11/10/2007UK Police Chief Cleared After Traumatizing Crash Victim Family
UK Independent Police Complaints Commission report clears North Wales police chief of wrong-doing in exploiting gruesome crash victim photos.
North Wales, UK Police Chief Richard Brunstrom escaped legal censure yesterday after the Independent Police Complaints Commission found the unauthorized use of graphic photos to help promote his speed camera efforts before members of the media did not break any rules.
"The investigation has found no evidence that the Chief Constable breached the criminal law or police code of conduct in this unfortunate incident," IPCC Commissioner Tom Davies wrote. "What it does find, however, is that this incident could, and possibly should, have been avoided."
On April 26, 2007 Brunstrom invited 15 journalists and 29 representatives from local government and pro-speed camera groups to a meeting "to celebrate the success of the Arrive Alive partnership in North Wales." Among his slides were images of Mark Gibney who had been decapitated in a motorcycle crash in September 2003 on the B5105 Cerrigydrudion in North Wales. At the time, Gibney was wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan, "Hello Officer... Yes my number plate is legal.... now piss off and catch some real criminals."
The press event generated headline stories across the country that included details about the manner of the motorcyclist's death that, because they were so horrifying, Gibney's father had kept from other family members four years ago. Brunstrom's event forced them to re-live the tragedy. In an email dated April 25, Brunstrom described the effect he sought in his press conference:
"We must have better slides than the suicide. Not enough. Not gruesome enough. Motorcyclist is outstandingly good.... We need to wow these people, not bore them."
During the event, Will Batchelor, the Northern Editor of the Press Association, asked Brunstrom whether the department had obtained permission from Gibney's family before showing the graphic photographs. It had not. Although Brunstrom broke no laws in the presentation, the IPCC took the police chief to task for his lax efforts to protect sensitive, private information.
"The report speaks for itself on the lack of sufficient planning, risk assessments and damage limitation actions, together with the lack of involvement of wider counsel, all of which might have avoided this incident," Davies wrote.
Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign called on Brunstrom to resign, despite being cleared of criminal wrong-doing.
"The damage that Mr Brunstrom did to the Gibney family can never be put right," Smith explained. "It was a monumental misjudgment in a career dominated by monumental misjudgments. That this man remains a chief constable is astonishing and a matter of much public concern. He clearly lacks the good judgment that his job requires. He must go and go now."
A full copy of the report is available in a 170k PDF file at the source link below.