IPPc investigation The Metropolitan Police Service

IPCC investigation into the actions of officers who attended the home of Mr A – 12 November of 2013

Report informationSource
In March 2015 the IPCC began an independent investigation after twice upholding appeals from Mr A concerning the Metropolitan Police’s handling of his complaint. The complaint concerned the actions of two officers who attended his address and a further officer who initially investigated his complaint following a neighbour dispute.
IPPc investigation The Metropolitan Police Service

It is the view of the IPCC that during complaint investigations, obtaining
verbal accounts only is not best practice.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Terms of reference
  3. Complaints
  4. Subjects to the investigation
  5. Chronological summary of events
  6. Original investigation into Mr A’s complaint
  7. Conclusions
    • The actions of PS Wright in deciding to send PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook to Mr A’s home
    • Whether the information received from Wenlock Barn TMO was correctly handled by the Metropolitan Police
    • The handling of the investigation into Mr A’s original complaint and the subsequent re-investigation as directed by the IPCC
    • The actions of the Metropolitan Police against the IPCC discrimination guidance
  8. Complaints

Introduction

1. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) responded to an email from Wenlock Barn Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), part of Hackney Council’s housing provision, following a complaint they received from one of Mr A’s neighbours. It was alleged in the complaint from his neighbour that Mr A had stood staring in their kitchen window while they cooked and also into their living room late in the evening. They complained that they found this intimidating. Two police officers, PC Sammy Harrington and PC Daniel Fullbrook were dispatched to Mr A’s home to ask him to cease this behaviour.

2. Mr A made a complaint against PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook and the officer who had deployed them. This officer was identified as PS Sue Wright. PS Wright met with Mr A and completed a complaint investigation. Mr A appealed the outcome as PS Wright was one of the officers that he was complaining against. This appeal was upheld and the IPCC requested a separate investigating officer complete a fresh investigation. Inspector Martin Waugh was allocated the investigation and produced a report. Mr A appealed a second time and his appeal was again upheld by the IPCC on the grounds that:

  • The nine allegations that Mr A raised in his complaint were not responded to (these related to five key areas which were subject to this IPCC investigation).
  • Relevant information from the investigation was not provided to the IPCC. It was found that officer’s accounts were only verbal in the first investigation and PC Fullbrook did not provide any account for the second investigation.
  • No sufficient rationale was provided for either of the investigator’s conclusions and no analysis was provided as to whether any of the officers had a case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.
  • The allegation that officers discriminated against Mr A was not responded to in line with IPCC discrimination guidance.

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Terms of reference

3. The terms of reference for the investigation were agreed by IPCC Associate Commissioner Tom Milsom on 11 March 2015:

  • 1. To investigate:
    • the actions of PS Wright in deciding to send PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook to Mr A’s home
    • the actions of the officers who attended
    • the handling of the investigation into Mr A’s original IPCC Final Report Page 4 of 13 complaint and the subsequent re-investigation as directed by the IPCC
    • whether the information received from Wenlock Barn TMO was correctly handled by the Metropolitan Police
    • the actions of the Metropolitan Police against the IPCC discrimination guidance

2. To identify whether any subject of the investigation may have committed a criminal offence and, if appropriate, send a copy of the investigation report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for him to decide whether criminal proceedings are to be brought.

3. To identify whether any subject of the investigation may have breached their standards of professional behaviour. If such a breach may have occurred, to determine whether that breach amounts to misconduct or gross misconduct and whether there is a case to answer.

4. To consider and report on whether there is organisational learning, including:

  • whether any change in policy or practice would help to
    prevent a recurrence of the event, incident or conduct
    investigated;
  • whether the incident highlights any good practice that
    should be disseminated.

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Complaints

4. Mr A’s complaints subject to this investigation were:

  • The officers had not acted with honesty and integrity because they accepted the allegation against him which, in his view, was false. The officers had formed a negative opinion about him because he had previously made complaints against the police.
  • PC Harrington was aggressive towards him.
  • The officers discriminated against him. Specifically that he was treated differently because the officers were Marxist and he is middle class, catholic, British and Italian blooded.
  • The officers were in a conspiracy with other organisations that he had raised complaints with as they took the side of his neighbour.
  • His personal details were sold by PS Wright to blacken his name.

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Subjects to the investigation

5. Once this case was declared an IPCC independent, in accordance with paragraph 19B, Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002, the IPCC investigator was required to consider if Special Requirements applied to the investigation. During the investigation there was no indication that a person serving with the police may have committed a criminal offence, or behaved in a manner which would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings. Therefore, the investigation was not declared subject to Special Requirements, and all officers were treated as witnesses.

