Speak no ill: the James Ashley case


[Picture by Louise Jefferson]

The Independent Police Complaints Authority announced earlier this week that it is to look into Sir Ian Blair’s handling of the Jean Charles de Menezes case, following a complaint from the dead man’s family over his comments about the shooting.

As it happens, I have just received an interesting document about the case of James Ashley, which has important parallels to the De Menezes incident.

Below is a summary compiled by somebody who has seen Sir John Hoddinott’s unpublished report on the Ashley case. The parts in italic are direct quotes from the report. My formatting is a bit dodgy, so I have uploaded a word file as well.

Download HoddinottSummary.doc

The Hoddinott Report to the


Police Authority

dated 26/10/98

Initiated on 29/7/98 by Sir John  Hoddinott

Working with Superintendent David Lockwood

Inspector Keiran Parsons and

Mr Rex Carpenter

Concerning Paul Whitehouse, Mark Jordan, Nigel Yeo and Maria Wallace

In his conclusions on Paul Whitehouse, Hoddinott begins by defining misfeasance as:

“Wilful neglect of performance of public duty as per common law.”

He goes on to say in relation to Paul Whitehouse’s statements to the press and public:

“The Chief Constable is a public officer and has a duty to tell the truth.  He wilfully failed to tell the truth as he knew it, he did so without reasonable excuse or justification and what he published and said was misleading and therefore likely to injure the public interest”. 


Hoddinott then goes on to consider whether or not Paul Whitehouse was guilty of any offence in relation to the information which he provided to the Sussex Police Authority who were considering a complaint from a member of the public whose name is Paula (I think it’s Paula) Ashley. 

Hoddinott concludes:

“He [that’s Whitehouse] could similarly be said to have neglected to perform a duty he was bound to perform in accordance with his office.  That it was without reasonable excuse or justification and was likely to injure the public interest may be inferred because his silence on crucial issues may well have influenced the members’ decision that day in respect of the complaint against him by a member of the public Paula Ashley.”

And then Hoddinott continues:

“There is clear evidence of misfeasance in relation to the press release, the press conference, and in the Chief Constable’s response to the Police Authority.”

Having considered the criminal point on misfeasance Hoddinott then goes on to consider the discipline code in relation to possible charges of falsehood or prevarication and he says:

“Mr Whitehouse must have known when he made his written and oral statements that they were at best inaccurate and misleading and therefore charges of falsehood or prevarication appear to be made out in respect of the press release, the press conference, his written responses to the Police Authority and his statement of 30 March 1998.”

[That reference to the statement of March 1998 I think is Paul Whitehouse’s statement to the



Hoddinott goes on to say that there is also prima facie evidence of an offence of discreditable conduct as a disciplinary offence. 

In relation to Mark Jordan, Hoddinott concludes first that there was no evidence of criminal offence of misfeasance in relation to the press release because Hoddinott could not be sure that he was part of the planning of the release. 

Hoddinott went on to say that there was (this is all in respect of Mark Jordan) prima facie case of misfeasance about his “simply not credible” claim to have forgotten what Tim Godwin, a Sussex officer, told him about the shooting. 

Hoddinott said there was also prima facie evidence of falsehood and prevarication in relation to falsehood in his statements of 13 March and in his verbal account to McCann, that is Superintendent Dave McCann of


, on 29 June. 

There was also evidence of the disciplinary offence of neglect of duty: 

“Mr Jordan signally failed to live up to the requirements of his office and was in neglect of his duty by the manner in which he absented himself from his duties on the morning of 15 January.”

There was also prima facie evidence of discreditable conduct which appeared to be made out. 

There was also prima facie evidence of aiding and abetting the Chief Constable’s falsehoods in response to the complaints to the Sussex Police Authority by James Ashley’s sister. 

