with an overspend of another £1.4 million forecast.
  • Finally, my favorite. An electric cell van was ordered by NYP, but “currently sits in the Transport Hub at Thirsk as the Force does not currently have the infrastructure for electric vehicles”.

[Source: YorkMix]

This represents a catastrophic failure of financial control. For years I have been investigating profligate misuse of public funds by NYP and alleging that as an organisation, it did not maintain a satisfactory level of financial control. Now the auditors and HMICFRS have independently confirmed that my concerns were accurate. There are additional areas of this scandal that are also deeply concerning:

  • This review is only over the vehicle fleet. It must be a concern that if it was extended to every area of NYP’s operations, it would find the same level of incompetence and misuse of public funds across all of NYPs activities.
  • For years NYP was rocked by financial scandal after financial scandal. The Chief Constable’s £28,000 shower, hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax free cash payments to senior officers for unaccounted for development expenses, paid holidays for senior officers and now this. It is not the first time there has been a failure of financial control over NYP vehicles. In 2007 following a public outcry, NYP was forced to hand back bought twenty-seven high performance Volvo V70s and Land Rover Discoveries bought for senior officers to use as “Command Platforms” when in fact they were not qualified to drive them on police duties. The same profligate mismanagement of police funds exists now as in 2007. Nothing has changed.
  • If this had happened in the private sector, heads would have rolled. However, no one has resigned or had any disciplinary action taken against them. NYP just carries on as normal.
  • The good taxpayers of North Yorkshire pay millions for a Chief Finance Officer, a NYP Finance Department, the Office of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner, the North Yorkshire Police Fire and Crime Panel and a Joint Independent Audit Committee, to implement financial control, exercise oversight over public funds and to hold the Chief Constable to account. They have all been completely ineffective in ensuring that NYP maintains normal standards of financial control and that the taxpayer obtains value for money.
  • There is no mention of this scandal on the NYP or Police Fire and Crime Commissioners websites. Neither organisation responds to enquiries from the NYE. This scandal has only emerged because of some very good investigative journalism by YorkMIx, which has done a public service by exposing it and bringing it into the public domain. Which is how I became aware of it. It appears that the Chief Constable and Commissioner are deliberately withholding information from North Yorkshire taxpayers, to conceal misuse of their money. If this is so then it is a corrupt act, an abuse of their positions and of the public trust.

Media manipulation by Chief Constable Winward and Commissioner Metcalfe

A free press must hold public bodies to account in a democratic society. Yet only YorkMix and the NYE are covering the NYP vehicle fleet management scandal. The Scarborough Evening News, York Press and Yorkshire Post are tame, do not hold the police or the Commissioner to account and will not cover this scandal. Demonstrating how hopeless they are as media outlets.

The NYE, on the other hand – which does hold the Police and the Commissioner to account – has been proscribed by the Chief Constable and the Commissioner as a way of evading legitimate media scrutiny. This has worked very well for them. It has inhibited – but not neutered – our ability to access the information we need to hold them to account. Hence the reason they have not commented for this article.

Incredibly, Chief Constable Winward and Commissioner Metcalfe have been backed up in this policy by the North Yorkshire Police Fire and Crime Panel and the Joint Independent Audit Committee, which are supposed to hold the police and the Commissioner to account, but do not.

The NYE will continue to uphiold freedom of the press and free speech to bring the people of North Yorkshire accurate information on how their money is spent, and to hold NYP to account. Despite the best efforts of Chief Constable Winward, Commissioner Metcalfe, the Office of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner, the North Yorkshire Police Fire and Crime Panel and the Joint Independent Audit Committee to prevent this.

Why can’t NYP meet the same standards as South Yorkshire Police?

Returning to the HMICFRS Inspection,  the South Yorkshire Police Peel Assessment 2021/22 was ‘Excellent’ and well up to the standard the public are entitled to expect. Three areas are marked outstanding, one adequate and the rest good. Overall, an outstanding performance. The key question arises why can’t NYP meet the same standard as SYP?

In her statement, Chief Constable Winward went on to say: 

“….but also reports on a significant number of areas that require improvement.”

This, again, is misleading. Half of the areas were assessed as ‘Require improvement’ and one of the areas was ‘Inadequate’ – one grade down from ‘Requires improvement‘. So it appears that the Chief Constable is trying to downplay the extent of poor performance in her Force. Chief Constable Winward then states:

“A number of these relate to the corporate capacity and capability of the organisation linked to workforce planning, governance, performance management, financial planning, and the overall efficiency and effectiveness of our shared enabling services.

They told us that while the right actions might be taking place on the ground by our people, they were not able to find sufficient evidence of how this was directed and overseen through our governance structure”

These are senior management failings.

The worst area of performance in NYP Identified by HMICRS is Strategic Planning, Organisational Management and Value for Money, which is graded ‘Inadequate’. Another senior management function – Building, Supporting and Protecting the Workforce – is graded Requires Improvement. Both are areas that Chief Constable Winward has a high degree of personal responsibility for. Needless to say, Chief Constable Winward makes no apology for this situation and does not acknowledge any personal responsibility for it in her statement.

Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner Zoē Metcalfe’s statement on the inspection can be read here, in which she draws particular attention to the failings in Force governance:

“HMICFRS have expressed Cause for Concern about North Yorkshire Police’s internal governance. Essentially, they say that the Chief Constable and her team must have a better system in place for running the internal workings of their organisation. The Force needs to make sure that they are clear what their business needs are from their support services and how they can best be met. I agree with HMI about that.”

This is an explicit criticism of the Chief Constable’s performance and management ability.

I am a firm believer in the military maxim:

“There are no bad Regiments only bad Colonels.”

The Casey report shows that nothing has changed in the Met since the Macpherson report of 1999. Which means that every Commissioner of the Met since that date has failed. This vindicated the decision of Mayor Sadiq Khan to force the resignation of Commissioner Cressida Dick for not implementing change and improving the Met since her appointment in 2017.

Chief Constable Winward was appointed as Chief Constable in April 2018. The North Yorkshire Police Peel Assessment 2018/19 was assessed differently, but was good in nine areas, requires improvement in four and ungraded in one. Still a respectable achievement.

The latest inspection indicates there has been a steady deterioration in performance since 2018 to the low-point that NYP has now reached. The situation prevailing in NYP arises from a sustained failure over the last five years over most areas. In my view, the reason that NYP cannot achieve the same standard as SYP  – or even a remotely acceptable standard – is a failure in Chief Constable Winward’s leadership.

The last year that NYP had a PEEL Inspection was 2018. In the private sector, organisations have an audit every year. Any Chief Executive presiding over a steady deterioration in performance over two years – let alone five – would be removed. Yet no action has been taken to change the NYP Senior Management Team and replace it with one that can deliver acceptable performance.

Failings in the areas criticised by HMICFRS have been exposed by the NYE, but no action has been taken.

It should therefore be said that part of the reason for this debacle is that successive Police, Fire & Crime Commissioners have not held the Force to account for poor performance.

Right of reply

Commissioner Metcalfe and Chief Constable Winward were provided with a draft copy of this article and offered the opportunity to do so, but no response was received from them.

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 using the letters@nyenquirer.uk email address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.

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