The other day I was hanging out at The Citadel (Piers says I should just call it HQ like everyone else, but I don’t think that has enough gravitas), when Seamus came in looking like Simon had stolen his last krispy kreme.
I asked him what was wrong and it turned out that the old coronavirus hoohah has meant that we’ve been called out even less than usual, and lets face it – once you remove all the stand-downs, wrong numbers, self deployments and fictional searches that’s a pretty low number to start off with.
“But didn’t you tweet that we were busier than the whole of the rest of the UK added together the other day?” I asked.
“I lied, you fool!” He replied, somewhat brusquely. “I only do that to get people to donate money for the New SUV / New Court Case funds. You know as well as I do, we go out about as often as the Olympic blinking Flame.”
“Oh,” I said “That is a shame. I feel like a run out in The Interceptor, like when we used to do those crazy convoys down the M3..” I caressed my soft leather slingback driving gloves as I thought about it and let myself imagine the open road beneath our wheels, when..
“That’s it!” he cried “Sometimes it’s actually worth having you hang around here! Well, almost”. I just stared and tried to process what he meant. “What do you mean?” I just asked in the end.
“What I mean my not-very-nice-but-dim public schoolboy chum is this. We’ll round up the usual suspects – you, James, Tim, that dim ginger one who repeats what I say – all those guys – and we’ll have a road trip! Even better, we’ll say we have to do it to keep the vehicles in blue-light condition and try to screw some money out of the twitter morons!”
“So we’ll just drive around the M25 in a convoy for no reason, put it on social media and ask for money for it?” I asked.
“Got anything better to do on a Saturday afternoon?” he asked, knowing full well I didn’t. At least I’d be able to give The Interceptor a bit of a burn.
It is SURSAR’s tenth anniversary which is commendable, however a not so perfect 10 they also achieved this year was the Trustees have tried to hush up that they spent £10k of donated money on barristers & legal fees trying to cover their mistakes and dishonesty when dealing with a volunteer.
The Trustees knew they could never win yet proceeded at the charity’s expense and misled the Membership as to its necessity and progress. The matter could and should have been sorted out without resorting to barristers, however the Trustees were too arrogant, reckless and foolish to accept this and proceeded with an unwinnable claim.
Its not the first time charity money has been wasted on legal fees. Lets not forget that the Trustees of SURSAR did the same thing when acting as Trustees at Lowland Rescue at national level, spending thousands of pounds on a bogus legal case to try to oust the former chairman by making unfounded allegations.
Dr Piers Page and James Rossell were subsequently accused of fraud and theft by Lowland Rescue and had to step down. As usual Lowland Rescue are keeping quiet about this as they obviously don’t want the public or the members of the charities involved to know donations given in good faith are being spent on legal fees and not where intended. They too are keeping quiet about just how much was spent.
Presumably the Governors of the charities involved are happy for this level of spending to cover accusations of incompetence and fraud…
When people donate to SAR they expect the money to be used on equipment/repairs and running costs and not on legal fees where it would serve no purpose or benefit the charity. Families of the people who Surrey SAR have helped look for need to be asking to see the accounts to see where the money they raised really went and challenge the false promises that were made to them about how the money would be used. In fact anyone who has donated to SurSAR should be concerned about how their donation was used.
Over £17k was raised last year from supermarkets alone, not to mention the money raised by many other people who did charity fundraising events. Despite this they still had a £20k deficit and to spend £10k on legal fees is nothing short of a disgraceful mismanagement of charity funds.
The membership and public need to question whether the Trustees can be trusted. There needs to be constitutional change at Surrey SAR as Trustees should never be part of the management team as there is simply no accountability over management decisions regarding spending and leads to year on year financial deficits.
As long as Dr Piers Page, James Rossell and Seamus Kearns are Trustees the charity funds will always be mismanaged. One only has to look at their social media to see that despite financial deficits year after year with Dr Piers Page as Chairman they continue to buy an excessive amount of vehicles, each of which has running costs and are rarely used for SAR purposes due to the low level of callouts. It is hardly surprising that money is being haemorrhaged.
