Category Archives: crimewatch

Oh My Lords, No Referendum?

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Give the electorate a referendum on the abolition of the House of Lords” .

Government responded “The Government is committed to ensuring that the House of Lords continues to fulfil its constitutional role as a revising and scrutinising chamber which respects the primacy of the House of Commons. As set out in the manifesto, the Government is committed to ensuring that the House of Lords continues to fulfil its constitutional role as a revising and scrutinising chamber which respects the primacy of the House of Commons.

“Whilst comprehensive reform is not a priority, the Government will also continue to work to ensure that the House of Lords remains relevant and effective by addressing issues such as its size.

“The Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House of Lords, chaired by Lord Burns, made recommendations in October 2017 on ways of reducing the size of the House without requiring legislation. In response, The Prime Minister has written to the Lord Speaker and agreed to continue with the restraint she has shown so far when making appointments to the House. It is incumbent on all sides of the House to consider what they can do to further promote the culture of retirement. In light of the Prime Minister’s letter, the Lord Speaker has asked the Committee to reconvene to consider next steps”. Cabinet Office

The immediate solution might be to stop all allowances for members, most of whom are failed politicians on Commons pensions anyway. That should cull about half of them. Then introduce democracy and start elections. Does anyone seriously think this system of dumping muppets into the Lords is acceptable ?

Neighbourhood Watch, A Special Responsibility Without Allowances

Would You Be Interested In Setting Up A Neighbourhood Watch (NHW)  Scheme?”. I was asked that question a few days ago. Strange, I thought, I have already set up a scheme and I am its co-ordinator. It started in January 2016. It’s now part of the Lancashire Volunteer Partnership. But when I started there was a paid Police Watch Liaison Officer.

The December 2015 Minutes of the Aughton Parish Council state “The Chairman then invited the representative from Lancashire Constabulary, Lynn Wareing, to give her presentation on Neighbourhood Watch. The Watch Liaison Officer gave details of what the setting up of a NHW scheme entailed, the number of properties involved (between 5 & 20), and the role of a Co-ordinator for each scheme. She introduced the Chairman of Chorley & District Neighbourhood Watch Association who brought his experience to the meeting and full details on how a Co-ordinator would set up a Neighbourhood Watch, manage a Scheme and listed the benefits which included: bringing people closer together, building a stronger community spirit, helping to reduce crime. Leaflets on Neighbourhood Watch were circulated at the meeting and would be available at Aughton Police Station”.

In the spirit of voluntary unpaid local service some people who attended that meeting, me being one, signed up. It might be, to some, a special responsibility without the special responsibility allowances some other, 32 I believe, elected, people are deemed to need and receive!

In October 2016 we received this news from Lynn Wareing “I have been in the role of Watch Liaison Officer since December 2011, however, I was informed last week that my role is to be disestablished and therefore abolished as part of the Lancashire Constabulary’s change process. I have been assured that police support for Neighbourhood Watch will continue although, at this time, I have no information as to how this will look in the future. Similarly, I have no information as to who will become the Single Point Of Contact within the Constabulary or indeed whether there will be such a S.P.O.C. I will no longer be responsible for the ‘In The Know’ (ITK) message broadcasts that you receive in relation to local crime, threats and updates. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with such dedicated and caring community volunteers as yourselves and I would like to thank you, personally, for your hard work, dedication and commitment to community safety and the care of vulnerable individuals”.

It became obvious that the reduced Police funding crisis made the Watch Liaison Officer an easy target, and off she popped, leaving behind some disillusioned co-ordinators.

