WEST Yorkshire Police misled Leeds MPs and the Home Office about the force’s treatment of supergrass Karl Chapman by stating it was – bar one lapse – entirely legitimate.
Despite the reality of Chapman’s regular trips to pubs, taking heroin, developing a relationship with a female police officer and receiving a wide variety of other improper favours, the force insisted the supergrass was enduring a spartan existence when challenged by MPs.
In September 1997, Leeds East MP George Mudie wrote to the force seeking the “full picture” of an “alleged escape” from custody by Chapman and lengthy outings while being held at Millgarth police station in Leeds.
On the basis of information provided by junior officers, Assistant Chief Constable Greg Wilkinson wrote back to say Chapman’s treatment had been “entirely in accordance with Home Office guidelines” apart fromnot being handcuffed when he was able to ‘escape’.
The letter went on to say his custodial conditions mirrored those of his prison unit and remarkably added that Chapman was actually at a disadvantage at Millgarth because he was kept “virtually in solitary confinement.”
As well as concealing the truth, the letter also described an escape which was nothing of the sort. Instead the supergrass had been allowed his freedom and he had gone to see a policewoman he had a relationship with.
His minders had become worried when Chapman didn’t reappear at an agreed time and flagged up his disappearance as an escape.
Shirley Faulkner, who retired from the force in 1998, told Operation Douglas she recalled going for a couple of drinks in a pub in the Denby Dale area before dropping Chapman back at the Navigation pub in Durkar, which was the pre-agreed venue for Chapman to rejoin officers.
When further allegations about Chapman’s treatment emerged in March 1998 after the Joe Smales case fresh concern was raised by local MPs, including the late Leeds Central MP Derek Fatchett.
He received a response from then Home Office Minister Alun Michael which said officials had made enquiries and the force was “satisfied with the way in which they handled (Chapman).”
The Criminal Cases Review Commission report which eventually detailed police misconduct said the incident had been presented as “an escape from lawful custody” by junior officers which was fed up through the chain of command “causing the force to provide inaccurate information to the media, the Home Office and MPs”.