Surrey SAR Trustees could always do the sensible option which is to not break the law in the first place, that would help keep legal costs to zero as they historically were when it was a run as a friendly charity and not the pseudo business it is now. Your Victim Card has been declined.
Some of our readers may have seen that our article highlighting the concerns around Surrey SAR’s water rescue certification/training was raised on the Painshill Fire Station Unofficial Facebook page last night.
People are quite rightly angry and upset that Surrey SAR Trustees, SFRS, Surrey Police and Rescue 3 International are putting volunteers lives at risk and those of the public by deploying them into water without genuine training and certification. Others on the other hand seem to think that because they had a successful land search once that they can do no wrong, and fail to see the issues we are raising regarding water rescue and why we are doing so. Water is dangerous, very dangerous.
The organisations mentioned above have remained silent when the concerns were raised. Silence is not an option when lives are being put at risk.
This site needs to exist in order to get truth out, as Surrey SAR won’t allow it themselves and people are regularly hounded out for raising issues and concerns. If Surrey SAR, Lowland Rescue and other organisations dealt with concerns and had effective processes in place then this site would not need to exist. Silencing complainants is not an option.
Surrey SAR have put out this social media message as a result of Painshill’s post.
A few things to point out about this response, firstly we will also offer our thanks to Surrey SAR and all Lowland Rescue volunteers for the assistance they give trying to find missing people. We hope they keep up their work in SAR, stay safe and stay passionate. Remember we are not out to get the people who work hard and give their time to help people in need. There needs to be change and reform within Surrey SAR which we will press for. Remember, we want only the truth. If anything on this site is inaccurate or untrue, simply contact us anonymously through the email link, with any evidence, and we will amend it, its as simple as that.
Surrey SAR are still not addressing the issue of how James Rossell qualified as swift water rescue technician on the River Awe when he was not physically there. If there is an explanation then we will publish it, however as it stands it looks very suspicious and it is in the public interest that people know what is happening at Surrey SAR . The usual James Turnbull/ Seamus Kearns PR spin of this response demonstrates their typical response of playing the victim and trying to hide their wrong doing.
They mention pizza is reserved for certain occasions. They ordered £600 worth last year (and received a 50% discount) which is a lot of pizza. Whilst it is a very welcome “motivation” during a prolonged search where volunteers may not have eaten sufficiently beforehand, the Trustees/Management also order in pizza for pre-arranged meetings. This is an unacceptable waste of charity money. When people donate or run a marathon for SAR they don’t expect it will be spent on pizza for meetings or to pay >£10k legal legal fees to cover up Trustee mismanagement.
They are not being truthful or transparent regarding the “without payment” statement. Surrey SAR invoice Surrey Fire and Rescue Service several thousand pounds annually for a live streaming service to connect to drones. This streaming service is provided by Wirehive which is James Rossell’s (Trustee & Manager) company. He therefore makes money for his own company Wirehive as a direct result of SAR activity.
When Seamus Kearns (Trustee & Manager) was being paid by the charity for fundraising work, this was declared to the membership and declared in the annual report. Mr Rossell has not informed the membership of him making money for his company via SAR activity, nor is it declared on the financial accounts/annual report however he has notified SFRS of the conflict of interest.
We have many documents and AV recordings of Trustees honesty being called into question. The current Trustees need to stand down before it is necessary to release them.
There have been several large fires and major incidents in Surrey recently which have required neighbouring fire services to assist Surrey Fire and Rescue Service on a regular basis as they simply cannot cope due to lack of resources and firefighters due to the cuts made by Surrey County Council. It is leaving Surrey residents in a very vulnerable position when we have to rely on London Fire Brigade, Hampshire, Berkshire and Sussex Fire & Rescue Services to help out.
One post came to no surprise to us regarding Surrey SAR, in fact Surrey SAR volunteers were told not to comment on the post so as not to further damage the already fragile reputation between Surrey SAR and SFRS.
It is admirable that Surrey SAR helped out however SFRS needs its own firefighters to be trained and equipped for water rescues before more people lose their lives due to relying on SAR volunteers and the very obvious delays in getting resources to a scene.
