- Car trouble - 2nd June 2023
- Reading the riot act part two - 1st June 2023
- Reading the riot act part one - 31st May 2023
Once more police behaviour has been seriously questioned, and headlines in UK newspapers about this force have again raised issues concerning the biggest one in Wales.
In a damning review by Baroness Louise Casey, who spent a year investigating the Metropolitan Police (Met) in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Counzens, she said it needed a “complete overhaul”.
She told how police officers were racist as well as homophobic, and that internal investigations rarely resulted in a dismissal.
For example, one officer who was caught publicly masturbating on a train, stayed in his job and this, according to Baroness Casey “does my head in”. Among a series of recommendations to “fix” the Met, she said the unit in which both David Carrick – who was unmasked as one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders – and Couzens served, should be “effectively disbanded”. The Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, described her revelations as “embarrassing”, and “very, very worrying”.
This demand puts centre stage calls also to disband the WHOLE of the largest force in Wales (South Wales Police [SWP]) after a series of appalling miscarriage of justice cases, and amid growing alarm that a country of only 3.1 million people has FOUR police services.
Controversy concerning police officers has been prompted, as well, after another shocking report – this time in a newspaper.
The Metro’s front page (under the headline: ‘RING OF HATRED INSIDE THE MET’), explained how a disciplinary panel had been told that a police sergeant led his officers in a two-year torrent of abuse against women, gay people, ethnic minorities and the disabled. The paper publicised how it had heard that in a What’sApp group named “Scarlet Squirrel S…”, Luke Thomas ‘joked’ about naming his dog “Auschwitz”, called a rapist cop “a legend…”, and said any non-binary person person was an “utter c…”. He repeatedly mocked Harvey Price, the disabled son of Katie Price.
In November an inspection report found, too, that a culture of “misogyny, sexism, (and) predatory behaviour towards female police officers and staff and members of the public” was “prevalent” in the Met, as well as SEVEN other forces.
The police have also been accused of abusing their power to strip-search children, with black children much more likely than white children to be selected by officers for the ordeal.
Data collected by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) found there were at least 2,847 recorded strip-searches of children pre-arrest across England and Wales between 2018 and 2022 under stop and search powers. An official report released yesterday said 38 percent of children strip-searched were black (with the youngest child being just eight years old), and about a quarter were 10-15.
Then there is the question of corruption within the police, and the unsuccessful attempts that have been made internally to root it out. Operation Othona was a covert operation, gathering intelligence on corruption, set up in 1993, and which made UK headlines, but it appeared to show that senior officers were more worried about exposing corruption, than in what was happening.
The police are now in what one officer has described as “the last chance saloon”.
SWP particularly, may be having a drink in that saloon, because it has had to confront huge criticism that officers reacted too slowly before a horrendous Cardiff car crash earlier this month, which resulted in the deaths of three young people.
A friend of those who died, Tamzin Samuels, said: “I do think the police could have done a lot more in putting the helicopters out earlier. They only posted the appeal an hour before the girls were found. We found them before the police found them – we rang the police. The search party found the girls before the police found the girls. I think that speaks volumes really, they had all that equipment, and we had cars when we were looking.”
Eve Smith, Darcy Ross, and Rafel Jeanne, died after the Volkswagen Tiguan they were travelling in came off the A48(M) in the Welsh capital and crashed into trees. Sophie Russon, and Shane Loughlin, who were in the same vehicle, also suffered serious injuries and were taken to hospital.
All five were reported missing following a night out, and were last seen in the Llanedeyrn area of Cardiff at around 2am on a Saturday morning. A vigil was held for the victims on the following Tuesday at the scene of the fatal crash, although many appeared to be critical of the police’s behaviour, and the incident caused a huge political storm.
A Plaid Cymru (PC) politician declared that the Welsh Government (WG) must not disregard public anguish. Peredur Owen Griffiths MS, told the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) that there had been “a great deal of public distress” following the crash, and added: “It would be wrong to pre-empt any findings of…an investigation, but you cannot ignore the public disquiet from the families and the friends of the crash victims”.
Welsh Conservative (WC) leader Andrew RT Davies MS, asked whether any Welsh Government (WG) agencies, along with the police, would have been made aware of the missing people at the time. He said: “I understand, obviously, the referral to the police complaints authority, but this is a part of the trunk road agency – the A48 is, close to the M4 – when a missing persons alert is put out by the police, what agencies that the Welsh Government sponsor would be alerted to such a missing persons alert?”.
Ms Russon’s mother Anna Certowicz, has told the Daily Mail that police officers warned her to “stop ringing” the station for updates after reporting her daughter missing.
She said: “I had to drive to Cardiff to knock on doors myself because they were doing sod all. They just didn’t seem to think it was worth investigating. It was so frustrating”.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said: “After careful assessment of referrals from Gwent Police and South Wales Police, we have decided to independently investigate how police responded to the missing person reports”. Some critics have even raised the possibility that the young people may have survived if the car had been found earlier. Police issued a public appeal for help on the Sunday night before the crash at 11pm – more than a day after the first missing person report.
However, these are not the only challenges for SWP. A member of the public was left furious by a lack of response when he telephoned a non-emergency line to make SWP officers aware of a child welfare issue (two young children were ‘boxing’). He was put on hold for more than 25 minutes, before eventually being told that no action would be taken, and he said with exasperation: “If they get injured it’s on you. OK?”.
Sky documentaries were broadcast earlier last year, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), looking into a FURTHER example of apparent impropriety – police investigations following the horrific Clydach murders in 1999, when four people (Mandy Power her elderly disabled mother Doris, and two young children) were brutally beaten to death.
