Hackgate – The IPCC and Surrey’s “Collective Amnesia”

14 05 2013

IPCCPublished in late April ’13, the Independent Police Complaints Commision (IPCC) Commissioner’s Report entitled ‘IPCC independent investigation into Surrey Police’s knowledge of the alleged illegal accessing of Amanda (Milly) Dowler’s mobile phone in 2002′ runs to just 6 scathing pages.  Its key observation is that

former senior officers at Surrey Police were ‘afflicted by a form of collective amnesia’ in relation to the force’s failure to investigate an allegation in 2002 that the voicemail of Amanda (Milly) Dowler had been hacked by the News of the World (NOTW).

The relevant documents in the public domain consist of a letter from Surrey Police to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee (CMS) on Surrey’s own investigation (Operation Baronet), evidence read-in to the Leveson Inquiry from the Metropolitan Police Service (MET), as well as that IPCC Commissioner’s Report.  The latter specifically focused on the referrals of Maria Woodall and Craig Denholm for potential recordable conduct.

MARIA WOODALL

Then: In 2002, Maria Woodall was Detective Sergeant and Action Team Manager of Surrey Police’s investigation Operation Ruby into the abduction of missing teenager Millie Dowler. She appears to have been frank with the IPCC that the hacking of Millie’s mobile phone by NOTW was known by several on the investigation team – for example, DC John Lyndon’s 23rd April ’02 log entry (p14)

…in light of the News of the World revelation that they or a third party has accessed the voicemail it is possible that the messages had previously been listened to by unknown persons and deleted.

Millie’s mother Sally recounted to the Leveson Inquiry (p14) her own suspicions that NOTW had intercepted family phones to get a particularly intrusive story for publication (‘The Longest Walk’).

Woodall’s referral to the IPCC  however was not about 2002. She was investigated for allegedly failing to pass on knowledge of NOTW’s hacking later during the investigation which led to the convictions of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire (p4):

The case against her rested on her actions and knowledge in 2007, when the first phone hacking convictions took place. It is clear that at that point she accessed the HOLMES system to view documents from 2002 associated with phone hacking.

Though the IPCC investigation “concluded that there was no case to answer for misconduct.”  From 2006, Operation Ruby’s Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) was Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Rowley. It is not known if Woodall informed him of her HOLMES searches.

Now: Temporary Detective Superintendent Woodall is about to leave Surrey for a new job with the City of London Police.

STUART GIBSON

Then: Detective Chief Inspector Gibson was the initial appointed Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) when Millie Dowler disappeared in March 2002.  It has been alleged that Gibson was one of the Surrey officers who met with NOTW senior journalists and were told of the hacking. (here)

Documented evidence of his meeting(s) with NOTW are missing.  Within a few weeks, Gibson was removed from Operation Ruby. The conclusions from a progress review by Sussex Police undertaken in the summer of 2002 are here.

At the same time, there was adverse criticism from the press – one “describing the investigation under DCI Gibson as ‘rudderless’ and this media coverage has since been described by (then Deputy Chief Constable) Peter Fahy as ‘a factor in replacing the SIO for [the investigation]“.  (p9)

Now: Stuart Gibson is retired.

The IPCC Investigation also states that amongst senior officers interviewed were those at Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) level.

CRAIG DENHOLM  (ACPO level)

Surrey Police’s evidence to the CMS Committee and the Leveson Inquiry came from Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby. Normally, both might have warranted the attention of the force Chief Constable.  However, Surrey’s Chief Constable Mark Rowley had just left for a new post with the MET and Temporary Chief Constable Craig Denholm was himself implicated as the focus of Operation Baronet.

Then: In 2002, Detective Chief Superintendent Denholm (Head of Crime) was Overall Officer in Charge (OOC) of Operation Ruby – the immediate superior officer to SIO Stuart Gibson.

The case against Denholm “rested on his claim to have had no knowledge about the alleged hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone before this was revealed publicly in 2011. Given the extent of knowledge within the investigation team, and Surrey Police as a whole, and the fact that this was referred to in documents which he is known to have received, the investigation found it hard to understand how he, the officer in charge, could not have been aware of the alleged hacking. But despite detailed examination of all extant documents and interviews with all relevant witnesses, the investigation was unable to find any witness or documentary evidence that contradicted Mr Denholm’s own repeated assertions to the IPCC that he did not know, and had not made the relevant connections. In view of that…there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of a case to answer for gross misconduct.”

Now: Denholm has just been appointed Deputy Chief Constable of Hampshire Police. Its Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “Craig is an experienced and very capable DCC with a good track record of leadership and delivery of excellent policing services to the public.”

MARK ROWLEY (ACPO level)

Then: Rowley joined Surrey in 2002 as Chief Superintendent to command West Surrey Basic Command Unit.  Previously (Guardian)

as a detective superintendent at the National Criminal Intelligence Service, he ‘led on the national deployment of covert techniques to combat organised crime such as telephone interception’ 

Rowley became Surrey Assistant Chief Constable from November 2003 and assumed the role of OOC for Operation Ruby in 2006.  He was appointed Chief Constable in 2009. Following the conviction of Levi Bellfield in 2011 for Millie Dowler’s murder, Rowley iniated Operation Baronet under AC Jerry Kirkby.

Now:  Rowley is Assistant Commissioner at the MET. For some time he was direct superior officer of DAC Sue Akers command of Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta. Responsibility for these investigations was subsequently transferred to AC Cressida Dick.