On several occasions SFRS firefighters have complained to senior officers about the conduct of Surrey SAR from unprofessional and dangerous conduct including self deploying. It comes as no surprise to hear from SFRS that James Rossell and Seamus Kearns are the most complained about individuals in Surrey SAR by firefighters who really don’t like it when those two turn up.
The main concern of Surrey SAR’s water rescue team in this article is training & certification. Surrey SAR are now a Rescue 3 International training provider to deliver water rescue courses. During a recent audit by DEFRA the Surrey SAR water rescue team were requested to upload their Rescue 3 water rescue certificates. Several team members raised concerns over the authenticity of James Rossell’s qualifications.
Below is the certificate for James Rossell (Surrey SAR Trustee and member of the management team).
On the face of it it looks genuine and quite clearly implies that James Rossell completed all the requirements for a swift water and flood rescue technician during a course on 10/09/2018 on the River Awe in Scotland. These competencies have to be demonstrated in person and skill sheets are completed and signed off by the instructors. Mr Rossell’s skill sheets were recorded on 0932-0086137 and the instructor was Martin Blaker. If a lay person saw this certificate as evidence of qualification they would have no reason to doubt its authenticity.
However, James Rossell was NOT on that training course.
These are the people that attended
Surrey SAR’s Facebook from the time of the course has lots of photos of the people named above and NONE have Mr Rossell in them, only the people listed on D4H above. Everyone on that course knows that James Rossell did not attend it.
The instructor was Martin Blaker who holds senior roles in the RNLI and DEFRA. He also trains other Lowland Rescue teams. He is also a member of Surrey SAR although he doesn’t attend, has never been trained as a search technician. Mr Blaker was also a Trustee of Lowland Rescue.
Enquiries have been made with Rescue 3 regarding the authenticity of James Rossell’s certificate. Currently a check on their website (http://id.rescue3europe.com/) shows this
However, documentation seen by us from Rescue 3 confirms that it is a genuinely issued certificate and skill sheet 0932-0086137 was completed to support the certification.
As James Rossell was physically not on the course, he could not have demonstrated the skills to the instructor Martin Blaker. This raises integrity questions over Martin Blaker and James Rossell as to how this certificate is in existence.
Tim Rowsell is head of the water rescue team along with James Turnbull, both were on the course along with John Burrell who is also on the management team. Tim Rowsell works for the RNLI and is also a special constable in Surrey Police. He is fully aware of what is going on as many people in the water team raised concerns with him. With his RNLI and policing experience he should know the importance of training to high standards and what goes wrong if unqualified resources are used. Why is he not challenging James Rossell and the other Trustees? We expect better from a police officer and from someone in the RNLI.
Three of the management team were on that training course and none has challenged James Rossell over his certification. We expect better from all of the management team and this lack of challenging inappropriate/illegal behaviour illustrates why the Trustees and Management Team at Surrey SAR are not fit for purpose.
Steve Owen-Hughes (Chief Fire Officer of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service) is aware of this so why is he still allowing Surrey SAR to deploy to water rescue incidents when there are serious concerns over the authenticity of qualifications and training?
Would DEFRA and other organisations give Surrey SAR all of the financial grants if they knew that the qualifications were obtained in these circumstances?
Rescue 3 International are fully aware of what is going on at Surrey SAR and tried to cover it up by removing the bogus certificate from the database after initially confirming it was genuine. Can we trust Rescue 3 International as a training and qualification provider if false certification is issued and they don’t effectively deal with those bring their name into disrepute?
Can we trust Surrey SAR, Lowland Rescue and RNLI training qualifications if signed off by Martin Blaker?
The integrity of Mr Blaker is in question over this matter. He needs to explain how Mr Rossell has been certified as competent without attending the course and demonstrating the skills to him.
Can the public trust Lowland Rescue to provide water rescue assistance if their member units are not genuinely qualified?
