Publications on the internet
UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 799-i
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
Leadership and standards in the police: further follow-up
Tuesday 5 November 2013
DS Stuart Hinton and Sgt Chris Jones
Dame Anne Owers and Rachel Cerfontyne
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 94
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.
Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 5 November 2013
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: DS Stuart Hinton, Warwickshire Police Federation, and Sgt Chris Jones, West Midlands Police Federation, gave evidence
Q1 Chair: Could I call the Committee to order and refer all those present to the register of members’ interests, where the interests of members of this Committee are registered, and acknowledge the appointment of two new members of the Committee, Mr Ian Austin and Mr Paul Flynn.
Mr Hinton, thank you very much for coming in to see the Committee today. I am most grateful to you for accepting our request to attend. Your presence here today relates to evidence that you gave to this Committee on 23 October, and this session will not cover the events that occurred in Sutton Coldfield, in that they are part of the misconduct hearing that the IPCC will now be investigating. We are concerned with what you said to the Committee only, so this is going to be a brief visit, hopefully, to the Select Committee, where you can correct the record as to what was said, if you choose to do so.
Can I just remind you that it is a prima facie contempt of Parliament to mislead Parliament, and that is one of the reasons why you have come here today, because we believe in the evidence that you gave on the last occasion that you misled this Committee, so it is your opportunity, if you choose to take it, to put this matter right? If we are not satisfied with the explanation that you give, we will make a report to the House, and if the House accepts our report, it will then be referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee, so I hope very much that we can deal with this matter today and we can then proceed to other business.
The point I want to put to you relates to the evidence you gave in respect of comments that were made in a transcript, so we are referring to the transcript, and I put to you some comments that were in the transcript relating to the use of the words "this woman in the Conservative Party". Do you understand what I am saying?
DS Stuart Hinton: I do, yes.
Q2 Chair: So far, do you understand the process that I have outlined?
DS Stuart Hinton: Absolutely, yes.
Q3 Chair: I put to you on three occasions that the reference to "this woman in the Conservative Party" in the transcript was a reference to the Home Secretary and the reason why we put that to you was that it was relevant to the evidence you were giving about the reason why you were having the meeting with Mr Mitchell. That is why it was raised in the transcript. You responded that, "It was a typo, to be perfectly honest." Those were your words at question 262. At 263, I asked you again, "Is it a typing error?" and you replied, "I do not know why I would say ‘this woman’ in the middle of the sentence." At question 264, I explained that I had taken a section out of the sentence, but I read the whole sentence to you, which consisted of 20 words, and you said, "I do not remember saying ‘that woman.’" I asked you at 265, "So the transcript is wrong?" and you replied, "In that particular case, I would suggest it is, yes." At 266, I said, "The transcript is wrong?" and you said, "I do not recall using the words ‘this woman.’" Mr Ellis, at 267, asked you again whether this was a reference to the Home Secretary and you said, "No."
You have subsequently written to this Committee on 29 October and you said this, "In context, I accept that the woman referred to in this sentence must be the Home Secretary. No discourtesy or lack of respect was intended in referring to her in this way." Would you like to confirm that that is what you said in your letter?
DS Stuart Hinton: It is important that I give you a narrative about my explanation of all this, so if I may, Chair, I have a short statement to read out to you, which should cover all of the things that you have mentioned.
Q4 Chair: How long is the statement?
DS Stuart Hinton: It should take a couple of minutes at the most.
DS Stuart Hinton: The statement reads, "I am grateful to the Committee for affording me this opportunity to appear before it again to address part of the evidence I gave on 23 October. Subsequent to that hearing, I have listened to the recording of the meeting with the Right Honourable Andrew Mitchell MP that occurred on 12 October 2012, and I have written a letter to the Committee apologising for inadvertent inaccuracies in my oral evidence. I adopt the terms of that letter, which is appended to your report, in apologising to the Committee today.
When asked about ‘this woman’ at the previous hearing, I gave evidence to the Committee that I did not remember using the words either ‘this woman’ or ‘that woman’. That was accurate. For the reasons set out in my written apology, the passage did not appear to make much sense, which is why I thought it was an error of transcription. I had not listened to the tape for many months and this passage was not raised in either my interviews or subsequent investigation reports. As stated, since 23 October, I have listened to the recording. Having done so, it is clear to me both that I did say ‘that this woman’ in a sentence and was obviously referring to the Home Secretary when I did so.
It follows that I inadvertently gave an inaccurate answer to the Committee on 23 October. There was no intention to mislead the Committee. I repeat my unqualified apology to the Committee for this inaccuracy. I also repeat the unequivocal apology I made in writing as part of that same document to the Home Secretary. Whilst I believe at the relevant point of the meeting on 12 October, I appear to have failed to bring the Home Secretary’s name to mind, I fully accept that this does not excuse the form of expression that I used in the meeting with Mr Mitchell and I apologise for that accordingly."
Q5 Chair: Thank you, Mr Hinton. So you wish to apologise to the Committee for saying that it was a typing error, because you did not realise you said this?
DS Stuart Hinton: I did not remember saying it.
Q6 Chair: You did not remember saying it. You would like to apologise because you felt that at the time you did not know it was the Home Secretary, is that right?
