19th March 2012 - Introduction
We learn from the News Shopper that Bexley Council has spent more than £2·3
million on CCTV cameras during the past four years. “Our CCTV network has played
a key role in helping Bexley have one of the lowest crime rates in London”
claimed Bexley cabinet member for community safety Peter Craske. “The cameras
led to 615 arrests in 2010 and 700 arrests in 2011, so they are delivering real
results in helping catch criminals and prevent crime from taking place.”
Let’s then see what happens when a serious assault in Bexley is captured on CCTV:
On 13 September 2010, a youth was sitting on a bench at a Bexley school when another youth came and sat behind him and pushed him off. As the first youth fell, he took hold of the second youth to get his balance, and the second youth fell with him. The second youth got up, climbed on the bench and then jumped down onto the first youth, punching him several times in the head and face, which fractured his eye socket and left him with a permanent visual disability.
But - good news! The assault was captured on CCTV, which the Headteacher confirmed shows the suspect pushing the victim off the bench, the victim pulling the suspect off with him, and ‘the suspect jumping off the bench and punching the victim three times with one fist to the head’. As Peter Craske claimed, this could help catch criminals, and the suspect was indeed arrested. However, the arresting officer DC Mahoney somehow failed to see the attack when he watched the CCTV footage, noting in the crime report that CCTV ‘does not capture the main assault. It shows the victim and the suspect falling to the floor at the start of the fight but then they go out of view’. Perhaps, as he was watching, his view was disturbed by a speck of dust landing in his eye at the crucial moment.
Back at the station, Bexley Police were rapidly gearing up for action. 23 days after the arrest, DI Underwood set up an ‘Action Plan’ for PC Hooper to ‘assess’ the CCTV. Four days later, DS Betez noted that PC Hooper had still to ‘review CCTV and confirm what it actually captures’. A further six days later, DI Underwood noted that ‘enquiries continue in order to review the CCTV’. And only eight more days after this, officers actually got around to ‘reviewing’ the CCTV and failing to spot the assault once again, with DC Betez noting that CCTV ‘does not capture the incident and is unused material with no evidential value’.
The evidence was submitted to the Prosecutor 46 days after the assault, and without the CCTV footage, leading her to note of the CCTV ‘I am reliably informed that it merely shows a group of persons at the end of a playground and they cannot be identified. It is therefore of no evidential value… accordingly I advise ‘No Further Action’. And the case was dropped.
What another great success for Bexley! There was a temporary arrest, boosting the statistics that Councillor Craske could boast about. Police avoided both the hassle of a prosecution and having to actually do anything about the CCTV footage. CCTV suppliers got paid handsomely for all their expensive equipment. And the attacker got let off.
Of course, there are a few downsides - the cash-strapped residents of Bexley shelling out a huge amount for CCTV equipment that the Police chose not to use, the local area remaining a violent and unsafe place despite the statistics, and the victim failing to get any justice. But then let’s not focus on the negatives, when there is clearly so much to be proud of in this borough.
16th November 2012 - Episode 1
case involved several pieces of false information that Bexley Police sent
to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority about a child who was the victim
of a violent crime in the borough. The information given by Police initially
resulted in the child being refused compensation for the serious injuries that
he suffered in the attack. Of course, once the Criminal Injuries Compensation
Authority received accurate evidence about the incident, their compensation
decision was changed. However, the Police refused to correct any of their false
records and statements, claiming that the law about keeping accurate records did
not apply to them, and that they were ‘exempt’ from having to be accurate.
When the case was eventually taken to court, the judge ruled that it was “quite clear” that police statements were not exempt from the law. He considered evidence about several statements from Police that the child was to blame for the attack upon himself, that only minor injuries were sustained and that there was no CCTV footage of the main assault, and found that these statements were “wholly inaccurate” and “completely wrong”. He concluded that Bexley Police had “failed to properly consider” the evidence that was available – CCTV footage, a teacher’s report, a medical report, and the handwritten statements of the attacker and other parties, and stated that “those documents show quite clearly a version of events that is different from the conclusions reached by the officers at the time”.
So could there be many other people or investigations that Bexley Police have written false information about, but decided not to correct, because they felt they were exempt from the law requiring it to be accurate? Surely not, as this could have made them responsible for serious miscarriages of justice, and that sort of thing would never happen in a respectable borough like Bexley.