On hearing of local unrest, the Police and Crime Commissioner  wrote to us “I have been contacted by some co-ordinators who have raised concerns regarding the role of NHW Liaison Officers as part of this work…I wanted to give you a little more information and hopefully re-assure you of my commitment, and that of Lancashire Constabulary, in supporting you and your local schemes. Neighbourhood Watch is an important part of my vision for policing in Lancashire, it is part of the key priority of Protecting Local Policing in my new Police and Crime Plan…Crime, however, is changing and so the responses to crime must also change and develop and I am keen to support Neighbourhood Watch in this…I am committed to ensuring Neighbourhood Watch, alongside our cadets and Special Constabulary get the best support possible and my office and I are working with the Constabulary and the neighbourhood and Home Watch Network as well as others on a new volunteering model across the county which recognises the importance of partnership working across all of the public sector…I want to ensure the support you receive in the future is fit for purpose and supports you in making the different you want to see in your communities…If roles are changed this will be to reflect new ways of working and I am clear that the level of support offered to co-ordinators such as yourselves should not be diminished”. Blah blah!

Anyway, back to the recent invitation. You need “a passion for making your community a better place, to become a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator”. Act as a key point of contact to receive and cascade information between watch members, other local coordinators and partners, where relevant. Manage watch administration, ensuring that the scheme and membership information is registered in line with local policy and kept up to date. Signpost members with community safety issues to the most appropriate organisation. Promote personal responsibility for community safety by encouraging watch members to improve both home and personal security. Promote neighbourliness by encouraging members to share crime reduction information and keep an eye on each other’s homes and possessions, giving special consideration to vulnerable neighbours. Support public services to identify local issues and solve problems where there are community concerns”.

Cascading of information is a strange phrase to use about NHW, at least in Aughton, where once a month the Parish Council Chairman and Clerk attend what is called a “Meeting with Local Police”. It used to be a PACT meeting, unfortunately abandoned due to poor local public interest. They don’t let me attend, something to do with secrets, although in my work I signed the Official Secrets Act 63 years ago and remain bound by it. They receive details of crimes in Aughton which are reported at the following parish meeting. So all the crimes reported are therefore historic, perhaps five weeks old. No use whatsoever to the NHW co-ordinators and their members who must wonder why they joined. This poster    is not available to us. If I print it and stick it to a lamp-post I will become a crime statistic perhaps five weeks after I am convicted of doing it. Crazy!

 

County Council Leader Accused

The Lancashire Post  today reports by publishing in full a recent High Court decision. “Council leader accused of deliberate campaign to intimidate witness in corruption probe”. Lancashire County Council’s leader was involved in a “deliberate and concerted campaign” to intimidate a key witness in a corruption probe, according to police documents to seek authorisation for his arrest. A newly-published court judgement reveals police claims of intimidating behaviour from Coun Geoff Driver, who is currently on police bail. He was arrested along with three others – former County Hall chief executive Phil Halsall, David McElhinney, the chief executive of the now defunct One Connect and another former LCC chief executive Ged Fitzgerald – in May last year on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation. Mr Fitzgerald, who is currently suspended from his role as chief executive of Liverpool Council, attempted to seek a judicial review over a judge’s decision to grant permission to search his home and arrest him last May. His case has been dismissed by Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Nicol, sitting at the High Court in London .

Their judgement reveals key details of the long-running investigation, which the judges described as into “corruption in local government” into the four men, including; Allegations that data from seven laptops, six iPads and iPhones had been deliberately wiped during the police investigation and a desktop computer belonging to Mr McElhinney was ordered to be destroyed; Allegations that Mr Halsall had advised Coun Driver to change the properties of any Word documents he sent in to PDFs, in order to disguise their origins; Allegations that Coun Driver attended a meeting at LCC that he had been advised he should not attend, and attempted to remove documents.

All four men, who remain on bail, are at the centre of a criminal investigation linked to One Connect Limited – the now defunct partnership between LCC and telecom giants BT. Warrants granted at Preston Crown Court on May 19 last year by Judge Robert Altham, authorised police to search the four men’s homes for “any electronic storage devices including but not exclusively mobile phones, computers, lap tops, iPads and any other digital or electronic storage devices.” Lancashire Police’s original application for the warrants, said: “Circumstances essentially revolve around recent activity by Mr Driver, including his sending emails to a principal witness in the wider case, Ian Young (LCC’s senior lawyer) which led to Mr Young making a complaint to police alleging a deliberate and concerted campaign to intimidate him as a key witness in both criminal and ongoing civil proceedings linked to the criminal case.” It adds: “Evidence has now been gathered which shows that between 2013 and 2015, Mr Driver in collusion with Philip Hassall, David McElhinney and Gerard Fitzgerald, was involved in activity directed toward a number of principal witnesses…which was clearly designed to intimidate, belittle and undermine them both professionally and, crucially, as witnesses in the investigation.”

The police alleged Mr Driver used his position as leader of the Conservative party group, and, at times, leader of the council “to assist Mr Halsall and Mr McElhinney in the potential construction of their defences” and claims Mr Fitzgerald, Mr McElhinney and Mr Halsall were all close personal friends. The judgement revealed officers had been granted restricted access to Mr Driver’s email accounts in March 2017, and that police claimed Mr Halsall had advised Geoff Driver to change the properties of any Word document he sent into PDF, in order to disguise its origins. The force’s application alleged wilful and deliberate acts by Halsall and McElhinney to use Geoff Driver as a “source of information” and alleges his attendance at an LCC meeting on September 27, 2013 was to “glean information” concerning the internal inquiry and the appointment of a designated independent person to conduct it.

It also reveals Geoff Driver submitted multiple Freedom of Information requests concerning Operation Sheridan, had made a complaint to the IPCC concerning the Operation and had also put down a Notice of Motion for discussion at LCC. After hearing about email evidence at the hearing last May, Judge Altham said it indicated that “Mr Driver is in cahoots with the others, providing not only information but also providing challenge to people who can cause difficulties in the course of this investigation”. He concluded there were reasonable grounds for believing that the warrants would yield material of substantial value to the investigation and was satisfied that it was in the public interest “to allow police officers to enter four domestic properties.”

Judge Altham was required to consider whether other means of obtaining this evidence had been considered but agreed that would not be practicable because there had been in this case ”careful steps taken to cover their tracks.”

The two judges sitting at the High Court rejected Mr Fitzgerald’s bid for a judicial review, concluding that “the efforts of Messrs Driver, Halsall and McElhinny gave reasonable grounds for belief that there had been a conspiracy to pervert”. Lancashire Police’s investigation is ongoing and the four men are due to answer bail on May 22. They all deny any wrongdoing and have not been charged. Lancashire Police, Coun Driver, Mr Halsall and Hogan Brown (Mr Fitzgerald’s solicitors) declined to comment. Mr McElhinney could not be reached.

Wasn’t It A Crime That Aughton Police Station Was Closed For So Long?

Perhaps you despair at the disappearance of police from our roads? Never mind being told they are there, that “policing is different”. It might be, but front desks at police stations with those blue signs are symbolic of law and order. Now, if there is a police station in your area you are privileged, as we are in Aughton.

But as is now well known, in January, following some “internal damage” to the ceiling of Aughton Police Point at Town Green railway station, the police point was closed. Residents contacted West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper who was concerned at this closure after such a lengthy battle to get the police point reopened a few years ago and she sought immediate action to get the work done and restore the police point for the residents of Aughton .

It has since transpired through MP Rosie’s investigations that damage occurred in January, and on Lancashire Constabulary becoming aware of it, closed the police point. However, it seems that blurred communication lines [aka cock-up] meant that this was not ultimately reported to Merseyrail until March after Rosie had reported it to both agencies!

Merseyrail then carried out prompt remedial works and have now supplied Lancashire Constabulary with a direct reporting line for any future issues. Rosie Cooper said “What a mess! Part of the ceiling falls through at Aughton Police Point and it takes two months to report this to Merseyrail. Meanwhile, Aughton residents are left without their local police point.

“I’m pleased that there is now a direct communications link between the Police and Merseyrail so this shouldn’t happen again, and more importantly the work has been completed and that the police point is now open again.

“Residents will be delighted to hear that Merseyrail have also indicated that they are formalising a lease agreement with Lancashire Constabulary to secure the future of the police point for the foreseeable future, should the police wish to continue with a presence at Town Green”. And THAT might become another story!

Rosie Cooper and Aughton Parish Council previously brokered a deal in 2012 securing the Police Point at Town Green station which was extended in 2015

Aughton Police Station Still Closed

Having reported that the Aughton Police Station had closed for some mysterious building work there has been a deafening silence about it and it remains closed .

Despite Aughton & Downholland, where the police station is situated, having three ward councillors they seem not to be interested, not even “Soundbite Sam” being among them. And while he seems pleased by his new reputation, having tweeted that “Apparently @LabourWestLancs have taken to calling me “Soundbite Sam”. Two of my favourite things: nicknames and alliteration” perhaps the electorate of Aughton & Downholland would prefer that he actually does something rather than becoming a purveyor of bullshit?

An enquiry to the Police and Crime Commissioner about the closure resulted in it being passed over to the Lancashire Constabulary who “will be in touch with you in relation to your enquiry in due course”.

So when “in due course” occurs we may or may not have a police station in Aughton.

Aughton Police Station Mystery Ceiling Damage

The Aughton Police Station is closed for repairs, and has been since early this month. No announcement was made, just a notice stuck on the door . I wondered if a volunteer knew how long it would take and who is paying the bill? I presumed Merseyrail would pay, but wondered if it might affect the lease with the Aughton Parish Council.

My contact didn’t have any other information about the closure, only that “volunteers were told about 2 weeks ago that it was closed due to a ceiling problem and they would be informed when it was to be reopened”.

A request to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for details of the ceiling damage, repairs, and timescale for repairs, brought this reply “In order to look into your enquiry I will need to consult with a colleague at Lancashire Constabulary”.

No news is often not good news. Local policing is being lost. We should be told of any lack of local policing services, hopefully just temporary, but the silence is indicative of the mushroom method of communications.

The Lancashire Post  reports on councillors who have been pursued to pay their own council tax while still in receipt of member allowances, including the shock claim that West Lancashire is included among the worst in the country.

“Town halls across the county had to send reminders to their own elected members about late council tax payments, according to new data. In Preston and Chorley, councillors were then issued with court summonses after failing to pay up after being prompted. Only South Ribble and Ribble Valley authorities were not required to send out reminders in 2016/17.

“West Lancashire District Council  was among the worst areas in the country, having issued 10 reminders. Wyre and Blackpool each sent out two but no further action was required. Fylde issued one. Councillors who are in arrears with their tax payments are not able to vote on their local authority’s budget. In Preston, three reminders were issued, one of which led to a court summons for Liberal Democrat member for Cadley Coun Stephen Mullen. Coun Mullen said “Due to financial difficulties during the period when I was unemployed and later starting self-employment I fell behind (on payments). My current council tax is paid on time via direct debit and I have been paying off the arrears in instalments. As per the law I leave the council chamber and do not vote (on council tax items)”.

“Chorley’s  trio issued with summonses represent the same ward: Clayton-le-Woods North, for Labour. Couns Steve Murfitt (£570) and Jean Cronshaw (£64) paid up after being prompted, the figures show. Coun Murfitt said the missed payment was an “oversight” that was swiftly rectified. Coun Cronshaw said she missed a payment when she was in hospital and cleared it at the earliest opportunity. Coun Charlie Bromilow had an unpaid bill of £1074.71 with a payment plan agreed following a court hearing. She said the bill has been settled and the missed payment related to a time when she was off work”. 

So who are the WLBC 10, out of 54 members? We should be told, it’s a large percentage, and should cause concern to those of us who pay up on time.