This is a copy of the letter being sent by Grampian Police to worried viewers who saw You’ve Been Trumped on BBC Two, and complained to the force.




October 2012


From Grampian Police



Dear


COMPLAINT ABOUT THE POLICE

 

I refer to your email dated 22 October 2012, regarding your viewing of the film 'You've Been Trumped'.  I have recorded your dissatisfaction as a Complaint about the Police and have enquired into your concerns.

 

Following the receipt of a number of complaints from members of the public who viewed Mr Baxter's film 'You've been Trumped' in 2011, staff from this Department carried out enquiry into the circumstances of the detention of Anthony Baxter in response to the incident at Menie House on 30 July 2010, as detailed within the film, and the general allegation which suggests that Grampian Police are not impartial in the manner in which they have policed issues relating to the Menie Golf Development.

 

As part of that enquiry, we also engaged in correspondence with representatives of Montrose Pictures, including the filmmaker Anthony Baxter regarding the events of 30 July 2010, where Police detained him and his colleague.  As a result of these lengthy communications, neither Anthony Baxter nor any representative of Montrose Films were willing to meet with any representative of Grampian Police and they have declined to provide a copy of the film, make complaint about Police actions or assist with the investigation.

 

It is disappointing that in order to establish what happened and make an assessment of Police actions during our response to this incident, we were unable to consider the views of the two most important witnesses, or view the unedited footage recorded.  This has not been helpful and does not allow us to capture best evidence, relying upon recollection and perception of an apparently emotionally charged incident, which occurred some time ago.  I can assure you that there was a genuine attempt by Grampian Police to understand what occurred that day and to establish if we could improve the manner in which these events were responded to.

 

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the opportunity to view the film at a public showing in 2011 was taken, as was TV and radio coverage of the film launch.  Statements were noted from witnesses to the events and from the Officers concerned.   Whilst it would be beneficial and accepted best practice to obtain the views and impression of Anthony Baxter and his colleague, and ultimately view the unedited footage, we have to rely upon the relatively short excerpt from the film, combined with the impression of the witnesses who felt able to engage with us.

 

It is clear that excerpts of this film are edited and it is our impression that the audio soundtrack from the film trailer and actual film appear to differ.  I am content that the manner in which these films have been edited does not materially alter the record of events, however, provides a potentially dramatic and summarised version of their detention.  The edited soundtrack provides some insight to partial conversations between the Police Officers and filmmakers and there are some indications that the detention was carried out in a lawful and procedurally correct manner.  Having reviewed all the available evidence, I can, however, understand why a member of the public could have perceived the Police actions within the documentary as being rash and confrontational and this has caused some concern.

 

The Officers have been spoken to regarding this incident and have intimated they carried out the detention in line with Force procedures and have insisted they behaved professionally throughout.  Notwithstanding the fact that this appears to have been edited for drama and impact, we are of the view that the Police Officers could have interacted more effectively with both Anthony Baxter and his colleague.  It is clear that the Officers were presented with a difficult, unusual and challenging situation, nonetheless, there were opportunities for the Officers to have communicated more effectively in order to explain their objectives.  In this regard, these actions were discussed with both these Officers and they were provided with managerial advice regarding their actions on 30 July 2010.

 

With regard to the general allegation which suggests that Grampian Police are not impartial in the manner in which they have policed issues relating to the development at Menie Estate, I can assure you that Grampian Police have responded to all calls, protests or incidents at the estate in an impartial and transparent manner.  At the very outset, the potential controversy regarding the policing of incidents at Menie Estate and other similar developments was recognised and a generic local strategy was developed which determined Grampian Police's priorities as being to:

 

¥Maximise Safety

¥Minimise Disruption

¥Facilitate Lawful Protest

¥Deter, Detect, Detain and Report those responsible for unlawful behaviour.

