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Union ‘appalled’ at PCC’s public stance over Yvonne Mosquito suspension

Union ‘appalled’ at PCC’s public stance over Yvonne Mosquito suspension

🕔04.Apr 2016

The Unite public services union has criticised West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson over the way he is handling the suspension of his deputy Yvonne Mosquito.

Unite says it is “appalled” that Mr Jamieson saw fit to issue a detailed statement defending his decision to suspend the deputy police and crime commissioner from her £65,000-a-year job.

The Commissioner acted a week ago following a complaint from a senior police officer.

It is alleged Ms Mosquito visited the family of a murder victim without following agreed protocols and did not inform investigating officers of her intention to do so.

Ms Mosquito, a prominent Christian, a city councillor for 20 years and well known member of Birmingham’s African-Caribbean community, is understood to have prayed with the family and believes she has done nothing wrong.

Mr Jamieson issued the following statement:

Last week I made a very difficult decision to suspend the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.

I made the decision after a senior officer from the force contacted me setting out how the unexpected actions of a member of my staff may have interfered with and disrupted a highly complex and sensitive criminal investigation.

This is the first time I have ever received such a letter.  The oath of office for police and crime commissioners says I must never interfere with the operational independence of police officers.

This is a golden rule for PCCs and our offices.  The police have to be able to get on with catching criminals and preventing crime without interference. Following that contact, I decided to act.

It is not in dispute that the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner visited the family of a victim of a murder.  The family have my deepest sympathies at this most awful time, and I sincerely hope that all those involved are brought to justice.

Such visits are allowed, of course, but there has been an understood practice for some years that, before such a visit, the police should be informed, so as to ensure that the police investigation team are aware and there is no risk of the visit compromising the investigation, nor to those making the visit.  All it takes is a phone call.

We refreshed our approach to such visits just a few weeks ago, exactly to ensure that if visits like this take place they do so without causing problems for the investigators.

It is alleged that the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner did not make contact with the police or my office before making this visit.

Unauthorised visits can lead to serious consequences that negatively affect investigations. This serious breach of protocol, if proven, could have potentially hindered and jeopardised a complex, sensitive and on-going murder investigation.

The potential impact could hardly be greater. I cannot release further details as to do so would potentially cause more damage to the investigation than has already been reported to me by the force.

These are serious allegations, and an internal disciplinary process is underway. This process will get to the bottom of what happened and why it happened.

The detailed and outspoken nature of the statement angered Unite.

In his statement Mr Jameson points to a “golden rule” that he and his deputy “must never interfere with the operational independence of police officers”, and that procedures were refreshed just a few weeks ago “exactly to ensure that if visits like this take place they do so without causing problems for the investigators”.

And in what appears to be a direct reference to Ms Mosquito’s alleged conduct, the Commissioner says it would only have taken a phone call to set up such a visit.

The penultimate paragraph of the statement suggests Mr Jamieson’s hands are tied by judicial procedures, leading to the impression there may be more information about the incident to come out. The Commissioner also suggests, publicly, that the visit may have damaged a murder investigation.

I cannot release further details as to do so would potentially cause more damage to the investigation than has already been reported to me by the force.

Unite regional officer Caren Evans “strongly refuted” the allegations made against Ms Mosquito.

In a statement, the union said:

We are appalled that information that should be private and confidential as part of the disciplinary process has been put into the public domain.

The union will be giving Yvonne all necessary support at this difficult time for her. We will also co-operate fully with any inquiry into Yvonne’s alleged conduct.

A spokesperson for the Commissioner confirmed that the evidential test for Ms Mosquito’s disciplinary hearing would be “on the balance of probabilities”, the civil test of evidence, rather than the harder to prove “beyond all reasonable doubt”, which is used in criminal cases.

The spokesperson said the Commissioner would not reveal the identity of the senior official conducting the disciplinary hearing, but that it was someone not involved with the alleged incident. The investigation is likely to last two weeks.

The PCC office disciplinary code lists “serious infringement of our rules and working practices” as an example of gross misconduct.

Ms Mosquito’s future as deputy police commissioner was already a matter of acute political speculation even before the suspension. Mr Jamieson inherited Ms Mosquito as deputy in 2014 when he took over as PCC following the death of Bob Jones, and is thought to be keen to appoint his own person.

It has been reported that Ms Mosquito, a Labour Birmingham city councillor, will be dumped by Mr Jamieson if he is returned as West Midlands police commissioner at the PCC election in May.

Labour councillors Waseem Zaffar and Sharon Thompson are thought to be among the favourites for the job, although the name of former Liberal Democrat councillor Ernie Hendricks has also been mentioned.

Support for Ms Mosquito remains strong among the Black community.

Simon Woolley, the founder and director of Operation Black Vote, accused Mr Jamieson of treating his deputy “dreadfully” and claimed the PCC was reneging on a pledge to reappoint Ms Mosquito in May. Mr Wooley said:

Many people feel that Mosquito was used to get Jamieson into office, but now that she’s no longer needed, it’s felt that she’s being cast aside.

In a statement to The Voice, Mr Jamieson said:

The West Midlands is one of the most diverse regions of England. To reflect this, I have driven through changes in my office to ensure that the office looks more like the people of the region it serves. Over 30 per cent of staff members employed in my office is from a BAME background.

If I am re-elected and decide to appoint a deputy, I will ensure that I am drawing on the best talents from our BAME communities. I want to take a fresh look at this area and I am not ruling anyone in or anyone out.

No reassurances have been given to anyone about future appointments as I don’t yet know if I will be the PCC after May.

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