Page last updated at 18:06 GMT, Sunday, 27 June 2004 19:06 UK

Soham father 'backs police chief'

Kevin Wells
Kevin Wells said Mr Westwood should not lose his job

The father of murdered schoolgirl Holly Wells has given support to Humberside's police chief, who faces suspension over his handling of the murder inquiry.

Kevin Wells said if David Westwood was suspended it would be a "travesty".

The chief constable's future has been in doubt since criticism in the Bichard Inquiry, which prompted the home secretary to demand his suspension.

But the Home Office said on Sunday Mr Wells' support did not alter Home Secretary David Blunkett's stance.

A spokesman said the Home Office was aware Holly Wells' family supported the chief constable and it respected their views.

'A travesty'

On Sunday, Humberside Police Authority chairman Colin Inglis said that Kevin Wells' support for the chief constable was "a measure of the relationship he's developed with the families".

He also said he believed Mr Westwood had been the victim of bullying at the hands of the government.

Mr Wells told the Mail on Sunday newspaper: "The inquiry into the murders has become a major political issue and we have found that shocking.

"We have always understood Mr Westwood to have our best interests at heart and to be willing to take the blame for troubles which pre-dated his promotion.

"If that brought an end to his career it would be a travesty."

David Blunkett
I should emphasise that I have not required the police authority to sack Mr Westwood
Home Secretary David Blunkett

Holly and her friend Jessica Chapman were murdered by Ian Huntley after police checks on Huntley's past failed to reveal a history of sex allegations against him.

As a result of the failures, Huntley was able to get a job as a caretaker in a Soham school.

Sir Michael Bichard's official report into the events caused Mr Blunkett to instruct the police authority to suspend the chief constable.

But its refusal to carry out the suspension has prompted Mr Blunkett to threaten legal action, possibly as early as Monday.

The police authority has received a letter on behalf of Mr Blunkett, saying no new evidence has been put forward and the chief constable should be suspended otherwise he will go to the High Court.

Members of the authority are due to meet on Friday.

The Police Reform Act 2002 allows the home secretary to force the suspension of a chief constable in the interests of "efficiency and effectiveness".

'No scapegoats'

North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom called on the Home Office to stop looking for scapegoats as it too is the subject of the report's recommendations.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the report criticised successive home secretaries, including Mr Blunkett, for their "lack of leadership" in recent years.

The whole thing was a huge failure from the top
Labour MP for Stourbridge, Debra Shipley
"I rather wish that some more people from the Home Office were standing up to take responsibility for this," he said.

Debra Shipley, Labour MP for Stourbridge, told the BBC Mr Blunkett was right to call for the resignation because Mr Westwood bore responsibility as a manager.

"The whole thing was a huge failure from the top," she added.

But former chairwoman of the North Yorkshire Police Authority and Liberal Democrat peer Lady Harris warned Mr Blunkett risked damaging the police authorities' role if he took Humberside to court.

An opponent of the 2002 police laws, she said: "There are other ways of dealing with this. It would be helpful if (they) could talk together and try to resolve this outside court."

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The BBC's Jane Warr
"The stage has already been set for a legal confrontation"

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