Last week I attended the Adjudication Panel for Wales tribunal held at Tre-ysgawen Hall examining whether Cllr Peter Rogers had transgressed the respective codes of conduct of both the North Wales Police Authority (of which he is a member) and Anglesey County Council in light of his alleged behaviour at Holyhead Police Station in January 2010. Cllr Rogers had attended the station in support of a Rhosyr constituent of his who had been accused of threatening to assassinate another county councillor following a failed planning application. It was alleged that Cllr Rogers had sought to use his influence as a member of the Police Authority to gain an advantage for himself or others; and also that through having raised his voice at a Detective Constable, Cllr Rogers had behaved in a bullying or harassing manner. He was eventually cleared of all the above charges, and instead found guilty of the far lesser charge of having brought Anglesey Council and the office of councillor into disrepute and given the least consequential punishment possible: a slap on the wrist.
Although the tribunal itself was conducted in the very model of good sense and judgement, the same cannot be said in this instance of either the Police or the North Wales Police Authority which brought the original complaint against Cllr Rogers to the Ombudsman. The Police took over three months to investigate an obviously far-fetched claim then behaved in an unnecessarily heavy-handed manner in arresting, finger-printing, photographing, then keeping in the holding cells for several hours the man who had supposedly made the 'assassination' threat – even thought he presented himself at Holyhead Police Station willingly (Indeed this man suffered greatly because during the investigation he had also been prevented from continuing his job of teaching children with special needs how to play musical instruments). It was only when Cllr Rogers discovered that the Police had no corroborating evidence other than the original allegation that he is supposed to have shouted in exasperation, "you have no evidence", at the detective constable and said he wished to make an official complaint. The chairman of the tribunal in his summing-up pointedly remarked that the investigation "could and should have been brought to a close much earlier".
None of the Police Officers who gave evidence claimed that Cllr Rogers had explicitly stated he was a member of the Police Authority whilst speaking with them. The Police Authority's complaint to the Ombudsman was therefore entirely based on inference, i.e. as some of the Police Officers were aware that Cllr Rogers was a member of the Police Authority, they may have assumed that he was possibly acting on Police Authority business rather than as a councillor representing his constituent. It was on such a flimsy basis that North Wales Police Authority brought the original complaint to the Ombudsman's Office. So flimsy in fact that Mr Tal Michael, the Chief Executive of North Wales Police Authority (and known to readers of this blog from this episode), no doubt sensing which way the tribunal was likely to find, sought unprofessionally to introduce new evidence to the Tribunal at the very last moment to the evident disconcerture of Mr Peter Davies, the Tribunal Chairman. For his efforts, Mr Michael was gently but firmly "put in [his] place" by Mr Davies. The Tribunal found conclusively (and embarrassingly for the North Wales Police Authority) that the Police Authority code of conduct was not even engaged as Cllr Rogers was not present on Police Authority business nor did he give the impression that he was.
There were so many opportunities throughout this entire unhappy saga for sensible people to have shown some intelligence and discretion and thus avoided a huge and unnecessary waste of public money. The Police could indeed have brought their investigations into the ridiculous assassination allegations to a close much earlier with less disruption for everyone; the North Wales Police Authority could have discussed and resolved the 'shouting' issue with Cllr Rogers informally, rather than seeking to "throw the book at him" and thus triggering an expensive eighteen month investigation by the Ombudsman's Office and three day tribunal. The costs of everything, including the time of the Police Officers, barristers, clerks, Ombudsman's staff, various monitoring officers, rooms at Tre-ysgawen Hall etc. must be well into the hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money – money paid by all of us in tax. Unfortunately sense and prudence with public money was sadly lacking from all involved.
Declaration of Interest: Cllr Peter Rogers is a family friend and also endorsed my candidacy in this May's Welsh Assembly Elections.