Ian Lucas – 2019 Speech on Police Complaints and Accountability

Below is the text of the speech made by Ian Lucas, the Labour MP for Wrexham, in the House of Commons on 11 April 2019.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker.

My constituent Nicholas Churton was murdered in his own home, in the heart of Wrexham, on 23 March 2017 by Jordan Davidson. Davidson is responsible for this horrific crime and for other attacks, for which he is now serving a 30-year prison sentence. However, the events leading to these crimes revealed grave errors by the police and by the probation services in Wrexham and north Wales.

I have secured knowledge of the detail of those errors only with the assistance of Jez Hemming of the Daily Post newspaper in north Wales. For the bulk of this case, I have secured no co-operation whatever from North Wales police. Indeed, I now believe that I, along with the public, was misled deliberately about the facts of the case to conceal those errors, and that there has been a systematic cover-up involving North Wales police, the probation service, the community rehabilitation company, the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

The facts are that Davidson was released from prison in December 2016. He was under the supervision of the community rehabilitation company. A number of errors were made in his supervision, as was conceded by the probation service in an internal inquiry report on which I have been briefed, although I have not seen it. However, this evening I want to focus on the police.

On 19 March, while on licence, Davidson was arrested by North Wales police and taken into custody for possession of a knife. It appears that he was charged, but in any event he was released by the police and given bail, despite being on licence. The CRC was not notified by the police of his arrest until 24 March, the day after he had murdered Nicholas Churton.

After murdering Mr Churton, Davidson threatened others in central Wrexham. One of my constituents gave me this account:

“I came across Jordan Davidson and he was trying to commit robbery on an elderly gentleman, he was threatening him; this elder man was begging me to tell Jordan not to kill him. As Jordan was distracted by me the man left swiftly. He then turned on me he pulled a machete out, (the one used in the murder) demanded I told him where I lived and where my family were, of which I did not do. He told me at this time he had already killed two people, which I unfortunately found out later had some truth as he did murder one man. I managed to get away and phone the police as soon as I could.”

After Davidson’s arrest, which involved commendable bravery on the part of individual North Wales police officers, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, as it then was—now the Independent Office for Police Conduct—commenced an inquiry into contact between Mr Churton and North Wales police before Mr Churton’s death. That inquiry, which I will call IOPC 1, has now concluded. Contrary to IPCC policy, I, as the local MP, was not informed about the inquiry or its terms of reference.

In December 2017, following Davidson’s trial, I saw a summary of the prosecution case used at the trial. That was the first communication that I received about the ​case, and I was shocked by its contents. I immediately wanted to know why Davidson had been released from police custody on 19 March, four days before killing Mr Churton. I emailed the then chief constable, Mark Polin, and asked him why that had happened. He replied that because the matter was subject to an IPCC inquiry, he could not respond to my question. I now know that that was untrue. In fact, the IPCC inquiry related only to communications between Mr Churton and the police prior to Mr Churton‘s murder. There was no inquiry into the circumstances of Davidson’s release from custody on 19 March. In April 2018, following my own questions and inquiries, the IOPC commenced an inquiry into his release which has still not concluded.

Let me ask the Minister a number of questions. First, why did North Wales police and the IPCC fail to tell me of a police conduct inquiry involving a murder and additional serious assaults in the middle of my constituency? Secondly, who decided to exclude the police decision to release Davidson on bail after his arrest for possession of an offensive weapon from the terms of reference of the IPCC inquiry, and why was that done? Thirdly, why did the then chief constable of North Wales, Mark Polin, tell me that there was an inquiry into Davidson’s release when there was not?

Fourthly, was the North Wales police and crime commissioner notified of the inquiry by the IPCC in 2017, and of its terms of reference? Is there an obligation to notify PCCs of such inquiries? If a notification was made in this case, when was it made? Fifthly, was the family of Nicholas Churton notified of the inquiry, and the fact of the release of Davidson four days before his murder? Sixthly, why did the probation service and the CRC fail to highlight the fact that the release of Davidson was not included in the IPCC inquiry? Should they have done so?

To my mind, we have a cover-up in this case. I was not told, as I should have been, of the inquiry into the death of my constituent. The release of Davidson on bail by the police was, I believe, concealed from Mr Churton’s family, from me, and from the public who were endangered by him. I was misled by the then chief constable of North Wales police, who told me that the release was the subject of an inquiry when it was not. At the suggestion of the IOPC in a letter that I received yesterday, I have now made a formal complaint to North Wales police and crime commissioner about this, although I am very disappointed that it required action by me for them even to investigate the matter.

My concern is that the present system permitted all this to happen and allowed the police and the IPCC to cover up serious misconduct which, in this case, led to a murder in the heart of my constituency a few days later. This misconduct was not notified, to my knowledge, to anyone outside North Wales police, including the IOPC and the family of the deceased, until I raised it myself. I had to tell the family of the deceased of the release of Jordan Davidson.

It is now over two years since Nicholas Churton was brutally murdered. We need an independent investigation into how this happened. I have no confidence in the various bodies and organisations that I have referred to because none of them and none of the systems worked to reveal the errors in this case, which had catastrophic consequences. What we need above all is some transparency ​and honesty from the organisations involved. The family of Nicholas Churton, with whom I have been working, deserve that honesty.

I have a great deal of respect for the Minister, and I hope that he will assist me in sorting out a system that can deliver transparency and openness to enable us to have confidence in the organisations that operate on our behalf in our communities.