In relation to the Assistant Chief Constable Tim Yeo, Hoddinott concludes that in relation to the production of the press release that there is prima facie evidence of misfeasance in relation to Tim Yeo.  Yeo’s conduct in this context was “… unsupportable.  He must have realised that the message it was conveying was fundamentally untrue.”

Hoddinott goes on to say that there was prima facie evidence of misfeasance in relation to Yeo’s statement to


that he had no knowledge of Caroline Courtland-Smith’s statement (he said on 22 April as I understand it). 

There was also prima facie evidence of falsehood or prevarication by Yeo in relation to the press release and his statement of 22 April.  There was also prima facie evidence that he had aided and abetted Paul Whitehouse’s falsehoods in relation to his letters to the Sussex Police Authority (that’s Whitehouse’s letter to the Sussex Police Authority). 

There was, Hoddinott concluded, no evidence to support the allegation that Yeo had told the SOU (Special Operations Unit) after Ashley’s shooting:

“Well done.  That’s one more off the streets.”  There is no evidence to support that. 

Hoddinott commented in relation to the fact that Yeo continued to defend the press release:

“One cannot be certain if this merely is an attempt at self justification or whether he really means it.  If the latter, then it really is a matter of the most serious concern.”

Hoddinott then makes an overview point about




and Yeo and their misleading statements and letters:

“An arguable case of attempting to pervert the course of justice might be made out.  However, it is the view of the investigating office [i.e. himself] that this conduct might be more appropriately dealt with as a misfeasance if proceedings are to be taken.”

In relation to Maria Wallace, Assistant Chief Constable, Sir John Hoddinott found no prima facie evidence of misfeasance but evidence of flawed conduct in failing to query the press release in the light of the fact that she and the other senior officers knew that James Ashley was naked and unarmed at the time that he was shot. 

Just by way of comment he adds: “The investigating officer formed the impression that Mrs Wallace is rather marginalised in the Chief Officer group.  For example, Paul Whitehouse consulted Mark Jordan and Yeo about his reply to the


Police Authority but not her.”

He added:

“There is a suggestion of antipathy on the part of the Deputy Chief Constable towards Maria Wallace and




Some detail on Hoddinott’s Inquiry into Paul Whitehouse

First of all, he says the points which he was investigating following Barbara Wilding and Dave McCann’s report were allegations that the Whitehouse press release was “deliberately disingenuous”. 

Second, that Whitehouse misled the Sussex Police Authority over Paula Ashley’s complaint. 

Third, that Whitehouse has tried to cover his tracks by refusing to answer questions and omitting facts. 

The various points along the way of what Hoddinott says:

He notes that the Police Authority at their meeting were told of a crucial letter from Barbara Wilding dated 12/2/98 but the members of the Authority were not actually given the contents of the letter which would, Hoddinott concludes, have made a great difference to their conclusions in respect of Paula Ashley’s complaint. 

Another point:  referring to a point during the morning of the shooting, it says that Tim Godwin went to the Chief Constable’s office and saw Mark Jordan, and


told Godwin “I am not really rational at the moment.”  Godwin said it was a bad day for Sussex Police and


simply replied “Oh no”. 

A statement which appears to be made by Chief Inspector Tim Lunn refers to a big meeting on the morning of the shooting:

“They discussed the stabbing of 7 January and the Chief Constable concluded that it could be referred to as attempted murder for the purpose of expressing how serious the police operation was.”

Hoddinott concluded on points of fact in relation to Paul Whitehouse that he had gone down to the SOU room – this was apparently a point in contention – he had gone down  there and talked about his understanding of what Barbara Wilding was beginning to find with her enquiry – he was walking the dog at the time.

Secondly, that at the time that he made his press statements Whitehouse did know that James Ashley had been naked and unarmed at the time that he was shot and he did know at that point that there was a question mark over Chris Sherwood’s temperament and suitability.  This question mark over his temperament and suitability were to do with the fact that Chris Sherwood at an earlier stage had had his firearm ticket withdrawn from him after a violent altercation with his then girlfriend.

