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GRIEVING FATHER WINS RIGHT TO SUE ESSEX POLICE OVER THE DEATH OF HIS SON (15 January 2015)

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GRIEVING FATHER WINS RIGHT TO SUE ESSEX POLICE OVER THE DEATH OF HIS SON (15 January 2015)

Post by Tony Bennett on 15.01.15 23:28

I was in the High Court today to witness a 'David and Goliath' battle between Les Balkwell and the Chief Constable of Essex Police (Stephen Kavanagh).

Les Balkwell's son Lee was killed on 18 July 2002.

After nearly 10 years of continual fighting, Les Balkwell managed to get a final ruling by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), on 30 January 2012, that EIGHT Essex Police officers had committed TWENTY-SIX separate acts of misconduct over their investigation int Lee's death.

Under the Human Rights Act, a failure to conduct a proper and effective investigation into a suspicious death is a breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Act states that you must make your complaint within one year of any acts or omissions complained of.

Having secured, at long last, an independent judgment on his allegations against Essex Police by the IPCC, Les Balkwell hired Solicitors to pursue a civil claim in the High Court.

The claim - limited to £50,000 - was duly made within a year of the IPCC's final report.

Essex Police vigorously opposed the claim and made an application in March 2013 to 'strike out' his claim. They said that he should have made his claim one year after his son's death - back in 2003!

Last year Les Balkwell ceased using his Solicitors last year for legal reasons which I'm not allowed to state here.

He has since been unrepresented and I have been advising him.

Because of court rules, I was only able to assist him at court today in the capacity of a 'McKenzie Friend'.

Essex Police deployed every tool in the trade to try to stop Les Balkwell's case going forward, including hiring a barrister, Claire Mortimer, for today's hearing. They spent over £6,000 on this hearing alone.

But Les Balkwell won.

The Court said it was entirely reasonable for him to delay his civil claim until after the IPCC had given its verdict.

His case will now proceed.

Below, an article just published by the Basildon Echo, and my recent statement to the High Court - items of special interest highlighted in red:

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/11728191.Grieving_father_wins_right_to_sue_Essex_Police_over_the_death_of_his_son/

Grieving father wins right to sue Essex Police over the death of his son

    [Picture: Les Balkwell]


A GRIEVING dad today won a David and Goliath court battle against Essex Police for the right to sue them for "botching" investigations into the death of his son 12 years ago.

Les Balkwell, 67, claims the force breached his human rights by failing to seize evidence and interview witnesses after son Lee Balkwell, 33, was found dead wedged under the drum and chassis of a cement mixer at Baldwins Farm, Dennisses Lane, South Ockendon, at 1am on July 18 2002.

The force applied at the High Court to strike the case out, arguing human rights actions had to be brought within a year of the incident being complained of.

But Mr Balkwell told how he had to battle for over a decade to get information from police to support his case and needed to wait for an Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry which produced a damning report on the force investigations but not until January 2012.

Judge Master Eastman ruled: "I think it would be wrong of me to conclude this action should be struck out on limitation grounds. I say it is equitable to allow it to go ahead on all grounds."

The case will now go to trial.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

WITNESS STATEMENT


IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE                                CLAIM NO.   HQ  13  X  03738

QUEENS BENCH DIVISION

 

BETWEEN:

LESLIE WILLIAM BALKWELL Claimant

- and -

THE CHIEF CONSTABLE OF ESSEX POLICE Defendant

________________________________________________________

WITNESS STATEMENT OF ANTHONY JOHN STUART BENNETT,

ADVISER TO THE CLAIMANT

________________________________________________________

 

 

I, Anthony John Stuart Bennett of 66 Chippingfield, HARLOW, Essex CM17 0DJ make the following statement in support of the claim of the Claimant.


BACKGROUND

1.  I have personal knowledge of all the matters made in this statement.

2.  I was first consulted by the Claimant in this case in December 2006.

3.  He had become aware of my advocacy in other criminal cases concerned mostly with alleged miscarriages of justice.

4.  I was employed in Harlow as a Trainee Solicitor in 1993 and was admitted in 1995; thereafter I continued practising full-time until 1 December 1999, when I  accepted a full-time non-legal position as the Political Secretary to a Member of the European Parliament  for the Eastern Region of England.

5.  I have not returned to the legal profession in any capacity since then and am now retired. I am aged 67. 

ADVOCACY AND REPRESENTATION ON BEHALF OF THE CLAIMANT

6.  I began rendering assistance to the Claimant in early 2007 in connection with the forthcoming inquest into his son’s death.

