Fair Play and FAPAC: Crime Prevention or Vigilantism?
Lucky Dover residents now enjoy the protection of one of the first Business Crime Reduction Partnerships (BCRP) in the country to meet the national accreditation standards awarded by Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (PCPI). Good news indeed — but why is our own area partnership against crime, Folkestone Area Partnership Against Crime (FAPAC) not similarly accredited?
In its own words, the accrediting body:
“…is a police-owned organisation that works on behalf of the Police Service throughout the UK to deliver a wide range of crime prevention and police demand reduction initiatives”.
Part of its work is ensuring that BCRPs function ethically and within the law and in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The standards checked include good management practices and procedures such as membership agreements, data security and compliance with current legislation.
The accreditation process checks a BCRP’s operations against agreed national standards and some of these raise local issues which recent events have brought to our attention, as highlighted below:
4.6 An Information Sharing Protocol is in place and up to date. Including Partnership Information Sharing Protocol, including Audit Procedures.
4.7 If possible, an Information sharing agreement is in place with the local police If in place this must be up to date and reviewed as required
4.9 Any exclusion or banning notice scheme is managed appropriately Include the criteria for issuing an exclusion notice, who can and when an exclusion notice can be served
4.10 Any Exclusion Scheme Protocol is in place and up-to-date.
4.11 Excluded persons list is available if an exclusion scheme is in place This must be available at appropriate times to members and the police in order to evidence exclusion. This will likely be 24/7 as evidence may need to be provided to courts overnight.
So let’s look at FAPAC. It describes itself as follows:
“The Folkestone Area Partnership Against Crime is a ‘not for profit’ organisation forming a subsidiary of Folkestone Town Centre Management Ltd…….. and is a Crime Reduction Partnership operating shopwatch and pubwatch schemes for the benefit of local retailers, licensed premises and the public of Shepway”.
It states it is a ‘partner’ with Kent Police and the (National) Association of Business Crime Partnerships. The latter is a membership body and NOT an accreditation body.
One specific task FAPAC undertakes is:
“…sharing photographs and Intelligence, traders and ‘service providers’ warn each other of pending trouble when shoplifters, drunks or persons known for anti-social behaviour are active.”
FAPAC collates and shares information, and:
“…..identifies and warns members about active offenders and their criminality, which affects quality of life and damages local enterprise. FAPAC excludes target offenders from all member premises including shops, libraries and places of entertainment…. and administers a partnership exclusion scheme that involves members excluding target offenders from all private premises including shops and places of entertainment which are enrolled in the scheme. This information also includes “photographs of suspects, current offenders and excluded individuals [and] is available 24/7 via the members area of our website.”
FAPAC further defines offenders and offending as occurring:
“When an Offender is reported by a Member for participating in any theft, threat or damage to any Member’s property, staff or the public, his/her name and facial image may be shared among Members for 12 months.”
In part 2 of this long read, we raise some awkward questions about the reality. These questions cast a troubling light on the transparency of FAPAC’s operations and procedures. To whom is it answerable? Are those who pay for its services fully aware of its modus operandi and are they aware that there are now national standards in place? Does it actually achieve anything?
Firstly, let’s look at the names behind FAPAC. It is a subsidiary of Folkestone Town Centre Management Ltd. whose directors include Robert (I’ve never made a profit) Richardson, currently the general manager of the Grand and bankrupt Michael Stainer’s lackey/representative on earth (both pictured below), retired bank manager Benjamin Sharp, Elizabeth Lawson who is Managing Director of the Bilsington Priory Estate, Ian Lucas, Deputy Technical Manager at the Marlowe Theatre and Tom McNeice, a former Lib Dem councillor. FAPAC is managed by former Police District Commander of Ashford and Margate, John Frayne. Of the directors, only Mr McNeice resides in Folkestone.
Some of FAPAC’s supporting companies are national names such as Debenhams, NCP Carparks, Halfords, Iceland, Sainsburys, Specsavers and Tesco. Others are far more local such as Chambers, the Quarterhouse, Kipps, Harveys Bar and the Grands – Burstin and the other one on the Leas. Full annual membership costs £390.00 plus VAT, associate membership (all the benefits except use of a radio) costs £275.00 plus VAT. Our first question therefore is do these companies know what is being done in their name? Some very off-the-record conversations with both the national and local clients of FAPAC suggest not.
But let’s return to their exclusion list. Clearly there is a public interest in alerting local retailers and licensed premises to known offenders who present a risk to property or persons. For example, the 1980 Licensed Premises (Exclusion of Certain Persons) Act empowers Courts to “make an order prohibiting [a person] from entering those premises or any other specified premises, without the express consent of the licensee of the premises or his servant or agent.”
The Association of Town and City Management publishes a “collection of powers and tools you can implement and strategies you can use to help make your local centre a great place to be.” One of these tools is the use of exclusion notices which involves:
“The identification of these offenders through the intelligence gathered and shared amongst the members of the local Crime Reduction Partnership (BCRP) including the Police, and then excluding them from the premises of all members of the Partnership. This will mean most of the shops, pubs and other establishments in the town centre deny the offender the opportunity to commit crimes and can help to break a pattern of behaviour…..It is important to work closely with the Police and CRP members to ensure that the exclusion orders issued are backed up with sufficient evidence and that all will enforce the exclusion. An exclusion notice typically lasts for three, six or twelve months and needs to be sufficiently robust to stand up to an appeal to the CRP Board.”