Two crucial sources on what exactly Paul Whitehouse and Tim Yeo and Mark Jordan knew in the period leading up to the press comments seemed to have been officers called Cox and Pople. 

Hoddinott explains that at the time that Paul Whitehouse gave his press conference, by that time he already had significant information from other officers, for example, that James Ashley was naked and unarmed at the point of the shooting;  he had the statement of James Ashley’s girlfriend; the warning signs about Chris Sherwood’s temperament and previous disciplinary record. 

Hoddinott comments that this detailed knowledge which Whitehouse had before the press conference “ … seriously calls into question the truthfulness of the assertions in the Chief Constable’s statement of 30/3/98 which read ‘At the time of the press conference no detailed information about the incident was available to me.’ “

Hoddinott considers Whitehouse’s letter to the Sussex Police Authority of 30/2/92 in relation to the Pauline Ashley complaint in which Whitehouse said:

“Nothing in what was reported to me suggested in the slightest that there had been improper behaviour” and Whitehouse went on to say that he would do exactly the same today. 

Now Hoddinott says that this is “difficult to understand”  in the light of the detailed knowledge which I have already referred to that Whitehouse had before he made before he made his press statement.  Hoddinott goes on to say that it is “a reasonable conclusion” that Whitehouse was trying to blacken James Ashley’s name, especially during an interview that he gave to the BBC. 

The facts which Barbara Wilding sent to the Sussex Police Authority on 12 February dealt with the fact that, contrary to impressions that had been given, James Ashley was not wanted for attempted murder, had probably saved the life of the man who had been stabbed in the incident on 7 January and had never been a suspect in relation to that incident, but only a witness. 

The Wilding facts of 12 February also said that she might be recommending that an independent Chief Constable be called in to assist her in this part of the enquiry. 

Now, the point about this is that Hartmut Cartwright, who I think is the Clerk to the Sussex Police Authority, told the members of the Authority who were considering Paula Ashley’s complaint that this fax had arrived but didn’t disclose its contents to them.  In relation to this Sussex Police Authority hearing, and in particular in relation to Paul Whitehouse’s behaviour then, Hoddinott says:

“At no stage did he confide to members the real state of his knowledge before he had issued the press statement and before his press conference.  Nor did he confide to them what he had learnt just the day before from Barbara Wilding, that PC Chris Sherwood was likely to be charged with homicide and that she was recommending his suspension.”

Hoddinott goes on to say that Whitehouse agreed, presumably in interviews with H, that he did not confide these things to the Authority, although Whitehouse claimed that he thought he might have told them privately to the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Authority.  Hoddinott says that both of these people denied that Whitehouse had ever told them any such thing. 

Hoddinott makes further comment about the Paul Whitehouse letter to the Sussex Police Authority in which Whitehouse claimed that there was nothing in the slightest improper in the police behaviour in relation to the shooting. 

Hoddinott says that this was “…unsustainable in any rational sense and is plainly perverse.  No objective person – the man on the top deck of the Clapham Omnibus  or any other – could possibly come to the conclusion presented with the same information the Chief Constable had.  Such a comment could only mislead.  Similarly the comment ‘As I concluded that no improper action had occurred on the evidence available to me at that time, I determined to say so publicly.’.

Hoddinott goes on to say that Whitehouse said in his letter to the Police Authority that he would expect to do the same today in similar circumstances.  Hoddinott says: 

“It is very hard to understand his reasoning.”

Whitehouse had evidence told Barbara Wilding in a statement that he had had no conversation about the facts of the incident with anybody from the SOU. 

Somebody called PC Cox then makes a statement which shows that to be untrue and Hoddinott records that Whitehouse concedes that this conversation did indeed take place and that did amount to a conversation about the facts of the incident. 

Hoddinott considers the morning of the shooting, the scene in the Chief Constable’s office, which was “not one of an organised and efficient command team” . 

