Truth Legal founder, Andrew Gray, has found himself in the media spotlight recently, in the wake of a spontaneous protest against the ill-judged comments of Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, Philip Allott. Mr Allott had made national headlines with his bizarre comments about the Sarah Everard abduction, rape and murder case.

Mr Gray was moved to organise an impromptu protest when he discovered that, by chance, the Police, Fire & Crime Commission (PFCC) was holding a roadshow in Harrogate on Saturday 2nd October. This came a day after the media was awash with Allott’s comments which suggested Sarah Everard – who was arrested by police officer Wayne Couzens before being raped and murdered by him – should have resisted arrest and that women should become more “streetwise” and should learn more about the legal process.

philip allott protest harrogate

The comments were described by Mr Gray as “wholly unnecessary” and were immediately condemned on social media by people such as opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer and by Piers Morgan and by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Local Conservative MP, Julian Smith, demanded Mr Allott’s resignation.

No culture of resignation

A group was hastily gathered together by Mr Gray on Friday October 1st and a protest outside the PFCC roadshow the next morning was arranged. In less than an hour, stood outside the roadshow event in the rain, 165 signatures were collected calling for the commissioner to resign, and were presented to the PFCC’s staff.

In his personal blog post on the subject, Mr Gray believes there is no “culture of resignation” in 2021, and that despite being condemned by the highest profile political leaders, there is no power of recall and no expectation that Philip Allott will resign his post. This is despite an unreserved apology for the comments 24 hours later, which Mr Gray believes merely confirmed that Allott’s views were entrenched and “from another era” rather than a slip of the tongue in the moment.

It was felt the protest in Harrogate strongly reflected local opinion, and among the group of legal professionals who also attended – who were mostly women – there was a uniform view that in similar circumstances they would all submit to arrest.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Mr Gray commented:

“Their view was that we all would have accepted arrest and then waited to clear things up later. Knowing what is or isn’t an arrestable offence wouldn’t have made any difference. It was a bizarre thing to say.”

Seeds of doubt over police legitimacy

From here, it is felt that rather than being a body to admire and look up to, there are now “seeds of doubt” over the credibility of North Yorkshire Police within the local community. Mr Gray continued:

“As you would expect, the majority of this motley group – most of whom didn’t know each other – were female. Most of the people who signed the petition – of all ages – were women. I was there with my 11-year-old daughter. Like most people, I teach her to respect the police and to do what they say. His comments were of course tone-deaf, poorly timed and frankly wrong, from all angles, particularly from a woman’s perspective. But what is most odd is the damage it has done to policing in this area. Now the police will be faced with members of the public questioning their legitimacy. His position is untenable. It came from deep within.”

In a later radio interview with BBC York, Mr Gray confirmed that he remained firmly “in the resign camp”, but was himself resigned to the fact that this was unlikely to happen, and that because of the way the commissions are set-up and the fact that there is no culture of resignation “we should be talking about when the next elections should take place” but instead Philip Allot is likely to remain in place for at least another four years, if not another eight.

Meanwhile “teaching men about managing their behaviour” should be high priority in avoiding any repeat of these horrific crimes “not what is or isn’t an arrestable offence”, according to Mr Gray. This incident of course follows the 2005 assault and wrongful arrest suffered by Mr Gray in Manchester, which prompted his move to Harrogate and subsequently to forming Truth Legal.

For more information, here are some useful links:

Listen to Andrew Gray being interviewed on BBC Radio York

Read the Yorkshire Post article about the Harrogate protest

Andrew’s personal blog post

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Catherine Reynolds
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