Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Karen Bradley.)
May I start by welcoming the Minister to his place and his new role, and also extend my thanks to him for contacting me in advance about this evening’s debate? I am very pleased to have secured this Adjournment debate concerning my constituent, Mr Wayne Moore. I sought this debate as a previous Government Minister had refused to meet me about my constituent and because of the appalling way he has been treated. I will set out the facts and the key issues.
In May 2008, Wayne Moore was working as a chef in Germany, as a self-employed contractor for an agency employed by the Ministry of Defence. On 25 May 2008, he was seriously assaulted by a serving member of the British forces. He was so seriously hurt that he had to be revived twice. This attack has had considerable consequences for Wayne in terms of continuing illness, long periods of not being able to work, depression and anxiety, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.
After the attack, I would have expected the Royal Military Police immediately to carry out a thorough investigation to put a case together for the relevant prosecuting authority to act upon in a timely manner. However, what appears to have happened is a very shoddy, inadequate investigation. We now know that although CCTV had been viewed at the time, it was not captured as evidence. Forensic evidence was not obtained and medical evidence was not properly sought and looked at. It is important to note that the Special Investigation Branch originally took a statement from Wayne. That happens only when serious assaults take place, which indicates the severity of the attack. I understand that the assailant was identified by a witness, but Wayne was never invited to confirm the identity of the attacker. It came to light later, when a local MEP asked whether the German police had been notified at the time of the assault, that once again a mistake had been made in the initial investigation as the RMP had wrongly thought both assailant and victim were British forces; it had not even been bothered to find out that Wayne was a civilian.
Of further concern was the fact that after such a vicious attack on a contractor of the British Army, the British Army provided no victim support or other care and advice to Wayne. He was not contacted or kept informed of the progress of the case in those early weeks and months, and this pattern was to continue for the following four years. So Wayne contacted his then constituency MP, the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), who wrote to the MOD on 14 August to find out what was going on, asking whether Wayne would be asked to confirm the identity of his attacker and whether there was to be an identity parade. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman and his caseworker, Roberta Crawley, for their hard work and persistence over the years that followed in challenging the Ministry of Defence on Wayne’s behalf. I also pay tribute to Paul Carbert, in my office, for his work over the past year.
The first letters from the MOD initially claimed that Wayne had left Germany and not given contact information to the Army. That was wrong and the MOD later had to admit that contact information had been provided by Wayne in June. It also said that an identity parade would be arranged, and a video identity parade by electronic recording was scheduled to take place at Wayne’s home on 23 September 2008. However, less than 24 hours before, on 22 September, he was told it was to take place at a barracks, which was both insensitive, because of the location of the attack, and very short notice. After the ID parade, nothing further was heard. Wayne had to chase the outcome and be told that he had identified the wrong person. That was never confirmed to him in writing.
On 15 November 2008, the MOD said that the case file was being completed and would be sent on to the appropriate authority and, once it was finalised, Wayne would be sent an inquiry outcome notification letter to update him on progress. On 26 November 2008, a letter was apparently sent to Wayne, but he never received it. If the Minister looks at that letter, he will find that it certainly gives the impression that the case had been sent to the prosecution authorities and that the perpetrator would be brought before the courts. As Wayne did not know that, he contacted his MP again and the hon. Member for Cheltenham wrote again on 15 December 2008 and 13 February 2009 raising concerns about what was happening and about the conduct of the investigation. On 9 March 2009, the MOD stated that a letter had been sent on 26 November 2008 but also agreed that a review of the investigation was to take place. A letter dated 31 July 2009 from the relevant Minister said that the review was taking longer than expected but expressed the hope that he would be able to advise of the outcome in the near future.