7.  It has been the Claimant’s settled contention since at least early 2003 that his son Lee was deliberately assaulted and murdered by members of the Bromley family between 12midnight and 1.03am on 17/18 July 2002. He claims, based on several lines of forensic evidence, such as a tachograph and CCTV evidence seized at the scene, that the drum on a cement mixer at the farm was deliberately switched on twice, at 12.59am and again at 1.03am, either to finally kill Lee or to mask serious injuries already inflicted on him. In a report by expert engineer John Bond dated 22 January 2014, after having studied various engineering issues in the case for five years, he concluded:  ”It is my further opinion that it is highly improbable that the alleged incident as claimed by Mr Simon Bromley took place at all”.
8.  The Claimant further contends that senior officers of Essex Police colluded with the Bromleys to cover up the killing because they had had, for years, had corrupt relations with the Bromley family. These issues have not so far been addressed by the Claimant in his pleadings and therefore, should the Defendant’s ‘strike out’ claim be refused, the Claimant would wish to apply to the court for leave to amend his pleadings to include important additional evidence, which suggests that the various investigations and reviews have not merely been ‘ineffective’ but may have been actively corrupted.

9.  Just to give one example of that evidence, I attach (AJSB1) the statement of the Claimant, his son Les and his daughter Tanya Munns dated 26 February 2014, in which clear evidence is given that honest, whistleblowing Essex Police Intelligence Officers told the Claimant, his other son and daughter, that his son Lee had indeed been murdered and that there was indeed a top-level cover-up of the true circumstances of Lee’s death by senior Essex Police Officers. As the Defendant Chief Constable is well aware, one or more of his officers covertly, but honestly in pursuit of the truth, and at great personal risk to themselves (they risked dismissal for gross misconduct and for breaching the Official Secrets Act), furnished the Claimant in or around 2006 with both paper records and three computer disks containing all the documentation in the investigation called ‘Operation Portwing’. This was a joint Metropolitan Police and Essex Police investigation in 2003-2005 into a major drug-dealing  ring in Essex and east London and resulted in the conviction of 14 drug-dealers including members of the Bromley family. But the real significance of these disks being disclosed to the Claimant were the full transcripts of hundreds of conversations between undercover police officers and named drug-dealers. I have read those transcripts. They reveal very serious corruption by police officers, police dog handlers and Customs and Excise officials to import drugs over the North Sea to be sold by drug-dealers in Essex and east London. One of the corrupt officers named by the officers who visited the Claimant  in 2003 (Document AJSB1) was the then Head of Essex Crime Division, who supervised the initial investigation of Lee’s death 2002-3 - and then the joint review of the investigation by a senior Professional Standards Officer and Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Coxall 2003-2005. This senior officer was promoted in 2005 from Essex Police to work as a Senior Investigating Officer for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). 

10.  A short summary of the evidence that Lee Balkwell was killed and was not the victim of an accident is to be found in the document ‘Two Hypotheses as to how Lee Balkwell Lost His Life’, prepared 12 March 2014, attached as AJSB2. (see also Paragraphs 57 & 58 below).

11. At the time I first met the Claimant he was being represented by Linn and Associates, Solicitors, and by a barrister, Tony Ventham.  He can no longer afford legal representation because of the huge costs he has incurred in pursuing the truth about his son’s death.  In March 2007 the inquest was adjourned because the Claimant had successfully exposed the Coroner’s Officer as corrupt. The Coroner’s Officer, Derrick Bines, had been selected by Her Majesty’s Coroner on advice from Detective Chief Superintendent Bull, who was later found guilty of 13 separate instances of misconduct by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) (though not in respect of this matter).

12. Mr Bines, a retired former Metropolitan Police Officer, was overheard, weeks before the inquest was due to start, in a conversation with Detective Constable Ian Raynor of Essex Police, corruptly stating that he was going to make sure that the inquest reached an ‘accidental death’ verdict.

13.  The Coroner had no alternative but to dismiss him and adjourn the inquest whilst another Coroner’s Officer was found. This is all within my knowledge as I saw all the correspondence and moreover in 2008, at a meeting at Brentwood Police Station, I attended with the Claimant and spoke to the then Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Superintendent  Keith Garnish who showed me a copy of D.C. Ian Raynor’s ‘incident report’ on his conversation with Derrick Bines.  This was in D.C. Raynor’s presence.

14. This adjournment cost the Claimant thousands of pounds in wasted costs. The inquest was adjourned to Thursday 4 October 2007. 

15. Late on Monday, 1 October, the then Senior Investigating Officer in the case, D.C.S. Keith Garnish, informed the Coroner that one of the chief witnesses in the case, Mr David Bromley, who had first reported Lee Balkwell’s death at 1.03am on 18 July 2003 and claimed that Lee had been working in the dark cleaning out a mixer lorry and had suffered an ‘accident’, was in jail in Saarbruecken, Germany, awaiting trial on a robbery charge.