DS Stuart Hinton: Yes, I did not remember saying it, so I did not remember in what context it was said, and as I have already said-and I think I said to you on 23 October as well-it did not seem to make sense to me at the time I was appearing before you then. Having reviewed it, obviously I am correcting myself. I made an honest error.
Q7 Chair: Indeed. You would like to apologise to the Home Secretary for using such words?
DS Stuart Hinton: Yes, I would.
Q8 Chair: Because we have received a letter from your Chief Constable, Mr Parker, who said this was quite obviously a disrespectful term that should not have been used by anybody, particularly a serving police officer, and that there was no excuse for the terminology and that he would be taking this up with you.
DS Stuart Hinton: I am sure he will be.
Q9 Chair: Has he done so?
DS Stuart Hinton: Not yet, no.
Q10 Chair: But you expect him to?
DS Stuart Hinton: I am sure he will do.
Q11 Chair: So there is no qualification on your apology to the Committee today for what you said to us?
DS Stuart Hinton: No. It was an inadvertent error. I did not intend to mislead anybody in this Committee.
Q12 Chair: And you apologise for it?
DS Stuart Hinton: I do.
Q13 Chair: Thank you very much. Is there anything else you would like to say, Mr Hinton, to this Committee, about any of the events?
DS Stuart Hinton: If I may, very briefly. Could I add the following, and this statement is on behalf of the three officers, myself, Ken and Chris-
Chair: We would prefer you to speak on your behalf because we are dealing with the officers separately.
DS Stuart Hinton: Okay. "Our position so far as the meeting with Mr Mitchell is concerned has not changed. While the Committee appears to believe that we are indifferent to Mr Mitchell’s predicament and the distress caused to him and his family since the original incident in Downing Street, we are not." I am not. "Each of us fully recognises and regrets the fact that such distress has been caused. We share the belief that the investigation into the original incident in Downing Street has already taken a disproportionate amount of time and should be resolved in the interests of all parties without delay."
Q14 Chair: Mr Hinton, that is a different position from the position you gave to the Committee on the last occasion, because when you talked about an apology to Mr Mitchell, you said that it was a general apology to all those who had been affected. Are you telling the Committee now that you specifically wish to apologise to Mr Mitchell and his family for the distress caused?
DS Stuart Hinton: For the distress caused. I cannot apologise for something I have not done, and a number of accusations have been raised that I totally refute and I was not party to, so I cannot apologise for something I have not done, but I certainly regret any distress caused. It was not our intention or my intention.
Q15 Chair: To Mr Mitchell and his family?
DS Stuart Hinton: Yes.
Q16 Chair: Is there anything else you want to say to us in terms of the evidence that you gave that you may wish to correct? In respect of your previous allegations of misconduct, there is nothing you wish to tell the Committee?
DS Stuart Hinton: No.
Chair: You are absolutely certain?
DS Stuart Hinton: Absolutely.
Q17 Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Hinton.
Mr Jones, thank you very much for coming in and accepting the Committee’s invitation to attend this afternoon. I will not repeat what I have just said to the other witness, but you have heard it.
Sgt Chris Jones: Yes.
Chair: If indeed we find that there is a contempt of this Committee, we will refer it immediately to Mr Speaker and the House. We will prepare a report that will then go to the House of Commons and from then, if the House agrees to it, it will then go to the Committee of Standards and Privileges. You understand that?
Sgt Chris Jones: Yes, I do.
Q18 Chair: What would you like to say to the Committee today?
Sgt Chris Jones: Again, as per my colleague, Mr Hinton-
Chair: You will need to speak up, Mr Jones, I am afraid.
Sgt Chris Jones: -I have prepared some words that I would like to present to the Committee, please, "I gave evidence to the Committee on 23 October 2013. Earlier today, I submitted a written response to the Committee’s report of 30 October 2013. I adopt that as my evidence to the Committee, without repeating it orally. I am disappointed that I was not at least given the opportunity to address such serious and hugely damaging criticism on merit before the Committee published its report. It will be seen that on a proper analysis, I do not believe that my answers misled the Committee. My interpretation of the meaning of the questions has not changed. If, however, I failed to recognise the meaning of the questions I was asked, then I apologise. If the Committee was misled by my answers, then this was wholly unintentional. I also adopt what has just been said to the Committee by my colleague, Detective Sergeant Hinton, in relation-"
Q19 Chair: Mr Jones, I do not know what your legal advisers have told you, but we do not have the American system of adopting other people’s evidence, I am afraid.
Sgt Chris Jones: Okay.
Chair: This is not the way Parliament works in the United Kingdom. You cannot go around adopting what other people have said, otherwise we would be here all day. We would prefer to hear from you. You are Mr Jones and you must tell us what you feel. No adoptions are necessary.
Sgt Chris Jones: "While the Committee appears to believe, however, that we are indifferent to Mr Mitchell’s predicament and the distress caused to him and his family since the original incident in Downing Street, we are not. Each of us fully recognises and regrets the fact that such distress has been caused. We share the belief that the investigation into the original incident in Downing Street has already taken a disproportionate period of time and should be resolved in the interests of all parties without delay."