In which case, we have to ask ourselves why Bexley Police would “fail to properly consider” evidence about a serious crime committed against a child in this particular instance; and why, on finding their records wrong, the Police would do everything in their power to avoid putting them right. Perhaps posting more information about how Bexley Police officers conducted themselves in this case will help readers solve this mystery…
27th November 2012 - Episode 2
The curious thing about the court case is that the Police seemed intent on doing whatever they could (including spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money) just to avoid the simple, honest action of correcting their records:
• They stated that they “neither admitted nor denied” that an assault had even taken place – a strange argument when several Bexley officers had already referred in their own documents to the “assault”.
• They asked the judge to “skip past” some of their false blaming of the victim, on the grounds that it was only “in handwriting quickly done”.
• They claimed they didn’t have to correct false information about CCTV footage of the assault, on the grounds that their comments were about a CCTV camera and not about the child being assaulted. (The judge rejected this argument as an “artificial” distinction.)
• They claimed it was “very dangerous indeed to start requiring” the police to correct their records, as this would “damage their integrity”.
• They were caught misquoting data protection law, changing “disclosure” to “processed” so that it fitted their argument better.
• They were caught misquoting a witness, falsely claiming that he had said the child had “caused” the attack upon himself.
• They argued that, if a man assaulted and killed another man claiming that he thought, “completely wrongly and wholly unreasonably”, that the other man was about to attack him, this would be “a good self defence argument” that could make him “not guilty of an offence”, and that people who do consider this an offence were not looking at it “at a higher level”. (This is useful to Bexley Police, as it frees up their time from investigating serious assaults and killings, and allows them to refocus their limited resources on prosecuting bloggers and standing around at council meetings instead.)
The judge didn’t accept any of these claims. But, as with Bexley councillors and council officers, when there are insufficient checks and balances on your behaviour, it is easy to start believing that you can get away with doing and saying whatever you like.
A correspondent informs me that, after the judge gave his decision, the Police put pressure on him, telling him that his verdict was “inappropriate” and threatening to “go further with it” unless the judge was “prepared to re-open the finding”. Indeed, the correspondent began to fear that the judge might himself get arrested for not showing the Police enough ‘respect’. Thankfully, the judge stood his ground, and the Police ended up backing down.
Next we can start looking at the Police 'investigation'. Some elements of it might be familiar to readers of this website.
3rd December 2012 - Episode 3
the time being I shall withhold the names of individual officers involved
with the failed investigation into the assault upon my son and concentrate on
how Bexleyheath police operates.
The investigation got off to a slow start. Two attempts were made on consecutive days to report the assault to Police, but each time there was no one available to take the call, and a message was left on answerphone.
When Police did eventually get round to calling back, a regular Police Constable was appointed to investigate, who then called in a Detective Constable (DC1) from Bexley CID.
My wife and I had been keeping vigil by our son's hospital bedside from the moment the assault took place. DC1 phoned us just after we had received news that our son had a fractured eye socket with eye tissue trapped in the fracture. DC1 at first demanded to know why we had not reported the matter to Police earlier. He then told us that he would visit to question our son that afternoon; but he never turned up, nor phoned to tell us that he would not be coming.
DC1 wrote in the crime report that our son had “got into a fight”. The judge ruled that this was incorrect.
There was CCTV footage, showing the attacker jumping down from a bench and punching our son several times in the head and face. However, DC1 wrote in the crime report that the main assault was “out of view” and that the CCTV “did not capture” it. The judge ruled that these remarks were “wholly inaccurate”.
The attacker was brought to Bexleyheath Police Station for questioning. He was joined by members of his family. Another person also became involved – a regular Police Constable (PC1), whose family shares close friends in common with the attacker’s family.
DC1 had noted that the investigation would now be fully handed over to Bexley CID. However, within less than half an hour, he was replaced as officer in charge of the investigation by the regular Police Constable PC1 mentioned above, despite the fact that PC1 was just about to go off on holiday for twelve days.