16. At the opening of the adjourned inquest on 4 October, the Claimant’s barrister applied for the inquest be adjourned as it would be ‘like performing Hamlet without the Prince’. The other three barristers who were representing the Chief Constable and two of the S.I.O.s in the case raised various objections, e.g. claiming that David Bromley could give his evidence by video link from a prison in Germany. However, Mr Ventham’s application for adjournment succeeded, so the inquest was adjourned a second time. Once again, this cost the Claimant thousands of pounds more in wasted costs.

17. The Claimant complained as he was sure that the police must have been aware earlier that Mr Bromley was in Germany. The case was taken up by the Claimant’s  M.P., James Brokenshire, now a government minister. He secured a reply from Lord West of Spithead, the relevant government minister at the time, but he could not explain why the police had left it so late to inform the Coroner.

18. It was during this period that the Claimant and I discussed the possibility of his making a second complaint to the IPCC. The Claimant’s original complaint against the police (in October 2003) was delegated by the then Police Complaints Authority to a senior officer from Essex Police to investigate, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Hood, then Deputy Head of Essex Police Professional Standards Department .

19. In its role as the successor authority to the PCA, the IPCC on 8 December 2004 gave a provisional adjudication on the Claimant’s complaints by way of a letter from Mr Tom Moody, a ‘Casework Manager’, attached herewith as Document AJSB3.  This decision was later made final in January 2005. 

20. The Claimant regards this letter as of supreme importance in this case. He contends that he could not realistically have considered a civil claim whilst the whole matter was under PCA/IPCC investigation and jurisdiction.  Mr Moody’s report essentially ruled that both the investigation and review of the case by Essex Police had been prompt, competent and thorough, albeit that some minor matters were referred to the Chief Constable of Essex for him to ensure that ‘words of advice’ were given to three officers.  

21. Simply by way of only one example among many, on page 4 of the report, Mr Moody describes D.C.S. Bull’s investigation in the following terms:

a)  “He appears again to have followed all lines of enquiry fully, further reinforcing the decision not to arrest Simon Bromley…”

b)  “He documents the progress of the case fully…”

c)  "No omission appears to us…”

d)  “He took steps to see [your concerns] addressed…”

e)  “We can find no fault with the actions of D.C.S. Bull…”

f)   “He has carried out a thorough investigation and attempted to resolve your concerns as best as he could”.

22.   Yet after a more thorough investigation, the IPCC on 29 June 2009, in an interim report, and again on 30 January 2012 in its final report, branded D.C.S. Bull’s investigation as ‘seriously flawed’, finding him guilty of 13 separate instances of misconduct. This was simply because a genuinely independent body had investigated the Claimant’s complaint and had done some with some vigour and effectiveness.

23.  The Claimant has pointed out to me that had he proceeded to make any civil claim whilst the IPCC were investigating (2003-2005), the almost inevitable result would have been that any court would have decided to wait until the outcome of the IPCC’s investigation.

24. Likewise, the Claimant points out that after the IPCC’s report on the case in early 2005, any civil claim he might have made thereafter would surely have been lost - as no doubt the court would have relied heavily on Mr Moody’s report as the basis for any findings of fact. The Defendant, the Chief Constable, Stephen Kavanagh, has suggested in his Defence that the Claimant should have made a civil claim as soon as possible in 2003. But had he done so, and had the court made its decision on the basis of Tom Moody’s January 2005, the almost inevitable result would have been that the Claimant would have lost his claim. He could not possibly have had the means to discover, on his own, the ‘serious flaws’ in the investigation and reviews carried out by Essex Police that the IPCC began to uncover in 2008-9.  

25. Moreover, had the Claimant at any time prior to the publication of the IPCC’s second, final report on 30 January 2012 brought  a civil action against Essex Police, he says it is likely that the court would also have recommended waiting for the conclusion of the second IPCC investigation (2007-2012).            

26. It was in November 2007 that, with the Claimant’s written authorisation, and in my capacity as his representative for those purposes, I submitted a list of complaints on his behalf to the IPCC.

27. During 2008, after initially pointing out to us that only in the most exceptional cases could the IPCC revisit complaints on which they had already ruled, the IPCC Commissioner for Essex, Ms Rachel Cerfontyne, ruled that the complaints were so serious that (a) it was an exceptional case where the IPCC could revisit the Claimant’s previous complaints and (b) that the complaints must be investigated by the IPCC themselves.

