Ex-Wigan councillor's fury over police handling of two-year stalking probe

Ex-councillor Peter FranzenEx-councillor Peter Franzen
Ex-councillor Peter Franzen
A former Wigan Council opposition leader has launched a blistering attack on the police after spending nearly two years under suspicion in a controversial investigation currently the subject of an internal probe.

Peter Franzen, who previously led the Community Action Party (Cap), has made a number of serious allegations of misconduct against Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for the way it handled allegations made against him by Donna Hall when she was Wigan Council chief executive.

Mr Franzen was arrested at his Golborne home in January 2018 and police have said that he was detained under suspicion of stalking and only told he was being released without further action being taken earlier this month.

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In a deeply-critical account of the police’s actions Mr Franzen at one point compared his treatment to that of a notorious Central American drug cartel boss.

Former councillor Robert BleakleyFormer councillor Robert Bleakley
Former councillor Robert Bleakley

GMP said the matter is now being reviewed by its Professional Standards Branch.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has also assessed the complaint but concluded it is suitable for investigation by the force itself.

Mr Franzen criticised the police’s tactics as heavy-handed and intimidating at the time of his arrest and once again slammed GMP for the force it used against him, which included using a battering ram on a security gate.

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He also says the force did not follow the correct procedure when interviewing him and poured scorn on how long the investigation has left him under a cloud of suspicion and how much resources and cash it has drained.

Coun Bob BrierleyCoun Bob Brierley
Coun Bob Brierley

Mr Franzen said: “I never anticipated having my doors smashed down 20 months ago by a Greater Manchester Police Tactical Aid Unit (TAU).

“An estimated 10 TAU officers clad in helmets and face visors smashed down my doors with pneumatic equipment and a battering ram and raided my property. They seized my computers and mobile phones.

“They came in two armoured vehicles, arrested me, put me in a cage and transported me to Wigan Police Station.

“I was not read my legal rights.

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Former Wigan Council chief executive Donna HallFormer Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall
Former Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall

“In front of all and sundry I was searched and questioned about my medical history.

“My belt and shoelaces were removed, my DNA was taken, I was photographed and finger printed and then I was locked up in a windowless cell for a period of time. I had access to tap water but was not offered any food.

“I was not informed of the reason for my arrest and was not read my legal rights until I was interviewed and I had no time to prepare a response.

“I feel I was treated like the Mexican drug lord El Chapo in a crude attempt to intimidate me. No evidence has ever been provided for the false and malicious allegations against me.

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“On 4th October 2019, 20 months after my arrest, the case against me was suddenly dropped without explanation or apology.”

A GMP spokesperson said: “This is subject to an ongoing professional standards investigation after being referred back from the IOPC.

“As such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further.”

Hindley Green independent Coun Bob Brierley and former elected representative Robert Bleakley were also accused but released without action being taken.

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The Wigan Observer has seen Ms Hall’s statement in which she withdrew her allegations but maintained that everything she had told officers was accurate.

In the document she said: “I have discussed retracting my statements on numerous occasions with the police and I have been given the opportunity to consider this for a number of weeks, it is not a decision I have made lightly.

“I have the support of a great family and partner and I know that I am making the right decision for me.”

Wigan Council said it noted the outcome of the matter.

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