This article appeared today on the bbc news Website;http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/south_scotland/10448546.stm
Long Live The Freedom of Information Act
“Everybody’s playing the game but nobody’s rules are the same”
Dumfries and Galloway have spent £250,000.00 on its operations since The Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen in 2003.
The Prosecution costs have been estimated at a little more that £130,000.00.
These figure do no include the defence costs of the eight accused men five of whom were acquitted by a jury and three of whom the Crown elected not to continue to prosecute in the public interest.
The Crown employed 2 Queens Counsel and three junior counsel supported by the Procurator Fiscal Service at a cost estimated at £134,713
For the defence costs of the eight defendants it would not be unreasonable to multiply the prosecution costs by eight and that takes account of the low rates of pay the Scottish Legal Aid Board allow. Say £135k x 8 to produce defence costs of £1,080,000
The breakdown of the costs reveals that between 2003 and 2006 little more than £100,000.00 was spent and you would have thought that the major police activity would take place in the immediate aftermath of the robbery.
In fact the report indicates that £25,000.00 was spent in the first year which would have involved calling upon the worldwide resources of law enforcement including the FBI and Interpol.
"However the figures rose to about £185,000.00 between 2007 and 2009 as an undercover operation began"
At a glance it is apparent that more money was spent post recovery seeking to secure convictions than pre recovery seeking to discover who committed the robbery. The police clearly took their eyes off the ball because they cannot answer two questions
· Who stole the painting?
· Where did the £350,000 paid to secure control of the painting go?
Lets be absolutely clear about a few matters
The undercover covert operation commenced in June 2004 involving Michael Brown
The Michael Brown lead effectively ended in May 2007
Only two undercover officers were involved.
In evidence DI Gary Coupland stated that as of 10 August 2007 there were only two officers from Dumfries and Galloway actively assigned to the case.
It would be safe to assume that the two undercover officers assigned to the Brown case had been released to undertake other duties.
So far as he recovery of the painting was concerned all activity took place between 14 August 2007 and the date of the recovery on 4 October 2007.
This is less than seven weeks.
On the day of the recovery an astonishing 80 officers were involved.
Apart from the handover of the painting all communication was by telephone, email and fax save for one 45 minute meeting at Euston station on 30 September 2007.
It would be reasonable to assume that the undercover operation ceased on 4 October 2007 so the breakdown of the figure seems to be masking how the resources have actually been deployed.
The accused were not under surveillance apart from the Euston meeting and day of handover so how do the police explain this massive use of resource
Interestingly no reference is made to the costs of SOCA or SEDA or Strathcylde Police all of whom were given credit when the arrests were made
Is the Duke of Buccleuch so powerful that no expense is spared when it comes to protecting his interests?
SOCA and the real people behind the robbery may well have played Dumfries and Galloway Police.
The police acknowledge that: "there is no doubt in my mind that the people involved in the planning for this crime and the actual execution of it are operating at the very highest level and are involved in organised crime in the UK." Det Ch Insp Dalgleish said police had been "duty bound" to follow up on information they received that someone had possession of the painting and was seeking money for its return. "That operation was fairly lengthy and by the very nature of it, it was sophisticated and delicate," he explained.
The whole SOCA operation was based on the premise of a commercial buyback. So it was never a position of someone having possession of the painting seeking money for its return. It was made absolutely clear from the outset that this was a window of opportunity whereby parties could assist in the facilitation of the paintings return on a commercial basis. This was the SOCA plan of which the Duke of Buccleuch played an integral part.
If innocent parties were involved in that, then that could achieve the first objective namely safe recovery of the painting. There after police enquiry may have been able to trace matters back, but there were no guarantees.
"It resulted in some costs being incurred but I think if you look at the seven or eight years since the painting was stolen and balance out the costs that Dumfries and Galloway have incurred I don't think it's unreasonable by any means.”
If you were aware of the SOCA meeting information being withheld from you, then you would be outraged. It seems to be abundantly clear that SOCA and Mark Dalrymple kept Dumfries and Galloway Police in the dark about the Gatwick Airport Hilton meeting thereby affording them plausible deniability.
It is anticipated that the current Independent Police Complaints Commission Investigation against SOCA will establish that Dumfries and Galloway Police were not advised of the Gatwick Airport Hilton meeting in January 2007
"If you were to ask me would I make the same decisions again in terms of that undercover deployment - yes, I would without question."
With due respect to Detective Chief Inspector Dalgleish you have to wonder who has been asking him this very question
With respect Inspector Dalgleish no you would not. You are clearly an officer with integrity and SOCA have placed you into a position that in untenable. You clearly are unaware of the SOCA meeting and thus you have plausible deniability
Despite the lack of convictions, Det Ch Insp Dalgleish said that gathering sufficient evidence to take the case to court was something the force was proud of. "The jury will make the decision that they are charged to do, that is beyond my control," he said.
"For us the result, if you like, was getting the evidence against those individuals to that position where the jury can make a decision."
“Everybody’s playing the game but nobody’s rules are the same”
A jury can only make a true decision where everyone plays by the rules and had SOCA played by the rules and disclosed the evidence of the meeting at the Gatwick Airport Hilton in January 2007 then the Crown could not have mounted a conspiracy prosecution based on a conspiracy alleged to have commenced in July 2007 which undercover officers joined in.
Lord Carloway in the Court of Appeal stated.