PETER FAHY  (ACPO level)

Then: Throughout 2002, Fahy was Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey Police under Chief Constable Denis O’Connor. Fahy left Surrey in Dec ’02 to become Chief Constable of Cheshire Police.

Now: Knighted in 2012, Sir Peter Fahy is currently Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police.

DENIS O’CONNOR  (ACPO level)

Then: In 2002, O’Connor was Chief Constable of Surrey Police. In all available evidence, O’Connor has been very keen to distance himself from the NOTW phone hacking in 2002.  Instead, he has consistently emphasized his heavy reliance on Peter Fahy’s responsibility to have informed him:

You will understand that as a discipline authority, not everything reaches the Chief Constable, who must sit in judgment of things. So I may have been partially safe from it, but I would have expected and, you know,my sort of –my concern with the mission of policing and its credibility, that people would have drawn — my senior staff, my professional standards department — if there was anything significant, they would have told me… Particularly my Deputy Chief Constable at the present (sic) time, Peter Fahy, I had absolute faith in his integrity. I thought he would make the right judgments

Lord Justice Leveson did however challenge O’Connor on this strategy of continuing, unsighted insulation (pp 98-100).  His witness statement added (1st witness statement, p7):

I am not fully sighted on the details of the alleged contact between the News of the World and my staff during the Amanda Dowler investigation (I have deliberately limited my contact with Surrey Police pending current investigations) so cannot comment on the specifics of this issue.

Now:  Knighted in 2010, Sir Denis O’Connor is currently Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

And STILL there are inconsistencies emerging on the hacking of Millie Dowler. Note the investigation of Maria Woodall “rested on her actions and knowledge in 2007, when the first phone hacking convictions took place. It is clear that at that point she accessed the HOLMES system to view documents from 2002 associated with phone hacking.”

Yet it is debatable just how much documentation was on the second generation HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) in 2002… or even in 2007. The – redacted – Sussex Review of September 2002 made Operational Recommendations:

Recommendation 56
That Surrey Police in general ensure that sufficient analysts are trained on the HOLMES 2 system.
Recommendation 57
That Surrey Police formulate an appropriate policy regarding the typing of at least the most significant ‘other documents’ onto HOLMES 2 during any enquiry.

Were those Sussex Police recommendations ignored? Or if significant 2002 Dowler phone hacking documents were in the HOLMES system, were they still there when Woodall looked in 2007? Had some disappeared by the time of the 2012 Operation Baronet?  Given that one of the aims of HOLMES is to facilitate crucial information access across force boundaries, was cross-force access to HOLMES 2002 documents volunteered by Surrey to Operation Caryatid (the MET 2005-6 investigation into Goodman and Mulcaire)? If not, why not?  Alternatively – following the high profile convictions of Goodman and Mulcaire in 2007 – Woodall may have tried to access cross-force MET HOLMES databases on NOTW phone hacking.

There were none. The MET did not enter details of the key Mulcaire Archive into HOLMES during the Operation Caryatid investigation in 2005. Or 2006. Or post-conviction in 2007.  It was only in July 2009, following intense criticism, that the MET’s John Yates ordered the phone hacking data entry into HOLMES to enable victim notification. It was costly, protracted, and poorly executed.

The IPCC confirms “widespread knowledge uncovered in this investigation, we consider that it is scarcely credible that no one connected to the Milly Dowler investigation recognised the relevance and importance of the knowledge that Surrey Police had in 2002…There is no doubt, from our investigation and the evidence gathered by Operation Baronet, that Surrey Police knew in 2002 of the allegation that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked by the News of the World. It is apparent from the evidence that there was knowledge of this at all levels within the investigation team  …former senior officers in particular appear to have been afflicted by a form of collective amnesia about this”

All this is highly reminiscent of the (contagious?) ‘omerta’ culture at the News of the World. Surrey Police seem to have demonstrated the self-same collective amnesia and willful blindness of NOTW senior executives, the plausible deniability of Andy Coulson, the trusting reliance on subordinates of Rupert Murdoch, the inability to read a log/email chain of James Murdoch, the document preservation abilities of News International’s Datapool 3 team, and the reputational management skills of Colin Myler.

To date, six have been charged with conspiracy to intercept the voicemail messages of Millie Dowler in April 2002 – Rebekah Brooks, Andrew Coulson, Stuart Kuttner, Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and Glenn Mulcaire.  Unless all six defendants plead guilty, these charges will have to be defended in open court. So there is much more evidence yet to emerge on the Dowler hacking, including the potential for former senior officers of Surrey Police being called as prosecution witnesses.

The short IPCC Commissioner’s Report is a much-truncated and redacted version. The full IPCC formal Investigation Report “contains full details of the evidence supporting the findings and conclusions and the report into this case is not being published at this time at the request of the Crown Prosecution Service, in view of ongoing criminal proceedings.”

This sorry Surrey saga is not over yet.

Related Articles on the Brown Moses Blog
Hackgate – Springwatch
Hackgate – Elveden: Murdoch Or King Cnut?
Hackgate – Elveden – Murdoch’s Catch 22
Hackgate – “Snakes And Ladders” At The Met
Hackgate – April Casburn’s Conviction – Myths And Misconceptions
Hackgate – Varec Revisited – Dissent In The Ranks
Hackgate – Sue Akers’ Swansong

This post originally appeared on the Brown Moses Blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks

Eliot Higgins, the Brown Mose Blogger is seeking to raise funds to enable him to continue his work – in particular his valuable and widely work on the conflict in Syria.  After some problems with PayPal, the Brown Moses Blog fundraiser is now back on track – donations can be made via Indiegogo.

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