There are many more questions surrounding this matter and it needs investigating further and the risk managing. Most importantly, are SFRS are putting lives at risk by using people from Surrey SAR with fraudulent qualifications? We think so and we think that SFRS and Surrey Police need to stop using Surrey SAR for water rescue until genuine proof of training can provided.
*** Rescue 3 declined to comment however they did state that if anyone who has received water rescue training from Surrey SAR or Martin Blaker wants to raise concerns in confidence with Rescue 3 they can contact Keith Dudhnath directly at email@example.com or by phone on 01978 869069 ***
We have been contacted by a number of team members this week. Different teams, other ends of the country, but the same story. Tales of bullying, corruption, illegality and the same old faces doing the same old things. We have been asked not to publish two of the stories, but they wanted us to be aware of them, and of course we will respect that.
Although we don’t really want to become a counselling service for traumatised SAR volunteers, we are happy to listen and sympathise where we can. And if you want to just tell us about things without it being published, then we will always respect that.
Some behaviour we have been informed of is quite clearly a police matter, the same names have cropped up regarding inappropriate sexual conduct towards female team members. We would urge those of you who have raised concerns to contact your local police or report via Crimestoppers. Young female Lowland Rescue & Surrey SAR team members need to be aware that there is a risk to them when attending LRFR courses or on callouts/training sessions. “Banter” is not an excuse for inappropriate behaviour.
What we really want to do is act as a portal for getting information out of teams and into the public domain. We know that a lot of the culprits seem to show no shame, but here’s hoping that shining some light on their behaviour may make it uncomfortable for them
As always, the volunteers – the people that give up their time, time with families and mental health are not our target. This site merely provides an outlet for those who know that bad practice is occurring, but don’t want to be thrown out of their team for saying so.
The Search Dog Heroes project (SDH for short) is a million-pound funded project, working with Missing People and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. In short, it’s a lot of money, that has been generously donated by ordinary people, and in concept a pretty good idea. That concept was that 200 hundred dogs would be trained “to an operational standard” using this funding (as well as collecting and storing scent items off vulnerable people to help them be tracked in the case of an emergency). These 200 dogs would be “trailing” dogs, capable of following a specific scent derived from these boxes, as opposed to “air scenting” dogs that just detect any live or dead humans.
Part of the rationale for such a large sum of money being lobbed at the doggy set was that in all the years of training, arguing, dog-walking and setting standards in LR, zero trailing dogs had reached the required standard for deployment. Clearly a shake-up was required, and a big-money project seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.
With this much money at stake, the obvious criteria for a project lead would be:- someone who is heavily involved in Mountain Rescue, Lowland Rescue, Some Other Sort of SAR in the UK and who had a track record of working with and training trailing dogs, preferably with the Police in the UK. However, this was all a little too “obvious” for Lowland Rescue, who plumped instead for Ann-Jo Proos, who fits precisely none of these criteria.
She does however have a cosy relationship with the head of Surrey’s Dog Team. This was considered much more of a relevant factor than the fact that AJP is an individual with no operational experience, resides in France and, one might argue a dubious track record of training trailing dogs to any reasonable standard, but who is best mates with the Surrey Dog Clique.
Its worth just noting that AJP has never deployed a trailing dog operationally, and is certainly not well known for producing large quantities of trained trailing dogs. In fact, in the 2 years since the contract was awarded, only 2 teams have passed the assessment. One who provided accommodation to AJP on her visits to the UK, and the other based in the Channel Islands, who also stayed at the same address…
These double standards were in evidence again when a number of handlers were strong-armed into travelling to France to train at AJP’s “facility”, and charged an arm and a leg for the privilege. Of course, those in the ‘inner-circle’ were not charged at all.
So, what have we achieved with the million pound bung? To date, 2 dogs have been qualified (one of whom famously indicated at a spot covered by 360° CCTV, that the misper had clearly never visited). The standards required by LR to qualify are now laughably low, as they rush to pass their mates before the money runs out. There are numerous tales of cheating – helping and nobbling the right and wrong candidates, as determined by the assessors. Some assessors were recruited who had never even seen a trailing dog work, just to try to salvage something from the scheme.
