North Yorkshire Police’s most senior officer is 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.
Chief constable Dave Jones is among nine people who applied for an interim civil injunction against Peter Hofschroer, Timothy Hicks and Nigel Ward.
The force says that on February 9 ‘citizen journalists’ Mr Hicks and Mr Ward, who contribute to the North Yorks Enquirer website, “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”.
The case heard in Leeds was adjourned pending an application for a full injunction, which is expected to be heard in April.
The force has been questioned over the significant legal costs accrued on the case but says it has spent more than £400,000 dealing with what it describes as “years of unwarranted, harmful personal abuse” from the men.
North Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “We are very pleased that the harassment of the claimants has stopped for now. However this was only an interim hearing.
“The full matter still has to be heard by the court, when we hope the situation may be resolved conclusively, subject to the judge’s decision. It would not be appropriate for us to make any comment on the detail of the case whilst it is still in process.
“We feel it is important that North Yorkshire Police gives its full support to these victims, in their action to stop ongoing harassment against them as individuals.
“Police officers are used to dealing with difficult situations, they have broad shoulders, and they are certainly not above criticism.
“However we are talking about years of unwarranted, harmful personal abuse, that ties up police time and which has already cost North Yorkshire Police in excess of £400k to handle.
“In the interests of the public purse, we hope the campaign of harassment can be brought to an end, so we can concentrate police resources on policing, which is what we – and the public – want to happen.”
North Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan, who oversees the force’s spending, said: “I have weighed up the arguments in favour and against doing this from a public purse point of view.
“I am satisfied that as it stands, taking this action will be better value for money because of the amount of money the police has already spent dealing with these matters.
“Persecution of individuals to the point where severe harm is done is really unacceptable. That is whether it is done face-to-face or remotely. It is unacceptable to put people through an ordeal like that.”
She declined to say how much had been spent on the legal case but said “the day-to-day cost of dealing with this far exceeds the legal costs so far.”
Mr Ward and Mr Hicks declined to comment but said they would respond once they had taken legal advice.