POLICE BEHAVIOUR WAS ‘DISGRACEFUL’

CONVERSE NEWS REPORT: 26/7/2011: 11:56hrs

Police officers engaged in a “prolonged, persistent and pervasive conspiracy to pervert the course of justice” as it emerged a key murder trial witness had sex with a policewoman, was taken to a brothel and allowed to take drugs, a Supreme Court ruling has revealed.

The “shocking and disgraceful” police misconduct also revealed that Karl Chapman, a professional criminal and supergrass, socialised at officers’ homes and visited pubs as West Yorkshire Police sought to secure his continued co-operation.

The Supreme Court judgment, published yesterday, reveals the “variety of wholly inappropriate benefits” bestowed on Chapman by West Yorkshire officers.

One judge, Lord Brown, found that a large number of officers, including “several of very high rank”, were engaged in a “prolonged, persistent and pervasive conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”.

The force also ignored a number of violent crimes allegedly committed by Chapman, including the brutal rape of his cellmate and the vicious stabbing of a fellow prisoner with broken glass bound with twine.

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. Maxwell received a 17-and-a-half-year jail term.

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 that the convictions had been “procured by gross prosecutorialmisconduct”.

Five Supreme Court judges ruled by a majority of three to two that Maxwell should face a retrial, with the judgment published yesterday.

Lord Brown stated: “To describe police misconduct on this scale merely as shocking and disgraceful is to understate the gravity of its impact on the prosecution process.

“It is hard to imagine a worse case of sustained prosecutorial dishonesty designed to secure and hold a conviction at all costs.”

The full extent of the officers’ behaviour was uncovered by a North Yorkshire Police investigation on behalf of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which probes potential miscarriages of justice.

Referring to the CCRC report, Lord Brown said: “The unchallenged findings of this report are not just disturbing but quite frankly astonishing.”

He said: “They were benefits which both contravened the controls designed to preserve the integrity of Chapman’s evidence and were in addition inherently improper.

“Amongst the more surprising were that whilst in police custody Chapman was at various times permitted to visit a brothel, to engage in sexual relations with a woman police constable, to visit public houses, to consume not merely alcohol but also cannabis and even heroin, to socialise at police officers’ homes, to enjoy unsupervised periods of freedom.

“And indeed, throughout the actual period of the appellant’s trial, whilst threatening not to give evidence after all, he was permitted long periods of leisure (hours at a time) in places of his choice, ostensibly as “exercise”, and in addition phone calls and visits from his own solicitor.”

Lord Brown said a detective mentioned the brothel outing to the female police officer with whom Chapman was enjoying sexual relations. Chapman wrote to her apologising: “I was drunk and stoned on weed, they paraded a dozen beautiful women in front of me and said take your pick.”

Lord Brown said: “A large number of police officers involved in the investigation and prosecution of the Smales robbery and murder case, including several of very high rank, engaged in a prolonged, persistent and pervasive conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

He went on: “To describe police misconduct on this scale merely as shocking and disgraceful is to understate the gravity of its impact upon the integrity of the prosecution process.

“It is hard to imagine a worse case of sustained prosecutorial dishonesty designed to secure and hold a conviction at all costs.”

Lord Brown said: “Scarcely less remarkable and deplorable than this catalogue ofmisconduct, moreover, is the fact that, notwithstanding its emergence through the subsequent investigation, not a single one of the many police officers involved has since been disciplined or prosecuted for what he did.”

West Yorkshire Police deputy chief constable David Crompton said the recent re-investigation of the case had been praised for its “thoroughness and professionalism” and the “honesty, thoroughness and integrity of the officers”.

But he 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”.

The senior police officer said: “In relation to the original investigation back in 1996, the methods used to deal with the main witness were wholly unacceptable and cannot be condoned in any way whatsoever.

“As a result, the matter was highlighted to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and, for transparency, North Yorkshire Police were brought in to conduct an inquiry.

“As a result of that extensive and lengthy investigation, the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) decided there should be no criminal proceedings in relation to any officer.

“Nevertheless, 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.

“Since the original investigation was carried out 16 years ago, there has been a complete root and branch overhaul of procedures to safeguard against such failings and to prevent them from ever happening again.”