Legal ‘loophole’ blocks police whistleblowers and allows forces to ‘cover up corruption’, say former officers

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Detective Inspector Joe Anderson joined the police for one reason – to tell the truth.

But when he tried to do just that over serious criminal allegations against his fellow officers, he claims he became an inconvenience to his force: his bosses did not want to know.

Over the course of more than a decade Mr Anderson has made accusations including corruption, perjury, theft, perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and fraud by false accounting and he alleges all of them have at some stage been covered up by Staffordshire Police.

Whilst he was still serving, he was prevented from taking his complaints to the independent regulator because he was making allegations about officers serving under the same chief constable as him which is barred by legislation.

Since his retirement, he has tried to report allegations of whistleblowers who, fearful for their careers, have come to him for help. But the same legislation prevents him because he is not directly affected by the wrongdoing.

Instead, Mr Anderson is stuck in a “ludicrous” situation where the IOPC and its predecessor send allegations back to the force and in one case even the officer he was accusing.

He believes not only that misconduct is still rife, but that it is unlikely to be confined to Staffordshire.

Concerns brushed aside

Reaching the rank of Detective Inspector, he served in the force for 23 years and says that he became aware of serious issues including “bribe” payments to witnesses capable of otherwise derailing criminal trials and officers who were fiddling the books.

He privately divided officers into the “dirty squad” and those who were ethical and reported his concerns to his line managers, but his concerns were brushed aside, and he says that he was sidelined.

Rumours reached him that the “dirty squad” had been “bragging” that they were “safe”.

The claims were that they had a hold over some of the most senior officers in Staffordshire because, during an earlier murder investigation, they had ordered them to rewrite evidence that could otherwise be damaging to a trial.

Eventually, when DI Anderson saw one detective cover up the fact that a protected witness had stolen £320 in taxpayers’ money, he went to the head of Professional Standards, then run by Jane Sawyers who went on to be Chief Constable.

Alongside hearsay of widespread corruption, DI Anderson alleged the theft of a mobile phone which a detective was using to carry on an affair with his mistress, promises of thousands of pounds in payments to covert witnesses and the rewriting of pocketbooks ordered by now senior officers.

‘Whitewash, a cover-up’

The allegations he made covered crimes including theft, fraud by false accounting, misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice.

Rather than an investigation, the force ordered a management review, which Mr Anderson described as a “whitewash, a cover-up”. The allegation of theft was not even mentioned.

Over the following four years Mr Anderson, 62, produced “report after report” on corruption. He believed that the actions of the officers meant that the convictions were unsafe in at least three high-profile cases including two murders and a multi-million-pound robbery.

He told his superiors the force had an “at all costs” attitude to conviction which would see them offer inappropriate payments for evidence, often to those from the criminal underworld. He reported to bosses that lies were told in the accounts of crime and the truth was hidden from judges and juries.

But, each time, Staffordshire failed to launch a full independent investigation, he says, claiming the matters had been reviewed.

Eventually, in 2009, he had lost all faith and called the whistleblower line for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which has since become the IOPC.

He heard nothing and when he chased it up, he was told the matter was “closed”.

Under the Police Reform Act 2002 he could not complain to the IPCC about the actions of another officer under the same chief constable, he was told.

It was kicked back to Staffordshire Police and they told the IPCC that the matters “had been dealt with to the satisfaction” of the force, documents seen by this newspaper reveal.

Kevin Nunes murder

It was only when Mr Anderson discovered that the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) were reviewing the convictions of five men for the gangland murder of Kevin Nunes that his concerns were taken seriously.

Six years after he originally blew the whistle, his allegations against the force contributed to the Court of Appeal quashing the murder convictions.

Lord Justice Hooper said DI Anderson should be “congratulated” for his actions and that he hoped “appropriate measures will be taken against those responsible for what appears to us to be a serious perversion of the course of justice”.

A subsequent investigation for the IOPC – of the same allegations that they had previously passed back to the force – “indicated that criminal offences may have been committed”.

A file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service and the IOPC said that four named senior officers, including Ms Sawyers, had a case to answer for gross misconduct. The wrongdoing by Ms Sawyers included failing to ensure that allegations were properly investigated.

But the Police and Crime Commissioner turned down their recommendations and the IOPC did not pursue the case. The CPS said that there was insufficient evidence of a “deliberate” attempt on the part of officers to pervert the course of justice.

A Staffordshire Police spokesman insisted that it “found no evidence of corruption or criminality in the actions of Staffordshire Police”.

The investigation, codenamed Operation Kalmia, could only look at the claims of wrongdoing in the Nunes murder case.

Mr Anderson has repeatedly asked for his other claims to be fully investigated but says that he was told by recently retired chief constable Gareth Morgan that he is “satisfied” that they have been robustly examined by the professional standards lead for another force.

That report, seen by The Daily Telegraph, notes that it was just a “scoping” exercise which “deliberately” did not seek evidence from any of the officers involved which stated it “cannot and should not be held to be a thorough investigation”.

Staffordshire Police told The Telegraph it was a “detailed and thorough report and no evidence was found to support his allegations” which was then handed to the IOPC who took no action.

They added: “If any new evidence or information comes to light, this would be reviewed as part of our commitment to thoroughly investigate any such allegations.”

Passed over for promotion

Mr Anderson has tried to take the cases to the Home Office and his MPs, warning that “successive Chief Officers have used the loophole” in the Police Reform Act 2002 to avoid scrutiny.

He claims he was passed over for promotion after raising concerns. In 2010, having served ten years in the Royal Marines before joining the force, he was up for retirement and, utterly disillusioned, he took it.

Ironically, it is the tenacity which made him a good police officer which saw him forced out of his role and painted as an obsessive.

“Since I have retired, I have been contacted by a number of other police officers who tell me that it is still happening across forces and how cover-ups are still going on,” he said.

He has subsequently raised at least three other allegations against Staffordshire, including that senior detectives covered up criminal allegations against an officer who had taken her own life, and that another officer was proven by body cam footage to have lied in a statement claiming that he was assaulted and was subsequently just given a slap on the wrists.

He was told that, under the reform act, the IOPC cannot investigate the allegations as he is not directly affected by them.

The officers who have told him about them, who are also blocked from complaining to the IOPC because it concerns their force, are in any event too “fearful” to raise the matters because of the impact on their careers.

Mr Anderson said: “They have seen what has happened to me and they are scared. You complain at your own peril.”

Another case raised by Mr Anderson involved an allegation that an officer had seen evidence that documents relating to the Babes in the Ditch murders in the 1960s had been shredded despite being requested by the CCRC.

‘A family, a clique’

That officer had tried to raise the issue with his line manager but was told to “mind his own business” and later moved back to uniform. It is unclear if the force ever investigated, but the officer has never been asked about what he saw.

“Who made me judge and jury?” Mr Anderson asked. “I just want to tell the truth. But none of that mattered to them, they just wanted the result and it didn’t matter how they got it.

“Senior officers are all part of a family, a clique, and they look after each other. They don’t want a scandal that is going to impact their reputation or that of the force.”

A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: “Public confidence in our officers and staff is of the utmost importance and we take all complaints extremely seriously. We expect the highest standards of professional behaviour from anyone working for the force at all times.

“Allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by our Professional Standards Department. Where appropriate, matters are overseen or investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC).”

Ms Sawyers did not respond to a request for comment.

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