The innocent visitor to the IPCC website could easily pass over their release of the reports from their investigation into Lancashire PCC Clive Grunshaw's past expenses claims. The dull and, quite frankly, revisionist summary of their investigation presented there is the internet equivalent of “Move along please, there's nothing to see here,” with a link to reports from the investigation if you really insist on reading them. But whatever else you fall for this week, do not fall for this.
Download, download, download (you'll have to, there are three reports), and do it quickly, because I'm pretty sure that the IPCC will be scrambling to change them when I show them what they have done, and if you follow my instructions you'll have a coveted original from before they messed with it.
Don't feel you need to read them just yet though. For one thing it will spoil my slow release of their contents over the next 10 months. For another, the 130-plus pages and 990 paragraphs of mind-numbing detail will, well, numb your mind I suppose, thereby ensuring you don't appreciate the enormity of the stuff they included, the stuff they changed, and the stuff they missed. But download, because soon you won't be able to.
While you are at it, you might notice that the dull exterior conceals a rather startling series of forced admissions, and I'm not talking about the admissions squeezed out of a rather reluctant Mr Grunshaw. Here is the story of the very first criminal investigation into a Police and Crime Commissioner by the only UK investigative agency with the power to do just that, and the cock-ups and conspiracies that crop up on the way.
And there are cock-ups aplenty, hence the three reports. The first report is the rather-unfortunately-named Final Report. If you read it you will see that it is nowhere near so well-disposed to Mr Grunshaw as the cheery official IPCC summary suggests. But you won't be able to analyse it properly, as the IPCC have chosen not to publish the Appendices which give it meaning, including the appendix that was used to suggest that Mr Grunshaw frequently didn't claim for expenses to which he was entitled.
When I had early sight of this report 18 months ago, my analysis of the mistakes in this secret appendix caused havoc at the IPCC, who were within a week apologising to the Crown Prosecution Service for leading them into error. The IPCC had, possibly by accident, basically invented a defence for Mr Grunshaw that even he hadn't come up with.
That is why there is a second “addendum” report, to fix the mistakes in the first, but when their high-profile first PCC investigation had gone so gloriously wrong the IPCC lost their lead investigator, and with him seemingly any interest in taking this investigation in any direction that didn't involve it going away. So, despite the review only making the case against Grunshaw stronger than when the IPCC had first referred it to the CPS, their conclusions miraculously shifted in the opposite direction to the evidence.
But the new investigators were apparently a little too uncritical in accepting evidence that Mr Grunshaw was OK really, and so, when I got hold of an early copy of their report, I found a ton of mistakes in that one too, which I let the world know about here. Once again the IPCC had shifted the balance in favour of Grunshaw when the evidence hadn't.
That is why there is a third report, a Case Review Report, to fix the mistakes in the second report that was supposed to fix the mistakes in the first. No, seriously, I know I joke sometimes, but it really is this bad. You won't know it from these reports, because none of them give any account as to how the IPCC got it so badly wrong in the first place, or the second place. In fact, if you read the third report you would think the IPCC had spotted these mistakes themselves because it brazenly ignores the fact that these mistakes were spotted by me here at TopOfTheCops.
Good job it can't get any worse than that, eh?
There are more problems – plenty more – but we'll just focus on two for now.
The first is the beautifully stupid way that the new conclusion sums up the whole investigation. For those who can't be bothered to look at the real thing, here it is – the last paragraph of the 990 that make up the reports:-
“Mr Grunshaw used a calendar system based on the block booking of time for attendance at meetings which he failed to update to accurately reflect his activities. Mr Grunshaw has conceded that he was careless and negligent when submitting the claims analysed in the IPCC reports.“
Now my focus is not on the “careless and negligent” bit for now, except to note that if a politician is willing to admit to being “careless and negligent” then you know they're in trouble.
No – the mistake is that instead of just saying that they couldn't make out a criminal case, which would look like a failure, what with all the mistakes, they went too far and instead sought to make a positive case, for something for which they had absolutely no evidence.
There is no evidence in the reports that in any way supports Mr Grunshaw's story about his calendar system. The conclusions of an investigation should flow from the evidence, but no rational person could come to this conclusion from the evidence in these reports.
Mr Grunshaw's explanation is there for sure. The IPCC didn't invent that out of thin air, but there is no evidence to support it. We are told this was all done on a computer but the computer is never produced. We are told there were printouts, but none appear to have survived. We are not told, though the IPCC told me, that the computer in question was a County Council computer, and here is where it gets interesting.
When you stop being a County Councillor, as both Mr Grunshaw and I did at the same time, you have to hand back your computer to the County Council. So there was no need for the IPCC to persuade Mr Grunshaw to hand it over, or use any of their police-y powers. All they had to do was ask the County Council for it, and then they would have the missing piece of evidence that might just allow them to confirm what Mr Grunshaw had told them.
Except, if they did ask, they never got any supporting evidence, because if they had it would be mentioned in the reports, which it isn't.
So, basically, the IPCC's conclusion is to accept Mr Grunshaw's explanation without any evidence, and despite the many times when he submitted expenses claims that were provably wrong, which might constitute a reason for not automatically accepting what he said without evidence.
I want to know what action the IPCC took and when to secure this computer, a vital piece of evidence, and how long it took them to ask the County Council for it. I've asked the IPCC, but experience suggests they won't be very forthcoming about the things they have got wrong, so I have offered them a deal.
There's another basic schoolboy error in one of their reports, which will lead them to withdraw it and fix it as quickly as they can. I'll tell them what that error is before I tell you, just as long as they tell me (and therefore you) just what happened with this vital piece of missing evidence behind their unjustified conclusion. But I've not given them long to fail to do that, which means you've not got long to download the reports before they make more changes to cover more mistakes.