Q20 Chair: Do you wish to take this opportunity, before I deal with what you said, to apologise to Mr Mitchell and his family-as Mr Hinton has done-for the distress that has been caused?
Sgt Chris Jones: Again, I cannot apologise for something that I have not done, but I do recognise the disproportionate-the stress that it has caused his family and I would urge that the CPS report and the investigation into that matter are concluded as speedily as possible.
Q21 Chair: So you are not wanting to apologise to Mr Mitchell and his family for the distress, as Mr Hinton has just done?
Sgt Chris Jones: I am saying that I recognise the stress that has been caused and I think it will be best if the investigation into the matter is concluded.
Q22 Chair: I think the answer is no, you are not prepared to apologise.
Sgt Chris Jones: I cannot apologise for something that I have not done.
Q23 Chair: Right, so you do not believe that you had anything to do with any distress that was caused?
Sgt Chris Jones: I believe a number of people have had-
Chair: But not you?
Sgt Chris Jones: Yes, I come back to the point that I cannot apologise for something I have not done. That is, yes-
Q24 Chair: No. That is fair, and I am not getting you to apologise for something you do not want to apologise for. You do not want to apologise for any distress?
Sgt Chris Jones: At the moment.
Q25 Chair: At the moment, because that is what you said last time.
Let me just turn to why you think that you did not know what the question was. I refer you to the transcript at question 333, which I am sure you have, because that is the only issue that affects this Committee today. I am sure your legal advisers have pointed you to it. It was a question that Dr Julian Huppert put to Inspector Ken MacKaill, who can I say for the record has been very open and transparent about his own record of misconduct and allegations made against him, and he had no notice of this when he appeared before us either. Inspector MacKaill said this, "Can I just clarify one question that Dr Huppert asked, and it was on the conduct matters. I thought his question was relating to this incident. I think it was, on reflection, probably in general. Is that right?" So a general question to all three of you about conduct. He then replies, "Yes. I have a written warning from eight years ago. I was answering out of context". Dr Huppert then asks at question 334, "Just in case there was a lack of clarity, do any of the others have anything?" and none of you indicated you had anything to say about the issue of misconduct. Dr Huppert says, "No, just one from eight years ago?" and at that stage, you did not correct the record, but today you are trying to correct the record. What is your record in respect of misconduct allegations?
Sgt Chris Jones: My record, I direct you to paragraph 15 within the statement.
Q26 Chair: We cannot all see this letter, so I am sure you have read it in preparation. Perhaps you would like to tell the Committee what your disciplinary record is.
Sgt Chris Jones: I have no findings of misconduct against me. However, if you asked the question have I received any complaints-
Chair: Well, that was the question.
Sgt Chris Jones: -13 complaints have been made against me, but none has resulted in any misconduct or disciplinary finding.
Q27 Chair: Thirteen disciplinary investigations. The breakdown is two-I am trying to get the record right so you do not have to come back again, Mr Jones-were local resolution, three were closed by dispensation, five were unsubstantiated and in two occasions, action was taken. Your Chief Constable wrote to us on 30 October and he said, "I can confirm from police records that Sergeant Chris Jones has been the subject of 13 disciplinary investigations during his service". Of this, two were subject of a local resolution with the complainant, three were closed by dispensation, five were unsubstantiated and two resulted in action being taken against you, Sergeant Jones. Is that an accurate reflection of your record?
Sgt Chris Jones: The information provided by the Chief Constable is accurate, yes, and that is all dealt with in the statement that I submitted to this Committee-
Chair: Yes, we understand that, but your-
Sgt Chris Jones: -dealt with it in detail.
Q28 Chair: Of course, but you are here before us and referring to statements is helpful, but does not give us the answer. The two cases where action was taken against you, Sergeant Jones, what were they in respect of? You will remember them, of course.
Sgt Chris Jones: I was given advice-and again, advice is not a misconduct sanction, it is management advice-and all I can do is refer you continually back to the statement, because it is all given in detail in the statement that I have submitted to the House.
Q29 Chair: No, I am asking you. You cannot rely on the Chief Constable, who is not here.
Sgt Chris Jones: I am not relying on the Chief Constable.
Q30 Chair: I am asking you now. You know what those two related to and the Committee wants to try to deal with this matter today. Mr Jones, you are not being helpful with the Committee at this moment. I have asked you a specific question. Those two issues, just tell us what they relate to, because otherwise we will have to write, get all this information back again, and if you do not want to tell us, then obviously we will have to take further action. What were they in respect of? It is just an open and transparent answer that we want. We are not asking for more than that. It is already in the public domain, is it not?
Sgt Chris Jones: I do not have the record in front of me.
Q31 Chair: No, but you will remember, because it is concerning you, it is your record.
Sgt Chris Jones: If I remember correctly, one was in relation to use of force and the other was in relation to performance of duties.
Q32 Chair: Right. In respect of the performance of duties, what exactly does that mean? Use of force I think we can all understand.
Sgt Chris Jones: The performance of duties issue was I was asked to secure a video, some CCTV video, while I was a custody officer. I secured the video as requested, but it appeared, when it was inspected, somebody put the wrong video in the case and when it was opened and inspected, the wrong information was in there. It was suggested or I was given advice to the effect that I should have checked the video before I submitted it and sealed it, rather than just taking it from the rack and sealing it.