Before setting off on holiday, PC1 did find time to phone the Headteacher of the school where the attack took place and (according to the Headteacher)…
• praised the attacker, saying he “seemed a nice enough lad”
• expressed disapproval of the decision to permanently exclude the attacker from school, explaining that he had promised the attacker’s father that he would challenge this decision
• informed the school that the charge had been downgraded from Grievous to Actual Bodily Harm, before even seeing the medical report on our son’s injuries
• declined to receive a copy of this medical report, as it would be of “no use”, and
• acted in a “dismissive” and “disinterested” manner on learning of the permanent damage to our son’s eyesight
Also before setting off on holiday and before even speaking to our son to find out what had happened, PC1 was further able to reach a swift conclusion and to phone to let us know that the attack was “unfortunate”, and that it was just “the result of a little bit of messing around”.
While PC1 was away, the investigation was handed over once again (this time to a trainee - TDC1), and virtually ground to a halt until PC1 returned twelve days later.
PC1 was supervised by a Detective Sergeant (DS1), who set an 'action plan' to research if there was any “bad character evidence” on our son.
Both PC1 and DS1 further reported to a Detective Inspector (DI1), who I am told is the officer in charge of the stalled 18-month old obscene blog ‘investigation’.
Officers DC1, PC1, TDC1, DS1 and DI1 all feature in the court case and in the story to follow.
11th December 2012 - Episode 4
week I introduced Bexley Police’s investigation of a serious assault, where family of the investigating
officer (PC1) shared close friends with the assailant’s family. If you remember, before compiling the
evidence, PC1 is reported to have downgraded the charge against the attacker, intervened to challenge
his exclusion from school, declined to receive the medical evidence and concluded that it was just
“a little bit of messing around”.
PC1 noted in the crime report that he would be interviewing the victim “with his mum” in attendance; but when we (the victim’s parents) arrived for the interview, we were told to leave the police station while PC1 interviewed our son (aged under 16) without a second officer or any other adult present. This was “usual practice” for Bexley Police, according to PC1, despite him interviewing the attacker with his father and his solicitor present.
Our son’s interview was neither recorded on tape, nor was any note made of it in the crime report. Due to eye injuries from the attack, our son was unable to see properly to write or read his own statement; but never mind – PC1 would do all this for him. Notes were made in the crime report a few days later about the interview being inadequate – that PC1 needed to take a fresh statement from our son as a “priority action”; but despite PC1’s supervisor DS1 being informed that PC1 had obtained the statement, no new statement was ever taken.
PC1 was then asked by DS1 and DI1 to “review” and “assess” the CCTV, and he concluded that it “merely shows a group of persons at the end of the playground” and had “no evidential value” (although how he managed to make this assessment is a mystery, as it later transpired that Police had actually seized the wrong CCTV footage - a still shot of the school entrance gate).
PC1 had also already taken receipt of statements given by seven witnesses and the attacker himself. Nearly one month later, according to the Headteacher of the school where the assault took place:
• PC1 phoned the school to say he had altered some of the statements and wanted to come to the school to get witnesses to sign the altered versions.
• When the school asked him to email some details, he claimed he didn’t know how to send emails (he must be a fast learner, as within a few weeks, there is a note of him in the crime report emailing another officer about the investigation).
• He then bypassed the school and visited three of the witnesses at their homes to get the altered versions re-signed, and claimed that parents of three of the other witnesses refused to allow them to give statements to Police (despite all of these parents having no recollection of any Police officers ever contacting them about the matter).
• Ultimately, the original statements of the attacker and the seven witnesses all went missing from Police files.
The school was so concerned about PC1’s behaviour that it telephoned his manager DI1 (the officer previously in charge of the obscene blog investigation) to complain. This complaint was passed on to PC1, who then told us about it, assuring us “it doesn’t bother me – I get them every week”. However, according to the Headteacher, despite several messages being left for DI1 to call the school back about the complaint, he didn't return these calls.
With two senior officers (DS1 and DI1) dealing with the case, you would imagine that at least one of them would have noticed that something was wrong with this investigation.
So did they do anything about it? … What do you think?