I now want to refer to the letter that then did follow, that of 19 August 2009, which listed the findings of the independent review of the military police’s involvement in the case. I shall read a couple of sections of that letter. It came from an MOD Minister and it stated:
“In summary, the Reviewing Officer has concluded that although there were missed investigative opportunities in this case, these errors would not have altered the outcome of the investigation. Nevertheless, it would appear that the RMP and the Army did not provide Mr Moore with the support that he should have been able to expect from this Department. I apologise for this and I can assure you that a number of lessons have been learnt.”
“As part of the Review, the RMP Reviewing Officer identified a number of missed investigative opportunities: CCTV footage was viewed but not recovered; potential witnesses to the assault were not identified; opportunities to recover medical and forensic evidence were missed and there were unnecessary delays, which in one case led to a witness declining to provide identification evidence. Importantly, there was a general lack of higher level supervision which led to the investigation as a whole taking too long.”
“While the identification of further witnesses and more complete medical evidence may have given the Commanding Officer and his legal advisers a more detailed understanding of the facts, it is the view of the Reviewing Officer that this would not have changed the outcome of the investigation.”
It also said that the reviewing officer had “highlighted failings” in relation to
“how Mr Moore, as a victim of crime, was kept informed of progress of the investigation and of the subsequent decision not to charge the alleged offender with any offence.”
It also commented on how the outcome notification letter could have misled anyone reading it.
As a result of that letter, Wayne Moore had a personal meeting with the reviewing officer, Lieutenant Colonel Grainger, who, it transpired at the meeting, was ignorant of many of the facts of the case. He thought that there had been “a coming together” of the two men, but did not know that Wayne had been resuscitated twice and also that the SIB had been involved. In Lieutenant Colonel Grainger’s own words, it would have been involved only in life-threatening cases.
So the hon. Member for Cheltenham wrote asking for a further review on 23 October 2009, and in February 2010 the relevant Minister sent the case to the independent case file assessor. In April 2010, the independent assessor recommended a more detailed look at the medical evidence and at whether any variation to the seriousness of the original offence should be considered.
On 8 September 2010, we had a new Government and a new Minister. The Minister wrote that he was getting on with obtaining the medical evidence and that it would be sent to the Service Prosecuting Authority. On 31 March 2011, the Minister wrote again saying that it had taken a long time to get the medical evidence and that he was now seeking information from the SPA on how to proceed.
Further chasing letters were sent by the hon. Member for Cheltenham in May, June and July 2011. Finally, an e-mail from the SPA in July 2011 confirmed that the case had never been referred and a letter from the Minister in September 2011 admitted that the case had never been passed on. That is one year’s further delay in Mr Moore’s case. I became involved in the case in October 2011.
I commend the hon. Lady for securing this debate and for the extremely diligent and committed way in which she has pursued and taken up this very disturbing case. Does she agree that it demonstrates a truly appalling series of failings in the investigations, the administration of the case by the different authorities, the communications between them and, above all, the communications between those authorities and Mr Moore, who has only ever sought justice for the injuries he received?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point, which he makes very well. It clearly sets the context of the debate.
I met Wayne in October 2011 when he moved to Hull and on 31 October 2011 I raised concerns with the then Minister about the fact that the case was progressing so slowly. The Minister said that the case was still under consideration by the SPA and I chased that again. Wayne finally received a letter dated 10 April 2012, nearly four years after the original assault. It stated that the SPA had concluded that there was no realistic prospect of conviction, and suggested that Wayne was drunk when the attack happened and that the attacker was acting in self-defence. That was the first time that this version of events had been suggested and I must say that I was shocked that after four years Wayne was being accused of assault. It also occurs to me that if the Army really thought that that was what had happened, it had completely failed in its responsibilities to investigate the case fully.
I therefore asked for a meeting with the Minister to discuss the case on 23 May 2012. I was refused, which is why I have come to the House and why I sought a debate from Mr Speaker. I believe that there has been a catalogue of errors and incompetence from start to finish in the investigation of the attack on Wayne Moore. From the file it is quite clear that Ministers were signing letters in good faith, but I believe that those letters were misleading in retrospect. The Ministry of Defence needs to look very carefully at how Ministers were put in that position.
