Truth and Justice for Richard Chang
The Chang Family Quest for Justice in the Matter of the Unexplained Death of Richard Chang at the Head Office of the Abbey National Bank PLC (“Abbey”) on 13th July 2004.
1. The Chang Family, accompanied by Councillor Edmond Yeo, Christine Lee, a Chinese Human Rights’ Solicitor and Christopher McNicholas, Counsel for the Chang Family (though not the widow Lay Peng Lim, who was separately represented throughout) at the July 2005 Inquest into Richard’s death, met with representatives of the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS”) at Holborn Police Station on 10th August 2007(12:30pm-4:30pm).
2. The representatives from the Police were Chief Superintendent Mark Heath, the Borough Commander at Holborn, Detective Superintendent Jeremy Burton, Sergeant Timm (Staff Officer to C.S. Heath), Renee Barclay, Director of the CPS London Region, with responsibility for the Serious Casework Directorate of the CPS; and Detective Inspector Heather Carpenter (who led the second investigation into Richard’s death, following an intervention by the Chang Family on the basis that there may have been a racial motive for the death of Richard on the day in question).
3. The Chang Family had requested, since February 2006, (and made application under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”) to examine specific documents relating to the conduct of the police investigation (post event) and that of the Abbey National Bank PLC (“Abbey”) on and before the 13th July 2004. At the meeting of 10th August, the Chang Family was told that, whilst Christine Lee had publicly announced that a meeting had been arranged between the Police and the Chang Family for the purposes of disclosure, (see Christine’s Vigil Statement of 13th July 2007), in fact, no disclosure would be made to the Family, on the basis that there were “issues of commercial confidentiality relating to Abbey which take precedence” (sic) over the public interest nature of the Chang case.
4. The Chang Family members set out their arguments that, based on the available evidence, there were numerous discrepancies; principally in relation to the times cited by individual witnesses from their witness statements, together with a handwritten note that was allegedly left by Richard. The Police stated that discrepancies were a part of all their investigations. It would be an unusual case, they said, that contained no discrepancies. This point in particular led to a close discussion between the Chang Family, the CPS and the Police as to how matters might be moved forward to look again at all the surrounding circumstances.
Jacqueline Stretton-Chang raised the point that the full disclosure of documents relating to police investigations particularly relating to 13th July 2004, at the critical time when Richard died was necessary to fully evaluate whether or not a proper and thorough investigation had been carried out. The police response was that this would not be possible because a decision had already been made under the FOIA that the documentation would not be released. However the Family were free to pursue a complaint against the Metropolitan Police if that was their decision.
5. Questions were put in relation to specific steps taken by the Police during the investigation. One such example was that a fraud report had been prepared in relation to the anonymous documents that had been allegedly attributed to Richard by Abbey and about which he had been interrogated by operatives of Kroll Associates, the corporate investigations’ firm brought in by Abbey to determine the origin of the anonymous documents, said to have criticized members of Abbey’s senior management. The anonymous documents (which have never been seen by the Chang Family) were examined by the Fraud Department (SO6) of the Metropolitan Police but no further action was subsequently taken as it was determined both by the Serious Fraud Squad (“SO6”) and DI Carpenter that these documents did not (of themselves), point to any question that there was fraudulent activity taking place within Abbey.
6. Valerie Chang questioned as to why the Police had not released the police and fraud report to the Family. It was the understanding of the Family that this had been agreed by DI Carpenter at the outset of her investigation and she said that she would release her report and findings prior to the Coroner’s Inquest.
At the meeting DI Carpenter was resistant (and somewhat defensive) to the notion that she had previously agreed to release any reports. In reply, Valerie Chang said that there were various witnesses at previous family /police meetings, including representatives from the Southall Monitoring Group (“SMG”), namely Jabez Lam and Suresh Grover, who can confirm what was said at the material time. In addition, Valerie Chang (and Jacqueline Stretton-Chang) challenged DI Carpenter (who remained in denial and disagreement with the Chang Family concerning the consistency and thoroughness of the investigation by the Police) when having regard to the inconclusive nature of the note and handwriting evidence - even after it was put to DI Carpenter that handwriting comparisons had been made with samples of Richard’s own writing from fifteen years previously; quite ignoring the fact that Richard’s Personnel File (Abbey) would have contained more current examples of his handwriting!
7. The Chang Family is adamant (and emphasized this point at the meeting) that there were particular problems within Abbey prior to and at the time which only culminated in its takeover by Banco de Santander shortly after the death of Richard. The Chang Family were also perplexed by the fact that senior Abbey Directors, who had been involved in the in-house, so-called ‘selection process’ and investigation resulting in Richard’s death, had been generously remunerated by way of bonuses, promotions and in one instance, a plethora of directorships!
In addition to the Chang Family’s own findings in this matter, confirmation and corroboration was received when speaking to Abbey employees who engaged with Family members during those occasions when the Chang Family were campaigning outside of Abbey’s headquarters in Euston, Central London.
8. Jacqueline Stretton-Chang put a question to the effect that were any of the officers present aware that a named Special Branch / British Intelligence officer had been engaged to covertly monitor the Chang Family preparations for the Inquest in July 2005. All officers present denied having any knowledge of other personnel being assigned to this matter.
9. The meeting ended on a resolution that if fresh evidence was forthcoming, then the case may be re-visited;
Otherwise, the Chang Family would have to engage with the Court to challenge the Police decision not to disclose the documents under the FOIA. However, the Chang Family are convinced that this is just a ploy. The documents refused for disclosure are in effect “a house of straw”. There is adequate provision in the FOIA to say that “a third party does not have a right to veto the disclosure of information”. This is so even where its interests may be affected by the disclosure … “a refusal to consent to disclosure by a third party does not in itself mean that the information will be withheld.” (Code of Conduct, Part VII, Section 40).
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