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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 05:23 GMT 06:23 UK
Westwood's future to be decided
David Westwood
David Westwood says he will "do his utmost" to stay in charge
The future of Humberside chief constable David Westwood is due to be decided at a special police authority meeting on Friday morning.

Mr Westwood has refused to quit after a damning report into the Soham murders, despite Home Secretary David Blunkett's orders for his suspension.

The Bichard report said the force had made "deeply shocking errors" in vetting checks on killer Ian Huntley.

The authority will be acting illegally if it refuses to suspend Mr Westwood.

I owe it to the officers and staff of Humberside Police, to the public of Humberside and to the families of Holly and Jessica to complete the task
Chief Constable David Westwood
But on Tuesday, just a few hours after Mr Blunkett told the Commons he was using new powers to make Humberside police authority suspend Mr Westwood, the chief constable hit back.

He said he had made a "personal commitment" to "do his utmost" to stay in charge and make improvements to the force.

"I owe it to the officers and staff of Humberside Police, to the public of Humberside and to the families of Holly and Jessica to complete the task."

'Strong language'

Police minister Hazel Blears joined the row on Thursday when she urged Mr Westwood to consider his position.

She said: "They [the authority] will meet on Friday and take it from there. Clearly the Bichard Report used quite strong language and the issue is about public confidence."

But some feel that Mr Westwood is being made a scapegoat.

I think both sides are at fault - Bichard makes that clear and it would be nice and refreshing if both sides would take responsibility
Mark Oaten
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said he accepted Mr Westwood should resign over the force's failings but he also thought the Home Office should take responsibility for its mistakes.

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "There is an extent to which the heat is being put on a chief constable, I suspect for political reasons, because the Home Office itself is under some criticism in this report.

"I think both sides are at fault. Bichard makes that clear and it would be nice and refreshing if both sides would take responsibility."

String of allegations

Sir Michael Bichard's report said Mr Westwood should take "personal, as well as corporate responsibility" for not addressing the force's failings when he became chief constable in 1999.

The force's failure to keep proper records allowed Huntley to get a school caretaker's job in Soham, where he murdered 10-year-old pupils Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

He was able to take the job despite a string of sex allegations against him.

Humberside Police Authority chairman Colin Inglis told the Hull Daily Mail he thought Mr Westwood should be allowed to stay.

He said: "David Westwood (is) a driven man. If anyone is going to see these failures corrected it will be the current chief constable. He deserves to do that."

A Home Office spokeswoman said the powers invoked by Mr Blunkett under the Police Reform Act meant the police authority had no choice but to suspend its chief constable.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jane Dreaper
"Some feel that David Westwood has been made a scapegoat"



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