Sunday, July 12, 2015

Perverse British police

They hate anybody doing work that they have failed to do. It shows them up -- and they hit back at any opportunity

Police have accused a Mail on Sunday reporter of criminal voyeurism after he exposed a top children’s doctor who was abusing Class A drugs just before he went on duty at an NHS hospital.

The award-winning journalist set up hidden cameras that captured Dr Colin Ferrie snorting cocaine and an illegal party drug.

But despite the reporter handing the footage over to detectives and offering to help with their case, West Yorkshire Police last week called him in for questioning as a suspect.

He was interviewed under caution at a police station on suspicion of voyeurism and supplying drugs, and even asked if he had made the secret film for his own sexual gratification. He denies the allegations.

Last night, experts said the highly unusual interrogation – which involved 107 questions – was an affront to press freedom and warned it would have a chilling effect on future undercover investigations.

Senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, whose Home Affairs Committee has criticised police surveillance of journalists, said: ‘It is important that safeguards be given to journalists when they are acting in the public interest.’ And Bob Satchwell, Chairman of the Society of Editors, added: ‘It is perfectly legitimate and reasonable for journalists to investigate wrong-doing. The police should support them in these endeavours.’

The Mail on Sunday’s lawyers have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders and West Yorkshire chief constable Mark Gilmore to express their ‘grave concerns’ about their handling of the case.

The DPP is already under fire over her failed £20 million prosecution of journalists whose newspapers had paid for stories.

Our lawyers accuse the authorities of a ‘heavy-handed and unco-operative’ approach to the ‘preposterous’ allegations against our journalist.

They have told the DPP: ‘It is intimidating to journalists and can only have a chilling impact on how they conduct their investigations, to the detriment of the public interest.’

The reporter’s caution comes after police used anti-terror laws to access this newspaper’s phone records after we exposed shamed former Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne’s attempt to evade justice for a speeding fine.

Ferrie, a consultant paediatric neurologist, had his drug habit uncovered after an MoS reporter was approached late last year by one of the medic’s acquaintances, who said they had met 20 times in a few months and consumed mind-altering substances each time.

The reporter was told that the senior doctor was going to visit a house in Bradford for a drugs binge one midweek afternoon, just hours before he began an on-call shift at Leeds General Infirmary where he would be giving crucial advice to other medical staff about how to treat seriously ill young people.

After The Mail on Sunday took legal advice, video cameras were placed in the home where the drugs were to be taken, with the full co-operation of the residents who were concerned that his illegal behaviour would impair his judgment when treating young patients.

Dr Ferrie, an expert in epilepsy, was filmed taking nearly three grams of cocaine with an acquaintance and multiple doses of the addictive ‘date rape’ sedative GHB.

He could be heard declaring ‘looking good, that’ after snorting a long line of cocaine and telling his acquaintance that he ‘loves to have a wee spot’ of ‘G’, which he bought in Manchester.

After our story was published in January, Dr Ferrie was suspended by the NHS trust, and West Yorkshire Police launched an investigation. When detectives contacted the MoS, this newspaper offered to co-operate fully in their investigation, while protecting our sources.

We supplied a dossier containing the relevant video footage and text messages, and 52-year-old Dr Ferrie and his acquaintance were later arrested. Then, at the start of July, our reporter was informed that he was also to face questioning as part of the same criminal inquiry.

Police said the move was suggested by the Crown Prosecution Service but the CPS denied this.

Although the reporter was not arrested and was told he could leave the interview at any time, he was questioned under caution after being read his rights – stating that anything he said could later be used as evidence against him.

Incredibly, he was told that he was being accused of supplying drugs and the ‘Peeping Tom’ offence of voyeurism – on the grounds that the hidden cameras may also have recorded Dr Ferrie having sex.

The offence, set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, refers to someone covertly watching intimate acts or nudity for their own, or another person’s, sexual gratification.

During a 90-minute interview in Leeds last Wednesday, the journalist was asked: ‘The camera was installed in the bedroom… was that done in any way for the purpose of your own sexual gratification?’

Cameras were placed in the kitchen and the bedroom because they were the two areas of the house where Dr Ferrie was going to spend his time, and focused solely on where drugs would be consumed. No sexual acts could be seen on the subsequent footage.

The journalist was asked by a PC if he had brought cocaine to the house. He had not and on the advice of a lawyer replied ‘no comment’ to all questions. A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police confirmed the interview was carried out under caution, adding: ‘This is an ongoing investigation and we are not in a position to comment further.’

A CPS spokesman said: ‘Police approached the CPS about inviting the journalist to take part in a voluntary interview to establish further facts, which we did not oppose.’

The drug-taking children’s doctor exposed by The Mail on Sunday has been allowed to quietly leave his job.

Dr Colin Ferrie was suspended on full pay by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust after the matter came to light. The General Medical Council also suspended him from practising while it considered a disciplinary case against him.

But it can now be revealed that Dr Ferrie has since resigned his post as a consultant paediatric neurologist at Leeds General Infirmary. A spokesman for the Trust told The Mail on Sunday that the resignation had taken place ‘recently’ and that he had not received severance pay.

Yesterday, Dr Ferrie’s solicitor said: ‘In light of the ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for Dr Ferrie to make any further comment.’

Original report here

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