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  • IPCC defends decision on Banaz Mahmood


    by Rumbold
    14th March, 2009 at 9:54 pm    

    In December 2008 the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) decided to cease investigating the conduct of two police officers involved in the infamous Banaz Mahmood case, which involved the ‘honour’ killing of Banaz Mahmood, despite repeated appeals to the police in the days leading up to her death. PC Angela Cornes was the key officer accused of potential neglect, as she claimed that Banaz’s boyfriend, Rahmat Suleimani, told PC Cornes that Banaz was a fantasist who had made the threats to her life up up the story about her father forcing her to drink alcohol. This alleged conversation only involved PC Cornes, Banaz and Mr. Suleimani, and PC Cornes claimed that this conversation was the main reason she did not treat the case with the importance it deserved. The IPCC decided that:

    “The MPS’s [The Met] disciplinary hearing was scheduled for 17 November 2008, but the key witness against the officers decided that he was no longer willing to participate. The MPS advised the IPCC on Thursday 13 November that they believed this decision left the hearing with insufficient evidence to prove the case against the officers. As a result they wished to exercise their prerogative under the Police Reform Act to withdraw the case.

    IPCC investigators spoke with the witness and, as he reiterated his intention not to participate, the IPCC agreed that the hearing could not proceed on the scheduled date and there was no prospect of the hearing proceeding in the future.”

    Yesterday the IPCC defended its decision (at a public meeting organised by IKWRO, who have long campaigned for justice for Banaz) not to pursue PC Cornes, even though they were entitled to do so. Nick Hardwick, the chair of the IPCC, spoke for his organisation, and he argued that the loss of the key witness (Rahmat Suleimani) meant that the case couldn’t proceed. Diana Nammi, head of IKWRO, disagreed, and felt that the case could have proceeded even without the evidence of Rahmat Suleimani.

    Mr. Hardwick did make some good points; namely that without the key witness it was difficult to build a strong case against PC Cornes, even if events subsequently proved that she had utterly failed to deal with the situation. However, it was the way in which he approached the meeting that was infuriating. The first fifteen minutes of his thirty minute rebuttal was waffle (I don’t like to be harsh, but it was), consisting of little more than general platitudes about the IPCC’s tough stance on domestic violence and complaints against the police. People were beginning to get agitated as he failed to deal with any of the specifics of the Banaz case, and the delegate next to me muttered under her breath, using rather more industrial language than I would have. I can’t say I disagreed with the sentiment though.

    I wasn’t able to stay for the question and answer session, though if it was anything like the speech I would have learned little. IKWRO plan to publish a full report of the day, and I would like to thank them for organising the hearing.

    What also struck home was the way in which there are still major hurdles when it comes to dealing with ‘honour’-based violence. Diana Nammi pointed out that the Banaz case occurred four years after the murder of Heshu Yunes (in 2002), so ‘honour’ killings were in the media by that point. Moreover, while three of Banaz’s murderers have been convicted, two more suspects fled to Kurdistan and Britain has been unable to extradite them. While I understand that extradition from Kurdistan is difficult because the legal nature of the territory is unclear, surely something could be done about this? Incidentally, as someone pointed out to me, the West Midlands police were also criticised by the IPCC, and they have a history of bizarre and negligent behaviour.

    ‘Honour’ killings may never be fully snuffed out in this country. But hopefully the lessons learned from murder of Banaz Mahmood will ensure that those mistakes won’t happen again.


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    Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence






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    1. pickles

      New blog post: IPCC defends decision on Banaz Mahmood http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/3714


    2. Still no justice for Banaz « Claire Colley

      [...] Still no justice for Banaz Now there’s a surprise http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/3714 [...]




    1. Amrit — on 14th March, 2009 at 10:22 pm  

      ‘Muttered under her breath’?!

      I believe she actually wrote down the word ‘bullshit,’ thank you very much.

      A very clear and detailed account - good work!

    2. A Councillor Writes — on 14th March, 2009 at 10:26 pm  

      The IPCC prove themselves to be a joke over and over again.

    3. Amrit — on 14th March, 2009 at 11:00 pm  

      What was bizarre was how he kept going on about domestic violence, when the central issue of the hearing was HBV.

      Technically, the IPCC didn’t criticise WM Police - they just mentioned that Banaz had dealings with London and West Midlands police. Given WMP’s track record though, it seemed prudent to flag that up.

      Also, Suleimani didn’t quite go that far - he just queried one aspect of the event that left Banaz hospitalised. She claimed her father had forced her to drink brandy, and he apparently later said that her father, as a strict Muslim, would have done no such thing, and that if she were lying, he would leave her. Cornes extrapolated from this and other things Banaz had just said to assume that Banaz was lying.