This, too, has been highlighted by the reports of police actions (or inactions!), despite the fact it is not (in theory) a miscarriage of justice case, although the man convicted of them (David ‘Dai’ Morris) died in jail still protesting his innocence. They were nominated for two awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony, including one for best Factual Series.
Another television programme late last year, on 5Star (which pretended to be looking into ‘cold cases’), though was VERY different. and incurred the wrath of many close to what had happened. 5Star is a free-to-air television channel owned by Paramount Networks UK & Australia and a sister to Channel 5, which specialises in documentaries.
One of the daughters of Mr Morris, Janiene Marie O’Sullivan, publicly declared to her dedicated website group: “I am finding it difficult to put into words how it made me feel….Basically it was a whole hour of Martin Lloyd-Evans (who led the investigation into the Clydach Murders) talking rubbish!…South Wales police have done themselves no favours again with this one”.
Mr Morris’s sister Debra Thomas also said on the site: “Can you believe the utter verbal diarrhoea Martin Lloyd was spouting in that cheap channel 5 program…I also know the journalist is on this group so I hope and pray she gets to read this.” And: “What disgraceful journalism!! They should hang their heads in shame”. The website Mrs Thomas helped set up, along with her niece, questions her brother’s guilt and has almost 31,000 members. On it she published a reply from Channel 5 to her complaint about the programme, but above the letter she wrote: “What research did they do????”.
The successful prosecution case against Mr Morris was that he had gone to Ms Power’s looking for sex, high on drink and drugs, been spurned and beat the entire family to death, leaving his chain there in the process.
Yet the evidence suggested Doris had been killed first, NOT her daughter, when presumably it would have been the person doing the spurning who would have died FIRST!
Mr O’Brien appears on MITV saying that he believes the conviction of Mr Morris IS in fact a miscarriage of justice. He told the MITV documentary-makers: “When I was released from prison I remember…saying ‘I’m going to be South Wales Police’s worst nightmare for what they did to me’, and I meant every word of it”.
In a formal interview for MITV (they wouldn’t do one with Phil), Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) of SWP, David Thorne, made a startling admission, about the mistakes that were made by the police in the earlier miscarriages of justice. During filming for the programme Mr Thorne appeared on, a forensic review found traces of DNA on a sock which it is believed was used to hold the murder weapon, that were “more likely than not” to have come from Mr Morris, and SWP trumpeted the finding. They effectively said: ‘We know we got it wrong in the past, but this time is different. Trust us’.
Yet a long-running campaign has been launched to establish his innocence, and after the first trial when Mr Morris was convicted, his sister Debra gave a tearful press conference with her parents when she stressed her belief that he was NOT guilty. She said: “He just didn’t do these things…they’ve got the wrong man”.
ACC Thorne, though, insisted on MITV, that Mr Morris was the RIGHT man, but acknowledged that mistakes had been made in previous police inquiries. He proclaimed: “It’s safe to say we got it wrong (in the past). We absolutely got it wrong. (There were) HUGE errors in the way investigations were conducted (but) we HAVEN’T found that in this case. This is not a miscarriage of justice”.
However Phil had made a BBC Panorama television programme about the shocking Clydach Murders a few years after they had been committed, and he was the first to question the police actions during THIS investigation too. As he said in the opening of the programme: “One police force in Britain has a disturbing record of locking up the wrong people in murder cases”.
During MITV, the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) at the time, Detective Superintendent (DS) (Retd.) of South Wales Police (SWP) Martyn Lloyd Evans, is questioned about the apparent mistake of not releasing to the public a witnesses E-Fit constructed soon after the murders, which, it said, had a 90 per cent likeness. He replies that because the man seen was carrying a bag, and it was believed the killer did not have one, it was not put out.
Mr Evans said: “I didn’t think it was relevant”, but the E-Fit matched almost exactly the face of the first senior police officer on the scene, Inspector (at the time) Stuart Lewis, who (against all procedure) had only stayed there a matter of minutes, or that of his identical twin brother (another police officer, Sergeant [also at the time] Stephen Lewis, whose wife was having a gay affair with one of the victims). Inspector Stuart Lewis, had changed his shift to be on that night, however at crucial hours during the murders his whereabouts were unknown. He was driving a red Peugeot diesel, and a car similar to this was spotted near the murder scene. So to say the E-Fit was ‘not relevant’, appeared bizarre in the extreme, to critics of the police.
In the MITV films Mr Evans’ boss as the then head of SWP CID, Wynne Phillips, also said something incredible: “We can’t manufacture evidence”. But events before the murders, showed that SWP have done EXACTLY that.
To take just one of those cases (in which Phil was intimately involved, because he had made ANOTHER programme questioning THAT conviction [The Cardiff Newsagent Three]), the police MANUFACTURED (as Mr Phillips said they DIDN’T do) an overheard ‘confession’ between the young men they had arrested, when an admission was effectively made to the murder of the newsagent, and they presented before the court ‘EVIDENCE’ that the group had run from the scene, but one of the three had bad legs and couldn’t run at all.
Now there is MORE evidence of investigations into the behaviour of officers, endorsing calls that some police services should be scrapped altogether…
Details of stories like these, after 23 years with The BBC, and 39 years in journalism, by our Editor Phil Parry as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
‘Ill discipline parts two and three’ come soon.
Tomorrow – how during 23 years with the BBC, and 39 years in journalism (when he was trained to use simple language, avoiding jargon), using correct words has always been crucial for our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry, but now we see the cliché ‘witch-hunt’ wheeled out yet again – this time by supporters of the embattled ex-Presideng Donald Trump.