N Yorks Authorities ‘data-kettling’ NYP&C Chair expenses enquiry?

  • an ‘In My View’ article, by Nigel Ward, reporting on the thunderous silence and pungent aroma of cover-up emanating from North Yorkshire authorities regarding allegations implicit in public record evidence that a  public servant’s Expenses claims appear to have been fraudulent.

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IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

Almost a month ago, on 27th May 2013, Real Whitby ran an article entitled “Police Chief’s ‘Impossible Journeys’”, in which certain discrepancies from the public record of 2010/11 Mileage Claim Forms signed and submitted by County Councillor Carl LES (who is also Chair of the North Yorkshire Police & Crime Panel) were exposed.

Briefly, an examination of County Councillor Carl LES’s travel expenses with two local authorities – North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and the now-defunct North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA) – detected a significant number of claims for journeys that could not possibly have taken place as claimed, in virtue of the fact that County Councillor Carl LES, despite his many other accomplishments, does not have the capability to be in his car travelling to and from a given destination at the same time as he travels in his car to and form another quite different destination.

In short, it is apparently the case that Councillor Carl LES, by his own hand, has been caught “bang to rights” falsely declaring his mileage expenses. (And this comes three months after County Councillor Carl LES admitted, in an email to a member of the public, that he had failed to updated his Register of Interests within the legal requirement period of 28 days; a criminal offence under the terms of the Localism Act 2011, but no action taken by the authorities).

The sequence of events since that article was published reflects very poorly on all of the local authorities involved.

North Yorkshire County Council

Prior to publication of the Carl LES article, I emailed David BOWE, who is NYCC Corporate Director, alerting him to the discrepancies and requesting a comment for publication. David BOWE did not respond to my email.

During the days following publication of the article, Real Whitby was contacted by a member of the public (MOTP), complaining that he had been outraged by the revelations in the article. He has been attempting to report the matter to the North Yorkshire Police (NYP) at Scarborough Police Station.

On Friday 7th June 2103, I emailed David BOWE again, requesting an acknowledgement of my email of 27th May and requesting details of if and when the matter had been referred to the NYP by NYCC. I also offered him a second opportunity to make a statement for publication.

Five days later, on 12th June, I received an email from NYCC Chief Exec Richard FLINTON, informing me that the matter had been passed to NYCC Monitoring Officer Carole DUNN, who would “respond to me directly”. This was more than a little disingenuous of Richard FLINTON, since he is aware that I have an outstanding Formal Complaint against Carole DUNN in respect of past cover-ups, and, contrary to NYCC regulations, Richard FLINTON has point-blank refused to process my Formal Complaint against Carole DUNN in accordance with Council regulations, on the grounds that he has every confidence in her. I do not. And I have previously made Richard FLINTON aware that I have blocked Carole DUNN’s email address, as I refuse to engage with any paid public servant whom I believe to be corrupt.

In simple language, Richard FLINTON looks to have shunted the Carl LES issue off down a blind alley.

Two days later, on 14th June 2013, I finally had word from David BOWE, who provided me with the redundant information that he had passed the matter to Richard FLINTON and Carole DUNN. Thank you, David. Keep up the good work.

In simple terms, NYCC has been attempting to “stonewall” the Carl LES issue by the time-tested technique of sending me around in circles.

So I emailed Richard FLINTON on Monday 17th June requesting contact details for both the Internal and External Auditors of NYCC.

Late on Thursday 20th June 2013, I received this rather terse response from Richard FLINTON:

Nigel

The Audit Manager for Deloitte is Chris Powell and his contact details:

cdpowell@deliotte.co.uk

Deloitte LLP

1 City Square

Leeds

LS1 2AL

Max Thomas is Head of Internal Audit, his contact details are:

Max.thomas@veritau.co.uk

Veritau Limited

County Hall

Northallerton

DL7 8AL

Regards

Richard Flinton

I suspect Richard FLINTON is still smarting after the exposure of NYCC Investigating Officer Catriona GATTRELL’s whitewash of the serious complaints against County Councillor John BLACKBURN.

Perhaps that is why Richard FLINTON neglects to mention that County Councillor Carl LES was appointed to the Board of Directors of Veritau Limited the day after the Real Whitby exposé was published!

Both Richard FLINTON and County Councillor Carl LES are now fellow Board Members of another NYCC company – NYNet Ltd (purveyors of high-speed Broadband connectivity). As I said to Richard FLINTON, I really begin to wonder if you have the first inkling of what transparency and accountability is about.

