THE Yorkshire Post today begins a special three-part investigation into one of the darkest chapters in the history of West Yorkshire Police which led to disgrace for the force but not a single officer being held accountable for what they did.
The exposé details how officers brazenly corrupted criminal prosecutions by misleading courts over a vast array of improper inducements to a “supergrass” – a convicted criminal being used to give evidence against other criminals. The supergrass, Karl Chapman, was allowed drink, drugs and sex, all of which became an accepted part of how he was treated.
It can be revealed that files on at least 10 West Yorkshire officers were prepared for potential prosecution and many more dossiers for disciplinary action were drawn up but no officer faced a single charge or was disciplined.
MPs have now called for officers to be held accountable and for the authorities who oversaw the criminal and disciplinary inquiries to account for why they took no action.
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton, who was told there were no problems when he raised concerns with the force about Chapman’s handling in the late 1990s, said accountability was vital to maintain public trust.
“Trust in the police is fundamental. They should be held to account,” he said. “The relative age of the case should not matter, just as Chris Huhne (MP) has just been convicted for something he did 10 years ago and just as we are still pursuing accountability for the Hillsborough disaster.”
Leeds East MP George Mudie, who was similarly misled by the force when he raised concerns, said: “When you have wrongdoing on this scale it is vital there is accountability. That hasn’t been the case and until that happens too many serious question marks remain over why not a single officer was charged or disciplined.
“The authorities need to reconsider what action they may be able to take.” He added: “It is also totally unacceptable that MPs who raised concerns when the matter first reared its head were essentially led to believe everything was OK by West Yorkshire Police.”
It can also be revealed that West Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) are all currently withholding the findings of a recent investigation into why no criminal or disciplinary action was taken. Responding to a Freedom of Information request, all three said they believed disclosure may not be in the public interest.
The police conduct surrounding the treatment of supergrass Karl Chapman in the late 1990s was the subject of withering criticism from the Supreme Court when the reasons for quashing the murder convictions of Paul Maxwell and Danny Mansell for the killing of Wakefield pensioner Joe Smales were published in July 2011.
Although not disclosed at the time, it can now be revealed that Gary Ford, a former criminal accomplice of Chapman, also had 14 years of a 25-year sentence quashed on the same grounds of gross prosecutorial misconduct.
The Supreme Court judgment said the actions of police officers amounted to the criminal offences of perverting the course of justice, perjury and misconduct in public office.
Stung by the comments of the most senior judges in the land, West Yorkshire Police launched a fresh investigation, supervised by the IPCC, which concluded late last year but remains undisclosed.
The force and police commissioner Burns-Williamson declined to respond to specific questions about why no action had been taken against officers but both said they were content with recent investigation’s findings.
Mr Burns-Williamson said he was “confident that West Yorkshire Police have dealt with this matter properly”, adding: “Shortfalls were identified but importantly lessons learnt.”
Temporary Chief Constable John Parkinson said the recent investigation had been “comprehensive” with “a number of recommendations highlighted, which have been taken forward”.
The IPCC said: “This supervision of the review is now concluded and at this stage there are no matters to warrant further involvement.”
The Yorkshire Post provided the Crown Prosecution Service with the names of a series of officers who had been investigated during Operation Douglas, a £3m six-year inquiry by North Yorkshire Police, into how Chapman had been treated.
The list included at least 10 officers the CPS had received files on during the Operation Douglas inquiry.
Asked for clarity on why no charges had been brought, A CPS spokeswoman said it would be too time consuming for the service to provide an explanation and instead reproduced an 18-month old press release from the time of the Supreme Court judgement which said there was “insufficient evidence”. She added that the considerations of the Supreme Court were different to those of prosecutors.
The Yorkshire Post investigation draws on a previously undisclosed 263-page report compiled by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) which led to the murder convictions being quashed in 2009 and hundreds more documents from Operation Douglas, the £3m North Yorkshire Police inquiry whose findings informed the report.
The CCRC report details how police corrupted the prosecution of Maxwell and Mansell by concealing an astonishing array of improper favours and cash payments given to Chapman. The contents were accepted unchallenged by the Court of Appeal when the convictions were quashed and later by the Supreme Court when it ruled Maxwell could face a retrial at which he subsequently pleaded guilty to murder.
A separate redacted CCRC report, also seen by the Yorkshire Post, recommended many of the convictions of Chapman’s former accomplice, Gary Ford, were also unsafe because of the same concealment of inducements to the supergrass to give evidence.
The Operation Douglas documents reveal how West Yorkshire Police maintained control of the disciplinary inquiry and ultimately only asked North Yorkshire Police to provide files for a handful of officers – nearly all junior in rank. This was despite a raft of disciplinary notices being served, including on senior officers.
Former West Yorkshire chief constable Colin Cramphorn provided disciplinary waivers to five junior custody officers at Millgarth police station in Leeds who were present during a period in which Chapman was able to visit pubs, go to officers’ homes, take heroin and allowed his freedom to visit a policewoman he was having a relationship with.
Mr Cramphorn, who died in 2006, granted the waivers to help Operation Douglas get to some of the truth of what happened. He also commissioned an independent disciplinary review during the inquiry but this is also currently withheld following a freedom of information request.
Leeds-based solicitor Mark Foley, who represented Maxwell through the appeal process, said: “It is astonishing, given the scale of misconduct uncovered by the CCRC, the numbers of officers concerned... that not one single officer has been disciplined or, in some cases, prosecuted for very serious offending.
“Given the comments made by the Supreme Court I think it is quite disgraceful that any review of the conduct of officers, clearly identified, should not be disclosed, and proper explanation given for the lack of prosecution.”
Only a small number of officers connected to the case remain with the force.