THE supergrass scandal has left a dark stain on the reputation of West Yorkshire Police, not only for the scale of police misconduct but also for the failure to hold a single officer to account.
Supreme Court judges expressed incredulity at both the scale of wrongdoing by officers handling supergrass Karl Chapman and that no officers had been held responsible for their actions.
Chapman, a prolific career criminal, turned supergrass in the mid and late 1990s to incriminate former accomplice Gary Ford over a raft of burglaries and robberies in the Leeds area and brothers Paul Maxwell and Danny Mansell for the murder of Wakefield pensioner Joe Smales.
His evidence resulted in convictions but had been procured by officers who showered Chapman with improper rewards including a trip to a brothel, trips to pubs, access to alcohol and heroin in police cells and thousands of pounds in cash payments he was not entitled to.
Most of the rewards were not revealed by the police when defence counsel sought to undermine Chapman’s credibility when he was the key witness for prosecutions against Ford, Maxwell and Mansell.
When the defendants appealed against their convictions, North Yorkshire Police were appointed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission in 2001 to investigate.
North Yorkshire’s inquiry – Operation Douglas – uncovered the truth about how Chapman had been handled and not only led to convictions against Ford, Mansell and Maxwell being quashed in 2009 but also files being drawn up for potential prosecution and discipline of officers involved.
But despite more than 10 files being presented to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), during 2005 and 2006 prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence to charge a single officer.
And despite the damning findings of the Supreme Court, published in 2011 after it had ruled Maxwell should face a retrial for murder at which he subsequently pleaded guilty, the CPS has so far declined to offer any further explanation of how the decision was reached.
That decision is now being challenged by Mr Mansell’s solicitor who has formally asked the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, to reconsider bringing charges.
The Supreme Court judgement named individual officers, including former Dc Derek Dunham who took Chapman to a brothel paid for out of publicly-funded reward money, and former DC John Daniels, Chapman’s main handler for five years and who judges said lied in court about the rewards given to the supergrass.
Operation Douglas also served notices of potential disciplinary action on numerous officers but ultimately was asked – by West Yorkshire Police – to provide files on just four constables, including DC Daniels, and one sergeant.
Although North Yorkshire Police compiled the evidence, West Yorkshire were responsible for deciding which, if any, officers should face disciplinary hearings. In October 2006, the force decided no hearings would take place.
Dc Daniels had faced 19 separate allegations, including breaches of honesty and integrity which if proven are normally a precursor to dismissal.
The allegations included Dc Daniels giving false evidence at court, obtaining informant payments under false pretences, failure to record payments and supplying alcohol to Chapman.
North Yorkshire Police had difficulty securing an interview with Dc Daniels and arrested him.
He declined to answer questions under caution but gave a voluntary statement which said he had been “... tasked with others to look after Chapman’s interests before giving evidence but this was done with lawful authority and the blessing of senior officers in West Yorkshire Police and the CPS”.
He added “... any expenses ‘allowed’ to police officers in relation to Karl Chapman were dealt with in a lawful way in accordance with lawful authority from senior officers.”
Any mistakes were due to a lack of training in handling informants, he said.
Dc Daniels, who declined to comment when approached by the Yorkshire Post, also told Operation Douglas he “categorically denied” misleading court
The other officers faced allegations of breaches of regulations connected to payments given to Chapman and falsely recording an “escape” from custody by Chapman when he had actually been allowed his freedom, which he used to visit a female Pc he was having a relationship with.