 

Independently from public complaint, Northern Constabulary carried out a review of Grampian Police's response to issues arising from the development of the Trump International Golf Links at Menie Estate, Aberdeenshire, between January 2009 and August 2011. The Northern Constabulary review summary is:

 

'It is clear that throughout this paper based review every Officer involved has acted fully in accordance with Grampian Police's values.  There is good evidence throughout that impartiality is a major factor in all decision making. The action taken throughout is lawful and proportionate, in keeping with the strategic aims.  There is repeated good practice during the period of review, with Grampian Police taking responsibility to ensure fairness and impartial policing of any event or incident connected to the Trump development. There is no evidence of any individual, group or organisation being favoured'.

 

The development at Menie Estate has, from its outset, proved contentious and has provoked debate across political, environmental and social spectrums and the policing of events that have arisen as the development has progressed were always going to prove challenging and controversial.  I wish to reassure you that Grampian Police have approached policing issues relative to the development in an impartial manner and in line with our Force values of transparency, accountability, impartiality, responsibility and integrity.  It is unfortunate that the film did not include a statement from Grampian Police regarding the policing strategy employed and our emphasis upon impartiality, as this may have gone some way to satisfy your concerns.

 

I trust that this response has gone some way to reassure you regarding these issues and demonstrates our commitment to providing high quality policing services. 

 

If you are not satisfied in the way your complaint has been handled, you should write to the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland, 2nd Floor Hamilton House, Hamilton Business Park, Caird Park, Hamilton ML3 0QA.

 

 

Yours sincerely


 

Ewan M Stewart

Chief Superintendent, Grampian Police (Professional Standards Department)

This is our response to the letter (left), being sent by Grampian Police. 


(A pdf version of this letter can be seen by clicking here)


1 November, 2012



Chief Superintendent Ewan M Stewart

Professional Standards Department

Grampian Police

Bucksburn Police Station

Inverurie Road

Aberdeen

AB21 9AS




Dear Chief Superintendent Stewart


We are writing to ask you to please stop the misleading, self-serving and irresponsible letters we understand you are sending to members of the public who complain about Grampian Police behaviour as shown in our film You've Been Trumped.  The letter we have seen is deeply insulting to us, but more important, it is further evidence that the police are trying to cover-up the truth.


Let us remind you of what we are talking about – the unprecedented, forcible arrest of two journalists, who were enquiring into a story of significant public interest: the cutting off of water to local residents, including an 85-year-old woman, by the Trump Organisation.


We will address the litany of outrageous statements you make in your letter later on. But first, let us start with what we agree on.


As you acknowledge in your letter, the events leading up to, and surrounding our arrest, are depicted fairly and accurately in You've Been Trumped:  I am content that the manner in which these films have been edited does not materially alter the record of events is how you put it.  You then write that:


“...there are some indications that the detention was carried out in a lawful and procedurally correct manner.  Having reviewed all the available evidence, I can, however, understand why a member of the public could have perceived the Police actions within the documentary as being rash and confrontational and this has caused some concern.”


You have, in your roundabout way, identified the central issues:


1) You view our arrest as an incident so trivial that all it requires is that you provide “managerial advice” to the officers involved.


2) The general public – with the same evidence in front of them -  views the incident, and other examples of police behaviour, with horror.


3) The gap between how the public expects their police force to behave, and your own view, is so gigantic, that it obviously threatens public confidence in the police. 


4) It is equally obvious that the matter can only be investigated by someone, or some body, that is not under the control of the very police force that continues to cover-up its own behaviour and continues to cast the blame, instead, on the victims and the messengers.


Now let us turn to the specific assertions you make in your letter:


“Neither Anthony Baxter nor any representative of Montrose Films were willing to meet with any representative of Grampian Police and they have declined to provide a copy of the film, make complaint about Police actions or assist with the investigation...It is disappointing that in order to establish what happened and make an assessment of Police actions during our response to this incident, we were unable to consider the views of the two most important witnesses, or view the unedited footage recorded.”


