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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 17:44 
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Police chief criticised over decapitated biker photo

Nov 9 2007 icWales

CONTROVERSIAL police chief Richard Brunstrom was criticised by the police watchdog today for using pictures of a decapitated biker in a road safety presentation.

But the Independent Police Complaints Commission cleared the North Wales chief constable of any wrongdoing under the Police Code of Conduct.

The investigation was launched after the images of road accident victim Mark Gibney, 40, were shown to a group of journalists without the permission of his family.

The victim’s father, William, had gone to great lengths to ensure the full details of the road accident were sheltered from his daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

He complained to the IPCC saying Mr Brunstrom’s actions were “totally without feeling and lacked moral judgment.”

Today’s report said: “The full details of this incident were already in the public domain but this incident resulted in them re-emerging.

“William Gibney was entitled to think that, until this incident, those in his family who did not know by 2007 were not going to find out now.

“The use of these images without any forewarning for whatever purposes and with whatever justification, has left him and his family deeply distressed.

“In a similar vein, this whole case will have reopened the wounds and grief of the other family and officers involved in the original incident, many of whom continue to suffer to this day serious physical and mental trauma.”

The report added that the incident “could, and possibly should, have been avoided”.

It condemned the force for “lack of sufficient planning, risk assessments and damage limitation actions, together with the lack of involvement of wider counsel, all of which might have avoided this incident.

“This has obviously caused a great deal of distress to the surviving family of Mark Gibney. It will also have caused considerable distress to the other party involved in the fatal collision and will no doubt have caused them to relive the event.”

Father-of-three Mr Gibney, from West Derby, Liverpool, was decapitated in a crash with a car near Llanfihangel in September 2003.

In April, two images of Mr Gibney – one of his body and another of his head - were shown to the audience at the media briefing to promote the Arrive Alive speeding campaign.

The Gibney family, who have refused to accept two apologies from Mr Brunstrom and have continued to call for him to be sacked, were particularly distressed by an email from the Chief Constable to his press officer before the event.

Talking about his plans to illustrate the road safety message, Mr Brunstrom said: “We must have better slides than the suicide. Not enough. Not gruesome enough. Motorcyclist is outstandingly good.”

Paul Beck, the Gibneys’ solicitor, said the family were now “exploring” their legal options.

He said: “The report may exonerate Mr Brunstrom from any criminal act but it shows that he displayed a complete lack of compassion for the family of Mark Gibney.

“Everything about this press briefing was ad hoc, there was no real planning.

“There was no explanation about why Mr Gibney’s picture was used in this case, no attempt to speak to the family about the appropriateness of it.

“There was no thought to the fact that the terrible details of this tragedy may end up before Mr Gibney’s widow once more.”

He added: “Any Chief Constable occupies a position of great trust and yet it is clear Richard Brunstrom acted without the family’s permission and with no thought to their welfare. His explanation that the meeting with the press was ’closed’ does not excuse him of his responsibility to protect and have regard for the victims of this accident.

“It is high time Richard Brunstrom was made to accept responsibility for his actions.

“The IPCC report makes recommendations and the Gibney family will be watching to ensure those recommendations progress.

“They will continue to examine all legal avenues to ensure no other family suffers in this way.”

North Wales Police is making no comment on the matter.

Councillor Ian Roberts, chairman of North Wales Police Authority, said: “We would like to thank the Independent Police Complaints Commission for the thoroughness of their investigation.

“The matter will now be referred to a special meeting of the Police Authority for consideration of the IPCC’s report.”

Clwyd West Conservative MP David Jones said: “This was a very unfortunate episode.

“No doubt the police will learn that sensitivity is required when dealing with such distressing matters.”

Motorcycle News delivered 1,600 readers’ emails to the IPCC, complaining about Mr Brunstrom’s actions.

News editor Ben Purvis said today: “Our readers were horrified at the insensitivity and invasion of privacy which Mr Brunstrom showed when he used those pictures.

“I can’t think of any circumstances where it would be right and proper to use such graphic images without permission of the family.

“With the publication of the full report, once again readers will feel shocked and horrified that Mr Brunstrom will not be reprimanded.”

Paul Smith, of the anti-speed camera group SafeSpeed, said: “The incident, although not deemed to be a breach of law or professional standards, is a classic Brunstrom blunder.

“The distress caused to the Gibney family was immense and irreparable. I’m extremely disappointed that the IPCC was unable to do anything to put this right.

“I very much hope that the Gibney family will now be able to sue Mr Brunstrom personally for the irreparable harm.

“This incident was another Brunstrom blunder. How many more will we have to suffer before he goes? He should do the decent thing and go today.”

Paul Smith
Our scrap speed cameras petition got over 28,000 sigs
The Safe Speed campaign demands a return to intelligent road safety

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