Q33 Chair: The use of force issue?
Sgt Chris Jones: I pushed somebody in the back, off-duty, which resulted in a minor injury to their mouth.
Q34 Chair: All the others were resolved?
Sgt Chris Jones: Yes.
Q35 Chair: Yes. Your career is how long?
Sgt Chris Jones: I am about 28 and half years’ service now.
Q36 Chair: Okay. In respect of the first issue that you raised with us and what you told the Committee, you now accept, do you, that the question that Dr Huppert was putting to you was a question about these allegations? You may not have done so at the time, but you now accept what Dr Huppert was asking about, because Inspector MacKaill understood it, and it appears that Mr Hinton understood it, who has no allegations of any kind against him. He has just told that to the Committee again. But you now accept that that is what Dr Huppert was interested in? Now you accept that?
Sgt Chris Jones: My understanding of that question remains the same today as it did then and I am sorry if I misunderstood that.
Q37 Chair: Dr Huppert certainly thinks you misunderstood it and a Committee of 11 Members of Parliament think you have misunderstood it, so this is your opportunity to say, "I misunderstood the question, but I am putting the record straight now, and if I inadvertently misled the Committee, I apologise for it."
Sgt Chris Jones: It was not my intention to mislead the Committee and if I have misled the Committee because I have misunderstood the question, then as I said, for that I apologise.
Chair: Sorry, can you say that a little louder?
Sgt Chris Jones: If I have-it was not my intention to mislead the Committee. If I have misled the Committee because I did not understand the question, then I apologise for that.
Q38 Chair: But you now clearly understand the question-and now you do, because I have explained it to you in great detail, question 333-and you now understand what Dr Huppert had in mind.
Sgt Chris Jones: It has been rephrased now, yes.
Q39 Chair: You apologise to the Committee for inadvertently misleading it, because you did not understand the question at the time?
Sgt Chris Jones: Yes.
Q40 Chair: But you now understand it, correct, and you have given us all the information we require?
Sgt Chris Jones: I would like to think so, yes. I hope so.
Q41 Chair: "Like to think so." We would like you to be-I mean, you have obviously lived with this for a year, Mr Jones. Is there anything left for us to bring out here?
Sgt Chris Jones: There is nothing I can think of, no. I do not have anything, no.
Q42 Chair: You understand the seriousness if indeed we find out that there is other information that you have not told us today?
Sgt Chris Jones: Yes.
Q43 Mr Winnick: You are quite clear, Mr Jones, there is absolutely no other information you want to give us that we may discover later? You are absolutely sure about this? You are not misunderstanding the question from the Chair or myself?
Sgt Chris Jones: There is nothing that I-
Mr Winnick: You are quite clear?
Sgt Chris Jones: There is nothing that comes to mind to me at the moment, no.
Chair: Mr Jones, thank you very much.
Sgt Chris Jones: Thank you very much.
Chair: That concludes the proceedings on leadership and standards. We will return to this when the IPCC gives evidence at 3.45 pm today. Thank you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Dame Anne Owers, Chair, Independent Police Complaints Commission, and Rachel Cerfontyne, Deputy Chair, Independent Police Complaints Commission, gave evidence.
Q44 Chair: We are now resuming our inquiry into leadership and standards that we began earlier this afternoon. Dame Anne Owers is the Chair and Rachel Cerfontyne is the Deputy Chair. Ms Cerfontyne, do we assume that you have taken over from Deborah Glass as Deputy Chair, or whether there are a number of Deputy Chairs of the IPCC?
Rachel Cerfontyne: I have certainly taken on this case from Deborah Glass. At the moment she is Deputy Chair, as am I, but she is currently on leave.
Q45 Chair: Right. Well, welcome, and thank you very much for coming at short notice. We know you have come from a meeting of the Commission and we are most grateful.
When we last met, Dame Anne, Deborah Glass and you-because you were sitting next to her and did not disagree with her-were very clear, in answer to questions from myself and members of the Committee, that there was no way that you could re-determine the decisions that had been taken by West Mercier, Warwickshire and also the West Midlands into possible misconduct from the three officers: Mr Hinton, Inspector MacKaill and Mr Jones. You very helpfully wrote to me last Saturday when the Committee published our report inviting you to do so, informing us that you would now be investigating. What changed your mind?
Dame Anne Owers: I think from memory what we said to the Committee was that, in view of the evidence that this Committee had heard, we would now have to take legal advice on whether we could investigate. We were very clear that we could not previously because there wasn’t a way in for us, but we did say that we would take legal advice following the evidence that we had heard before this Committee.
The thing that changed our minds-and where, on advice, Deborah Glass made the decision that you have already seen-was the fact that it was clear from Chief Inspector Reakes-Williams’ evidence to this Committee that not only had he originally felt in the draft report that there was a case to answer for misconduct but that remained his concluded view. Therefore, as he was the investigating officer that we had appointed to supervise the investigation, in fact his is the only conclusion that matters. Since he had not changed his view, therefore, the report that was submitted as the final report did not represent the view of the investigating officer and was, therefore, not effectively a report so that any decisions taken on the back of that were null and void.