*** STOP PRESS ***

Very shortly before publication of this article, I received a belated response from Richard FLINTON, informing me that the internal NYCC investigation will indeed be conducted by Veritau Ltd.  He also states that “there will be a thorough internal audit investigation without any regard for the position of Cllr Les as Company Director.”

How reassuringly cosy.

North Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner

Back on 12th June 2013, I emailed Julia Mulligan, who is the Police & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, apprising her of the fact that a large question mark now hangs over the Chair of her Police & Crime Panel, urging her intervention, and requesting a statement for publication.

Guess what? No response. And this is the sixth occasion on which I have apprised Julia MULLIGAN of corruption issues ranging from “The Clergyman’s Widow” to the Jimmy Savile cover-up.

Julia MULLIGAN has NEVER responded to me – even when I drew her attention to the remarks by the Rt. Hon. George Mudie MP [Lab] – (Leeds East) in the Yorkshire Post, stating:

  • “I see transparency and accountability as things a police commissioner should have at the top of their agenda.”

In the same article, Leeds North East MP Fabian HAMILTON [Lab] is quoted as stating:

  • “It cannot be right that the police are like a closed shop and they do things in their interest and against the public interest.”

I heartily concur with both of those sentiments. Julia MULLIGAN [Con] apparently does not.

North Yorkshire Police

  • “THAT PARTICULARLY DUBIOUS CONSTABULARY THAT MERITS CAREFUL INVESTIGATION” (Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, referring to North Yorkshire Police and their handling of the Hofschröer fraud and abuse case).

Returning now to the attempts to report the matter to the North Yorkshire Police, here follows the timeline of a series of attempts by a member of the public (MOTP) to report compelling prima facie evidence of an apparent Mileage Claim Form fraud crime to NYP (as provided to me by the MOTP himself):

MOTP’s Time-Line

  • c. 6th June: – Report made to police station in Scarborough. The police constable on the front desk was very helpful, and courteous. The officer who listened, was patient, and helpful. He advised me that a specialist team is available to take information related to fraud and could help me with this case. This team could be contacted via telephone and would take all of the information I had.
  • Call made to Fraud reporting line, and after a lengthy discussion with a female, all information was recorded. She took my contact information, and asked me to preserve all of the evidence I had in my possession, in case it was needed in the future. I didn’t get a reference from the lady, and this did not occur to me until after the call, because of the fact that it was a lengthy call, and there was a lot of information to convey in that time
  • c. 8th June. – I called through to 101 and asked stated that I had contacted the Fraud reporting line, and asked if it was possible to get a reference number for the above. The man I spoke to was very helpful, and told me that I would need to call the above number again, because they were a separate unit.
  • I called through to the Fraud reporting line, and there was either a fault on the system, or I was on hold for what seemed like an eternity, and I couldn’t get through.
  • c. 11th June. – Due to having a clear-out at home, the original paper with the Fraud Reporting telephone number on was misplaced, and I couldn’t locate the original number. So I called through, to 101 again and explained the situation, and that I was after a reference number. I spoke to a man who was very helpful, and checked their computer system for a crime report number. He couldn’t find one, but offered to put me in touch with the original officer who I went to see at Scarborough Police Station.
  • c. 12th Jun. – I did get a call from an unknown number (according to the missed calls on my home phone), but I was out at the time of the call, and this could well have been the officer returning my call.
  • 13th June  – I discovered that there is a national organisation for this sort of crime called Action Fraud. I called them and spoke to a man who also couldn’t find any details about my original report on their database, and seemed a bit confused about this. So, he took all of my details again, took the details of the crime and issued me with a report number – 130600277828. I was again advised to retain all evidence, so that it could be called upon if needed by the investigation. I was also asked for my permission to contact me again if the investigation needed it. I gave my permission, and we concluded the call. Nothing since.

The next day, in the afternoon of Friday 14th June 2013, I emailed Det. Insp. Ian WILLS of the NYP Major Fraud Investigation Team – a highly respected fraud investigator of the first order – alerting him to the situation and requesting a NYP Crime Reference Number.

The following Monday morning (17th June 2013), Ian WILLS responded promptly, apologising for the (negligible) delay, and taking a step sideways by stating:

  • I cannot deal with your request and have forwarded it to the press office where all such requests should be made.

He did not include a contact email address for the Press Office, but I did locate (on the NYP web-site) a number of contacts addresses at the Press Office and I immediately emailed all of them (collectively), requesting the NYP Crime Reference Number and a short statement for publication.