      ‘… told PC Cornes’ - drop the PC.
      And that’s ‘murderers,’ not ‘murdered’.

      What Hardwick seemed (ironically) to be stressing in his attempts to assure everyone that they really take domestic-violence related complaints (note, not HBV, as I’ve already bitched) VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED was that the IPCC is pretty toothless. Is it, though?

      Might I just remind all readers that not only was PC Cornes not disciplined, but actually went on to be promoted to Sergeant? B.f.in’ disgrace.

    4. MaidMarian — on 14th March, 2009 at 11:27 pm  

      Rumbold/Amrit - I say this with all respect.

      It sounds to me rather as though your beef is with this witness, not the IPCC. This talk of toothlessness sounds rather like frustration as much as legitimate criticism.

      What do you expect the IPCC to do - personally criticise a witness for dropping out? Criticise government departments (and probably overseas governments) about extradition arrangements with Kurdistan? Assume guilt on the part of PC Cornes? Send someone out there to render suspects back here?

      Reading the IKWRO link there is talk about Hardwick attending to, ‘justify,’ decisions as though there is necessarily a satisfactory, neatly justified outcome. There is not - in cases such as this there are unsatisfactory, messy outcomes and difficult questions and balances with only rubbish answers.

      Indeed, it sounds to me rather like the witness is the one that the IKWRO really need to take the argument up with, not the IPCC.

      I can only applaud your convictions here, but by looking for answers that just are not there, you ask Hardwick for the impossible. Unsatisfactory as it is, the IPCC and indeed government can not control every aspect here.

      Nothing about this is nice or satisfactory. But demanding the impossible is not the answer.

    5. Amrit — on 15th March, 2009 at 1:06 am  

      Indeed, it sounds to me rather like the witness is the one that the IKWRO really need to take the argument up with, not the IPCC.

      Yup, I’d agree.

      This talk of toothlessness sounds rather like frustration as much as legitimate criticism.

      Well, I was asking how toothless they really are.

      I can only applaud your convictions here, but by looking for answers that just are not there, you ask Hardwick for the impossible.

      Actually, I would’ve just been happy if he had been a little more honest.

      Hardwick said that the IPCC has nothing to do with the part of the police which handles recruitment, and therefore couldn’t do anything about Cornes’ promotion. That seems pretty wrong to me - surely the IPCC covers the whole police force? Or am I being naive?

      I do think they should’ve seized on the resultant negative publicity from news of Cornes’ promotion breaking and used it to condemn the decision. I mean, he made a thing of saying they were ‘completely independent’ from the police, so surely that would’ve been acceptable?

      From this Times article:

      It is understood that the force initially accepted the IPCC’s recommendation to bring disciplinary proceedings but changed its stance after discovering flaws in the commission’s evidence. The Times has been told that some witnesses were not even interviewed by the IPCC team. The investigation was not conducted from the IPCC offices in London but by a regional team based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

      Ohhh dear.

    6. Galloise Blonde — on 15th March, 2009 at 11:16 am  

      Thanks for covering this Rumbold. I was so sorry not to be there. As Diana explains, the IPCC could have built a case without the evidence of Mr Suleimani (who is of course under police protection so is vulnerable of being ‘leaned’ on by police) and that they did not attempt to do so.

      One of the points that is key for me was that the IPCC say it is ‘disputed’ that Banaz made an allegation of attempted murder to Cornes (i.e. it is disputed by Cornes): however, Cornes’ own testimony made during the trial of the Mahmod brothers indicates that not only did Banaz make the allegation but that she *persisted in it* even after Cornes tried to browbeat her into changing it — it was Banaz’s accusation: I don’t see why Rahmat’s opinion, even if it was as Cornes states, should be more important than Banaz’s own! And of course, this was just one of Cornes’ many other poor performances: she informed the family of the allegation (a horrendous error), she didn’t make any referrel to a DV unit or BME women’s group, she carried out a follow-up visit when Banaz had no privacy…

      I understand that the delegates expressed some frustration with the IPCC in the Q&A, to put it mildly.

    7. Rumbold — on 15th March, 2009 at 12:35 pm  

      Amrit:

      Thanks for the corrections (though I am going to keep the ‘PC’). As I understand it, while the investigation focused on PC Cornes in the Met, West Midlands Police (as you pointed out) did come in for criticism.

      MaidMarian:

      Amrit in #5 largely echoes my own thoughts, albeit in a more articulate way than I. However, she is mistaken when she says that the IPCC has any control over promotion. It is, as Mr. Hardwick pointed out, merely an investigative body, and cannot impose punishments on anyone.