Q46 Chair: We are not looking for applause here but, presumably, had he not given evidence to this Select Committee, you would not have known that.
Dame Anne Owers: I think that is fair. Because it was a supervised investigation we were simply supervising the investigation and this Committee has said before-and we have acknowledged-that there are limits to what you can do in a supervised investigation, so the investigation being complete, our role had ended.
Q47 Chair: Ms Cerfontyne, you are taking over?
Rachel Cerfontyne: That is correct.
Q48 Chair: You have had no involvement whatsoever with these matters. Is that right?
Rachel Cerfontyne: No, this is a case that is entirely new for me.
Q49 Chair: Are you going to appoint-and we are looking at process here obviously because you are just starting this investigation-an investigating officer based at the IPCC who will start the whole process again, or are you going to accept the evidence that Deborah Glass gave to us that the investigation, the fact finding, was perfectly sound, it is the conclusions that caused the IPCC difficulties?
Rachel Cerfontyne: I am sure you will understand that in this case I need to ensure what I do is procedurally and legally correct, and that is absolutely essential.
Rachel Cerfontyne: In terms of what I am doing, I have already appointed an investigating officer from the IPCC. In fact we have a small team working on this case. Today, they have been to West Mercier, and taken a handover of the material in the case. This is a fresh, independent investigation. That means it has to go through a process and it means that I have to determine at the end of that process. So I cannot begin at the end, and it has to be that the IPCC investigating officer draws her own conclusions based on the evidence, and then gives it to me for final determination. However, we are keen to be as expeditious as possible with this-
Chair: That is my next question.
Rachel Cerfontyne: - and we are not going to be duplicating activity that has already been done. So the first thing that the investigation team will do is review the evidence. If it is complete then that evidence will be written up into an IPCC independent report.
Q50 Chair: Is the person you have appointed a former police officer?
Rachel Cerfontyne: No, she is not. She is a very experienced senior investigator but she is not a former police officer.
Q51 Chair: You talk about West Mercier. Is it also the case that you are getting any material that West Midlands and Warwickshire has, or do you assume it has all been given to West Mercier?
Rachel Cerfontyne: At the moment, because the original investigating officer was from West Mercier, we are assuming that they will have collated and have in their possession all the material. But clearly, if that turns out not to be the case, one of the first things that our investigating officer has to do is to ensure she has all the relevant material.
Q52 Chair: What will happen to the West Mercier suggestion that this should go to an independent Chief Constable? Is that now not going to happen? It is all with you, you have everything?
Rachel Cerfontyne: As far as I understand it.
Dame Anne Owers: Yes, I think West Mercier have accepted that, since we are now taking it as an independent, that is the route it is going down.
Chair: Thank you.
Q53 Michael Ellis: Dame Anne, the Chief Inspector who was instructed to complete this report is the only person whose opinion matters. He is the investigating officer and he says "misconduct". This report then gets sent to chief officers of police who ought not to have received it. It was unlawful and against the regulations for them to receive an incomplete report. Is that correct?
Dame Anne Owers: As far as I know, yes. We are now told that they received a copy without conclusions, which we did not know.
Q54 Michael Ellis: Then the report comes back to the IPCC and says, "No case for misconduct".
Dame Anne Owers: Yes.
Q55 Michael Ellis: So there is interference here in the investigation, is there not? Whether it be deliberate or accidental remains to be found, but there is an interference because-as you have said to Mr Vaz-the Chief Inspector whose report it was still believes that there ought to be misconduct proceedings.
Dame Anne Owers: I think what we imagine is that there is confusion. There are two decisions involved here in this investigation. The first is the conclusions of the investigating officer, which should be in the investigating officer’s report and they should be his or her conclusions. There is then a separate decision that has to be made by the Appropriate Authority-in this case the representatives of Chief Constables-which can be different from that of the investigating officer. What appears to have happened in this case is that the two have been conflated erroneously.
Q56 Michael Ellis: In your experience, have you known this sort of confusion to occur in other IPCC cases?
Dame Anne Owers: I haven’t, but then I would not be the right person to ask since I do not-
Q57 Michael Ellis: Have you heard of any of them from others under your control?
Dame Anne Owers: I haven’t but, as I say, I would not want to assure this Committee-
Q58 Michael Ellis: So this is uniquely confusing?
Dame Anne Owers: No. Well, I am quite deliberately not saying that because, as you know, supervised investigations are ones that we try not to do wherever possible.
Q59 Michael Ellis: Thank you. It seems to be being said that a Mr Bimson, I believe, of the IPCC indicated to the officer, the Chief Inspector, that it was okay to send the report to the chiefs in advance. Is that contested by the IPCC? Is that not accepted?
Dame Anne Owers: No, I think-
Chair: Can I just interrupt for a moment? Obviously you can answer Mr Ellis’ questions but we will take as read all the evidence that you gave on the last occasion, because we have published a report on this. If you want to refer to any of that in answering Mr Ellis you can and if you do not have the absolute detail we understand, but we do not want to revisit previous evidence. We want to look forward, but please answer Mr Ellis.