I received no response from the NYP Press Office, but later in the day I did receive an email from, Steve READ, who is the Head of the Professional Standards Directorate at NYP (i.e. the Force spin doctor), requesting to see the evidence (which consists solely of County Councillor Carl LES’s NYCC and NYPA Mileage Claims Forms – already in the public domain as FOIA responses) and stating that:

  • “North Yorkshire Police are required to act in accordance with data protection and human rights legislation and it would therefore not be appropriate for North Yorkshire Police to disclose to third parties, information which would confirm or deny the existence of ongoing investigations”.

Nevertheless, he requested that I should identify the MOTP and providing his/her contact details, in disregard of Data Protection and Human Rights legislation. He could simply have called the Action Fraud helpline.

  • “I should be very grateful if you would be kind enough to provide the contact details for that member of the public in order to facilitate contact by North Yorkshire Police with her/him in respect of this matter”.

That seems to me smack of “one rule for County Councillor Carl LES – another rule for members of the public”; but surely not. Or?

Once again, I responded almost immediately (late afternoon of Monday 17th June 2013), directing Steve READ to the public record evidence, stating the Action Fraud Crime Reference Number (130600277828), and offering to provide a comparison-spreadsheet giving a clear overview of the “impossible journeys”. I also suggested to him that it would not be difficult to find a form of words to provide at least some transparency in a statement to the public:

  • “However, in the interests of expediency, I can imagine that you would be more comfortable responding to a request for immediate information, confirming or denying that North Yorkshire Police has received a complaint in respect of a County Councillor (remembering that there are seventy-two County Councillors, so it could hardly be said that the identity of any putative suspect was being disclosed) alleged to have made false claims in respect of Mileage Claim Forms for North Yorkshire County Council and another Authority.”

Well. The week rolled by and I heard nothing more from Steve READ. I can only conclude that he does not want to see the comparison-spreadsheet and he does not want to offer at least some transparency to the public. I rather suspect that he believes corrupt acts on the part of fellow North Yorkshire Police personnel are not matters that fall within the public interest.

So on Thursday 20th July 2013, I emailed the new Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, Dave JONES. Dave JONES is a newly appointed import from Northern Ireland, widely welcomed as the “new broom” who will sweep away persistent allegations of corruption within NYP and the defunct NYPA or its successor, the NYP&CP.

Let us hope so. It has been widely reported that he has already challenged Police & Crime Commissioner Julia MULLIGAN over certain unspecified issues. The Northern Echo quotes him as stating:

“It’s clear that I am held to account through the commissioner, but I will be making the tough operational decisions about how we do our policing on a ground level.”

The operational buck stops with him. So I have appealed to the new Chief Constable to send a strong signal to the people of North Yorkshire that the culture of cover-up and corruption in the region’s Police Force is over, starting right now with an open and transparent investigation that cuts right through the cronyism of the Kenyon/Maxwell/Briggs era.

Sad to relate, I have yet to see a response.

If we are to witness the “new broom” sweeping clean, I fear we will have to wait until County Councillor Carl LES and his “impossible journeys” have quietly been brushed under the carpet. Until then, it looks like business as usual amongst the too-closely-knit North Yorkshire authorities ‘mafia’.

I would like to eradicate corruption in our County and I expect the new Chief Constable to assist in that endeavour – not to block it. He needs to remember that it is not the reporting of Police misconduct that gives his Force a bad name – that is entirely down to conduct of its Officers.

Summary

In my view, not one of the local authorities has handled the Carl LES allegations in a professional way.

The only explanation that I can offer is this:

There is a conspiracy of protection surrounding certain figures in North Yorkshire, and central to that conspiracy is the influence of former members of the North Yorkshire Police Authority – of which County Councillor Carl LES was Vice Chair (second in command to the then-Chair, former County Councillor Jane KENYON, who is herself presently the subject of two Police investigations into criminal conduct, with a third complaint reported only last week).

But let us give new Chief Constable Dave JONES a chance – and may the Force be with him.

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Related Reading:

“Police Chief’s ‘Impossible Journeys’”

“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”

“Kopz & Robbaz”

“Open Letter: Jeremy Holderness – CEO NYPA”

“North Yorkshire Police – Musical Chairs?”

“Formal Challenge to NYP Annual Accounts”

“County Cllr Carl Les’s NYPA Mileage Irregularities”

“Corruption In North Yorkshire”

“Tim HICKS’ ‘Operation Countryman II’ Series”

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