      I would add that while the harsh tone of piece was partly born out of frustration, there were some legitimate criticisms. As Amrit, and IKWRO and others have pointed out, the IPCC investigation was flawed. Moreover, the tone of Mr. Hardwick did not predispose one to sympathy with the IPCC. Imagine if a loved one had just died, and the doctor came to tell you this. While you would recognise that the doctor could probably have only done so much, you would be annoyed if he or she spent ages extolling the hospital’s success in healing other patients, and how all the doctors in the hospital were resolutely opposed to patients dying.

      “Criticise government departments (and probably overseas governments) about extradition arrangements with Kurdistan?”

      Sorry, I wasn’t clear about that. I brought that it to show that it wasn’t just the police who had failed in this case. I don’t attach any blame to the IPCC for this, as it is out of their control.

      Galloise Blonde:

      Sorry to have missed you as well. I will be interested to read how the question and answer session went. I hope that if anything good comes out of this travesty, it will be that we never have another police officer behave like PC Cornes.

    8. Galloise Blonde — on 15th March, 2009 at 1:14 pm  

      Let’s also not forget that the IPCC weren’t only investigating Cornes, but also her CO, who approved the decision to ignore Banaz’s allegation of a serious crime. And that the MPS, despite all the evidence, didn’t even give Cornes a written warning, but ‘words of advice’, the absolute lowest level of sanction. Cornes own testimony reveals numerous failures, even if you buy into this idea that it is acceptable to ignore an allegation of attempted murder because of the opinion of a third party.

    9. Amrit — on 15th March, 2009 at 1:48 pm  

      However, she is mistaken when she says that the IPCC has any control over promotion.

      That’s not what I said - I was simply expressing shock that they have no say at all in that matter. No-one’s saying they should take decisions, but surely, in such a contentious case as that of PC Cornes’, the IPCC should have been allowed to advise strongly against promotion, if nothing else.

    10. Rumbold — on 15th March, 2009 at 2:23 pm  

      Galloise Blonde:

      Good points.

      Amrit:

      PC Cornes wasn’t promoted as a result of this case, so I don’t think that the IPCC could have made any recommendations, nor, as Mr. Hardwick pointed out, would it have wanted to (regardless of the fact that she shouldn’t have been promoted).

    11. The Dude — on 15th March, 2009 at 3:00 pm  

      Isn’t it funny (NOT) how MaidMarian couldn’t quite bring herself to the obvious conclusion of her argument that the star witness, Mr Suleimani had been heavily leant on by the police. Thanks Galloise Blonde for taking the words right out of my mouth. What is really scary is that Nick Hardwick, who isn’t a stupid man, failed both to point this out and to seek answers as to exactly why Suleimani would seek to retract his evidence.

    12. MaidMarian — on 15th March, 2009 at 5:42 pm  

      Amrit/Rumbold - Thank you for your replies. I more or less agree with what you add in your comments.

      With regard to promotions I struggle to see what the IPCC could do in this regard without an active finding of guilt? Surely anything else is an assumption of guilt, whatever the rights and wrongs of that.

      The Dude (11) - Leave to one side that MaidMarian is a he.

      ‘Mr Suleimani had been heavily lent on by the police.’ Evidence?

      It may very well be that individuals were lent on - I am not questioning that. I just think that there are aspects of this that skate rather close to assumptions of guilt. That’s all.

      Are there any other walks of life where you would feel it OK to act on assumptions of guilt? Extraordinary rendition? Civil liberties?

    13. Galloise Blonde — on 15th March, 2009 at 6:16 pm  

      The IPCC don’t operate on the principle of beyond reasonable doubt - they are looking for the balance of probability. Even if you believe that it is acceptable for Cornes to disregard a young woman levelling an accusation of attempted murder on the claimed grounds that a third party doubted her account (I do not) it does not excuse the fact that the IPCC do not seem to have investigated any of the other failures to deal appropriately with Banaz. Four officers of the MPS have recieved written warnings for their actions in this case: none of these have been so egregiously negligent as Cornes, who has received the least possible sanction available.

      I have mentioned upthread some of the failures by Cornes. When we say she failed to follow procedure, this is more than an idle allegation agaisnt her: these facts are derived froms from her own testimony, given under oath in court during the trial of Mahmod and Ari Mahmod. Either Cornes is a bad copper, or she committed perjury in order to appear like one.