28. Throughout the IPCC complaints processes from November 2007 onwards I have acted as the Claimant’s representative. I also attended all days of the inquest into Lee’s death, held over 10 days in January and February 2008. In legal submissions at the inquest, the Claimant’s barrister, Mr Ventham, said there was ‘overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Lee Balkwell was murdered’. The Coroner, however, ruled that there was insufficient evidence of this for the jury to consider it as a possible verdict. 

29. In addition to the above, I have continued for the past eight years to act as representative and adviser for the Claimant in all of the following matters:

a)  The conduct of Essex Police enquiries in the case

b)  The conduct of Kent Police enquiries in the case

c)   The conduct of Operation Abante (the West Midlands Police Review into the case October 2009 to May 2010)

d)   The conduct of East of England CPS in the case

e)   Applications by both the Claimant and his wife to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, it being the Claimant’s contention that his son died, on the balance of probabilities at least, from a crime of violence

f)    a number of complaints made by the Claimant to various bodies since February 2013, as soon as it became clear that the Essex and Kent Police forces, in conjunction with the CPS, intended to prosecute Simon Bromley for ‘gross negligence/manslaughter’, i.e. they were continuing to treat Lee Balkwell’s death as an accident . These complaints have been made to:

i)    the IPCC in respect of the conduct of both senior offices of Essex and Kent Police forces, and the two the S.I.O.s in the Kent Police investigation, Detective Chief Superintendent Lee Catling and Detective Chief Inspector Janine FarrellI  

ii)     the Director of Public Prosecutions

iii)   the Independent Assessor for complaints against the CPS (Mr Stephen Shaw)

iv)   The Police and Crime Commissioners for Essex Police and Kent Police.  

RESPONSE TO SPECIFIC POINTS IN THE LEGAL SUBMISSIONS OF THE CLAIMANT AND THE DEFENDANT AND IN THE STATEMENT OF ADRIAN WILLIAMS

30.  In Paragraph 12 of the Particulars of Claim, it is correctly stated that the IPCC on 29 June 2009 produced an interim report recommending that an outside police force investigate Lee’s death. The recommendation was that this should happen with immediate effect. Paragraph 12 continues: “West Midlands Police was appointed to do so and reported its findings in May 2010”.

31.  It is factually incorrect to give the impression, as McKay Law has done here, that West Midlands Police investigated Lee’s death. They did not.

32. These are the facts.

33.  The interim report was signed off by the IPCC Commissioner for Essex on 29 June 2009. She and the IPCC Senior Investigator, Amanda Rowe, met with us for us to receive a redacted copy of it on 2 July 2009. The Commissioner (Rachel Cerfontyne) told us that she had told Essex Police that they must implement the IPCC’s recommendation and should immediately appoint an outside police force to investigate Lee’s death.

34.   Essex Police did not do so. For three months thereafter, and despite numerous e-mails from me asking when they were going to appoint an outside police force, they did not do so.

35.   Then, in August or September 2009, Essex Police decided that a better way forward would be for there to be a third review of the case, by Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Mirfield of West Midlands Police. It was subsequently named ‘Operation Abante’. This was contrary to the express recommendation of the IPCC.

36.   He did not start his review until 1 October 2009, and was given a six-month timescale to complete it.

37.   He delivered his report to Essex Police, so we were informed, by 31 March 2010. We were informed that Essex Police senior management team met to consider his report on 14 May 2010. We were later told that D.C.S. Mirfield had made 91 recommendations. These were kept secret from the Claimant. This secrecy, whilst the Claimant acknowledges it was necessary for legal reasons, only emphasised to the Claimant his ongoing problem of not knowing when and how the original investigation and reviews had gone so badly wrong.

38.   A journalist subsequently made a Freedom of Information Act request asking for details of the 91 recommendations. Essex Police released 10 of the recommendations and part of an eleventh. These, however, were merely recommendations for future changes to procedures to be adopted generally by Essex Police. They had no bearing on the issues that D.C.S. Mirfield had identified so far as possible leads and new lines of enquiry in the Lee Balkwell case were concerned.

39.  Three months later (August 2010), Essex Police announced that they were referring the matter to Kent Police for further review and investigation. The Claimant vigorously opposed the involvement of Kent Police for reasons set out in a 4-page document, attached, AJSB4.        

40.  It had taken 14 months from the date of the IPCC’s interim report (June 2009) to get to the point of Essex Police appointing an outside police force.  And then the investigation was given to Kent Police, a force with strong links at many levels with Essex Police, as set out in Document AJSB4.  The Claimant’s view is that this delay was deliberate in order to put off as long as possible any independent investigation of his son’s death.   