He goes on to say: 

“The picture which does emerge is one of a rather disorganised group, focussed almost exclusively on welfare and political considerations”

“to the almost total exclusion of their duty to property investigate the homicide and to present a complete and truthful, or at least non committal account to the media.”

He says that they seem to have no conception of the rigorous enquiry which was now needed. 

Of Mark Jordan’s behaviour on this morning, H says:

“His conduct exemplifies the lack of organisation.  Popping in and out of the Chief’s office, having apparently abdicated his role as Deputy Chief Constable, sitting in his office gathering his thoughts, going for a walk in the park, and taking no discernable part in proceedings.”

Hoddinott says that it appears that Paul Whitehouse was determined to take a leadership role and to support his officers that morning:

“So committed does he appear to have been to pursuing this line that he deliberately closed his eyes to the very concerning information he had received that morning and published what was a disingenuous press release, the content of which was effectively disinformation.”

Hoddinott continues a little further on: 

“There appears to be little doubt that, perhaps for the very best of motives, the Chief Constable created a deliberately misleading press release and sustained the same misleading comments throughout the succeeding press conference.”

As to Paul Whitehouse’s comment in his letter to the Police Authority that he would do the same again now in similar circumstances, H records his own “great concern”  at that idea. 

Hoddinott then goes on to record his conclusions about criminal and disciplinary offences committed by Whitehouse which I have already recorded. 

In relation to Mark Jordan, the issues that were thrown up by Barbara Wilding’s for H to investigate were that he failed to disclose a meeting with French; that he denied discussing the shooting with Burton; that he denied knowing of the account of James Ashley’s girlfriend and that he failed to mention what Godwin had told him about Ashley being naked an unarmed at the time of the shooting. 

Hoddinott says that


was clearly upset by this shooting, but that he handed over to Tim Yeo at 6.25 that morning and went and sat in his office for 20 minutes to gather his thoughts.  A little later


went for half an hour to the park and came back only because it started raining. 


says that he took no part in the big meeting that morning at which the strategy and press release were discussed.  H says that Maria Wallace says that he did participate and that Tim Godwin also popped in and saw him there. 

Hoddinott says:

“The behaviour of the Deputy Chief Constable that morning is in explicable by any rational measure.  He seems to have completely abrogated the responsibilities of his office as the second most senior police officer in


and to have done nothing to assist in guiding the force through this undoubted crisis.  Mr


attributes his stress to religious belief and having personally been involved in giving authorities which led to a death.  That may be so, but a suspicion remains that the distress was prompted by guilt at having given authority for such a high risk armed intervention without sufficient exploration of the reasons why or a proper examination of the less risky alternatives.”


made a statement to Wilding on 13 March comments:

“There were found to be significant omissions and inaccuracies in the content.”


appears to have told Barbara Wilding that he had no knowledge of the girlfriend’s statement and he said nobody had spoken to him about it.  Hoddinott says: 

“In view of Mr


knew from Godwin, it is hard to see that statement is anything other than a simple untruth.”


eventually concedes that he did indeed meet


, but wants to say that he did not discover anything about the shooting incident from him.  Hoddinott comments: 

“The proposition that any police officer, much less a Deputy Chief Constable, who had given authority for the firearms could be in the company of the officer who had conducted the operation without very soon finding out what happened, is frankly absurd.”

He goes on to say that


discovered nothing knew from


is “simply not credible”. 

Hoddinott goes on to describe


as “a very volatile individual given to public displays of the highs and lows of his feelings”. 

Hoddinott goes on to say that there were a number of “strange and sometimes bizarre happenings involving the Deputy Chief Constable”. 

This includes

  • a public dressing down to Superintendent Cox;

  • disparaging comments about Barbara Wilding;

  • disparaging comments about the


    officers who were conducting the enquiry;

  • a strange conversation with somebody called Lunn in the police canteen. 

  • He and Miss Pople had a shouting match in front of Inspector Andrew Buchan. 