Dame Anne Owers: What we did after your last hearing was to go back and check with our investigator’s policy book to find out exactly what had happened. What appears to have happened-and I think we submitted to you the entries from his policy book-was that there were two separate meetings or discussions. The first discussion happened when the West Midlands were asking whether they could see both the report and its conclusions before that report had been finalised and before it had been presented to us. At that point Mr Bimson rightly told them that they had delegated this to the investigating officer and that they could not yet see the conclusions because we hadn’t yet seen them formally. There then followed a different meeting at which a report with conclusions was presented to us, but it had two sets of conclusions and we said, "You cannot have two sets of conclusions".
Q60 Michael Ellis: It seems to me that at least the ACPO officers seem to want to blame the IPCC for this confusion. They have referred to different grades of investigations and the fact that this wasn’t of the higher grade of investigation, where the IPCC conduct it all themselves, which means that it is partly your fault as an IPCC that this happened. What do you have to say about that?
Dame Anne Owers: I do not think attributing fault and blame is at all helpful here. What has happened is that there have been procedural irregularities. There are processes in doing investigations and the processes are that an investigating officer makes a decision and then the Appropriate Authority makes their decision, and those processes were not followed.
Chair: Yes, I think you made that very clear in the-
Dame Anne Owers: I think as a supplementary-back to that-I have heard a lot of commentators saying that we should have taken it as an independent investigation at the beginning. We explained to this Committee very clearly last time why it was not possible for us to do that.
Chair: Yes, thank you.
Q61 Michael Ellis: Will that be the focus of your investigation now as to why this report was changed and how it came to be changed?
Dame Anne Owers: No, our investigation is into the original incident. That is our independent investigation.
Chair: Thank you, let us move on.
Q62 Mr Winnick: Some people are saying, of course, that an incident that took less than five minutes outside Downing Street is almost leading to a Watergate inquiry, but nevertheless justice needs to be done.
I want to particularly clarify precisely the response you gave Mr Ellis to his last question. The position as I understand it-and you will correct me if I am wrong-is precisely over the meeting that took place on 12 October last year between the three officials of the Police Federation in the West Midlands area and Andrew Mitchell. Am I correct?
Dame Anne Owers: That is right.
Q63 Mr Winnick: You are not concerned with going back to what Mr Mitchell said or did not say to the police officers?
Dame Anne Owers: No, that is the subject of a separate supervised investigation and that is currently in front of the CPS.
Q64 Mr Winnick: Yes, I understand that. So your inquiry-which you say is going to restart, for the reasons that we know and understand-is precisely over the meeting that took place on 12 October?
Dame Anne Owers: Yes.
Q65 Mr Winnick: The reason that you are going to go into an inquiry is the manner in which the three officials reported to the media arising from that meeting?
Dame Anne Owers: Those are the terms of reference for the inquiry, although we will be relooking at the terms of reference.
Q66 Mr Winnick: And you have to decide whether misconduct or gross misconduct, as the case may be, occurred over what those three officials of the Police Federation said to the media arising from the meeting?
Dame Anne Owers: Absolutely, yes.
Q67 Mr Winnick: What is not in question is the right of the Federation at the time to have a meeting with Andrew Mitchell, am I right?
Dame Anne Owers: That is not within the current terms of reference, no. I would need to go back to them and, of course, at a certain time we will be looking at that.
Q68 Mr Winnick: Yes. I put that to you because, as I understand it again, it was perfectly in order. This is a free country. Mr Mitchell could have said "Yes" or "No" to having the meeting.
Dame Anne Owers: That is also my understanding, yes.
Q69 Mr Winnick: So the only issue-however complex it may be; and it must appear very complex to a lot of people, even perhaps members of this Committee-is over what was said by the Federation officials when that meeting concluded?
Dame Anne Owers: Absolutely, yes.
Q70 Mr Winnick: I want to ask you-because I started off by saying people are beginning to ask how long this is going to continue, and the rest of it-is there any sort of time limit as far as you are concerned?
Dame Anne Owers: Perhaps what I also ought to make clear to this Committee now, because I do not know whether you are alerted to it or not, is that you said in your report that you would refer to two issues, which you were dealing with earlier today, which was the evidence given to this Committee by two of those three officers. Those matters have now been recorded and referred to us to investigate, and we announced today that we will be doing independent investigations into both of those.
Q71 Chair: Thank you very much. We did not realise that had been announced. Was that announced earlier?
Dame Anne Owers: Earlier today.
Chair: Thank you.
Rachel Cerfontyne: Sorry, just to make it clear that I made that decision earlier today. We have not announced that publicly yet.
Q72 Chair: No, but there is no better way to announce it than here at this Select Committee.
Sorry to interrupt Mr Winnick’s questions, but you are telling this Committee that, as a result of the report that we published last week in which we referred the two officers to the IPCC, you are now beginning an investigation into that?
Dame Anne Owers: Yes, technically the Committee cannot refer to us but we took that under the Act as a complaint, and the forces voluntarily recorded it and referred it to us and, as I say, today Rachel took the decision that they would be taken as independent investigations.
Q73 Chair: That is very helpful. Just to let you know, we will send you all the documentation that we have received so that you do not have to seek it again. There are some outstanding letters but we will send them all to you.