"INSTRUCTIONS TO UNDERCOVER OFFICERS
1. A Police Officer must not act as an 'agent provocateur'. This means they must not
(a) Incite or procure a person, nor through that person anybody else, to commit an offence, or an offence of a more serious character, which that person would not otherwise have committed.
(b) Through pressure, encouragement or inducement invite any person to commit an offence, which that person would never otherwise have been committing. (Weir v Jessop 1991 SCCR 636)
2. However, a Police Officer is entitled to join a conspiracy, which is already in being...
4. Police Officers are entitled to use the tool of infiltration of groups or organisations. In such a case it is proper for the undercover officer to show interest in, and enthusiasm for proposals made even though they are unlawful, but, in so doing, they must try to tread the difficult line between showing the necessary interest and enthusiasm to keep their cover (and pursue their investigation) and actually becoming an agent provocateur. Invariably this means you enter a criminal conspiracy or become part of a pre-arranged criminal offence.
6. Police Officers must bear in mind that the court will scrutinise carefully the role of the Officer in undercover operations and take into account the circumstances in which evidence was obtained. The principle of fairness will be applied by the court.
7. Police Officers must be conversant with Article 6 (the right to fair trial) and Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights".
The Trial Judge accepted that from this point, when they first became involved with the accused, the primary objective of the police was the recovery of the painting, rather than to arrest anyone involved in its theft or reset. Any such arrest would be ancillary to the main objective. As soon as they heard of the contact between Mr Ronald and Mr Dalrymple, the police were suspicious of the actings of Mr Ronald and those he purported to represent. The Trial Judge also accepted that the undercover police, who were under the supervision of senior officers, acted in good faith throughout the events which then followed. He accepted too that, but for the use of undercover techniques, it is unlikely that the painting would have been recovered. He regarded the use of such techniques as "both sensible, from an operational point of view, and proportionate"
“In applying the recognised test, the first point of significance is that the crown are alleging that all five accused conspired to extort money from the owners of the painting and that this conspiracy started on 30 July 2007, before any undercover policemen became involved”
The suppression of evidence before the entrapment hearing in front of Lord Mackay renders the proceeding farce. Had the judge heard the evidence of the two SOCA officers and Mark Dalrymple conspiring in January 2007 six months before the accused had even heard of the painting, he could not possible have reached the conclusions he did. SOCA ran roughshod over the instructions to undercover officers and thereby acted without lawful authority. The rules are there for a reason and when the rules are broken then the system fails. SOCA has not only fallen below the professional standards demanded of them by society they have also let down their professional colleagues in Dumfries and Galloway.
As Mark Dalrymple and two SOCA officers gave evidence before him questions may arise as to their motivations before the Court. The Duke of Buccleuch’s evidence was to the effect that he knew nothing of the recovery operation until the day of the recovery.
I wonder how angry Lord Mackay, Lord Reid, Lord Carloway and Lord Menzies would be to discover how they were deceived in respect of the SOCA meeting at Gatwick Airport.
The figures quoted seem conservative and the resources clearly are top heavy in seeking to procure convictions. The Da Vinci case was strategically flawed from the moment the recovery strategy switched from the Brown case. The buy back idea achieved its objective because the painting was recovered. The strategy to build a case against the returners rather than to follow the £350,000 is baffling.
On the 10 August 2007 an open offer was made to repatriate the painting within 72 hours. I took until 4 October 2007 purely to accommodate police requests for their holidays.
This case has exercised some of the finest legal brains in Scotland both on and off the bench. The acquittals have been a vindication of the jury system and highly embarrassing to the Crown and Dumfries and Galloway Police.
So who has played whom in the Da Vinci case?
· The Duke has his painting back, so far at no expense,
· Persons unknown are £350,000 in cash better off. Presumably serious and organised criminals
· SOCA are facing an investigation by the IPCC
· Dumfries and Galloway Police are facing complaints which may end up with the Scottish Police Complaints Commissioner
· Mark Dalrymple is facing an inquiry into his conduct by the Institute of Professional Loss Adjusters
· Hiscox have paid no reward due to police objection
The outcome of the enquiries underway is eagerly awaited and the civil actions may well grace the courts for some time to come
“Everybody’s playing the game but nobody’s rules are the same”
So much breaking news
Lord Stewartby Coin Collection in Play
Lord Stewartby's coin collection, remember expenses allowed, then as soon as there is a glimse of the coin collection, Police swoop and recover the Lord Stewartby Coin collection and arrest everyone within a ten mile radius. Remember what happened with the Da Vinci Madonna, John Craig posed as a representative of the Duke of Buccleuch but in reality was an Undercover Police Officer.
Also, do you remember Peter Sonny Martin O'Halloran, the prolific professional art thief ???
Well, he is meant to be in jail serving seven years as I recall. Wonder if he has gone walkabout again ???
Moving over to Canada, a suposedly rare Chinese scroll painting was stolen from a Mall shop and reputed to be worth $200,000, they have CCTV images. Could it be Darryl Vincent, Ray Hobin or even mobile phone provider Aaron Syberg, usual suspects ???
Finally, hope this is not true, but a whisper is Longleat Furniture robbery. Please tell me this is not true, not another Police failure after Art Hostage warned May 2009 Longleat was in the sights of the Art Underworld again and pointed out the security flaw that should have been fixed.
Sorry for print size, template playing up.
Firle Place Porcelain Sweden, Hmmm, who do we know has long standing Swedish connections ????