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Chronological summary of events

6. On 12 November 2013 PC Harrington was allocated the investigation into the harassment complaint from Mr A’s neighbour. This was via an email he received from his line manager PS Wright. The complaint was that Mr A had stood outside the neighbours’ home and watched them through the window as they cooked. PC Harrington contacted the neighbour and after a discussion the neighbour was content for Mr A to be asked to cease this activity.

7. PC Fullbrook was designated to work with PC Harrington. PC Fullbrook stated in the account he provided to the IPCC that the goal in going to see Mr A was to get his account and inform him that, if he had been looking through his neighbours’ windows, he should stop as this course of action could amount to harassment.

8. PC Harrington stated in the account that he provided to the IPCC that he attended Mr A’s home address on 12 November 2013 with PC Fullbrook. He said that they spoke with Mr A at his front door and, “it was immediately apparent to me upon Mr A answering the door that he was not willing to listen to anything that I had to say. He was shaking and straight away obtained a sheet of paper to write PC Fullbrook and my name down.” PC Harrington said that Mr A did not accept what he was saying and went on to describe other complaints and his belief that this was a personal attack on him.

9. PC Harrington explained in his account that Mr A accused him of siding with the neighbour; he stated “I calmly explained to him that I had not. I told him that I had not been present during the alleged incidents so was not a position to say what had occurred. I simply told him that if he was standing outside his neighbour’s window he ought to cease. This did not satisfy Mr A and he told me he would make a complaint to police. I left his front door as I could clearly see Mr A was not willing to listen to anything I had to say.”

10. PC Fullbrook stated in his account that he could see and hear the whole encounter between PC Harrington and Mr A. He confirmed that PC Harrington did not accuse Mr A but asked him whether he had been looking through his neighbour’s windows. He described Mr A’s reaction to the conversation as “immediately defensive and he stated that the Metropolitan Police along with Hackney Council were working together in a conspiracy against him and were trying to force him out of his home by harassing him.” PC Fullbrook confirmed that “PC Harrington was calm with an even tone at all times throughout this encounter.”

11. Mr A alleged that PC Harrington became aggressive in his delivery of his message to “cease and desist”. However, both officers stated that it was Mr A who became agitated in response to their presence. PC Fullbrook described PC Harrington as calm with an even tone at all times throughout this encounter. PC Fullbrook stated “I remember Mr A quite abruptly ending the conversation and closing the door once he had finished taking our names and shoulder numbers on a piece of paper.” Both officers stated that they then left.

12. Both officers confirmed that neither of them had any previous dealings with Mr A and were not aware of the details of any of his previous contact with the police or other agencies.

13. Regarding the allegation of discrimination against them. In accordance with the IPCC guidance on dealing with allegations of discriminatory behaviour, Mr A was asked to clarify how he perceived that the officers discriminated against him. He confirmed he felt they treated him differently because “they are Marxist and he is middle class, catholic, British and Italian blooded.” Both officers were asked specifically about whether any of these factors influenced the way in which Mr A was treated. However, both officers refuted that they in any way treated Mr A differently. PC Fullbrook stated “I was unaware that Mr A was Catholic, Italian or middle class and did not hear PC Harrington mention any of these things at any point.”

14. PC Harrington stated in his account “it was not apparent to me that Mr A was Catholic Italian, not abundantly obvious in either Mr A’s appearance or his name. I do not recall giving a description of the male allegedly standing outside the complainants window.” On the basis of this evidence, there was therefore no obvious characteristic upon which a prejudice could be attached just from Mr A’s appearance at the door. The neighbours had identified the man outside their window as Mr A to the police and that was the only reason for their attendance at his home.

15. Mr A provided the IPCC with a large amount of information about a person and their family’s alleged connections to organised crime to support his theory of conspiracy. However, this was not the name of the neighbour who accused him of standing outside their window and as this was information unrelated to the officers’ visit to his home this material was not considered further.

16. Mr A complained that his personal information was made available and he was asked by the IPCC to clarify this point. He responded that he believed that PS Wright was guilty of a Data Protection Act breach (Section 1), because she had sold his data from the police computer without the consent of the data controller and disclosed it to PC Harrington, PC Fullbrook, the Shoreditch Neighbourhood team, the council and the person he said had connections to organised crime. He said he believed that the information was not disclosed in the public interest.

