Please Release Me?

Today, in the middle of a General Election, I’m going to leap to the defence of a member of the Labour party. Not just any old member of the Labour party either, but a Lancashire man the CPS have decided not to prosecute after an investigation mishandled by the IPCC. Which narrows the field slightly.

But first let’s consider a bit of context. In this instance this was provided last Tuesday by another of my regular visits to the Lancashire Police and Crime Panel, a meeting I partially attend to find out why the people who are supposed to go there actually turn up.

Except quite a lot of them didn’t turn up on this occasion. It turns out that scheduling a secret meeting into the discussion of 2 IPCC reports into Clive Grunshaw’s expenses is not much competition to the lure of the doorstep during a General Election. By the time the Chairman had got to the end of a long list of apologies it was fitting for County Council Leader Jenny Mein to quip “you would almost think there was something else on.”

But let’s not bore you further with all the details of the discussion. Let’s get straight to the main event, and by that I don’t mean the IPCC reports. They may have taken 28 months to wind their way to the committee but the agenda item we were all shuffled out of the room to avoid lasted no more than 10 minutes at a generous estimate.

No, the main event was a tiny bit of actual scrutiny provided by members of the Committee to one of the Commissioner’s more troubling decisions. It went as follows…

Peter Gibson, Conservative Leader of Wyre Borough Council, broached the issue of Ibrahim Master, until recently the Deputy PCC, who last year was subject to a complaint and IPCC-managed investigation, followed shortly by his post being restructured out of his position by Clive Grunshaw. Ibby has recently learned from the CPS that he is not going to be charged after all, but that doesn’t get him his job back.

“Ibby”, said Peter, “was a brilliant Deputy Commissioner and it’s a shame he’s gone. How is the Commissioner coping without all the help.” Mr Grunshaw went on for a bit about how Ibby and the also-recently-departed Assistant PCCs had been there to provide continuity from Police Authority days, but the work has changed substantially from a Police Authority and a new structure was needed to match.

So far, so corporate, but under further questioning the mask slipped.

“It was a difficult decision to make to release both Ibby and the assistant commissioners” he said, and I staggered at the sheer cheek of this euphemistic use of the word “release”, before he went on to explain that the atmosphere had improved since they went and this was a good thing.

Hang on, did he really just say that about the people who have been helping him for the past 2 years?

A further question came from an independent Member of the Panel “Was it made clear to the people that they would no longer be required after 12-18 months?”

Now Clive had an out here, but he chose not to take it. In the Press Release announcing the appointment of the Assistant Commissioners it specifically said they were interim appointments, though after 18 months that explanation was wearing a bit thin. He could have gone there, but didn’t. Possibly because that would have highlighted another problem. The Deputy PCC had been appointed with conditions that linked his life in post to Clive’s life in post. He was supposed to be there for the duration. They had an agreement before the election. He was announced as his running mate. There was no talk of “until a restructure”.

So “interim” was avoided and we were told that “you make the changes when they are required”.

“But”, pointed out our independently minded panel member, “these people were having an impact.”

But not the right kind of impact apparently. “The impact they were having wasn’t enabling the office to deliver on what was needed” said Clive, and then he went off script again. He said the office dynamics had not been gelling when former members of the Police Authority, who had previously enjoyed member-staff relationships with the folk in the office were now put in the position of being in staff-staff relationships.

Really? – he got rid of the Deputy and Assistants because they couldn’t bring themselves to deal with staff on an equal level? What an extraordinary thing to say about these people.

Peter Gibson however had another theory. He said he had read what Ibby had to say on Facebook, and Ibby was clearly not happy. Ibby clearly felt that he lost his job due to a complaint that hadn’t been upheld.

No, said Clive. Ibby was mistaken. It wasn’t that at all.

But I like to be sure of these things, so the following day I rang Ibby. Mr Grunshaw’s former deputy wasn’t at all pleased by the PCC’s characterisation of the process or of the mood in the office. He described his relationship with staff as second to none, with good natured banter and a free flow of communication. He doesn’t know what Clive is talking about, so perhaps he meant the Assistant PCCs.

Ibby said that he had originally been told by Mr Grunshaw that his post would not be part of the reorganisation process. Then a complaint was made by the police against Ibby in August 2014. Just 3 days after Lancashire police had interviewed him, Mr Grunshaw had asked him to resign. He said no. So Mr Grunshaw later asked him again. And again. And again. And again. Not all in the same meeting, but in different meetings and instances, 5 times in all. Sometimes it was “retire”. Another time “consider your position”. Ibby said Mr Grunshaw had even suggested that Lancashire police would slap a harassment notice on Ibby and that he couldn’t refuse it, but Ibby had stood his ground.

What was this? A prediction, or a threat? Either way, it didn’t happen.

Each time Ibby did not resign, for 2 months. Then Ibby was notified he was being consulted for redundancy and was gone. Ibby was quite clear. His post was never envisaged as being for a short period. He was here for the duration, until Clive Grunshaw ditched him after he refused to resign.

But perhaps the most damaging thing is the account of the explanation Ibby gave for his refusal to resign. Each time they spoke there was a bitter irony. Mr Grunshaw was also under IPCC investigation at the time, and had been forced to admit making numerous mistakes.

Ibby told Clive Grunshaw- “Just as I defended you when people were asking for your resignation, I think I deserve the same from you, especially when the allegations against me are trumped up allegations.”

You know, as opposed to the other sort of allegations that Clive faces.

The Commissioner has had the opportunity to comment on his former Deputy’s allegations, which he failed to confirm or deny, just pointing back to the official reasons for the restructure given in his report.

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