Make a formal complaint before we can answer your questions, police told Exaro
By Tim Wood | 18 September 2012
“I have been a reporter for more than 20 years, and have never had to go through a process like this before”
Police deployed a novel way to sidestep accountability over the doomed £1 million case triggered by corporate investigators Kroll.
Exaro yesterday revealed custody records that showed how officers raised concerns about the legality of raids carried out as part of the case by the City of London Police.
Last Friday, I rang the City of London Police to give it a chance to put its side of the story over documents suggesting that it had carried out illegal raids on three properties linked to a London businessman, Ian Puddick.
Kroll, the US-based corporate spooks, had persuaded the City of London Police to conduct an investigation into Puddick, for “harassment”. He was later cleared of the accusation.
A series of e-mails from within the highly secretive corporate-investigations giant detail how it sparked the police action as part of a Kroll operation to protect the reputation of a client, Guy Carpenter, the global reinsurance company.
The raids were carried out three weeks after top Kroll executives met senior officers at the City of London Police to encourage them to pursue Puddick, according to files on the case obtained by Exaro.
The detective superintendent who authorised the raid was at the key meeting with Kroll. Exaro has not named him for legal reasons, but he has since left the force.
So, how did the force respond to the allegations contained in its own custody records?
A spokeswoman for the City of London Police e-mailed me to say: “Complaints about the conduct of an individual police officer or member of police staff should be referred to the force’s ‘professional standards’ directorate, it is not for corporate communications to respond.”
She then explained how I could make a complaint about the conduct of the police officer.
I was somewhat bemused. I called the press office to point out that I was seeking a comment, not making a complaint.
The spokeswoman said: “Well, the word, ‘allegation’, suggests that you are, Tim. It suggests that this needs to go to ‘professional standards’ before it will come to corporate communications.”
She went on: “You are suggesting that something untoward has occurred, in which case you need to speak to professional standards with that suggestion.”
I could not believe what I was hearing, so I checked that I had understood correctly: “So, you are saying that, in order for me to get a comment from the City of London Police, I have to make a formal complaint about the allegations that we are putting forward in our article? That is ridiculous.”
She replied: “That is our decision, Tim.”
Still bemused, I went through the procedure suggested, and made a formal complaint. I pointed out: “I have been a reporter for more than 20 years, and have never had to go through a process like this before.”
Three days later, I received a reply from Detective Superintendent Philip Carson of the ‘professional standards’ directorate: “I think that there has been some confusion here. You do not need to make a complaint to get a press comment. I shall refer you back to our media department.”
Within minutes, the spokeswoman rang to say: “The matter you referred to has been recorded as a complaint, and is subject to ongoing legal proceedings, and, therefore, the force is unable to comment.”
This was progress, in a way.
Although Puddick is planning to sue the City of London Police for malicious prosecution, he has not yet issued any legal proceedings. His solicitors wrote a ‘letter before action’ three weeks ago, demanding compensation. He set the deadline as tomorrow.
He has had no response so far.
Serious questions remain over why the City of London Police embarked – at the suggestion of a large corporate-investigations company – on this investigation.
The case led to criminal charges against Puddick, but it collapsed in court last year. One MP described it in Parliament as a “taxpayer-funded crusade” costing £1 million.
Maybe, some months – if not years – in the future, the City of London Police will be held to account in the High Court.
Kroll has also so far declined to comment. But at least it did not ask us to make a formal complaint before deciding not to comment.