As someone spotted in the comments section, the person in charge of the dreamfund (which we have received numerous complaints about – regarding money promised never turning up) has been caught trying to steal donuts from a Tesco Extra in Wisbech. This was in a police uniform, on his day job as a Cambridgeshire PC. This is just the latest case of a cop being less than above board whilst working for LR. We can think of at least 3 others right now – dishonesty, misrepresentation, fraud and ignoring illegality for conveniences’ sake. Anyone who has served with integrity in any organisation should be thoroughly disgusted by this kind of behaviour.
The worst news for all of us is that he appears in Lowland Rescue uniform on the pages of most of the national papers, and all of the local ones. The BBC also covers the story and shows The Pieman in LR hiviz, over his special ops covert tactical black. This picture appears in The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Times and The Mirror. There is a professional standards hearing this week, with Cambridgeshire Police stating that this “brings discredit upon the police service and undermines confidence in it because a reasonable member of the public, aware of all the facts, would be justifiably appalled that a police officer had acted dishonestly and without integrity”.
The questions remaining are:-
Will LR consider this to be bringing the charity into disrepute? It should beggar belief that the police can sanction someone for dishonesty and LR would turn a blind eye. However, there are sadly numerous cases of people doing the wrong thing in and out of LR uniform and being actually rewarded, so maybe don’t hold your breath.
Does this explain where some or all the dreamfund money went? Or was that spent on legal fees, trying to stitch up the previous chairman? Or a bit of both? A report was commissioned and promised when Dr Piers Page & James Rossell were booted out into what they did with all the cash, but so far this has been quietly buried. Some transparency would certainly put all the rumours / remaining questions to bed here…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01978 869069 ***
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.
The Surrey Police response was “Following the investigation, the decision was made, in conjunction with advice provided by the Civil Aviation Authority, that it was proportionate to deal with these matters as a point of learning, allowing appropriate practice and process change to ensure that Surrey Search and Rescue did not commit any further breaches.”…
Of note is the response from James Rossell when he says “The matters were rightly investigated by the police, and separately the police found that there was either no evidence that drones were flown outside of the law, or that no offence has been committed. In response to a single incident, additional training was recommended by the police and we accepted those findings. No further action was taken against the drone operators or the charity.“
Yet again Mr Rosssell can’t be honest and open about what happened. It is quite clear that there were Air Navigation Order offences as Seamus Kearns flew in congested areas without a PFCO and the police dealt with this as words of advice so that Surrey SAR could learn from their mistakes. With attitudes like this fool has is it any wonder that team members and people on other teams or the emergency services have no respect for him and really don’t like him.
It is also noted “We ensure that safety is a key priority when we carry out searches to save lives and rescue people in danger.“….hmmmm I’m sure not you a have real grip on what safety is or have a grip on health and safety. Gavin becoming hypothermic and hospitalised after a Surrey SAR training session in a lake and lets not forget that James Turnbull wrote “we broke Buzz” when he was joking about Susan having her ankle broken on another water training session. Safety isn’t a joke Mr Turnbull.
Well well well. Thanks to someone in Surrey County Council leaking this document and sending it to the Armed Forces and other high profile organisations including the RNLI, it appears that SurSAR have indeed been flying drones illegally and lends weight to the fact that people in SFRS do not like or trust SurSAR. At least more organisations are aware of the risk of using SurSAR.
It is no surprise to us to see James Rossell and Seamus Kearns mentioned as the ones flying illegally and dangerously. Let’s not forget we are supposed to “trust the trustees”. How can we when they are putting lives at risk whether it be from ignoring intelligence during searches, to bodged water rescue deployments, to driving dangerously on blue lights and now to flying drones dangerously.
Surrey Police and Surrey Fire and Rescue Service really need to demand changes at SurSAR by stopping using them until they clear out the dangerous, incompetent fools that are the “Trustees” and self appointed Operational Management Team.
More disturbing news from the watery world of SurSAR. One of their members, in name only, as he never turns up and doesn’t do any of the training despite supposedly everyone being a Search Technician first and a specialist second, may have been involved in a casual bit of fraud. Still, its all sort of for a good cause, and if you’re a trustee, or one of their friends, we can always bend the rules.
This particular member is very well-respected in the water rescue community due to his skills, was the national lead for water rescue and is a Rescue 3 instructor. It also seems he is something important in the RNLI.
Unfortunately for all concerned we have evidence that suggests he may have been a naughty boy. This individual was a special in the Metropolitan Police and should know what fraud is. It looks like James Rossell has really dropped him in it this time. People on the team are furious at what James Rossell has done, it is common knowledge and flying around on WhatsApp messages between team members and other organisations. SFRS have also leaked documentation too….its not looking good.
Is this why our aquatic friend rapidly stood down as a Trustee of Lowland Rescue last year? Did he get wind that Mr Rossell had been foolish? We think everyone at the needs to come clean and explain to the police how Mr Rossell was able to do what he did as well as cutting links to Surrey SAR to protect his own reputation.
In the mean time, if you have Rescue 3 water qualification from Surrey SAR and signed of by someone at the RNLI, then it may well be moody and you may have wasted your money. Unless you think funding the lifestyle of the rich and famous is a good use of your money, of course.