17th December 2012 - Episode 5
have seen how Bexley Police investigated a serious assault, when family of the investigating officer
PC1 shared close friends with the assailant’s family – an inadequate victim interview was conducted, CCTV
footage was ignored, and witness statements either weren’t taken, went missing or were altered. It was now
time to submit this ‘evidence’ to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The CPS has an office located inside Bexleyheath Police station, where it shares files with Police. However, PC1 did not share this particular file with the prosecutors in his own building, but called CPS London Direct and instead gave his personal view of the case to a duty prosecutor over the phone. Of the statements given by six student witnesses and the attacker himself, the duty prosecutor noted that he had only “carefully considered” the three statements that PC1 had rewritten. A quote from one of the witness statements was worded significantly differently from the statement itself. The duty prosecutor noted that he based his view of the case on what PC1 had “reliably informed” him, and accordingly made a decision to take “no further action” against the attacker.
PC1’s supervisor DS1 proposed that the decision should be appealed, but PC1 told him that an unidentified officer had already made this impossible by quickly informing the attacker’s solicitor of the CPS’s decision (even though there was no record of this in the crime report), which under the law now prevented the attacker from being prosecuted, whether he was guilty or not. In any case, DI1 (Bexley’s lead officer on violent crime, and the officer previously in charge of the obscene blog investigation) had “reviewed” the investigation and found the outcome satisfactory, so there was no need for Police to do any more work on the matter.
The day after the attacker had been informed, however, PC1 did take the trouble to phone to tell us that the official report identified the attacker’s version of events as “clear” and “credible”, and our son as being to blame for the attack upon himself. We asked if we could see what had been written about our son, but despite having just read the report to us, PC1 claimed that he did not have a copy of it, had no reference number for it, did not know who had written it, could only tell us things over the phone and could not give us anything in writing. We asked if we could contact his manager, but he said that all requests had to go through him.
When we informed PC1 that we would try to obtain the information from the CPS instead, his manager DI1 got in touch to tell us that the Police did not have to give us any information due to “legal privilege” (contrary to official CPS legal advice), and warned us not to bother contacting the CPS about the matter (the CPS later sent us the documents that DI1 claimed we would not be able to have). DI1 then wrote a note in the crime report claiming that he had advised us that we could obtain information on this case through the FOI office, although he must have spoken very softly in giving us this advice, as neither of us has ever heard him advise any such thing. DC1 also made a note that he had “reviewed” the case for a second time (finding once again that it had all been dealt with “correctly”), and that the assault was “clear self defence, with the victim being the aggressor” (comments that the judge ruled were “wholly inaccurate” and “completely wrong”).
DI1 was subsequently promoted to the position of Bexley CID’s Acting Detective Chief Inspector. However, at that time, Bexley CID was headed by a different Detective Chief Inspector DCI1, to whom we sent two requests under the Data Protection Act for copies of the records about our son. DCI1 did not reply to either request.
DCI1 did respond later, however, when the case was taken up by concerned local MP David Evennett; and she handed over the case for further review to one of her most senior detective inspectors – DI2 (Bexley’s lead officer on crime management, and the officer who threatened to bring a criminal prosecution against the owner of this website for “harassing” Bexley councillors). You can probably guess what action these two officers took.
2nd January 2013 - Episode 6
previous weeks, we’ve looked at Bexley Police’s investigation of a serious
assault and shown that there was something badly wrong with it. A decision had
been made to take ‘no further action’ against the assailant and the case was now
closed. It was only when a concerned David Evennett MP contacted the Borough
Commander about it that Police decided to review the case for a third time. This
review was carried out by DI2 – the Detective Inspector who threatened to bring
a criminal prosecution against the owner of this website for ‘harassing’ Bexley councillors.
On concluding his review, DI2 phoned us to report that he had examined the case file in detail and was “satisfied” that his fellow officers had investigated the incident as thoroughly as possible. (Read earlier posts on this case to see whether you agree with his assessment.) Things had gone wrong, he admitted, but it was all the fault of the school where the assault occurred, and he would be making notes to this effect on the case file. We were surprised by this conclusion, as in our experience, the school had handled the incident impeccably.
A few days later, David Evennett forwarded us a letter that he had just received from the Detective Chief Inspector DCI1 who was in charge of Bexley CID. DCI1 was an experienced senior officer who had overcome some difficulties during her career, from being part of a team that botched a high-profile murder investigation to being (unsuccessfully) prosecuted herself after some very unpleasant allegations were made about her. However, after the court case against her, DCI1 was transferred to Bexley Police with a promotion to Head of CID, so we had every reason to expect that her response to David Evennett would be well researched and fair.