  • Then the day after Pople was interviewed by




    went to her office and learned she was on a rest day and got a civilian worker to call her at home to tell her that he was “thinking of her and would see her tomorrow. 


    asked for this comment to be recorded at the time.

Hoddinott says this is not a disciplinary matter “but it is strange behaviour indeed for a senior officer and is open to improper interpretation.” 

Hoddinott continues: 

“Many of these incidents are concerning in view of the sometimes bizarre behaviour they encompass, revealing a Deputy Chief Constable who at one moment is in tears and threatening to resign and at another treating subordinates like children.  It is from this that he has apparently earned the nickname from the nursery rhyme “the Duke of


”.  Witnesses refer to this name and whilst the investigating officer has tried to avoid tittle tattle, he is much taken with this description which so graphically describes his


’s] mercurial temperament.  These examples of strange and unusual behaviour really go to questions of efficiency and the suitability of the officer to hold his present rank.”

Then, in relation to Tim Yeo, on matters of fact, Hoddinott concludes that the evidence suggests that Yeo: 

(1) was aware that Ashley was naked and unarmed;

(2) may have been aware of Chris Sherwood’s disciplinary record;

(3) wrote most, if not all, of the subjective comment in the penultimate paragraph [which I take to be the penultimate paragraph of the press release – not sure];

4) acquiesced in publication of a misleading document [which I take to be the press release];

(5) took no action after Cox and Pople challenged them;

(6) acquiesced in the Chief Constable’s misleading response to the Sussex Police Authority;

(7) complained in his statement of 22 April to have had no knowledge of the girlfriend’s account [Ashley’s girlfriend’s account] but admitted in interview of 24 April to knowing the relevant facts from the girlfriend’s account. 

Tim Yeo’s account is that he drove to


where he met Godwin, DTI Scott and others and then Barbara Wilding and Jordan claims never to have asked how the shooting occurred, nor to have appointed anyone to find out.   Hoddinott goes on to describe these claims as “quite extraordinary claims or rather admissions from a senior police officer.”

Then, in relation to Maria Wallace, Hoddinott notes that in her statement of 27/3 she claimed not to have known about the statement made  by James Ashley’s girlfriend, but on 27 April in a statement, she admits that she did know that the dead man had been in bed and was naked and on 12 July she concedes that what Detective Superintendent Godwin says in his statement sounds accurate i.e. Godwin has said that all the senior officers did know about the girlfriend’s statement etc because I think he conveyed it to them. 

Hoddinott goes on to consider some of the minor characters.

Somebody he calls “Oswick”  – no serious criticism. 

Paul Trott – should not be criticised too much.

Helmut Cartwright – the Clerk to the Sussex Police Authority- H considers his behaviour in relation to Barbara Wilding’s fax of 12 February “that he stuck to his agenda and failed to circulate the letter or at least advise members of its full content is puzzling”.  Hoddinott says that Cartwright “should have adopted a more business like and dispassionate approach”. 

Then he considers Ogden, who is a senior solicitor and Deputy Clerk to the Police Authority:

“His role in these events is rather strange and a cause for concern”. 

In relation to Ogden, Hoddinott says he [Ogden] spent a long time in the Chief Constable’s office on the day of the shooting; was aware of the girlfriend’s statement; was aware of Chris Sherwood’s disciplinary record, admitted that there were alarm bells ringing and yet he support the press release. 

Reviewing the extent of


’s knowledge of what Whitehouse knew before he produced this press release, and to Whitehouse’s failure to tell that to the Sussex Police Authority, H says: 

“One would have thought that a Deputy Clerk owed a duty to the Authority to have drawn these matters to their attention”.  Hoddinott finally concludes that


’s conduct is “concerning but outside the remit of this enquiry”. 

It is not Hoddinott’s role to recommend whether or not the criminal and disciplinary offences should be pursued.  His role is merely to draw attention to the prima facie evidence without actually making a specific recommendation.






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