I believe that the MOD has to explain a few things. The first is the delay and incompetent investigation by the military police at the start. I find it incomprehensible that the MOD could conclude that the missed investigative opportunities would not have altered the outcome of the case. Secondly, the MOD must explain the lack of updates and support for Wayne, a victim of a serious assault, and its failure to deal with matters in a timely way. Thirdly, it must explain the perceived bias of an investigation in which the alleged attacker was a member of the armed forces and the victim was a civilian. Fourthly, it must explain why the first review was carried out by Lieutenant Colonel Grainger, who clearly did not know the facts of what had happened, and whether the MOD feels that a new review should now take place with all the evidence made available.
I think that the MOD should apologise to Wayne for how the Department has acted over the past four years and for trying, four years on, to claim that Wayne Moore was the perpetrator of the assault when that question was never raised before and has caused him enormous distress. I realise that the Minister present this evening is a new Minister, but I hope that he has some answers for Mr Moore, who feels very aggrieved about how he has been treated. He is a law-abiding citizen who is doing his best and who has been out of work for many years now, and he feels that he has been very shabbily treated.
If the House will allow me a brief indulgence, after two and a half years in the Whips Office and the vow of Omerta that goes with it, it is a pleasure to be able to speak in the House of Commons again. Now that I have that ability, may I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on securing this debate on the case of her constituent, Mr Wayne Moore, who was allegedly assaulted on 25 May 2008 in Germany? I note that the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) is also in the Chamber and I am well aware of his long interest in this case as Mr Moore’s constituency MP, before Mr Moore moved to Hull.
I was sorry to learn the details of this incident, as I am for Mr Moore, who has clearly suffered following the events of 25 May 2008. That was made plain by the Member of Parliament who now represents him. I hope that this debate will help answer any outstanding concerns Mr Moore may have. I am sure, though, that the House will also understand that I will be unable to cover some detail relating to the case publicly, not least for reasons of data protection and legal privilege. However, I can confirm that this incident was initially investigated by the Royal Military Police. It may help at this juncture if I explain that the RMP undertook the investigation under the agreement with the German authorities covering the basing of our forces in the country as part of the NATO alliance, which is known as the status of forces agreement. This is because the accused was a British serviceman and the incident took place on a British military base. The service police work very closely with their civilian colleagues, both in the UK and when our forces are deployed overseas.
The initial investigation commenced on 26 May 2008. It concluded in November that year, and the matter was passed to the chain of command of the accused for their consideration. In December, following legal advice, the commanding officer made a decision using his statutory authority under the Army Act 1955—the legislation that was in force at that time—not to prosecute any individual in relation to the incident. The case was therefore discontinued at that stage. Following representations from Mr Moore, a lieutenant colonel from the Royal Military Police conducted an internal review in July 2009, which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North mentioned. He conducted a thorough review of the case and the relevant evidence, and identified a number of missed investigative opportunities. CCTV footage was reviewed and found to have no evidence of the incident in question, but was not recovered; some potential witnesses to the incident were not identified; and there were avoidable delays that, in one case, may have led to a witness declining to provide identification evidence. Nevertheless, he concluded that those shortfalls would not have materially altered the outcome, not least because other evidence, including witness evidence, contradicted Mr Moore’s version of the incident.
The Royal Military Police’s chief officer, the Provost Marshal (Army), wrote to Mr Moore to offer his personal apologies for these failures in the investigative process and to suggest a meeting with his staff to explain their findings in more detail. Mr Moore took them up on this offer and later that year the Royal Military Police met the hon. Lady’s constituent and explained their findings to him directly.