Imagine our surprise, then, to find that this letter was riddled with basic factual errors far too numerous to mention, inaccurately blaming both the school and our son for the failure to prosecute the attacker. Worst of all, it included a claim about our son ‘striking the first blow’, even though there was nothing in any of the seven witness statements, nor in the statement of the attacker himself, nor in the CCTV footage, about him striking a blow at any point.
Both we and the school wrote to DCI1, identifying these errors, and were even more disappointed not to receive any apology or acknowledgment from her whatsoever. (Please note that it was not the whole of Bexley CID that was implicated in these flawed investigations and reviews – just one Constable (PC1), one Detective Constable (DC1), one Detective Sergeant (DS1), the Head of CID (DCI1) and her two most senior deputies (DI1 and DI2)).
The school was extremely unhappy at how the matter had been handled, and further complaint resulted in the involvement in the case of Bexley’s second most senior officer CI1 (the Chief Inspector who mistakenly indicated to the press that criminal charges had been brought due to abuse of councillors on the Bonkers website).
According to the school, CI1 advised that he was not allowed to let us have any information on the case for a year (even though it appears that no such time limit exists under the law), and warned that our son might not wish to pursue the matter any further, because it was a very serious and would involve him appearing in court before a jury and lawyers, and that the attacker had a “good” lawyer who had helped him prepare a “a well written statement” (even though the only statement from the attacker mentioned on the prosecutor’s report was one that he had made before he had spoken to his solicitor).
It was only after Police learnt that we did not buy the idea that the case was too serious to be properly investigated, and that our son and the school were not going to be demoralised and intimidated into dropping the matter, that the Borough Commander asked CI1 to launch a “full review” of the case that would involve reinvestigating the incident from scratch.
Next we’ll see if the investigation was handled properly now that CI1 was in charge…
9th January 2013 - Episode 7
Bexley Police had “messed up” their first investigation of
a serious assault, according to Chief Inspector CI1 and the incident would now
be “reinvestigated from scratch by a different team”. This different team ended
up being the same Inspector DI2 who had been “satisfied” with the first
investigation and made false claims about our son ‘striking the first blow’, the
Detective Sergeant DS2 who until recently was supervising the obscene blog
investigation and regular Constable PC2 (a personal friend of the officer PC1
who “messed up” the first investigation and whose family shared close friends
with the attacker’s family).
On meeting us, CI1 quickly promised that he would be “pushing for prosecution”. We were uncomfortable with this apparently premature judgment, as CI1 seemed to know little about the case and to be unaware of the existence of much of the evidence, but perhaps that’s how Bexley Police usually operates.
We gave CI1 a list of our main concerns about the first investigation (see below), but it later appeared that Police did not address these concerns at all in their reinvestigation:
• In the first investigation, our son’s statement was taken in dubious circumstances (see previous posts), and we were concerned that it might be inaccurate. The reinvestigation team re-interviewed our son and he gave them further important information; but although Police took new statements from every other witness, they made no record at all of our son’s re-interview in their reports. DI2 had previously confirmed what was noted in the crime report - that a further victim statement was required as a “priority action” - but now CI1 and PC2 informed us that they did not want our son to make a new statement at all. We were alarmed when CI1 then told us that our son’s original statement was the same as the attacker’s statement, and we gave him a list of several vital differences between our son’s account and the attacker’s statement. We were told that DS2 would phone us back about our concerns, but he never did. We asked if our son could see his statement to check whether it was accurate, but CI1 told us that this was not legally possible (despite him later denying that our son had ever been prevented from seeing his statement). In the end, PC2 reworded our son’s statement on her report to the CPS, showing some important details incorrectly (e.g. stating that our son had claimed he had pushed the attacker off the bench, rather than the other way round) and cutting out other important details entirely (e.g. his claim, supported by medical and eye-witness evidence, that he had been attacked from behind).
