Friday, 20 May 2016

Great Britain or Greater Gotham

Police and Crime Commissioner scandals
In 2012 David Cameron, our Beloved Leader and supposed scourge of big government, introduced the new bureaucratic office of Police and Crime Commissioner to monitor the conduct of the police (a job that the Chief Constable was paid to do).  The government’s argument, presumably, was that the police could not be trusted to act within the law and needed to be watched.

Each Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) was to be paid an annual salary of £86,000 and given undisclosed pension rights.  They would be free to appoint assistants and helpers to the tune of £500,000 (per local police force) and it goes without saying that they would be supplied with top-of-the-range limousines and generous expense accounts.

So how have things gone since 2012?

Just 15% of the electorate turned out to vote for this new tier of bureaucrat; surveys show that only 39% of the population are even aware of their existence and just 8% of people know the name of the local Police and Crime Commissioner.

Immediately after the election of my local PCC he was investigated for election fraud.  The local paper wrote: “It is claimed that Mr Roddick,  a QC and a former leader of the Wales and Chester judicial circuit, listed his brother’s house in Caernarfon in a nomination form for last November’s PCC election, when his main home is 160 miles away in the Welsh capital. Under electoral regulations, candidates must live within the force border on polling day. Mr Roddick has insisted that he acted in a  “right and proper” way.”

Simon Hayes the PCC for Hampshire faced a similar ‘investigation’.  No surprise – both were exonerated.  The process is known in ‘the trade’ as “flipping”.  Your main home is at one address when you want to claim travel expenses, then it is “flipped” to your second home when you want the taxpayer to pay your rent or mortgage, then it is “flipped” again when you decide to sell in order to avoid Capital Gains Tax.  Everyone who is anyone in government is doing it (including our Beloved Leader).

Simon Hayes continued to get himself into difficulties; first by claiming ferry expenses (to the Isle of Wight) on a car that was not his and then (accidentally) double claiming.  At various times during his tenure in office he has been accused of “covering up child abuse crimes, assaults, harassment and making personal attacks on the very people he is meant to represent”.
In 2014 he invited the BBC to film what was supposed to be a private meeting with residents which resulted in some of the audience being subjected to threats and intimidation.

The IPCC (the Independent Police and Complaints Commission) rebuked him for refusing to record and take action against a complaint by a Mr John Caine who, among other things, alleged that the local council had been instrumental in having his website removed from the Internet after he made negative comments about the (public) organisation.

Meanwhile, over in Kent, Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes failed to distinguish herself in a programme made by the BBC: she struggled to explain what her job actually involved, had difficulty defining an approach to policing priorities she called "the onion", failed to write her title correctly on a whiteboard, and was filmed painting her nails at her desk.

She then appointed a Ms Kerry Boyd as ‘youth crime commissioner’ who was immediately suspended following allegations she had a “close friendship” with married ex-Conservative councillor Robert Burgess.

Worse was to follow: she had an accident in her Mercedes Benz which she had not insured.  The Crown Prosecution Service generously decided it was “not in the public interest” to prosecute her.

In South Yorkshire (this is the police force that now stands indicted of complicity and cover-up in the unlawful killing of 96 football supporters), the man in charge of Rotherham Council’s Children’s Services department was Shaun Wright.  During his time in office hundreds of complaints of child sex abuse were made to the council and the police.  All of them were deliberately covered-up.  As a reward for his ‘services to the community’ Mr Wright was installed as Police and Crime Commissioner – until even ‘call me Dave’, the Prime Minister, felt the need to call for his resignation.

In Birmingham, Britain’s ‘second city’, Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has banned the local newspaper from asking him questions because he did not like its investigation of his ‘jobs-for-the-family’ policy.  He has stated that he will only answer questions submitted under the Freedom of Information Act.

The newly appointed Devon and Cornwall PCC, Alison Hernandez, is being investigated by her own police force for Election Fraud – a crime that carries a one year prison sentence – because, as agent for the local Conservative MP she failed to declare election expenses correctly.

‘Queen of the PCCs’ has to be Katy Bourne, aka “Teflon Lady” because nothing sticks.  Her qualification for post of Police and Crime Commissioner is that she was once a ‘pole dancing instructor’.  She has been reported to the Sussex Police and Crime Panel for lying about her expenses and is the subject of another complaint that she had a Youtube video removed because it criticised her appointment as Sussex PCC.

There are, however, some much more serious allegations floating around – and, of course, you won’t find them reported in the national or local press.  Her name has reportedly been mentioned in the recent ‘Panama Papers’ Tax Haven scandal, currently being investigated by Scotland Yard’s Serious Fraud Squad (so I have to be careful what I say).  The allegation is that she “set up off shore companies and shell companies and other accounts to hide money before being elected as Sussex Police Crime Commissioner in November 2012.”  Mrs Bourne says she is “an arms-length shareholder and not a director” in these companies.

Other allegations concern transfers of £5 million pounds in drug money.

Her husband, the ex-HSBC banker, Kevin Bourne, (not named in the Panama Papers) was a key player in the U.S. sub-prime bubble which cost its shareholders more than $15 billion in losses.

The website
reports that “A spokesperson from The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists would only say that a UK member of the Consortium was investigating this and other UK based persons which had leads of money being paid into Companies linked to Jimmy Saville and members of Sussex Police.”

Make of that what you will.

So this is the world of our guardians of law and order – the Police and Crime Commissioners.   I leave the final comment to, Graham Cox,  a former Detective Chief Superintendent in charge of Sussex CID: 
"the police communications department turns out turgid press releases that then run the risk of being recycled into equally turgid news reports”.

More at: