The Oxford Dictionary defines the Police as follows:
“The civil force of a state, responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the maintenance of public order.”
But what happens when the Police fail in their duties? How are the Police held accountable when they get things wrong? Ian Hopkins is the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police…the month of May is likely to be extremely uncomfortable for him and his force.
We were told this week that the force had lost unencrypted DVD’s showing named victims talking openly about sexual abuse, and yesterday, Greater Manchester Police were fined £150,000 for losing this footage.
The Information Commissioners Office said the force was “cavalier in its attitude to this data”. I would expect many of the victims whose personal information was lost to come forward and submit civil claims against GMP.
What makes this all the more surprising is that GMP had already been fined heavily for another Data Protection breach related to a claim being handled by myself and my team here at Farleys. In 2012 an officer from GMP transferred confidential sensitive data on to a memory stick, which was then stolen during a burglary at a detective’s home. This breach occurred in 2012, but was apparently not acted upon sufficiently in that unencrypted DVD’s were still sent by recorded delivery to the National Crime Agency in 2015. May has already been a difficult month for GMP but things are likely to get worse.
On 17 and 18 May 2017, the Inquiry into the shooting of Anthony Grainger concludes. It is likely to be some months before we receive the report of the Chairman to the Inquiry but multiple criticisms of GMP have already been raised and are likely to be highlighted in the submissions of the legal teams, including our own summing up the evidence that has been heard over the last four months.
In the same week Three Girls is to be aired on BBC starring Maxine Peake, which will examine the events surrounding the abuse of vulnerable children in Rochdale. I have acted for many of the victims of the Rochdale paedophile gangs and have also helped the production team in the legal aspects of this programme. I believe that it will make difficult viewing and that it will highlight the failings of GMP in tackling the crimes that were being committed over a number of years in the Rochdale area. I fully expect the public to be surprised at the attitude of the Police to what was happening in Rochdale.
Clients are regularly amazed at the lack of accountability of the Police in this country. The case of Michaels last year confirmed the privileged position given to Police Officers such that they cannot be sued for negligence or breach of duty. If a doctor makes a mistake in treating a patient a negligence action can be brought. If I give incorrect advice to a client I can be sued. If a social worker fails in his or her duty to a child the local Council will be held accountable. For some inexplicable reason the same does not apply to our Police Forces who are immune from such claims.
Not only is there no civil accountability but the IPCC are toothless. My five year involvement in the Inquiry into the shooting by GMP of unarmed man called Anthony Grainger has repeatedly shown an inability on the part of the IPCC to properly investigate such matters.
The Human Rights Act is enormously important in this area and does give victims of Police wrongdoing some redress, but we must otherwise rely on the press and public opinion to help regulate our Police Forces. During the month of May the public will have to make up its own mind as to how well Mr Hopkins and Greater Manchester Police are performing when they see more information of what happened in Rochdale, when they hear the families comments at the conclusion of the Inquiry into the shooting of Anthony Grainger and when they read about the “cavalier approach” to management of data by the Police Force.
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