41.  In the Claimant’s Skeleton Argument on the Issue of Limitation dated 29 April 2013, paragraph 2.3.6, Simon McKay of McKay Law refers to the IPCC having upheld  ‘18 separate complaints’ against various Essex Police officers. For the record, the correct number is 26 separate complaints, mostly against officers of very senior ranksee attached document, AJSB5, ’26 separate complaints’. In his evidence, the Defendant refers to difficulties for his officers cause by the passage of time. Let it be noted, however, that eight of the officers originally subject to investigation by the IPCC, and served with Regulation 9 Notices, resigned from the force before they could be interviewed, including one officer,Acting Detective Superintendent Terry Haines, who resigned on 1 April 2010, the very day he received a letter from the IPCC seeking to interview him in person.   

42.  In Paragraph 4.2 of the Claimant’s Skeleton Argument on the Issue of Limitation, dated 29 April 2013, Mr McKay gives a list of what he describes as the “following steps after the [IPCC] report was published”. He begins at ’02.08.12 - Claimants instruct  McKay Law Solicitors & Advocates’. However, the Claimant took other action between 30 January 2012 (date of IPCC report) and instructing McKay Law, as follows.

43.  There is no indication to me from the documents I have been able to see that the court has yet been supplied with a full copy of the IPCC’s final report, running to 147  pages, dated 30 January 2012. I have deemed it prudent therefore to as attach it, document AJSB6.  The Claimant was not at all content with the IPCC report. He and I conferred on it for weeks afterwards. The Claimant noted many omissions, some errors, and disagreed with a number of interpretations by the IPCC of the facts. 

44.    To give just one example, the IPCC report did not in the Claimant’s opinion deal adequately with decision of the original S.I.O., D.C.S. Bull, at the mortuary, to burn Lee’s clothes. Bull claimed that the decision to do so was made only after consulting Lee Balkwell’s common law partner, Lorraine Mitchinson. The Claimant, who has inspected the original records at Basildon Hospital Mortuary, believes the evidence contradicts that assertion.  .

45.   On 25 March 2012 I drafted, at the Claimant’s request, a letter to the Chief Executive of the IPCC, attached herewith, AJSB7.  The Claimant duly signed the letter and enclosed with it a list of matters, prepared by me, with which we considered the IPCC had not dealt adequately, please see attached, AJSB8.

46.    Several weeks later, the IPCC replied to the Claimant  declining to investigate his further complaints. I believe he received the letter during May 2012. The letter was sent to the Claimant at his home address but he cannot now find it.

47.    The Claimant’s M.P. had arranged for the Claimant to meet with Nick Herbert, the then Minister of State at the Home Office and at the Ministry of Justice with responsibility for police and criminal justice issues, on 29 June 2012, to discuss the outcome and recommendations of the IPCC report. The agenda for that meeting included (a) the continuing ability of  police forces to refuse to implement clear IPCC recommendations and (b) the ability of  police office to escape any disciplinary penalty by the simple device of resigning. Both were major features of this case. Inexplicably, however, on 11 June 2012 the Claimant says he received a telephone call stating that the meeting had been cancelled. No further such meeting ever took place. 

48.    It was at this point that the Claimant discussed with me what he could do next. I recall that his question to me was: “Where do I go next?” I advised him to seek advice from a practising Solicitor and some time after this he informed me that a contact of his in a consumer group assisting people with cases of alleged injustice had put him in touch with McKay Law.  


CONTINUED IN NEXT POST...  

____________________

                            "Maddie's Jammies. Where is Maddie?" - Amelie, May 2007 -  "Maddie's Jammies. Where is Maddie?"


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PART 2

Post by Tony Bennett on 15.01.15 23:46

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST...



THE KENT POLICE INVESTIGATION AND OTHER RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

49.  Whilst developments in the case subsequent to the issue of proceedings on 28 January 2013 do not appear directly relevant to the Defendant’s argument on the limitation point, I consider it helpful to the court to summarise recent developments.

50.  On 22 November 2012, I was told by the S.I.O. in the case, D.C.S. Lee Catling, that that five members of the Bromley family, Baldwins Farm, South Ockendon had been arrested ‘on suspicion of murder, perverting the course of justice and perjury’. This is different from what appears at Point 15 of the Claimant’s Particulars of Claim, where it is claimed that these five members were arrested on suspicion of ‘corporate manslaughter’.

51.   Early in 2013, it became clear to the Claimant and myself that Kent Police were intending to proceed against Simon Bromley alone for ‘gross negligence/manslaughter’. The basis for this was the continued view of the police, supported by the CPS, that Lee’s death was no more nor less than a simple accident, albeit contributed to, so the police and CPS suggested, by Bromley’s alleged negligence.

