Page last updated Thursday 10th December 2015 at 1630hrs
Employing caseworkers who are ill-equipped to deal with the rigours of reviewing police investigations – and making the quasi-judicial decisions that flow from their assessments – arguably lies at the heart of much of the groundswell of the public’s dissatisfaction with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Thousands of complainants have been affected as hopelessly inadequate or, in some cases plainly fraudulent, police investigations into officer misconduct go unchecked by the so-called police watchdog – and the public’s confidence in the police suffers as a consequence.
One such individual would be Casework Manager, Graeme Thame, employed in the plush, air-conditioned Manchester (Sale) office of the IPCC. He was relatively new to the organisation, having previously operated as a consultant assisting people with impairments, when he was allocated the review of a police investigation into the outfall from a highly aggravated and well-publicised matter between the IPCC, West Yorkshire Police and Wakefield businessman, Tony Ramsden (pictured above centre), that is now rumbling on into its fifth year.
It serves no useful purpose to re-heat the blistering criticism to which Mr Thame has been subjected by Mr Ramsden as he has produced two woeful appeal assessments that have, incredibly, allowed West Yorkshire Police a fourth and fifth bite of the investigation cherry into two unprovoked assaults on Mr Ramsden by that force’s officers. Mr Thame, along the way, has ignored the lies and artful deceit of two of his fellow IPCC caseworkers (who cannot at present be named for legal reasons) in dealing with an earlier outcome. It is a sorry episode, indeed, and one that is set to bring more shame on the IPCC and those closely involved in a four year cover-up as Mr Ramsden, and several others, prepare to bring legal action against the dishonest caseworkers.
The Ramsden case is one that has attracted widespread publicity in the local and regional press – and across the internet. Including a piece that covered most of the front page of the Yorkshire Post in April 2014. Read that article here. A judge in an oft-quoted judicial review case, heard at Leeds High Court, incredibly found against Mr Ramsden after hearing about police officers, and IPCC caseworkers, lying about identification and corroboration of police officer statements. Stephen Morris QC’s finding that there were unsatisfactory aspects of the police investigation, and the IPCC appeal assessment that followed, was one of the legal understatements of that year. The judge did not allow the exploration of the lies that the police, and the IPCC, told repeatedly about location, range and picture quality of CCTV cameras within the narrow grounds of that public law challenge.
Mr Ramsden, based on his well documented experiences, unsurprisingly describes Thame as “pompous, self-praising and a liar”. A public assessment of one of their caseworkers that has stood unchallenged by the IPCC, and Mr Thame, for almost two years.
Now it will soon be the turn of Graeme Thame to hit the headlines as he has very recently been the subject of two criminal investigations by Greater Manchester Police. The first has led to him being recorded as a person of interest on the force’s crime intelligence database, concerning alleged drug dealing offences. A second is awaiting delivery to the IPCC Commissioner at the Sale office where Mr Thame works. The second probe concerns misconduct in public office allegations. One of the deponents, Mrs Bernadette Major, is well known for campaigning in the cause to clear her son Danny’s name: A process in which the IPCC have conducted themselves quite disgracefully over the past eight years, and in which Mr Thame became directly involved in 2012. He is likely to be interviewed by GMP detectives once Phase 2 of Operation Lamp – the investigation into the Danny Major miscarriage of justice – gets under way. (Read more on Op Lamp here)
These matters concerning Mr Thame were reported to the police only as a last resort, after the IPCC’s Chief Executive Officer, Lesley Longstone (pictured above left), refused to deal with the complaints via a more informal process. A similar opportunity was also afforded to the IPCC’s external solicitors of choice, Leeds firm Cohen Cramer. The lawyer dealing with the matter at the time, Emily Slater (pictured above right), has attracted some shocking national newspaper headlines of her own (click here) and it seems she was particularly well suited to handling matters for the IPCC. She was reportedly ‘fired’ (read more here) by Cohen Cramer at the end of January 2015. The partner to whom Miss Slater reported, Michael McDonnell, has also brought disgrace on the legal profession and was subject to this Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority settlement (click here) in 2013. The principal findings were that McDonnell and/or Cohen Cramer had ‘unlawfully conducted litigation’. Again, this outcome did not deter the IPCC from engaging this firm and spending around £100,000 with them pursuing harassment claims against their critics. It is significant that Cohen Cramer are currently facing allegations arising from that litigation that they have abused the Court’s process. The SRA will, of course, be informed of the abuse of process developments as they unfold.
Cohen Cramer, in the face of written evidence to the contrary from their retained counsel, claim via litigation partner, David Hall, that they did not act for the IPCC. Mr Hall has twice declined to comment on the conduct of Miss Slater and Mr McDonnell, or further allegations of abusing the Court’s process.
Ms Longstone, for her part, seems very reluctant to get her hands dirty and find out what really goes on at the coalface of the totally discredited police complaints system, in which the organisation she runs play the role of docile, toothless watchdog. It is also in uPSD’s certain knowledge that she has countenanced prima facie evidence of persistent lying of West Yorkshire Police PSD officers to, not only an increasing number of public complainants, but to her own IPCC Wakefield office staff. This is a matter in which some of those affected complainants, via their MP’s, are going to seek an airing at the Home Affairs Select Committee, on the grounds that the IPCC have no intention of tackling it.
But now the more immediate question is: Will Graeme Thame continue to be employed at the IPCC, in the light of the latest revelations? And, if he leaves, will he turn whistleblower? Or, will Ms Longstone engage Cohen Cramer and unlawfully pursue Greater Manchester Police for harassment, wasting tens of thousands of pounds of public money in the process? It is very much a case of ‘watch this space’.
Entirely in keeping with both her management style and the culture that cascades down from the top of her organisation, the IPCC’s Chief Executive declined to comment when approached. Indeed, she didn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge the email. She also declined to confirm Mr Thame’s present employment status.