• Several of the witness statements were not submitted to the CPS after the first investigation, and again only three of the twelve available statements were noted as being provided after the reinvestigation. We had specifically highlighted the most reliable/CCTV-consistent witness statement, but no record whatsoever was made of this statement in PC2’s post-reinvestigation report to the CPS. In the original report, no note was made of the major contradictions in witness statements given by the attacker’s friends, and (despite requests from us) no such note was made after the re-investigation either. Police were required on the form to consider “witness assessment”, but no witness assessments were noted. CI1 later claimed that he would never challenge witness statements in any case, because he regarded them to be “objective facts”. (The alternative possibility - that the suspect’s friends might lie to help him get off - apparently never crossed CI1’s mind.)
• The attacker’s statement was not submitted to the CPS after the first investigation, and (despite requests from us) there is no note of it being submitted after the re-investigation either. PC2 had noted some of the attacker’s testimony on her report, but had omitted the most significant parts (including his aggressive swearing, the admission that he was motivated by anger, parts of his testimony that were inconsistent with the CCTV footage, his walking over a bench towards our son before coming down and attacking him, and his stranglehold on our son until he was pulled off by eye witnesses) – all of these self-incriminating details had been carefully sanitised out of PC2’s report.
• The medical report detailing the severity of our son’s injuries was not submitted to the CPS after the first investigation, and (despite requests from us) there is no note of it being provided after the re-investigation either.
• DI2 had originally told us that the quality of the CCTV footage was not a problem, as Police could improve it with enhancement software. However, no enhancement software was applied in the reinvestigation, and accordingly DI2 later claimed that the CCTV footage could not be used as evidence due to its “poor quality”.
We requested that the CPS be made aware of all the problems with the evidence from the first investigation, but this does not appear to have happened (despite the original investigating officer PC1 now being under investigation himself for gross misconduct in the case); and the CPS still ended up reporting that they had relied on PC1’s assurances in coming to their decision whether to prosecute (apparently in blissful ignorance of his links to the suspect and the fact that he had “messed up” the first investigation).
So if you were expecting that the Police’s ‘reinvestigation’ would now allow justice to prevail, don’t hold your breath.
16th January 2013 - Episode 8
Police had “messed up” their first investigation of a serious assault,
according to Chief Inspector CI1. You can take a look at
last week’s report and
make up your own mind about whether CI1 and his team “messed up” a second
investigation too. Based on this, the CPS’s decision was predictable – that,
once again, “no further action” would be taken against the attacker.
Police claimed to be “unhappy” with this decision and promised they would appeal against it. However, the CPS report following the appeal said that it was “not clear” from the Police’s response whether they really disagreed with the decision not to prosecute at all.
We asked for a copy of the CPS report. DI2 said he didn’t see a problem with this, but CI1 refused to give it to us, again claiming “legal privilege”. However, following further representations from David Evennett MP, CI1 did eventually send us the report. It showed that the CPS had dropped the case because Police had submitted insufficient evidence (contradicting the Police’s own report, which claimed that the CPS had dropped the case because it was “not in the public interest” to proceed).
The report from the CPS also noted:
• The Police had left them “unclear” as to how new evidence and witnesses had come to light
• No senior Police officer had submitted any grounds for the appeal, in breach of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ guidelines
• Due to the Police’s handling of the case, the courts would probably consider prosecution to be an “abuse of process”.
We wrote to the Borough Commander in Bexley, providing him with full details of the serious problems with both investigations, and offering him the opportunity to do something about it. As far as we have been made aware, he chose to do nothing about it.
The Commander did, however, promise that DS2 would give us copies of some Police reports on the case. As expected, we had to chase DS2 repeatedly for these. He firstly claimed he was unable to email them, due to lack of storage space (our Inbox was actually empty at the time). He then said he would have them dropped round to us. In the end, we had to go and ask at Bexleyheath Police station personally and wait in reception until PC2 brought them down to us, nervously blurting out that, even though the records didn’t show that she had given all the evidence to the CPS, she “distinctly remembers” doing so.
The records she handed over:
• Showed that notes about the reinvestigation only appeared in the Police’s case diary over two months after it had been completed, and after David Evennett M.P. had intervened again
• Included a ‘copy’ of the Police report to the CPS, which DS2 said had been “edited” – I didn’t realise what this meant until I noticed that it was typed onto a completely different form and even contained two fewer pages than the report that the CPS said Police had sent them
• Showed the CPS had quoted from a medical report that wasn’t even in the evidence that Police claimed they had referred to them, but appears to have made no comment about the two medical reports that Police claimed they had referred to them.