17. Mr A said he believed that his name, address, religion and his nationality had been provided from his file with Shoreditch Police station and the Neighbourhood office of the Council, “for the purpose of planting the law proposal scenarios into my life, to act out the law proposals on me”. He said that parliamentarians had used the scenarios, from his previous complaints made to multiple agencies, to make new laws to which he was subject. He said he believed these were then enacted by parliamentarians on behalf of the friends and relatives of the people against whom he had raised previous complaints.

18. PS Wright stated in her account that the appropriate pathways regarding information sharing were adhered to. She stated that Hackney Borough has a formatted information sharing agreement with social landlords. She stated that the borough’s procedure was that any formal requests from social landlords, and vice versa, go though an information officer, a member of police staff. She explained that the social landlord was not contacted on this occasion, but a “Merlin” record was created. The Merlin Database is the recording system the MPS use to record missing people, and children and adults coming to police notice. The system is used to record contact and what, if any police action has taken place. Consent is not required to create a Merlin record.

19. PS Wright said she allocated the harassment complaint against Mr A to PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook and sent them to Mr A’s home. She said that, although this was a low level job where, the objective was to prevent an escalation of activity, the provision of his name and address were necessary for the officers to carry out their duties.

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Original investigation into Mr A’s complaint

20. PS Wright told the IPCC that at the time she was dealing with the complaint investigation she had received no formal training regarding complaints resolution other than email contact which made clear her responsibilities as line manager in dealing with complaints against her staff. The correct procedure at the time was that, at the conclusion of an investigation, the investigating officer from the local borough passed their investigation report to the local Professional Standards Champion to review and sign off before it was sent to the complainant. PS Wright said that, as she had not previously had any other opportunities to investigate complaints, she wrongly believed that she was responsible for the outcome letter to Mr A at the conclusion of her enquiries and therefore provided this to Mr A directly on 29 November 2013.

21. PS Wright was informed by PS Paul Mallet from the Professional Standards Unit on 2 December 2013, prior to Mr A’s first appeal to the IPCC, that she had not followed the correct procedure in sending the report directly to Mr A. He also informed PS Wright that her report was “far too brief and does not detail your investigation into this complaint….your (sic) have to show a balanced and proportionate investigation into this complaint. If the IPCC or DPS get to read your report I imagine it will be upheld…”

22. A concern raised in the first appeal from Mr A was that PS Wright should not have investigated his original complaint because she was one of the officers that he was complaining about. However, Mr A’s original complaint letter dated 12 November 2013 did not expressly refer to PS Wright and made reference only to PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook “and the police officer who accepted the false allegation made of me by my neighbour.”

23. It was only on the appeal to the IPCC, received on 27 December 2013, did he clarify that he was including PS Wright in his complaint. Mr A made reference to her because she had referred to herself in her investigation outcome report as the officer who sent PC’s Wright and Fullbrook to his home. When the appeal was upheld by the IPCC on 14 July 2014 and a second investigation directed, Inspector Waugh included her in that investigation as being the subject of Mr A’s complaint.

24. Professional Standards Departments are required to make recording decisions in line with the statutory requirements under the Police Reform Act and the MPS use the “Tribune” system to do this. It is important to have a record of an officer’s complaint history as it can be relevant to future allegations against them and may need to be disclosed when officers give evidence in court. The IPCC has confirmed with the MPS that all three officers were recorded on the Directorate of Professional Standards Tribune database as having a complaint against their names for a lack of fairness and impartiality in connection with this case. However, it has not been possible to establish when the complaint about PS Wright was added to Tribune.

25. PS Wright confirmed via email that she “met Mr A on only one occasion, and it was in response to his letter regarding PC Harrington and Fullbrook. This visit was completed in the company of PC Lewis.” She further clarified that “Any subsequent correspondence from Mr A I was not privy to…I received an email from Hackney Borough Professional standards unit, stating that as the officers’ manager, I would deal with the matter.”

26. When the IPCC upheld the first appeal from Mr A about the investigation conducted by PS Wright, a reinvestigation of the complaint was assigned to Inspector Waugh from Hackney Borough Professional Standards Unit.

27. Inspector Waugh contacted Mr A regarding the complaint investigation. Mr A added to his original complaint a further complaint about parliamentarians developing their anti-social behaviour legislation by quoting complaints he had made previously. Inspector Waugh provided a formal outcome report on this complaint on 28 November 2014 via the Professional Standards Champion.

