Watchdog not ‘hoodwinked’

Karl Chapman. bogus offical story
Karl Chapman. bogus offical story

A POLICE watchdog claimed it was not kept in the dark over a complex investigation into a supergrass at the centre of one of city’s most shocking crimes.

Members of West Yorkshire Police Authority (WYPA) criticised other newspaper reports about it being “hoodwinked” over a £3m enquiry following the brutal murder of Joe Smales in Stanley in 1996. The case hinged on the tainted evidence of a supergrass who was allowed to visit a brothel and take drugs while in police custody.

Operation Douglas was set up to look into the original investigation and the sleazy activities of supergrass Karl Chapman. The enquiry lasted six years and cost about £3m.

It culminated in the murder and robbery convictions of two men being quashed after spending 11 years in jail. But last summer Paul Maxwell, 47, admitted murdering reclusive Mr Smales and robbing his brother Bert, then 67. Police promised another review following the release of a highly critical Supreme Court ruling in July.

Last Friday members of the WYPA’s Audit and Risk committee told a meeting they were angry about media coverage about its role.

Committee chairman Trevor Lake said: “The Police Authority doesn’t feel it was hoodwinked in any shape or form about being informed of Operation Douglas.”

The background papers show there was no record that the authority was formally informed about referrals to Criminal Cases Review Commission, which looks into possible miscarriages of justice. The WYPA also wasn’t copied into any key report findings or decisions. But there is no requirement for these investigations to be reported to the authority.

Committee members were confident nothing similar could happen again. Deputy Chief Constable David Crompton told the meeting: “There is nothing in the report that shows there had been, in any way, any deliberate attempt to keep the authority in the dark about Operation Douglas.”

He didn’t want to comment on the officers in the original investigation because of the referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). But he said the police had tried to refer the case to its predecessor in the past but had been refused.

Committee members approved the report and its recommendations about more regular reporting and recording.