We began to wonder whether, by “edited”, DS2 actually meant ‘falsified’, but cannot believe that Bexley Police would do that sort of thing. (It is also important to remember not to hold all Bexley Police officers responsible for this shoddy catalogue of events – it was only officers DC1, PC1, PC2, DS1, DS2, DI1, DI2, DCI1, CI1 and the Borough Commander who were involved… at least at this stage.)
Next, we’ll take a look at how Bexley Police behave when they launch a misconduct investigation against one of their own…
23rd January 2013 - Episode 9
Police had “messed up” its investigation into our son’s assault; and
on finding out how much we and the school knew about PC1’s mishandling of it,
Chief Inspector CI1 promised to take tough action to deal with “rotten apples”
in the Police. We were not greatly interested in this and were chiefly
concerned that our son was not falsely blamed in Police records, but perhaps CI1
was telling us what he thought we wanted to hear.
CI1 was Head of Bexley Police’s Professional Standards Directorate, in charge of dealing with all allegations of Police corruption and poor performance across the borough and he asked Detective Sergeant DS3 to launch a misconduct investigation into PC1. We did not want to get involved in this, but CI1 spoke and wrote to us several times, insisting that we give him full details of the personal links between the families of PC1 and the attacker. So we obtained this information from our contacts and gave CI1 all of the relevant names, addresses and phone numbers and also the dates on which to examine their internet and phone records. CI1 knew the addresses well as he lived just outside the same small town in Essex where these people lived.
DS3 contacted us and we were concerned to learn that our list detailing the problems with the investigation had apparently not been passed to him. We sent him a copy of the information that we had already given to CI1 and he thanked us for supplying him with what he called “this very useful information”.
DS3 informed us that he was investigating PC1 for “gross misconduct” and that “dismissal was a possible outcome” but said that his technical investigation probably wouldn’t cover any of the information about internet or phone records that we had given him, and would be limited to looking at PC1’s Police email account. As PC1 had claimed that he didn’t know how to send emails, this would have left DS3 with nothing to investigate and only the most foolish officer would pervert the course of justice on his official Police email in any case; so we couldn’t see how this would yield anything whatsoever.
It was important that DS3 assessed the integrity of PC1’s evidence urgently as the case was soon to be reconsidered by the CPS. However, six months later, the CPS had already reconsidered PC1’s evidence two more times but the gross misconduct investigation was said to be still “ongoing”. We asked if the CPS had been informed of the details of this investigation and were told that it hadn’t.
Finally we were notified of the verdict - that PC1 had committed “misconduct”. We asked DS3 to let us know which of the allegations against PC1 had been considered to be without foundation, leading to the charge to be downgraded from “gross misconduct” to “misconduct”, but DS3 said that he needed to “take advice” about this and subsequently failed to answer our question.
DS3 informed us that he had examined interaction between PC1 and the attacker’s family and “concluded that it was at a professional level”, despite PC1 apparently not knowing how to make electronic communications.
DS3 also told us that his investigation did not relate to the “reliability” of PC1’s evidence, but only to its “completeness”. We took this to mean that none of the following questions over reliability had been investigated at all:
• Personal links to the attacker's family.
• Inappropriate advocacy in support of the attacker.
• Failing to note or challenge clear omissions and inconsistencies in the attacker's accounts.
• Acting “dismissive and disinterested” on learning that damage to our son’s eyesight could be permanent.
• Unprofessionally dismissing the police complaints procedure.
• Declining to receive evidence.
• Disposing of evidence.
• Altering witness statements and attempting to conceal alterations.
• Giving false quotes from witness statements in reports to the CPS.
• Making false claims to the CPS about witnesses refusing to give statements.
• Making false claims of being in possession of all the witness statements, of obtaining a further statement from our son, of having no case references from the CPS, and about CCTV footage that he hadn’t seen.
• Taking a statement from our under-age son with no other adult present and with both parents having been asked to leave the room.
• Potentially causing the failure of the prosecution by notifying the attacker that no further action would be taken against him before the supervisor had considered whether to appeal this decision.
