YORKSHIRE’S largest police force has referred itself to the police watchdog less than 24 hours after the Yorkshire Post exposed how former detectives corrupted a murder trial by taking a key witness to brothels and allowing him take drugs.
West Yorkshire Police contacted the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after the Supreme Court found that its officers showered a supergrass with “wholly inappropriate benefits” during a “shocking and disgraceful” conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The judgment was given in November last year, but the force only referred the case to the IPCC yesterday after its contents were revealed in the Yorkshire Post.
Last night it emerged the force had asked for the case to be overseen by outside investigators nine years ago, only for the then police watchdog, the Police Complaints Authority, to refuse the request.
The IPCC will study privileges given in the mid 1990s to career criminal Karl Chapman, who, despite having pleaded guilty to more than 200 robberies, was allowed to visit brothels and take heroin and cannabis in return for his continued co-operation. He also became involved in a sexual relationship with a policewoman.
Chapman enjoyed immunity from prosecution for a series of violent crimes, including an assault on the policewoman after they had split up and the rape of his cellmate in prison.
The bizarre arrangement was later investigated by North Yorkshire Police at the request of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), but none of the officers who dealt with Chapman was prosecuted or disciplined.
Elizabeth Joslin, of the Crown Prosecution Service’s special crime and counter-terrorism division, said yesterday: “The CPS considered a great deal of evidence unearthed by the long and complex investigation into the actions of police officers at Killingbeck Police Station in Leeds in the mid- 1990s in relation to an informant.
“We consulted experienced counsel and concluded, after a very detailed review, that there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against any police officer. We did not reach this decision lightly; these were serious allegations against police officers in a position of trust.”
Chapman received special treatment because he was the main prosecution witness in the case of Paul Maxwell, who last month admitted murdering 85-year-old Joe Smales in Wakefield in 1996 on the first day of a retrial.
Maxwell and his brother, Daniel Mansell, were originally found guilty of the attack after a Leeds Crown Court trial in 1998, but the convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2009 on the grounds they had been “procured by gross prosecutorial misconduct”.
Last night Maxwell’s solicitor Mark Foley said he had been unaware that the CPS had advised there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
He said a CCRC report of North Yorkshire’s investigation, published in 2008, made reference to criminal acts on a vast scale by named officers.
Mr Foley added: “If their (the CPS’s) decision was based on that same inquiry, it does seem remarkable there was no basis for prosecution and equally that it is only now being referred to the IPCC.”
West Yorkshire’s Deputy Chief Constable, David Crompton, said: “In light of the criticism levelled by the Supreme Court judges, we feel it now appropriate to re-examine the previous decisions made several years ago which were based upon the outcome of both the criminal and disciplinary investigations conducted by North Yorkshire Police.”