There has been concern expressed at the arrests of those who were involved in the ‘whistle blowing’ of the expenditure of the Cumbrian PCC who had chauffeur driven Mercs to take him to functions, Mr Richard Rhodes had two trips at £700. This was for his ‘personal safety’ allegedly. Two Cumbrian Police staff were arrested, and a third outside of the job was also arrested. We are encouraged to be ‘whistle blowing’ but not if you work for the Police?
Why should it be any different?? If someone feels that public funds are being wasted then surely the public have the right to know. I understand that the police staff do have the ‘Data Protection’ umbrella hovering above their heads, and this is maybe where it isn’t deemed for police to be blowing any whistle – I would suggest that anything that puts your career at risk then don’t do it. Really what is going to come out of this? Oh yes, right, he’s paid the expenses out of his own pocket, but hasn’t commented about it. I would suggest that if you hadn’t done anything wrong then why would you be paying back the money – but standing up and saying ‘actually, I had the right to do this’. Nothing. Not a peep. I am not thinking for one minute that there has been anything untoward criminally, but I would suggest that if it hadn’t been brought in to the media spotlight would the money have been paid back?
I do hope that they didn’t ’sell’ the information – as for the sake of a small amount of payment is never worth your career and your pension, plus the fact that if you feel strongly to be a whistle blower then it shouldn’t be done for financial gain, it should be done because you think that the integrity of the service you are in is wrong – but again, if it breaks Data Protection laws then you would seriously have to think twice.
Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in the south Lakes, said: “Politicians of all colours regularly praise whistleblowers, and it is wrong to seek to silence whistleblowers in this case. Details of the expenses of public officials ought to be publicly available anyway, we shouldn’t have to rely on leaks to find these things out.
“This information was in the public interest, and I’m sure could have been accessed by a simple Freedom Of Information request. Most councils publish this information on a regular basis so why not the police commissioner? To arrest these staff members is high-handed, a threat to free speech and a very dangerous precedent.”
Jamie Reed, Labour MP for Copeland in west Cumbria, wrote to the home secretary, Theresa May, on Thursday asking her to investigate what he said appeared to be “indefensible” behaviour on Rhodes’s part.
He wrote: “It is widely reported that these arrests followed a complaint from the police and crime commissioner’s own office to the chief constable. If true, this is clearly indefensible. Such an act would not only damage the office of the Cumbria police and crime commissioner beyond repair but, more importantly, damage the reputation of the Cumbria constabulary.
If this information could have been gained from Freedom of Information then perhaps that’s food for thought and those who want to ‘whistle blow’ in the future just need to say ‘FOI’.
A police spokeswoman said: “A 54-year-old man from Penrith, who is not an employee of Cumbria constabulary, was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice following a warrant that was carried out by police at a property in the town. He remains in police custody.
“These arrests form part of an ongoing investigation by Cumbria constabulary which was launched after police received concerns that confidential information was leaked to the media relating to the police and crime commissioner. Initial concerns were raised by a member of staff within the office of the police and crime commissioner (OPCC) after a member of the local media approached the OPCC for comment on a story they intended to publish.”
Richard Rhodes was not available for comment on Wednesday or Thursday. On Wednesday he released a statement via Stuart Edwards, the chief executive of his office, saying he had paid back the £700 once he realised how much the chauffeur-driven trips had cost. The statement suggested he had not instigated the police investigation.
“All operational policing issues are the responsibility of the chief constable and are independent of the police and crime commissioner,” Edwards said. “Mr Rhodes does not have the powers to instigate or influence an operational policing matter, this is a decision of the chief constable.”
It appears that the only ones who are going to suffer are those who thought they were doing the right thing by bringing this to the public’s’ attention in the first place.
Courtesy of Inspector Juliet Bravo