Police Superintendent Will Not Have to Face Disciplinary Action for Misconduct

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Police Superintendent Will Not Have to Face Disciplinary Action for Misconduct


Byline: Martin Shipton Chief Reporter

A POLICE disciplinary panel has overturned a recommendation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission that a senior officer involved in reinvestigating Wales' most notorious miscarriage of justice case should be disciplined for misconduct.

Instead, despite a finding of misconduct, Superintendent John Penhale is to be offered "suitable advice", without further penalty.

Lynn Powell, a former police officer with more than 20 years' experience who worked as intelligence officer on the Lynette White reinvestigation, complained she was humiliated in front of colleagues when she was arrested, put into a cell and accused of making fraudulent cash claims for her work from South Wales Police. She says her treatment by the force left her feeling suicidal.

Investigations by both South Wales Police and the IPCC established conclusively there had been no criminal conduct on Ms Powell's part, and that the whole matter arose out of an administrative error.

The original South Wales Police investigation into Ms Powell's complaint said Detective Chief Inspector (now Temporary Superintendent) John Penhale and Acting Detective Inspector Gavin Lewis had given statements suggesting that Ms Powell had added false information to claim forms after they had signed them. This was disproved by forensic analysis.

In fact, overpayments to Ms Powell were due to an error by her employer.

In the wake of the police investigation, Deputy Chief Constable David Francis wrote to Ms Powell stating: "It is clear that the officers made errors of professional judgement, which had serious consequences for you... For that, and on behalf of South Wales Police, I offer my unreserved apology."

Mr Francis went on to say that he considered Mr Penhale's and Mr Lewis's actions amounted to "errors of judgement rather than misconduct". He concluded that the matter did not warrant formal disciplinary action but "suitable advice" offered to the officers.

Ms Powell appealed to the IPCC, arguing that the force should have taken the matter more seriously. Upholding her appeal, the IPCC report on the case stated: "Overall we are unimpressed by both the handling of the original matter, which started from an unjustifiable and not entirely rational assumption of deliberate fraud rather than error - it is a classic case where counter arguments were not explored and hence evidence to test the incrimination by two witness statements was not pursued, even though it was easily available.

"If it were not for the diligence of DS Critchley (the investigating officer for the fraud investigation) and his decision to make further inquiries following the interview of Ms Powell, a grave miscarriage of justice may have occurred.

"We are also unimpressed with the subsequent complaint investigation.

The irony, of course, is that Ms Powell was part of a team investigating the most serious miscarriage of justice in South Wales Police, and as the investigating officer does admit, a further grave miscarriage of justice may well have taken place. …

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