Following that review, Mr Moore continued to express reservations about the way in which the matter had been investigated and again asked that the matter be reopened. Accordingly, in March 2010, the Royal Military Police asked a retired civilian detective chief superintendent with many years’ experience in this area to undertake a further independent review of the case to provide additional external assurance of the investigation. This further review concurred with the Royal Military Police’s own assessment that although some investigative opportunities were missed in the case, as the hon. Lady said, they would not have altered the outcome of the investigation. It was, however, suggested by the detective chief superintendent, that obtaining further evidence from medical sources who treated Mr Moore in Germany at the time and subsequently in the UK might provide grounds to allow investigators to refer the case to the Service Prosecuting Authority under the new legislative framework of the Armed Forces Act 2006, which had recently come into force in October 2009.
As such, the chief officer of the Royal Military Police set about obtaining further medical evidence in support of Mr Moore’s case. Unfortunately, and despite the efforts of police investigators, it took until March 2011 for all the additional information to be provided. I should point out here that these medical sources were not military and there was considerable delay on the part of the civilian medical authorities in providing the necessary information. The issue of patient/doctor confidentiality and data protection, and the difficulty this poses to police forces wishing to pursue fully all lines of inquiry, is an issue that we recognise, and one that faces many police organisations, not only, in fairness, those in the military.
As a result of that further work, the case was referred to the Director of Service Prosecutions. Having received the file, prosecutors requested further clarification, which required a short period of further work. Once that was complete, they properly applied the “full code” test, which requires the prosecuting authority to judge whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction—is it more likely than not?—and, if so, whether prosecution is in the public, including the service, interest. In this case they considered that there was not a realistic prospect of conviction and, therefore, no charges were brought.
Because of the role it plays within the service justice system, the Service Prosecuting Authority is rightly independent of both the chain of command and the Ministry of Defence and falls under the superintendence of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. That is analogous to the Crown Prosecution Service being independent of the civilian police. I hope that the hon. Lady will therefore understand that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on its decision.
What I can say is that the Director of Service Prosecutions has reviewed the case personally and not only provided an assurance that the correct assessment processes were followed but endorsed the decision that there was no realistic prospect of conviction. Accordingly, the managing prosecutor wrote to Mr Moore to advise him formally of the outcome, explaining the reasons for the conclusion he reached and provided Mr Moore with the opportunity to request a meeting to discuss the reasons in more detail, which I understand he has not, to date, pursued. The Solicitor-General subsequently reviewed the case papers and did not dissent from the decision.
No one can deny that, following the independent case review in early 2010, this case was more protracted than anyone would have wished. In that sense, the hon. Lady has a perfectly fair point. We also recognise that there were failures properly to support and inform Mr Moore of the status of the initial investigation and subsequently through the review process. I hope that the hon. Lady is assured, as I was, by the willingness of the service police to consider her constituent’s concerns and review the case not once, but twice, including by an independent assessor. As I know she will appreciate, the vast majority of police investigations within the service justice system are managed quickly, efficiently and effectively. Nevertheless, in the small percentage of cases in which investigative mistakes have been made, it is vital that the police are open and honest enough to hold their hands up and apologise, and I believe that this case highlights their willingness to do so.
I think that the Minister is coming to the end of his contribution and wonder whether he might be willing to comment on the allegation that has now been made against Mr Moore four years on—that he perpetrated the attack—which was not raised before and has caused him a great deal of distress.
I understand the hon. Lady’s point and think that I will have time to refer to it in my conclusion.
I would not want to leave the House with the impression that the delay that occurred in this case, for which the RMP has apologised, is the norm within the service justice system: it is not. Members will be aware that the three services each have their own police forces—the Royal Navy Police, the Royal Military Police and the Royal Air Force Police—which have statutory powers devolved through the Armed Forces Act. They are deployed wherever the armed forces are based and, because the armed forces reflect society, are expected to deliver the full spectrum of law enforcement capability and investigate all types of crime. They are therefore trained to standards set by the National Policing Improvement Agency and, where necessary, advanced technical training is provided by the civil police.