Dame Anne Owers: That is very helpful, Chairman. Thank you very much.
Mr Winnick: And timely.
Dame Anne Owers: In answer to Mr Winnick’s question, we are going to wrap all this up together. The question of what the officers did or did not say in front of this Committee is also a relatively simple matter to deal with. We anticipate that we will be able to complete both investigations this side of Christmas.
Chair: That is very helpful.
Q74 Mr Winnick: My last question to you-and if it is inappropriate because of the inquiry that is going to take place, you will immediately tell me-in view of what was said by two of the three Police Federation officials today, does that in some way indicate that the inquiry will be short rather than long?
Dame Anne Owers: I think the matters at issue are probably relatively simple to determine. We will obviously take into account what was said in front of this Committee today.
Chair: Thank you very much.
Q75 Mark Reckless: Dame Owers, I am very pleased you have taken the decision that you have and have recognised following our previous session that it was not the officer who had been appointed who gave the report, as I think became clear under my questioning. What I would like to clarify, though, is what you said just now. You referred to the IPCC having appointed Reakes-Williams as the investigating officer. Is it not the case that under a supervised investigation it is the Appropriate Authorities who appoint him but the IPCC then has to agree it?
Dame Anne Owers: Has to agree it. Thank you for that correction. You are absolutely right. The Appropriate Authority appoints but the IPCC has to agree.
Q76 Mark Reckless: I understand that the investigation that you are going to run relates to the incident in Sutton Coldfield. None the less, have not some really very concerning matters come out during our investigation into this as to how the three police forces and the Appropriate Authorities dealt with that? Are you not concerned that lessons that should be learnt from that might not be learnt from that?
Dame Anne Owers: We said in our statement that we had no reason to doubt the integrity of the Appropriate Authorities, and that they had erroneously conflated two procedures. What we are dealing with at the moment is the incident itself and an independent investigation into that. I think if out of that falls any need for clarity about processes then we will deal with that. I have to say that the whole of the police complaints process-as I have said publicly many times-is incredibly complex; incredibly difficult to get your way round. If senior officers find it difficult, how do average complainants find it? I hesitate to think. The whole system needs to be looked at root and branch because it is incredibly complex.
Q77 Mark Reckless: In the letter that you wrote to us on 29 October you did refer to pressure from West Midlands Police to release details of the investigation and its conclusion before the report had been finalised. Can you clarify that that is wrong?
Dame Anne Owers: I think there may be an over-reading of that. I do not think what we meant was that there was improper pressure. The West Midlands were keen to know what the report was saying and what its conclusions were, and they were rightly told at that point that was not yet a matter for them and they would get it when it was completed. My understanding is that at that point the conversation ceased. We mentioned that in the letter to make clear where the confusion had arisen because it was at that point that our investigators said that they couldn’t have the conclusions of the report, and I think that is where the confusion arose when the final report was submitted.
Q78 Mark Reckless: Mr Bimson from the IPCC states in his note that it was the Deputy Chief Constable from West Midlands who appeared to be the source of this pressure.
Dame Anne Owers: I do not remember that. I am not sure it was the Deputy Chief Constable. It may well be; you may well be right.
Q79 Mark Reckless: He wrote in his note on 31 July that this was following discussion with Reakes-Williams and someone else, "JS", that, "Will discuss between themselves, then legal and Dep". I wonder if that again may be a reference to the Deputy Chief Constable.
Dame Anne Owers: It may well be.
Q80 Mark Reckless: But if the IPCC was aware on 31 July that these conversations were legal, and potentially conversations with the Deputy Chief Constable as the Appropriate Authority were about to happen, I am a little perturbed that nothing was done at that point to prevent that inappropriate meeting and discussions and bringing in the Appropriate Authorities before you had the final report.
Dame Anne Owers: Well, it was because that was the point at which our investigator, Mr Bimson, very clearly told Mr Reakes-Williams that it was not appropriate to give the conclusions to the Appropriate Authority at that point. That was the point at which he was told it was not right to do so, and that is what he did.
Q81 Mark Reckless: It seems to me that he had written down that that was going to happen, as a statement of fact, even though as you say he may have counselled against it.
Dame Anne Owers: I do not think it did happen, and that is why I think Mr Reakes-Williams may have been confused between the two different conversations. To my knowledge, it did not happen that the Appropriate Authorities got the conclusions of the report until the report was-
Q82 Mark Reckless: Just to clarify, the statute gives the IPCC the right to change the mode of investigation at any stage, and you now believe that we are still at that "any stage" because the final report was not presented to you by the person to investigate?
Dame Anne Owers: Because the final report was not a final report, yes.
Q83 Mark Reckless: My final question is can you assure the Committee, given the very unusual circumstances and public exposure there has been with these disciplinary actions, that you will still assure proper due process for the officers who are subject to these disciplinary proceedings?
Dame Anne Owers: Absolutely. That is why Ms Cerfontyne was making clear that this is a de novo investigation but we will use the evidence that is already there. We will not repeat the evidence, but we must be absolutely clear that we go through the right process and that we produce a report that has the investigator’s conclusions, which the Commission will then look at.