    14. Rumbold — on 15th March, 2009 at 6:30 pm  

      The Dude:

      I agree with MaidMarian that it is impossible to conclude, on the information available to us, that Mr Suleimani has been leant on by the police. My immediate reaction when I heard that he had decided not to testify was that some of Banaz’s killers and/or their supporters were probably after him, so he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. But again, that is only supposition.

    15. Galloise Blonde — on 15th March, 2009 at 6:36 pm  

      Rumbold and MM are right. I didn’t want to point out Mr Suleimani’s vulnerability in terms of needing police protection (potentially exascerbated by his immigration status) is as a proof that he had been leant on, rather that it this was a possibility, and that under the circumstances the IPCC should have developped other ways of conducting the investigation which did not depend upon his testimony.

      BTW: I was present in court for the trial of the Mahmod brothers and I witnessed Cornes’ testimony.

    16. Rumbold — on 15th March, 2009 at 6:45 pm  

      I forgot to say thank you for the excellent case notes Galloise Blonde. Very useful.

    17. MaidMarian — on 15th March, 2009 at 8:40 pm  

      Rumbold/Galloise Blonde - Thank you.

      I think at least we can all agree that the whole thing is very unsatisfactory.

    18. The Dude — on 15th March, 2009 at 10:35 pm  

      I’m sorry to be upsetting the apple cart but the fact remains that the case against the TWO officers in questions collapsed because a witness choose to withdraw his evidence. This is NOT a assumption, it’s a fact. I for one want to know WHY? Until someone can offer up a viable alternative, I’ll “assume” for the time being that Mr Mr Suleimani was advised/persuaded by person or persons unknown into withdrawing his testimony. So, MaidMarian, what’s your alternative to why Mr Suleimani would so suddenly turn tail and clam up?

    19. The Dude — on 15th March, 2009 at 10:56 pm  

      Rumbold wrote:

      “My immediate reaction when I heard that he had decided not to testify was that some of Banaz’s killers and/or their supporters were probably after him, so he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. But again, that is only supposition.”

      That being the case why didn’t Mr Suleimani not keep mum from the start and save himself a tonne of grief, instead of hiding out with our friends from the MET, remembering that Mr Suleimani’s evidence had already put three bad dudes behind bars. Let us ALL get real here! If Mr Suleimani was living in fear then I suggest that the object of that fear was much closer to his safe house than the prison where those three bad dudes are now incarcerated.

    20. douglas clark — on 15th March, 2009 at 11:31 pm  

      One has to question why a witness, someone who has
      already provided evidence, has now withdrawn it?

      If I recall correctly, there is a thing called precognition, where the testimony that will appear in court is known to both sides before it is led. For a witness to withdraw at that stage is strange indeed.

      The question has to be why?

      If the witness is vulnerable then it is the duty of the court to assure their security, is it not?

      Contrary to popular opinion, courts out trump even the cops.

      Usually.

      Whilst The Dude is pointing a finger, I am not. I agree the witness has been tampered with - for the reasons I have outlined above - but I cannot say by whom.

      Though that is worth an independent investigation of it’s own.

    21. douglas clark — on 15th March, 2009 at 11:49 pm  

      Hmm,

      Rumbold,

      What say you to this proposal?

      I said in my last post that the courts trump the cops, usually.

      Perhaps the courts should rule the cops?

      Perhaps they should be the arbiters of who succeeds - gets promoted - and who doesn’t? They’d at least be fair, rather than biased pro the media or pro the management.

      ‘Course taking a managerial right away from people who promote Cressidda Dick might be viewed as a tad controversial.

      Just a thought.

      Quite Libertarian, really….

    22. The Dude — on 16th March, 2009 at 5:27 pm  

      Douglas

      I wish I could be so open minded as you. Alas cruel experience has taught me different and that’s coming from someone who spent at least four years working in very close co-operation with the MET, as a photographer. I know the nature of the beast, as much as I love it. The promotion of Cressidda Dick was just one of many episodes that has brought untold shame upon that particular institution. The balance of probability tells me that someone was lent on.

    23. Rumbold — on 16th March, 2009 at 7:53 pm  

      The Dude:

      Again, we can all speculate, but we will never really know.

      Douglas:

      “If the witness is vulnerable then it is the duty of the court to assure their security, is it not?”

      Well, the IPCC isn’t a court- it is just there to investigate.

      “Perhaps they should be the arbiters of who succeeds - gets promoted - and who doesn’t? They’d at least be fair, rather than biased pro the media or pro the management.

      ‘Course taking a managerial right away from people who promote Cressidda Dick might be viewed as a tad controversial.”

      I don’t think it sounds that workable, as there are tens of thousands of police officers promoted ever year. How would the police officers be evaluated?

      For all its faults, I can’t think of a better system, sadly.

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