Apparently, none of these matters gave the Police any reason to question PC1’s “reliability” in this case, and the only issue they investigated was how thoroughly he had done his job.
We asked DS3 what the terms of his investigation were but he said he was “unable” to tell us as the matter had been referred by Bexley Police’s Senior Management Team and we were not “entitled” to find out which allegations they had asked him to investigate. (The Senior Management Team that apparently ensured this cover-up comprised Bexley’s Borough Commander, Detective Chief Inspector, all of its Chief Inspectors, its Higher Analyst, Forensic Manager, Resources Manager, Performance & Review Manager, Finance Manager, HR Manager and Specials Manager.)
DS3 said that PC1 had received the maximum possible sanction for “misconduct” which we later learnt was a letter about it being held on file for 18 months – in contrast to the false records that Police made about our son, which would be held on file indefinitely.
Our son paid the Police a £10 [Subject Access Request] fee to see what had been written about him in Police files but was then told that he was not allowed to see anything at all, because it was likely to prejudice DS3’s criminal investigation of PC1 - despite learning later that PC1 had not been investigated for a crime at all, but only for the lowest possible level of misconduct.
Next, we’ll look at how Bexley Police took action that prevented our son from getting the compensation to which he was entitled for his injuries.
30th January 2013 - Episode 10
Police conducted two investigations into a serious assault on our son – read
and decide for yourselves whether they were satisfactory.
Major breaches of procedure led to the attacker (who was linked to the
investigating officer PC1) being let off and our son being blamed in Police
records (‘completely wrongly’, according to a judge). And concerted action from
PC1’s colleagues and superior officers resulted in a misconduct finding against
PC1 being downgraded so that he escaped any meaningful sanction.
When we informed Detective Inspector DI2 that we would be taking the matter further, he suggested our son apply for criminal injuries compensation instead. We understood that false information in Police records would make this impossible but DI2 assured us that Bexley Police would not accuse our son of anything. To make doubly sure of this, we wrote to the then Borough Commander, noting and evidencing the various errors on Police records and asking him not to disclose this false information to anyone else. We then went to Bexleyheath Police Station to meet him, Chief Inspector CI1 and Detective Sergeant DS2 so that we could express our concerns face-to-face.
Our son duly submitted his application for compensation and three months later was notified that he would receive no compensation at all, based on a report received from Bexley Police. We later discovered that the form completed by them was firstly allocated to PC1 (the officer who was linked to the attacker and committed misconduct in the initial investigation), and then to TDC1 (the other officer who was in charge of this “messed up” initial investigation).
On the form, TDC1 reported that our son had “started fight” – a claim that the judge ruled was “inaccurate”. This alone would have prevented our son from receiving any compensation; but in case it didn’t, TDC1 also stated completely the wrong injury and grossly understated the secondary injuries (see image below), reducing the compensation that he would have been eligible to receive by 83%.
TDC1 reported that she had “returned” this form on 29 June 2011, only Bexley Police didn’t actually send it off straight away. Instead, unidentified officers held onto it for a further eight weeks, making alterations to it and adding extra false information that the form never asked for (e.g. claims about the attacker acting in “clear self-defence” and about our son being “the aggressor”, both of which were ruled “completely wrong” by the judge). According to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, several pages had also been removed from the report before the Police sent it.
Despite various officers spending the best part of two months ‘processing’ this form, Police asked the judge to “skip past” all of its errors and not allow them to be corrected, on the grounds that they had only been made “in handwriting quickly done” – reasoning that the judge understandably rejected.
In order to show that Police records about him were false, our son was required to submit a formal appeal containing 31 pages of evidence. Eleven months of investigation later, the adjudicator concluded that “in view of the problems with the police investigation in this case, I have had to look elsewhere for independent information” and “am satisfied that Jonathan’s own conduct is not in question”. As a result, his claim for compensation was ultimately awarded in full.
Initially, we believed that our terrible treatment at the hands of Bexley Police must have been a one-off, but the way in which they are reported to be handling the obscene blog investigation suggests their problems are much more widespread and deep-rooted than we realised. We are now beginning to wonder how many other Bexley victims of crime have been treated in this shoddy way, and whether Commander Olisa will ever be able to restore the excellent reputation that his force once had.