Doubt cast over disciplinary action two years before final decision made

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A disciplinary review commissioned by West Yorkshire’s chief constable indicated misconduct cases against officers in the supergrass scandal were unlikely to go ahead more than two years before the final decision was made.

The review, set up by the late Colin Cramphorn and led by former HM Inspector of Constabulary Sir Dan Crompton, expressed concern at how long an investigation into police misconduct was taking and said it was likely no action would be taken as a result.

The findings were reported to West Yorkshire Police in 2004 even though inquiries were ongoing and disciplinary files on officers were not presented to the force until October 2006.

The apparent acceptance that a lapse in time since the misconduct took place – in the mid to late 1990s – would mean no disciplinary action would take place is in contrast to the approach currently being taken with the investigation into police conduct surrounding the Hillsborough disaster.

Events at the stadium in 1989 and afterwards are significantly more historic but the Independent Police Complaints Commission has expressed a determination to take action, including potentially for misconduct.

Sir Dan’s review also noted “there seemed to be an irritation amongst some within senior levels of West Yorkshire Police” when the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) appointed North Yorkshire Police to carry out an investigation into allegations surrounding the improper treatment of supergrass Karl Chapman.

The review said there was a clash between the interests of the CCRC, which had to provide a very detailed submission to the Court of Appeal justifying its findings, and that of a disciplinary inquiry into officer misconduct which was required to be speedier and narrower in focus. The North Yorkshire Police inquiry ran both elements, which Sir Dan said had hamstrung West Yorkshire Police in terms of taking disciplinary action.

The review declared: “There is no doubt that many lines of disciplinary investigation could and should have been curtailed at an earlier stage. Had the investigation been internal with the Investigating Officer being able to seek direction and decision at chief officer level, many lines of enquiry would have been closed. This is not suggesting “sweeping material under the carpet” but, rather, a direction of investigatory effort to that which is seen as a priority and substantive.”

It also said: “It seems unlikely that a junior officer will ultimately be left with the totality of the disciplinary blame. Lapse of time and other objections to disciplinary proceedings make the possibility of conviction and substantial punishment even more remote.”

At another point, the review recognised the gravity of the misconduct under investigation but added: “It is difficult to see what added value the warmth of the dying embers of a very protracted disciplinary process can generate.”