52.  The Claimant then issued several complaints to the IPCC against a number of senior Kent Police officers. In summary, these complaints alleged that police had deliberately ignored clear evidence that Lee Balkwell had been deliberately killed and had contrived to manufacture certain evidence which appeared to support their view that this Lee’s death was a mere accident.

53.  The IPCC ruled that Kent Police should investigate its own officers with respect to these complaints, but also ruled that since there was a live investigation, it was not appropriate to commence any such investigation.

54. In November 2013, after Simon Bromley had spent one year on bail, the Claimant was informed that Simon Bromley was to be charged with two offences: (a) gross negligence/manslaughter and (b) numerous breaches of Health & Safety at Work legislation. The year-long delay in keeping Bromley on bail has never been explained. The Claimant vigorously opposed the prosecution for gross/negligence manslaughter as he strongly maintained that there was no credible evidence that his son’s death was an accident, yet there was a great deal of evidence that his son was the victim of deliberate actions against him between 12midnight and 1.03am on 17/18 July 2002. He did not necessarily insist that there was enough evidence for Simon Bromley to be charged with murder, but he maintained that for the police and CPS to put this case before a jury for, in effect, only the negligent causing or allowing of an accident, was a serious abuse of process.

55.  The matter was remitted by Essex Magistrates Court to Chelmsford Crown Court at a hearing on 28 January 2014.

56.  Proceedings commenced in the Chelmsford Crown Court on 1 May 2014 and concluded with a six-day trial from 6 to 13 October when the jury took less than half an hour to unanimously acquit Simon Bromley of the negligence/manslaughter charge. The jury also convicted him on the Health & Safety at Work charges. Only after this trial could the Claimant’s complaints about the recent conduct of the police and the CPS begin to be examined by the investigating authorities.

57.  The Claimant’s complaints against the CPS resulted in two top-level meetings with staff and representatives of the CPS, as follows:

- On 27 January 2014, the Claimant and I met with the head of East of England CPS, Ms Grace Ononiwu, her Deputy Mr Frank Ferguson, and the CPS lawyer in the case, Nick Staite

- On 13 March 2014, the Claimant and I met again with Ms Grace Ononiwu and the barrister instructed by the CPS, Karim Kahlil Q.C.

58.  At the second of these meetings, the two documents above, namely AJSB1 and AJSB2, were submitted to Ms Ononiwu and Mr Kahlil. A further document, running to 87pp, titled “Les Balkwell - Notes for a meeting with Karim Kahlil and Grace Ononiwu, 13 March 2014” was also produced at the meeting. This went into much more detail about the many lines of evidence which support the view that Lee was deliberately killed, with specific references to and quotes from witness statements, expert opinion, forensic and other evidence. I have not attached this but the Claimant would seek leave to submit this in evidence, should his case be allowed to proceed.

59.  The CPS had not altered their decision to proceed with a prosecution, based on the police and CPS view that this was an accident. Accordingly the Claimant pursued complaints to the Director for Public Prosecutions about the conduct of the CPS lawyers and these are now under investigation by the Independent Assessor of Complaints against the CPS, Mr Stephen Shaw.

60.   One of the most revealing episodes in the trial of Simon Bromley for negligence/ manslaughter occurred on the first day of the trial (which I attended), when his Defence barrister made extensive reference to the unused material in the possession of the prosecution. He listed numerous occasions when Simon Bromley was promised, both verbally and in writing, and by both the police and the CPS, that he would never be prosecuted for anything, and specifically that he would never be prosecuted for gross negligence/manslaughter.

61.  Some of these letters were read out to the court. The Claimant had never previously been made aware that these promises had been made. Not one of the previous reviews and re-investigations, nor any of his complaints to date, had unearthed this most significant information. The Claimant suggests to this court that this is yet another strong indication that the true circumstances of this case have continued to be covered up even after several investigations. I attach a provisional report I prepared on the trial, titled: “The Continuing Cover-Up of the Facts About the Death of Lee Balkwell’ - attached as AJSB9.

62. As indicated in that document, all the events leading up to this abortive prosecution are now being considered by various complaints bodies, along with much other evidence of police and CPS misconduct in the case. One issue to be considered by the complaints bodies is the police’s insistence that there was a proper Scenes of Crime investigation and Scenes of Crime Report produced in 2002. The Claimant and I hold written evidence to the contrary.

 

THE DEFENDANT’S CHRONOLOGY AND A SUMMARY OF THE DEFENDANT’S CONDUCT IN RELATION TO THAT CHRONOLOGY

63.  The court has to consider whether or not to extend time for the claim for longer than 12 months after the acts or omissions complained of. Relevant here, as I understand it, are these two issues, among perhaps others:

a) Whether or not the Claimant was pursuing proper remedies for the attempted resolution of his complaints, and

b) Both his conduct and the Defendant’s conduct during the period since the acts or omissions complained of.