28. Mr A appealed the outcome of this investigation to the IPCC. This appeal was upheld by the IPCC because the report by Inspector Waugh did not fully address Mr A’s allegations. An account from only one officer was sought and was received verbally. PC Fullbrook was not asked to contribute to the investigation and no adequate rationale was provided for the conclusions reached.

29. PS Wright told the IPCC that the first time she had been made aware that Mr A had made a complaint about her was when the IPCC lead investigator contacted her to obtain an account for this independent investigation. The IPCC lead investigator asked PS Wright if there was anything that would have helped her in this case and she stated, “Constructive instruction on investigating complaint issues, would have been useful, particularly if managers are now expected to investigate the like.”

30. The IPCC lead investigator has also been informed that the Operational Command Unit (OCU), where the Professional Standards Champion resides, did not update the central Professional Standards Team about PS Wright’s first investigation outcome report. This meant that their records were incomplete as their first knowledge of Mr A was at the point of his first appeal to the IPCC, rather than having the details of PS Wright’s outcome report on file.

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Conclusions

The actions of PS Wright in deciding to send PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook to Mr A’s home

31. The information provided to the police by Wenlock Barn TMO contained an allegation of harassment by Mr A. The neighbour had been specific in alleging that Mr A had been standing and looking through their window. It was therefore appropriate that the police responded to this complaint and visited Mr A to make further enquiries. PS Wright allocated the harassment complaint to PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook. She was their line manager and therefore likely that she would allocate work such as this to them. The IPCC has not identified any evidence to support the allegation that a previous complaint history was the reason behind these particular officers attending Mr A’s home at that time. The IPCC has not identified any evidence that any of the officers had any previous contact with Mr A nor were they aware of or involved in his other complaints.

32. There is a big discrepancy between the account from Mr A to that from PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook. Mr A alleged that the officers were aggressive towards him. The officers stated that they were calm throughout and that Mr A became defensive, would not listen to what they were saying and alleged there was a conspiracy against him. There is no independent evidence of this incident. There are a number of ways in which the weight of conflicting accounts can be analysed to determine which is more likely than not, they include: whether an account is supported by other evidence; objective truths; inherent plausibility and the credibility of the witness.

33. Mr A was asked by the IPCC to provide details of what led him to believe that there was a conspiracy against him. Mr A provided a long written response but did not provide any specific details to support his allegation of a conspiracy between Shoreditch Police Station officers and staff, Shoreditch Neighbourhood Office (Hackney Council), his neighbours or Parliamentarians.

34. As set out about above, it is more likely than not that PC Harrington and PC Fullbrook visited Mr A for a legitimate policing purpose. The officer’s complaint histories do not show any previous allegations against them for aggressive or uncivil behaviour i.e. does not provide any evidence that the officers had a tendency to behave in the manner alleged by Mr A. Mr A has made a number of previous complaints about the police, but none against these officers. There does not therefore, on the basis of the available evidence, appear to be any obvious motive for the officers to have behaved aggressively towards Mr A. Conversely, Mr A had been subject to a complaint by his neighbour and was being visited by the police and therefore may have had a motive to act in a defensive way. Mr A has also previously made complaints against the police which adds weight to support the accounts from the officers that he was trying to write down their details and saying he would complain against them (which he subsequently did).

35. Mr A may well have perceived the officers to have been aggressive towards him, but in the absence of any supporting evidence, motive or relevant previous conduct by the officers, the IPCC investigator cannot conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that this was the case.

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Whether the information received from Wenlock Barn TMO was correctly handled by the Metropolitan Police

36. Mr A provided no evidence to support his allegation that PS Wright sold his personal data. Under Section 29 of the DPA 1998, personal data is allowed to be processed for the prevention or detection of crime. It would have been legitimate for PS Wright to provide Mr A’s personal details for other officers to act upon the allegation that had been made against him in order to prevent further instances of harassment and the situation escalating.

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The handling of the investigation into Mr A’s original complaint and the subsequent re-investigation as directed by the IPCC

37. The first investigation of Mr A’s complaint, as already highlighted by PS Mallet from the PSU and the IPCC when upholding his first appeal, was lacking in a number of areas.

