A WEST Yorkshire Police investigation into its dealings with Jimmy Savile “does not have the look and feel of an independent report”, one of the country’s most senior officers has claimed.
Operation Newgreen, published in May after revelations of the disgraced DJ’s links with officers in the county, failed to give the impression of “independent assurance” and may have made it seem the force was being defensive, according to Avon and Somerset chief constable Nick Gargan.
Mr Gargan made his comments after being asked to investigate whether West Yorkshire’s assistant chief constable Ingrid Lee, who commissioned and oversaw the Operation Newgreen report, had failed to declare her business relationship with serving and retired colleagues.
In his response, seen by the Yorkshire Post, he said Mrs Lee was only guilty of a “minor technical breach” of force policy by not declaring her directorship of two firms and that he had found nothing that would undermine her “integrity or reputation”.
But the letter from Mr Gargan goes further to offer West Yorkshire chief constable Mark Gilmore a “personal reflection” on the “potential lack of confidence” in the heavily-criticised review.
The report highlighted an “over-reliance on personal friendships” between Leeds-born Savile and some officers, and said “mistakes were made” in handling intelligence, but concluded there was “no evidence” he was protected from arrest or prosecution thanks to his relationship with the force.
Mr Gargan’s letter says: “It seems clear to me that Operation Newgreen does not have the look and feel of an independent report. As I turned from one page to the next, I saw example after example of the author putting the case for West Yorkshire Police.
“At times this case was put with some force and emotion and more than a hint of exasperation with other bodies.
“In that respect, Operation Newgreen was unsuccessful if it was its intention to give an impression of independent assurance: it may even have had the effect of strengthening suspicion that West Yorkshire Police was at the very least being defensive.”
The letter goes on to say that the senior officers at West Yorkshire Police “seem to be decent, honest public servants who look beleaguered, fatigued and exasperated by the way in which this case (and other, related, activity) drags on”.
Mr Gargan suggested the force carry out a “very open and public examination of its actions” and a public engagement strategy to deal with issues raised by the review. He said: “I think you will benefit from a situation in which your staff respond to criticism with the questions ‘maybe this person has a point’ more readily than ‘how do I prove them wrong?’.
The investigation into Mrs Lee was launched after the Sunday Telegraph reported that she was the director of an overseas property company with four serving or retired officers from the force.
Mr Gargan said she had “no case to answer” despite failing to declare her directorship of either Tetuan Ltd or Oree Activite Ltd, two organisations he said were “simply shares in holiday accommodation from which she derived no profit or income”.
He said she was guilty of a minor technical breach of the force’s business interests policy by not revealing the directorship, though it had been identified as part of a vetting procedure in 2008.
Mrs Lee told investigators she believed her involvement with Tetuan and Oree was a way of “facilitating holidays for me and my family in a similar way to timeshare” and did not need to be declared.
Of the 41 current or former directors, 14 were found to be serving or ex-police staff and only two had worked directly with Mrs Lee.
None of the directors said they had a personal or close relationship with her and Mr Gargan said Mrs Lee’s business interests did not damage the integrity of Operation Newgreen. He said: “Even from our first contact a few weeks ago, there was an apparently credible explanation and every investigative action since then has borne out the credible and largely innocuous explanation proferred by Mrs Lee at the outset.”
West Yorkshire Police chief constable Mark Gilmore said he asked Mr Gargan to carry out the review “in order to maintain public confidence in West Yorkshire Police by ensuring independent scrutiny and total objectivity in this investigation”.
He added: “ACC Lee has my full, and unqualified, support and continues to serve as a valued member of my Chief Officer Team working with colleagues to keep our communities safe and feeling safer.
“I also welcome Chief Constable Gargan’s personal reflections on the Operation Newgreen report. This was an internal review initiated by West Yorkshire Police to understand the circumstances surrounding the allegations being made about Savile and his relationship with the force.
“This has given West Yorkshire Police another perspective to consider for the future as we continue to respond to the challenges posed by the abhorrent offending of Savile.
“We will continue to work with CC Gargan and other colleagues, in this regard, to ensure lessons are learnt and the communities of West Yorkshire get the policing service they deserve.”