64.  Below I reproduce the Defendant’s Chronology; interleaved are the Claimant’s factual observations on what was happening between the dates listed by the Defendant:

A.  DEFENDANT: 18.07.02 Lee Balkwell’s death

B. The Claimant began to question the ‘official’version of events after the first few weeks after his son’s death.

C. DEFENDANT: 17.03.03 to 10.05.03 Several meetings between the Claimant and Essex Police re the Claimant’s complaints about the investigation.

D. The Claimant took legal advice when he was not satisfied with the police’s version of events and did not get believable answers to his questions.

E. DEFENDANT: 16.10.03 Letter Christian Kahn Solicitors to Essex Police re formal complaints by the Claimant. The letter encloses a detailed witness statement setting them out.

F. The Claimant’s complaints were forwarded by Christian Khan to the PCA who referred the matter to Essex Police to conduct an investigation into themselves. The Claimant says that this was the right and proper legal remedy to pursue. He says he could hardly be expected to launch a civil claim when his complaints were apparently being investigated in a proper manner. Only after the IPCC concluded its second nvestigation in January 2012 did it become fully apparent to the Claimant that Essex Police’s investigation into themselves in 2003 and 2004 had been at best superficial and incompetent but more likely a continuation of what he alleges has been the deliberate cover-up by Essex Police of the truth about his son’s death.

G. DEFENDANT: Further investigation into the death of Lee Balkwell by Essex Police (Operation Guthrie)

H. The Claimant notes that the Defendant has jumped from October 2003 to January 2005.

During this period the Claimant states that there was very dilatory progress in the case by Essex Police, with long delays and gaps between relevant witnesses being interviewed and their statements taken. The police cancelled a number of meetings with the Claimant during this period, giving various excuses. The Claimant says there was no sense of the police trying to get matters ready for an inquest; rather, he says, their conduct was consistent with a deliberate policy of delay and further delay.

Operation Guthrie was not as stated by the Defendant a re-investigation. From 2003 until 2010 there were merely a series of reviews. The Defendant was told many years later that Operation Guthrie was set up as a result of intelligence from two members of the public who claimed that they were aware that Lee Balkwell was murdered and that the motive was because Lee was said to have formed a relationship with the common law wife of Simon Bromley - Susan Lawrence.

During this entire period the Claimant was awaiting the verdict of the PCA (IPCC after 1 April 2004). On 8 December the IPCC delivered its provisional verdict. (Document AJSB3).

I. DEFENDANT: 21.06.07 Further statement by the Claimant including, amongst other things, details of his complaints about the police investigation.

J.  After the final IPCC verdict was delivered to the Claimant in January 2005, he was advised to ‘continue gathering evidence’.

He did so, but the police did not seem interested in whatever he found. Meanwhile no progress seemed to be made in getting the matter ready for an inquest.

Accordingly, on 6 July 2006, after weeks of preparation, the Claimant set up a website about his son’s death, in which inter alia he made strong and specific complaints about named police officers.

The following day, the Claimant received a ’phone call from Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Coltman, the Head of Essex Police Professional Standards, in which he was told that:

a) there would be a full re-investigation and

b) that the re-investigation would be placed in the hands of an ‘independent’ senior investigator from another police force, the Metropolitan Police.

A letter confirming this was sent to the Claimant the same day.

Soon afterwards, the Claimant met with the new S.I.O., D.C.S. Keith Garnish. D.C.S. Garnish also promised him a full re-investigation, ‘going right back to the very beginning’.

None of these police promises proved to be true.

D.C.S. Garnish later formally admitted at a meeting with the Claimant and myself in 2008 that the Chief Constable of Essex had only given him a very limited remit, namely just to investigate the 22 specific allegations against the police which the Claimant had listed on his website.

Moreover, the Claimant was made aware that before joining Essex Police, D.C.S. Garnish had worked as a close colleague in the same police station with Detective Sergeant Jason Weald. Det. Sgt. Weald was the Investigation Officer in the Lee Balkwell case from Day One under the leadership of D.C.S. Bull, the S.I.O. Bull was found guilty of 13 counts of misconduct by the IPCC in 2012 and Det. Sgt. Weald of a further two. Sometime during 2003, Det. Sgt. Weald was transferred out of Essex Police to the Metropolitan Police, where he went to work in a Murder Investigation Team in east London under D.C.S. Garnish. This undermined Essex Police’s claim that D.C.S. Garnish was ‘independent’.

