North Yorkshire Police has been accused of using its funds to “close down and attack local news media” after senior officers from the force launched legal action against two writers from a news website.
Chief constable Dave Jones is one of nine applicants going to court to get an injunction against three men the force says are waging “a campaign of personal harassment” that has cost the public purse more than £400,000.
Earlier this month the nine people applied for civil injunction against Timothy Hicks and Nigel Ward, who contribute to the North Yorks Enquirer website, and another man, Peter Hofschroer.
North Yorkshire Police said citizen journalists Mr Hicks and Mr Ward “agreed they would stop targeting the nine applicants pending the matter returning to court”. No interim injunction was made against Mr Hofschroer, who police say “is currently in custody on remand for matters unconnected with this civil action”.
In a statement released today, Mr Ward and Mr Hicks said they had “properly and accurately” criticised the force over what they said was its refusal to arrest Jimmy Savile and former Scarborough mayor Peter Jaconelli.
A North Yorkshire Police report published last year admitted that opportunities had been missed to prosecute Savile and Jaconelli over claims of historical sex abuse of children and that both would have been likely to face prosecution if they were alive today.
Mr Ward and Mr Hicks said: “The North Yorks Enquirer journalists categorically deny any offence or harassment arising from our coverage of local issues, which has always been in the public interest.
“The North Yorks Enquirer has properly and accurately criticised North Yorkshire Police over its refusal to arrest Peter Jaconelli and Jimmy Savile while they were alive, despite us having provided copious explicit evidence and multiple witnesses to their offending.”
They added that they had not acted with Peter Hofschroer and were not his associates.
Mr Hicks and Mr Ward said bringing the legal case against them was “an absolutely flagrant misuse of police time and resources”.
They added that they did not believe it was “a lawful use of police funding, manpower and resources for a police force to support, finance and launch civil litigation on behalf of private citizens against other private citizens”.
Their statement said: “The North Yorks Enquirer considers that it is not the duty of the police or the police and crime commissioner to use police funds to close down or attack local news media.
“Particularly when our criticism of North Yorkshire Police over its inexcusable failure to arrest the Scarborough paedophile ring has been shown to be entirely accurate and in the public interest.”
A North Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “We stand by our position that the cost of pursuing an injunction is in the interests of the public purse, and will save the taxpayer unnecessary expense in the long-term. We have no comment to make on the detail of this case, as this is for the court to hear and decide upon.”