There are talks of plenty of moves of handlers from team to team, which was always the case, usually as the result of bullying. But more disturbingly there is talk of individuals and even teams leaving the LR organisation, because the reputation has been so utterly damaged by this fiasco.
As always, this whistleblowing site isn’t here to knock those that give their time to serve their communities. It doesn’t harbour a grudge against the organisation, its aims or the majority of the staff. What it will continue to do is point out where money is being diverted or misused, where laws are being broken, where there is hypocrisy and especially where there is bullying. This story has a sprinkling of all of the above, and we’ll keep you posted on any progress. You never know, we may have 3 dogs qualified if they give us another million quid.
This shows the absolute contempt the Trustees have for public safety and advice from the Police. They are now using unmarked cars with covert blues! The three Trustees were the only people who put themselves forward for driving courses and did a 5 day fire service course. This did NOT cover driving covert vehicles on blue lights which carries an increased risk which they are not trained or experienced with.
It is going to end badly. Paul Kenny, Steve Owen Hughes, Gavin Stevens and the PCC David Munro are all aware of the risks and danger yet not of them have the balls to do anything about it…. until Surrey SAR kill. The informal bet within Surrey SAR is still running that James Rossell will crash and kill first. Blues on unmarked cars makes it sooner rather than later.
This really does make a mockery of the NPCC advice and shows how ineffective Lowland Rescue and Gavin Pritchard are if they can’t control member units.
Today Seamus put up a post about us being recognised as ‘key workers’ on a fire station mural. I said that we weren’t really being honoured, but just that you can see a quarter of one of our Fleet of vans in the background of a photo of some firemen.
Jackie, my girlfriend, said that she was pretty certain that we weren’t on the official list of key workers too. But then she works in a hospital, so she can be a bit grumpy sometimes. Seamus pointed out that seeing as we had now expanded The Fleet to more than one vehicle per member, that we have a lot of keys to look after and so we did count. I’m so glad he’s running things, as I can be a bit of a ninny sometimes with this sort of thing.
Now the pubs are open, I put my dress uniform on and took The Interceptor down to the Peasant’s Arms in the village, to see if there was a key workers’ discount on Pint & Pie night. The landlord pretended he didn’t hear me and charged me full whack anyway – well at least he asked for quite a lot of money. The locals round the bar always snigger when I go in there, and he seems to charge me much more for my drinks than anyone else, but it is important to show the little people that heroes have downtime too. It’s a burden, but it’s just part of the enormous responsibility of my work. Just one man, trying to make a difference, one blue light run at a time.
Surrey SAR have a new car which isn’t needed by the team as history repeats itself again.
They plead poverty and beg for vehicles from David Munro (Surrey PCC) or the Chief Constable of Surrey Police who donate some great practical vehicles for SAR such as the Amarok or Defender. A short while later they then get a grant from an organisation, buy a new vehicle and flip the donated vehicles for cash. It won’t be long before this vehicle is sold and the begging letters are sent again. It’s not illegal, just immoral and misleading the donors as to their intentions over how the vehicle will be used.
This Volvo is not a practical vehicle for SAR yet it will be modified to police specifications which is crazy as they are not a blue light service nor an emergency service despite Seamus Kearns latest Guildford Lottery money request claiming they provide an emergency service.
The NPCC and Dept for Transport position is quite clear on the Lowand Rescue use of blue lights. This raises questions as to why are the DfT funding vehicles like this for Surrey SAR?
There are other organisations who could make better use of this vehicle such as transporting blood or a genuine blue light emergency service.
Surrey SAR have a huge amount of resources and many LR teams are envious of their assets. It is a shame the Trustees won’t donate older Surrey SAR vehicles to other LR teams who would be grateful to receive any vehicle. We know they won’t as solicitors fees don’t pay themselves and they are really running up the legal fees on irrelevant cases.
Sadly for us in Surrey we will no doubt see the Trustees hurtling from their homes in Hampshire and Berkshire on blue lights on their way to non urgent calls for SFRS in this vehicle whilst putting lives at risk as none are emergency services experienced drivers.