WEST Yorkshire Police have paid nearly £70,000 in damages after a man was wrongly imprisoned on corrupted evidence officers procured from a supergrass.
The payment, made to the estate of Gary Ford, was likely to have been significantly higher had he not died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in June 2014 while the compensation claim was ongoing. As a result, part of the claim became ineligible though it is understood the force still had to pay a hefty legal bill.
The case centred around a catalogue of police misconduct when officers cosseted supergrass Karl Chapman, while in custody, to secure his testimony and subsequently convictions against criminal associates. The improper inducements included Chapman being allowed to access to heroin and alcohol, being taken to a brothel, having a relationship with a policewoman and being given thousands of pounds in rewards he wasn’t entitled to.
Mr Ford, formerly of Leeds, was originally sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1996 for a string of bogus official burglaries and robberies in and around Leeds. He was convicted largely on the tainted evidence of Chapman, who was his accomplice, and in 2009 his sentence was reduced to 11 years.
Including his time on remand, Mr Ford spent 15 years in prison when, taking the early release scheme into account, he would otherwise have spent seven years inside.
Chapman only received a nine-year sentence for his role in the crimes in recognition of his role as a supergrass.
The inducements offered to Chapman also led to a murder conviction against two other men being overturned.
Mr Ford’s solicitor, Susie Labinjoh, sharply criticised the police misconduct and said it was a “tragedy” Mr Ford had died, aged 54, before police settled the case. His body, along with that of a friend, was found at his home on the Wirral, Merseyside. An inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by a fatal build-up of carbon monoxide from a cooker.
Ms Labinjoh said: “The police were not required to pay the higher level of compensation that would have been awarded had Gary been alive today but the fact that compensation has been paid is a tacit acceptance that something went badly wrong.
“It is a real tragedy that Gary isn’t here to finally gain closure.”
West Yorkshire Police declined to respond when asked whether the force should have settled the case before Mr Ford’s untimely death and what legal costs had been paid on top of the £67,500 settlement.
Instead, a spokeswoman said: “West Yorkshire Police can confirm it has reached a settlement in relation to this case but will not disclose further details.”
The murder conviction of brothers Daniel Mansell and Paul Maxwell, secured with the help of Chapman’s evidence, was also quashed in 2009. The men were found guilty of killing Wakefield pensioner Joe Smales in 1996 with Maxwell alone subsequently admitting the offence at a second trial in 2011.
Mr Mansell is pursuing his own damages claim against West Yorkshire Police which his solicitor, Matthew Gold, said was ongoing.