This outrageous attempt to blame the messenger simply beggars belief.  Can we remind you of the following:


-  Grampian Police made absolutely no effort to investigate our improper arrest in any manner whatsoever for more than 10 months, during which time the arrest was reported around the world, and was the subject of a scathing complaint by the National Union of Journalists.


-  Anthony Baxter gave a full account of what happened on the Menie Estate to the arresting officers, evidence which you had full access to.


-  Shocking clips of the arrest were readily available on YouTube and watched more than 100,000 times. 


-  The arrest was shown on a national news programme (Channel 4 News and on BBC Reporting Scotland News).


-  The officer conducting your “investigation” didn't even bother to view the film when it played, at least 10 times, just a few blocks from your office in June 2011 amidst a blaze of national publicity.


-  This same individual told us in writing that his job was to “manage complaints” against the force; his “findings” were as we expected, a laughable exercise in public relations.


-  You are expecting us to hand over footage to a police force that put us both in a jail cell for no reason, impounded our footage for six days, and then lied about us to the media (see below)? 


“Grampian Police have approached policing issues relative to the development in an impartial manner and in line with our Force values of transparency, accountability, impartiality, responsibility and integrity.”


The rest of your letter makes a mockery of this statement, as do the varied experiences of local residents who bear the brunt of intimidation and police bias.   But may we also remind you that your police force lied to the media after the ludicrous criminal charges laid against us by your officers, had been thrown out  by the Crown Office.   At that time the Grampian Police press office told the media that “the allegations [against us] were corroborated by independent witnesses.”  Given the publicity surrounding the case, and the fact that the language was written down in background notes, it is inconceivable that these words were not chosen carefully.  Your own “investigator” concluded that this was indeed a falsehood, yet Grampian Police has still not retracted the statement despite our request.  Is that your idea of responsibility and integrity?


“The Officers were presented with a difficult, unusual and challenging situation.”


Anyone who has viewed the film knows this is preposterous.  We were simply conducting an interview with local resident Susan Munro at her own home when we were interrupted and arrested by police.  All that had happened was that the police had received an unfounded complaint from a person working for the Trump Organisation, who was apparently nervous that the journalists, acting in an entirely professional manner (according to the NUJ) had uncovered evidence that the Trump Organisation had cut off water supplies to local residents and was making little effort to reinstate it.  That may create a tight spot for the Trump Organisation.  But how on earth is that a difficult or challenging situation for Grampian Police?


“It is unfortunate that the film did not include a statement from Grampian Police regarding the policing strategy employed and our emphasis upon impartiality.”


We are stupefied by the hypocrisy of this statement.  As you are fully aware, we made a detailed request in writing for Grampian Police to answer charges made in the film, and received a one line response from your former head of communications Raymond Hainey, that “we’ll be unable to oblige.” To mislead the public into thinking you were open to cooperating with the filmmakers is reprehensible.


Your letter vindicates our belief all along that you and your colleagues are only interested in “managing” complaints, and not interested in the truth. 


Grampian Police's refusal to admit any significant wrongdoing, and to continue to insist that there were grounds for our arrest, has encouraged the Trump Organisation to continue to wage an ugly public relations campaign.  The Organisation has falsely accused us of hiding in bushes, lying in front of bulldozers, and of filming secret documents.  If you were really impartial, and concerned about the impact of police actions on individuals, and on the free expression of ideas in Scotland, you would be setting the record straight, rather than looking for ways of justifying police actions that are blatantly indefensible.


Your letter only lends credence to the growing public perception that Grampian Police, the Scottish Government, and the Trump Organisation did indeed work closely together to the detriment of local residents, our natural environment, and the public's right to know.  And are now doing their best to hide or obscure or ignore the truth.


Yours sincerely



Richard Phinney

Producer

Anthony Baxter 

Director, You’ve Been Trumped (Montrose Pictures Ltd)