Q84 Mark Reckless: So the officers and others are clear as to possible consequences? May that involve allegations of gross misconduct and the possible subsequent loss of position? Is that a possible outcome?
Dame Anne Owers: The first thing this investigation will have to do-and will do next week-is to clarify the terms of reference and to make an assessment, what is called a severity assessment. That assessment will-
Q85 Mark Reckless: So that will be done again?
Dame Anne Owers: That will be done again because everything has to be done again. That we anticipate will happen next week, and that will be the basis upon which, if we do need to interview the officers again-and we may not-notices may need to be served on the officers again.
Q86 Mark Reckless: You just said that everything has to be done again, but have you not changed the mode of investigation at a particular stage? Are you saying that you have to do everything again or are you not just choosing to do so, although I thought before it had been suggested that the investigation was all right but it was just what then happened afterwards?
Dame Anne Owers: As you rightly pointed out, it is absolutely essential the proper processes are gone through. This is now an independent investigation so we need to choose a senior investigator, which we have done. The Commissioner needs to sign off the terms of reference. We need to make our own severity assessment. I think what we are saying is that we do not need to go through all the processes. We do not need to go through the investigation itself again. If there is already sufficient evidence upon which we can construct a report, we need to review that evidence. As Ms Cerfontyne has said, we will not go over matters that have already been satisfactorily dealt with.
Mark Reckless: I thank the IPCC for all your work and everything you do to try to uphold public confidence in the police.
Dame Anne Owers: Thank you.
Q87 Chair: Ms Cerfontyne, can I ask you, since you have conduct of this and you are a new-I was going to say actor, but that is not the right word in respect of what we are doing here today-person involved in this, you have had how many years experience in running these inquiries?
Rachel Cerfontyne: I have been a Commissioner at the IPCC for just over four and a half years. I have been the Deputy since 1 August.
Q88 Chair: If I just get this timetable right because there seems to be an enormous amount of speed in this. We are not against speed, considering this has taken a year to get to where we are today. But you did say to us, Dame Anne, as did Deborah Glass, that the reason why you did not do this in the first place-which of course we would have all liked you to have done it in the first place-is that you did not have the resources to do it. Have the resources suddenly appeared or is there some complicated case that now has to wait because Parliament is so interested in this and the public interest demands that this issue should be resolved. Where has the shower of money come from?
Dame Anne Owers: The answer is at the moment there isn’t one. But I think two things have changed since Deborah Glass made her initial decision. The first is that it is clear now, as it wasn’t then, that this is a self-contained incident. As we said to the Committee last time, we did not know when we began this whether this might not be part of some much larger enterprise, as Operation Alice itself has proved to be. We now know that what is at issue is a self-contained issue that we can deal with. The second of course is that we have the benefit of everything that was found in the course of the supervised investigation. That in itself means that resources that we would have had to devote to doing it from the very beginning have already been available. That is why we believe we can do it in a relatively short period.
Q89 Chair: Because you set yourself a timetable that we are in awe of, given that this has taken so long, of this side of Christmas, Christmas being one of those dates-sometimes Members of the House are told we will have reports for Ministers by spring and spring goes into autumn and winter-that cannot really be changed. So you have about 40 days and 40 nights to try to get this done.
Dame Anne Owers: Yes.
Chair: First of all, you need the terms of reference. We will send you all our papers, including the transcript of the hearing earlier on today, and we will not conclude on them now that we know you are investigating them as well. You will then look at the terms of reference, you will set the terms of reference, you will have your investigation, which will be done by an independent investigation under the control of the Deputy Chair, and you will let us have a response, hopefully, by 25 December?
Dame Anne Owers: Assuming that nothing else gets in the way, yes. By which I mean assuming that we do not suddenly discover a line of inquiry that we didn’t realise existed or there are other barriers to it. But assuming that what we think we are looking at is actually what we are looking at, that is the timescale that we are working to.
Q90 Chair: So, subject to earthquakes, this should be done in time?
Dame Anne Owers: In fairness to this Committee, if we discover such things we would want to let the Committee know. If things happen within the investigation that made it not possible to meet that time scale we will of course let Mr Mitchell and the Committee-
Q91 Chair: Are you in touch with Alison Saunders, the new DPP or are you leaving Alice on her own-if I can put it like that-to conclude in the normal way, because it is possible that Alice might conclude before you have concluded?
Dame Anne Owers: It is possible.
Q92 Chair: They are two separate events of course.
Dame Anne Owers: They are two separate events and, as you know, we are still awaiting the decision of the DPP on that.
Q93 Chair: On behalf of this Committee, I thank you most sincerely for the speed with which you have reacted to what the Committee recommended, the thoroughness of what you have suggested will happen, and your commitment here today that you will make sure that there is due process both for Mr Mitchell but also for the officers concerned.
Dame Anne Owers: Absolutely.
Q94 Chair: We are very concerned that nobody should criticise your report as some initially criticised Deborah Glass’s letter three weeks ago, which we found puzzling, but now accept that this is something that has to happen. We wish you well and we would be grateful if you kept the Committee informed of all developments.
Dame Anne Owers: Thank you very much.
Chair: Dame Anne, Ms Cerfontyne, thank you very much.