38. It is clear that PS Wright did not have any experience of investigating complaints against the police and was not familiar with the correct procedures. This was evident from the internal feedback she got from PS Mallet, prior to any IPCC involvement in this case. It is clear from the response PS Wright provided to the IPCC that she felt she would benefit from further instruction and guidance about how to investigate complaints against the police if managers are now being expected to do this. It is therefore the view of the IPCC lead investigator that the original investigation was carried out by PS Wright may have been carried out with the best of intentions and in accordance to what she understood at the time, but that further support and guidance from the PSU would have helped ensure the correct processes were followed and that the final report demonstrated, as PS Mallet stated, “a balanced and proportionate investigation into this complaint”.

39. The second investigation of Mr A’s complaints by Inspector Waugh, following the first upheld appeal, was also found to be lacking and led to Mr A’s second appeal being upheld by the IPCC. Whilst Inspector Waugh was not able to show he had obtained written accounts from PC Harrington or PC Fullbrook, he did speak to both officers independently and was satisfied with their separate explanations. It is the view of the IPCC that during complaint investigations, obtaining verbal accounts only is not best practice. If matters are subject of future independent scrutiny, it is imperative that the process of obtaining accounts is clearly auditable and written accounts provide this.

40. Further, Inspector Waugh did not provide an adequate analysis of the evidence to support his finding that, “I am absolutely satisfied that the officer (sic) including PS Wright have behaved professionally and that in fact Mr A is behaving somewhat irrationally in relation to this particular incident”, and did not show any consideration of relevant discrimination guidelines.

41. Inspector Waugh works in Hackney Borough OCU and not for PSD. It is the view of the IPCC lead investigator that, in light of the failings identified in the first investigation, someone with experience of investigating police complaints should have taken over the case to ensure it was completed to an appropriate standard. Despite the IPCC’s independent investigation, Mr A’s experience of the complaints system is unlikely to have given him confidence in the way in which complaints against the police are handled.

42. Managers in Borough OCU’s now have a central role in monitoring and quality assuring complaint investigations. With the difficulties in resourcing them it would appear that complaints investigations have been carried out by line managers with support and procedural guidance being delivered mainly by e-mail. This led to PS Wright failing to follow the correct procedures in this case. The IPCC has identified this resourcing issue in its oversight of the appeals process and this is the subject of ongoing discussion with the MPS. The IPCC has, since Mr A’s complaint, noted a reduction in the number of cases where inadequate supervision has been an issue. However, the IPCC will continue to monitor this issue in its oversight work.

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The actions of the Metropolitan Police against the IPCC discrimination guidance

43. Mr A’s neighbour knew Mr A and had specifically named him when reporting the incident to the police. The neighbour had not provided any description of Mr A as that was not necessary, specifically it was not reported that he was white, middle class and Italian. While he may have perceived the officers were discriminating against him because he belongs to a particular ethnic, religious group, or class the accounts from the officers demonstrated that these were not factors that influenced their actions and he was not treated differently. It is therefore the view of the IPCC investigator that there insufficient evidence to support the allegation of discrimination.

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Complaints

Complaint 1

44. The officers had not acted with honesty and integrity because they accepted the allegation against him which, in his view, was false. The officers had formed a negative opinion about him because he had previously made complaints against the police.

45. It is the view of the IPCC investigator that this complaint is not upheld as the analysis set out above is that there is insufficient evidence to support this allegation.

Complaint 2

46. PC Harrington was aggressive towards Mr A.

47. As set out in the conclusions above, the IPCC lead investigator has not found on the balance of probabilities that this was not the case. The complainant is therefore not upheld.

Complaint 3

48. The officers discriminated against Mr A. He specifically stated that he was treated differently because the officers were Marxist and he is middle class, catholic, British and Italian blooded.

49. As set out in the conclusions above, it is the view of the IPCC investigator that there insufficient evidence to support the allegation of discrimination. This complaint is therefore not upheld.

Complaint 4

50. The officers were in a conspiracy with other organisations that he had raised complaints with as they took the side of the neighbour.

51. As set out in the conclusions above, the IPCC lead investigator does not consider that there is any available evidence to show that there was a conspiracy between agencies and that the officers were acting in accordance with the allegation that had been made by Mr A’s neighbour. This complaint is therefore not upheld.

Complaint 5

52. Mr A’s personal details were sold by PS Wright to blacken his name. Mr A’s personal information was disclosed to facilitate the complaint from the neighbour being addressed and nothing more. It is therefore the view of the IPCC investigator that there was no intention to blacken Mr A’s name or that a transaction occurred to sell data. This complaint is not upheld.

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Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author(s).

External link: Investigation into the actions of officers who attended the home of Mr A
Published: March 2016
Author: Jennifer Gillan, Acting Lead Investigator for IPCC


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