The problem with FAPAC exclusion notices, or at least two that we are aware of, is that they introduce a new criteria — anyone who messes with Michael Stainer and Robert Richardson. Over the years, quite a few people have been excluded from the licensed premises at the Grand, and in every case, it’s because the individuals concerned have crossed swords with Michael Stainer, solely as a result of the seemingly endless battles between him and the residents of the Grand. Invariably, becoming chairperson of the Residents’ Association (AORG) almost pre-qualifies a candidate for a ban! However, these bans are quite ‘lawful’ and cannot be challenged, regardless of their merits.
What has happened in the most recent case, however, raises serious questions as to the integrity of the FAPAC process, and therefore of those who operate and authorise it. It is also now subject to an investigation by Kent Police following a complaint to the Police Complaints Commission, and has been allocated a crime reference number dated July 2nd.
A ‘legitimate’ ban had been imposed on the current chairperson of AORG from entering the licensed premises of the Grand, as a direct result of social media activities in regard to the dispute between the residents and the owners/manager of the Grand. There was no question whatsoever of any threat to persons or property.
Recently, this ban was ‘violated’ with permission from the duty manager, to enable the chairperson to provide support to an elderly third-floor resident who was trapped in Keppels when the lift had broken down. As a result of this ‘violation’, he found himself subject to an exclusion notice, with his picture circulated across Folkestone. Alongside the picture was a narrative seeking to justify the exclusion, riddled with factual errors and false claims as to police support for the ban, and more significantly, claims that clearly suggested information sharing between the police and FAPAC. The instigator, and almost certainly the author of this report, was Robert Richardson.
The local police were questioned as to the true nature of their relationship with FAPAC and responded as follows:
“I have researched our relationship with FAPAC, we have no mechanism for regular information sharing from us to them. We could pass them information, if as you say it falls within the remit ” in the proper course of police duty” i.e to alert them to offences being committed and identity of offenders and we have a data sharing agreement with them under General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP) although it appears we do not routinely do so. ………We have no input in their decision making processes on who receives bans etc and they would have to make specific disclosure requests to obtain police-held private data, this request would be assessed and information provided if legitimate grounds were held to do so and only information pertinent to the request. I have been informed that no such data request has been received. I can only surmise therefore that the information contained within their justification for the ban came from one of their own members. No facts were verified through disclosure channels.”
The email went on to refute the specific claim that was made in the FAPAC exclusion notice, that the chairperson of AORG “was interviewed under caution by DC Wheatley of Kent Police in a recorded interview under caution.” This was in connection with an allegation by Mr Stainer being ‘stalked’ by both the chairperson of AORG and others in “following the proprietor of the Grand to various meetings in London.” These meetings were, in fact, the various bankruptcy hearings related to Mr Stainer and his companies, in which residents of the Grand have a £300,000 interest, by virtue of the debt owed to their service charge account by Mr and Mrs Stainer.
We have also seen two emails from DC Wheatley himself which also totally contradict the FAPAC claims.
FAPAC remain unrepentant and have refused to either issue a correction or withdraw the exclusion notice. We understand that a civil claim for defamation is under consideration.
The second example relates to an altercation between Mr Stainer and a female resident of the Grand in which Mr Stainer claimed he was pushed over and bumped his head. After an investigation, the police decided as follows:
“The case was investigated impartially by my officer and the disposal (Community Resolution) was agreed by an Inspector, understanding all of the available evidence. This Community Resolution is the decided disposal and will not be altering.”
The police wrote to the resident in question:
“Due to the fact that both yourself and Mr Stainer are eligible for the community resolution process, the lowest level resolution we have in dealing with matters, we thought that this would be the best way to resolve this incident as it negated the need for arrest or any formal sanction to be administered”.
Community Resolution is designed to deal with cases when taking formal criminal justice action is inappropriate and both parties are subject to it. Officers can deal through an informal agreement between the parties involved, as opposed to progression through the traditional criminal justice process. The question of guilt or innocence is not relevant as that can only be tested in court.
Nonetheless, FAPAC slapped an exclusion order on the resident and circulated it to their members in Folkestone. Without apparent reference to the local police, the management of FAPAC were alerted to the incident. Ben Sharp and John Frayne (pictured) were evidently able to view the CCTV footage, courtesy of Robert Richardson, and used it to put the resident’s photograph on the order, and slap their own version of an ASBO on her. We can confirm that the local police were not involved with this leak in any way. In fact, correspondence, we have seen from the investigating officer states:
“I understand your frustration and feel that the notice is unjust.”
In normal circumstances, but only after a conviction, FAPAC does have the right to circulate pictures of people and this is done to protect shop-keepers from persistent shop lifters, for example. However, the resident in question was and is, of blameless character and not been convicted of any offence and has never been arrested. The only “offence” was to challenge Mr. Stainer over concerns for security at the Grand. We would remind readers that Mr Stainer is not a stranger to altercations with fellow residents that have come to the attention of the police.
The questions we have to ask FAPAC are as follows:
1. What is the legal basis under which you operate?
2. What is your formal relationship with the police?
3. Do you hold any formal accreditation?
4. What legal right permits you to operate a ban across licensed or other premises, or is it simply a cautionary warning system?
5. What efforts do you make to verify the accuracy of the information you pass on others?
6. Do you carry any form of indemnity against any errors you make in publicising this information?
7. Do you have an independent appeals/complaints procedure?
8. As a director of your organisation, can Mr Richardson confirm that he had not received police information in any form directly or indirectly from the police?