A GROUP of councillors has decided that the elected-head of Thames Valley Police has not broken any rules following a row over an alleged abuse of power.

Last year, police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld admitted using his work email to warn a private citizen of police action.

In October, a Michael Murrin got in touch with the Oxford Mail saying he had been hired by a woman called Michelle Young to retrieve two computer hard drives which contained information about her ex-husband’s hidden assets.

However, Mr Murrin said that, having got the hard drives, there was then a disagreement over payment, so he had refused to hand them over.

A week later, to his complete surprise, he received an email about the disagreement from Mr Stansfeld which said: “I have taken an interest in the case of Michelle Young. Unless you have a signed contract with Ms Young which shows a clear contract with her, I suggest you hand back the hard drives to her before this becomes a police matter.

“As far as I can see, you may be able to show otherwise, this appears to me to be extortion.”

Read the full story here.

Mr Murrin replied the following day asking Mr Stansfeld why he had got involved in the case and accusing him of ‘abusing his office by issuing threats of criminal investigation’.

He eventually filed the same complaint formally.

Witney Gazette:

Complaints against Mr Stansfeld, who gets paid £86,700-a-year to control police budgets, are sent to his own office before they are passed onto the Police and Crime Panel.

That panel is made up of 18 elected councillors from across the Thames Valley and is designed to hold his decisions to account.

However last year it emerged that the panel actually have no powers to punish him.

The limited powers of the panel mean that if he has not broken the law the panel can only suggest what he should do differently in the future or ask him to apologise – even that he could choose not to do.

The official complaints procedure also explains that the panel cannot actually investigate the complaints – it can only hear both sides of the argument and then make a decision.

Read more: councillor says he MUST be held accountable for his actions

In September last year, a complaint similar to that made by Mr Murrin, was sent to the panel.

Though the details have been kept secret, the sub-committee revealed it had ‘partially upheld it’ and asked the PCC to ensure there was more ‘clarity and transparency’ when he was acting in his role as police and crime commissioner or deputy lead portfolio holder for fraud and cyber crime.

The original meeting to decide an outcome for Mr Murrin’s complaint about his warning email was put back a month in February after the committee decided it was ‘too complex’ to make a decision.

The following month it was shelved again because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The panel finally met again on September 4 in private – away from the public, press and Mr Stansfeld – to decide if he had committed misconduct.

In the decision letter addressed to Michael Murrin, which has been seen by this paper, the police and crime panel head explained: “Mr Murrin has made allegations that Mr Stansfeld had accused him of extortion, and he has accused the PCC of abusing his power as PCC for Thames Valley of turning a civil dispute between himself and Michelle Young into a criminal matter.”

Witney Gazette:

It noted Mr Stansfeld’s response to the complaints, which were that as a PCC he is ‘entitled to his own opinion’ and the complaints are ‘not matters that the panel should get involved with’.

As a result, the panel concluded: “This complaint made against the police and crime commissioner does not have any merit.

“The complaint should not be subject to any resolution under Part 4 of the regulations and that no action should be taken in relation to it, as the complaint is vexatious, oppressive or otherwise and abuse of the procedures for dealing with complaints.”