K. DEFENDANT: January 2008: Matrix of the Claimant’s complaints.

Well before the inquest into his son’s death began, the Claimant realised that it was not going to be a fair inquest. Twice during 2007 the inquest had been formally adjourned. The witness list drawn up by the Coroner omitted, in the Claimant’s view, relevant witnesses. Accordingly the Claimant sought to persuade the IPCC, exceptionally, to take a second look at his complaints. In January 2008 the IPCC agreed, and drew up the matrix of complaints - to be investigated by the IPCC itself because of the seriousness of the complaints.

Once again, it was reasonable in the Claimant’s view to allow the IPCC to re-investigate his complaints, rather than launch a civil claim.

The Claimant further suggests that it was then entirely reasonable for him to await the outcome of the IPCC’s investigations before deciding on any further alternative legal action he might be able to take. It was no fault of his at all that the IPCC took over 4 years to produce their final report (30 January 2012).

L. DEFENDANT: 22.01.08 to 05.02.08 Inquest into the death of Lee Balkwell

M.  DEFENDANT: February 08: Referral to IPCC

N. As stated above, the Claimant’s complaint to the IPCC was first made in November 2007, around four weeks after the inquest into his son’s death had been formally adjourned for the second time that year. The Claimant considered that the police were at least in part responsible for both adjournments, at huge cost to himself and his family.

O. DEFENDANT: 29.06.09 Interim report of IPCC

P. The Defendant appears to suggest that it would have been reasonable at that stage for the Claimant to have brought a civil claim against Essex Police.

In response, the Claimant states that this was a short, interim report.

Moreover, it was heavily redacted so that he was still kept in the dark about many of the specific findings to date.

He was told that the IPCC were recommending an immediate re-investigation by an outside police force. Essex Police refused to accept that recommendation.

The Claimant suggests that it was reasonable for him not to bring a civil action at that stage because he considered that it would have been almost inevitable that the court would have suggested waiting until the IPCC had concluded their investigation before determining the action.

Q. DEFENDANT: 05.05.10 West Midlands Police Report on its investigation into the death of Lee Balkwell.

R. The Claimant notes (see above, paragraphs 31 to 37) that this was not a re-investigation but yet another review and refers the court to Paragraphs 30 to 33 above.

S. DEFENDANT: 02.07.10 Redacted version of IPCC’s interim report given to the Claimant.

T. The date is wrong and therefore is in the wrong position in this chronology. The date was actually 02.07.09.

U. DEFENDANT: 13.12.11 Final report of IPCC handed to Claimant

V. This is incorrect. This was a provisional report only. The Claimant and I were invited to comment on it and suggest any corrections and amendments. We did so.  As a result, a number of changes were made before the final report was published on 30 January 2012.

W.  DEFENDANT: 30.01.12 Final report of IPCC published.

X.  Thereafter the Claimant challenged some of the findings of the IPCC, see Paragraphs 45 to 48 above, which occupied him until May 2012. He had then arranged to see the current Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Mr Nick Herbert, on 29 June 2012. But then that meeting was cancelled. During the next few weeks, he made contact with McKay Law. Delays from August 2012, as set out in the Defendant’s pleadings, were very much the result of delays in McKay Law getting timeous responses from the Defendant.

 

 

Signed ____________________________________

Anthony John Stuart Bennett, M.A.



Dated 5 January 2015


List of documents attached:

 

AJSB1
Statement of Leslie Balkwell, Tanya Munns and Leslie Balkwell Jnr, 26 February 2014

AJSB2
Two Hypotheses as to how Lee Balkwell Lost His Life’, prepared 12 March 2014

AJSB3
Provisional Decision of the IPCC, Letter of Tom Moody, Senior Caseworker to Les Balkwell 8 December 2004

AJSB4
Reasons why we can have no confidence whatsoever in the joint Essex and Kent Serious and Organised Crime Directorate pursuing a few new lines of enquiry into the death of Lee Balkwell (26 August 2010)

AJSB5
26 separate complaints - list of misconduct findings by the IPCC, 30 January 2012

AJSB6
IPCC Final Report, 30 January 2012

AJSB7
Letter Les Balkwell to Chief Executive, IPCC, 25 March 2012

AJSB8
List of complaints about the IPCC Final Report 30 January 20132 (dated March 2012)

AJSB9 “The Continuing Cover-Up of the Facts About the Death of Lee Balkwell: A Provisional Report on the Failure of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to Secure a Conviction for Manslaughter/ Gross Negligence ein the Trial of R v Bromley 6 to 12 October 2014”

____________________

                            "Maddie's Jammies. Where is Maddie?" - Amelie, May 2007 -  "Maddie's Jammies. Where is Maddie?"


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