SurSAR are a charity made up of volunteers, there are no paid staff although some Trustees make money from charity activity. Their purpose is to ASSIST the emergency services such as the Police… they are most definitely NOT emergency services despite how their PR machine that is Seamus Kearns and James Turnbull project themselves to the world with flashing blue lights and more equipment than the genuine emergency services could ever dream of having access to. Whilst the team as a whole do a good job in turning out at all hours to help the police look for high risk missing people, the team is let down badly by unsuitable Trustees and Management Team. “Lions led by donkeys” is the best way to describe SurSAR at present.
Part of the problem is the unconstitutional way that SurSAR have set themselves up with the three Trustees also being part of the Management Team. Sadly this leads to corrupt activity that if challenged by the membership sees the member dismissed. In any other charity or organisation, if you have a problem you take it to management, if they don’t deal with it you take it to Trustees. The problem with SurSAR is Trustees & Management are one and the same they never find fault with what they are doing. There is a non existent investigation into the complainant and they are kicked out.
Everyone at SurSAR is a search technician first and a specialism is secondary such as K9 or water rescue. Everyone needs to keep “competencies” up to date or they are made non-operational. Sadly the Trustees/Management Team covertly change the rules to suit themselves.
So who are the donkeys ruining SurSAR?
Dr Piers Page is the Chairman (Trustee) and on the Management Team. You would think that as a Surgeon with Army experience he would be a strong leader. This is sadly not the case as he is too easily led by fellow Trustee James Rossell. He rarely, if ever turns up for callouts and is too overweight and unfit to pass the fitness test yet maintains operational currency when other members of the team would be made non operational. This silver tongued man blames everyone but himself for what is going wrong and tries to convince people he is right. Sadly people on the team don’t believe him or trust him with anything except his exceptional medical ability. Don’t expect Dr Page to sort out a problem like female team members being sexually harassed by a manager, or problems with bullying in the dog team, he simply is not interested. There are grave concerns about his integrity after he had to stand down as a Trustee of Lowland Rescue national level along with James Rossell due to allegations of theft, fraud and misusing charity funds. Information received tells us this was connected with trying to overthrow the LR Chairman Paul Lewis after a bogus investigation that they would not share the results with. No wrong doing was ever found on behalf of Paul Lewis, new trustees were voted in and the matter was hushed up by LR. Sadly tens of thousands of pounds of donated money was wasted on legal fees due to the unfounded allegations made by Piers Page and James Rossell.
James Rossell is the Treasurer and on the Management Team. He is probably the most dangerous person in SurSAR due his obsessive, reckless behaviour and appallingly dangerous attitude to risk. He displays traits of being on the autistic spectrum which can be a dangerous combination when dealing emergency services callouts and his behaviour often causes more problems than it solves. People complain that he always wants to “be the hero” and is often seen leaving his designated role or location to try get hands on with casualties. To Mr Rossell, SurSAR is a play thing, he is financially well off but lacks personal skills and empathy to be successful in SAR. He shows a great deal of arrogance to everyone he comes across which infuriates the “partners” in the Police and Fire Service who have to tolerate him due to the assistance SurSAR give. Surrey Fire and Rescue Service firefighters literally ask their senior officers to tell him to go away (put politely) as he is not wanted at the callouts and interferes whilst genuinely believing he is a senior police officer, senior fire officer and a paramedic. He is known for self deploying at fire service callouts and the fire service receive several complaints from incident commanders about this.
As Treasurer of the charity, James Rossell authorises payments to support his own little projects and even calls himself “Head of Special Projects” to justify this. What this means is he uses charity money to fund R&D projects and then benefits by selling those products/services commercially himself via his own company Wirehive. As with Piers Page, there were allegations of theft, fraud and misuse of charity funds made against him.
His apparent lack of honesty and integrity is not just in question when he was a Trustee of LR, it was questioned in court in 2019 connected with a situation that he created and cost the charity over £10,000 of donated money in legal fees. We are aware that James Rossell has been involved in dangerously and illegally flying drones for SurSAR. If this can be evidenced then it raises further concerns about his suitability to have anything to do with SurSAR or Lowland Rescue.
Seamus Kearns is the final Trustee who is the secretary and also on the management team as the “Head of Operations”. Mr Kearns is a serial job hopper who never seems to be able to hold down a job. His latest role is the Incident Response Manager for Cross Rail which he blagged due to his SAR experience and contacts at Cross Rail. Sadly he is another person with no emergency services experience who genuinely thinks he has. Lets hope there are no major incidents on Cross Rail as he won’t cope. He comes across as a “Nice guy” but he is two faced chancer and will bend the rules to get something done and get someone else to put their name to it. Mr Kearns doesn’t appear to have many integrity issues around him with the exception of managing to stay operational even though his morbid obesity leaves him unable to pass the fitness test like Dr Page.
Sadly Mr Kearns and Mr Rossell work too closely together and between them they are destroying SurSAR. Like Mr Rossell, Mr Kearns credibility with the emergency services is decreasing all the time due to his lack attitudes at times to things like wearing the correct PPE.
Trustees…..you would expect people to be able to trust the Trustees. Sadly not in SurSAR, there is no trust, they are personally disliked by team members who are sick of their attitudes and two that are ruining the charity. The membership can’t even trust them to do the right thing and resign.
A new member to the SurSAR leadership is Jill Thorpe. A headstrong teacher at the Royal Grammar School. She now holds an “executive position” in SurSAR after the management and Trustees were called out for being male, pale and stale. Don’t be fooled by her being the only token female on the management team. There have been several bullying and harassment concerns raised over her behaviour as she becomes more corrupted by the Trustees and she is already on the slippery slope to talking to colleagues like they are something she trod in. We have no doubts that more information will be received about her.