Wrexham’s MP has spoken in Parliament about ‘grave errors’ made before the brutal murder of a Wrexham resident – while heavily criticising subsequent attempts by the authorities to establish what went wrong.
Ian Lucas led an adjournment debate in the main Commons chamber yesterday on ‘police complaints, accountability and the case of Nicholas Churton’.
Mr Churton was murdered in his Wrexham home in March 2017 by a dangerous offender, Jordan Davidson, who was on licence from prison at the time. Davidson had been arrested and taken into custody four days before the murder for possession of a knife, only to be released rather than being sent back to prison. Mr Lucas read out an account of a second threat to life in Wrexham town centre when Davidson pulled a machete on a man trying to intervene on a robbery in the period after he had murdered Mr Churton.
Mr Lucas has spent two years trying to find out why Davidson was freed to murder Mr Churton, and commit a series of other serious offences, but says several key questions remain unanswered.
In yesterday’s speech he praised the ‘commendable bravery’ of the officers who arrested Davidson. However, he was heavily critical of North Wales Police, the probation service and the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) over their failure to give him answers in relation to the case.
Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Lucas said: “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 those crimes revealed grave errors by the police and by the probation services in Wrexham and North Wales.”
Mr Lucas added: “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.”
Davidson was known to Mr Churton and had approached him in the days before the murder.
An IOPC investigation into Mr Churton’s contact with the police was launched in the days following his death – yet Mr Lucas was not informed of this important development. It is IOPC protocol for local MPs to be told.
Mr Lucas contacted North Wales Police later that year after learning of Davidson’s arrest and release for possession of an offensive weapon, days before the murder. But the then Chief Constable, Mark Polin, said he could not comment because the IOPC was investigating ‘all contact’ the police had with Davidson prior to Mr Churton’s death. Mr Lucas says this was, in fact, not true as the IOPC was only investigating police contact with Mr Churton, not the contact with Davidson.
Following pressure from Mr Lucas, a second IOPC investigation was opened – this time focusing on police contact with Davidson – but it only began in April 2018, more than a year on from the crime. The first IOPC investigation has finished, resulting in misconduct cases for two officers, but the second inquiry is ongoing.
Mr Lucas this week wrote to North Wales Police & Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones to ask him to look into the statements made to him by Mr Polin, who has since left the force.
Mr Lucas posed several questions in the House of Commons yesterday to the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service (Mr Nick Hurd):
– 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?
Mr Lucas added: “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.”
The Minister replied, “I know the hon. Gentleman to be a man of common sense and experience in this place. When I hear him articulate his feeling that he has been personally misled and talk about a systematic cover-up, I know that he will not be using that language lightly. I take that seriously and congratulate him on his persistence and his campaign on this.”
“I heard clearly the hon. Gentleman’s frustration about his engagement with the police and the system and the degree to which he feels misled—a powerful word in this context. I understand that he has been in correspondence with and met senior members of North Wales police to discuss its organisational learning, its response to date and intended actions. If he feels that contact has not been substantive or that there are issues that continue to need to be addressed, he and I should discuss that. I can certainly help him to make that point directly to North Wales police’s leadership.”
Mr Lucas noted “It is fair to say that North Wales police now has a new chief constable and that this case relates to the previous regime, so to speak” with the Minister replying “…under new leadership, the engagement with the hon. Gentleman is more forthcoming, and I welcome that.”
After a lengthy reply (here) from the Minister Mr Lucas said, “My key concern is that Davidson’s release from custody was not made subject to IPCC investigation by North Wales police or by the IPCC, and no one outside the force knew of that fact. It was only when I highlighted it that the investigation commenced. My concern is that the systems are still not in place to make sure it cannot happen again.”
The Minister said: “I understand that message very clearly, and it will be heard by the IOPC. I undertake to make sure that the IOPC has absorbed the message. My understanding is that the first investigation looked at the police’s dealings and contact with Nicholas Churton and the second is looking specifically at their contact and dealings with Jordan Davidson, but the hon. Gentleman’s point is well made. Through the mechanism of this debate and the follow-up, I undertake to make sure that the message is clearly understood by the IOPC as it finalises its work for publication, hopefully this summer.”
Speaking outside the chamber, Mr Lucas said: “This case raises serious concerns about the criminal justice system and the safety of my constituents. It is why I have been so determined to find out what went wrong, yet I have been met with a great many obstacles which have been a cause of huge concern to me. The family of Mr Churton also deserve answers but, sadly, we are still waiting more than two years on from this terrible crime.”
Top picture: Ian Lucas MP speaking yesterday during the adjournment debate.
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