The term “colourful and controversial character” could well have been invented for the Chief Constable of North Wales Police.

Richard Brunstrom has taken a very definite and some have suggested far too heavy-handed approach to tackling some of the issues facing his officers and the people of North Wales.

He has often played the media at their own game and the Chief Constable’s own blog has become a useful source of stories – and at times a way of lambasting him.

Now the Independent Police Complaints Commission has revealed it is investigating the decision of North Wales Police to use graphic images of a decapitated motorcyclist without his family’s permission in a media briefing.

Although not for publication, those attending the meeting on road safety – which included representatives of other groups – were so shocked by the tactic that local media ran stories about the content of the briefing.

North Wales Police has apologised to the family of the motorcyclist for failing to consult with them on the use of the images.

However, the Chief Constable has mounted a robust defence and accused sections of the media of whipping up a controversy at the expense of grieving family and friends. He maintains the graphic images were used to “provide context” about the serious issues of road safety and raise awareness of the dangers faced by some “complacent” motorists and other road users in North Wales.

In his blog, he castigates the decision taken by someone attending the meeting to publicise what went on during a private briefing. He praises others for abiding by the confidential nature of the briefing, adding: “…I repeat my dismay that at least one person present did not (respect the confidentiality)…and may thereby have avoidably and unnecessarily added to the grief of relatives.”

But isn’t this a case of “pot and kettle”?

Some argue that the force was merely attempting to avoid the issue of seeking the approval of the family of the motorcyclist by slapping a “confidential” sign on the briefing.

Surely the issue is straight-forward?

It is not whether someone chose to break a confidence, rather it is the fact that the force should have been obliged to contact the motorcyclist’s family about use of the images no matter if the briefing was private or public.

A distressing and avoidable mistake has been made, attempting to deflect criticism is no way of justifying it or making amends for such a basic error of judgment.

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