Last year more than 2,500 cases were investigated by the Royal Military Police alone and over 600 cases were prosecuted by the Service Prosecuting Authority at courts martial. The average time to trial in 2011 was 111 days, which compares favourably with, for example, magistrates courts, which have average completion rates of 144 days for all defendants, although I accept that it is difficult to make direct comparisons because of the unique nature of some service offences.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the service police. For the most part, they do an outstanding job in difficult and sometimes exceptionally dangerous circumstances. Of course they sometimes get criticised—every police force in the country has been criticised at one time or another—but it would be wrong to draw broad conclusions from individual cases. Some cases result in convictions, some in acquittals, and some, for various reasons, do not proceed to trial. That is the nature of any criminal justice system, whether service or civilian. The key thing is for organisations to acknowledge when mistakes are made and to learn from them. I can assure the hon. Lady that that is what has happened in this case. Lessons have been learned. Royal Military Police investigative policy and practice is continually developed and adapted in the light of experience and emerging civil police best practice. Furthermore, since Mr Moore raised his concerns, a code of practice has been introduced by the Ministry of Defence detailing the services to be provided by the armed forces to the victims of crime. This is designed to ensure that victims are properly supported and that at every stage of the investigation and prosecutorial process they are kept fully informed of progress in their case.
Ultimately, we accept that there could have been improvements in the way the case was initially investigated. I am conscious, however, that it has now been reviewed and considered by the Royal Military Police, by a senior retired civilian detective, by the Service Prosecuting Authority, and by the Solicitor-General, so it has been looked at in great detail four times already. I have also discussed the case personally with the Provost Marshal (Army) as well as consulting staff from the independent Service Prosecuting Authority. I have been assured that the case has now been exhaustively investigated and that the correct decision not to prosecute was reached. Part of the reason that decision has been made is that, as I said, the witness statements that have been made available clearly contradict the version of events that has been provided by Mr Moore.
I know that the hon. Lady’s constituent continues to suffer as a result of the events of May 2008. Nevertheless, his suffering is not in itself proof that a crime was committed, and after repeated, careful and independent consideration of the events in question the conclusion has always remained the same—that there is no realistic prospect of convicting any individual in relation to this matter. I hope that in saying that I have been able to answer fairly clearly the point that she put to me in her intervention, but if she feels that I have not, I will gladly give way again.
I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to intervene again. If he is now saying, four years on, that the witness statements contradicted the original account of what had happened, why was an investigation not taken forward against Mr Moore? It seems very convenient that four years on the tables have been turned on him and that this was not raised much earlier if there was evidence.
I understand the hon. Lady’s question. I do not think that there was evidence sufficient to prosecute Mr Moore for what happened in this case, just as I do not think there was evidence sufficient to prosecute the accused, as it were. Given that the case has been reviewed four times, and having looked into this, I am confident that the previous decisions were correct. However, I absolutely respect the hon. Lady’s doggedness in wanting to get to the bottom of what happened on behalf of the member of the public she represents. I hope that she will feel that I have tried to answer her question directly.
The Service Prosecuting Authority’s offer to meet Mr Moore further to explain its decision not to prosecute remains open. Under the circumstances, particularly as explained to the House by the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Cheltenham, I strongly encourage Mr Moore—the hon. Lady might want to play some part in this—to take the Service Prosecuting Authority up on this offer in the hope that he could then put these questions to it directly and that that might enable it to answer those questions and perhaps to help him to come to terms with what has happened. I can only make that suggestion from this Dispatch Box, but I hope that the hon. Lady’s constituent will take it up because, given the long and complicated history of this case, it would be helpful if he sat down with and put these questions directly to the SPA so that it could reply directly to him. I can drop a hint in that regard, but I cannot force the hon. Lady’s constituent to take it.
In conclusion, I hope that I have done my best to address directly the points that have been put to me. I commend the hon. Lady and her friend on the Liberal Democrat Benches, who is also my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, for the way in which they have approached this case. I hope that I have done my best to put their concerns to rest.
Question put and agreed to.