Home Secretary David Blunkett is to lodge papers with the High Court which could force the suspension of Humberside's chief constable. It follows criticism of David Westwood in the Bichard Inquiry into the vetting of Soham murderer Ian Huntley.
Here is the full text of his statement:
In the light of the continuing failure of the Humberside Police Authority to comply under the 2002 Police Reform Act with my requirement to suspend their Chief Constable David Westwood, I am therefore this evening lodging papers with the High Court asking them to enforce the law and grant a hearing.
The steps I have taken over the last two weeks are
entirely in line not only with my powers under the Act but also the protocol which has been painstakingly agreed with the Association of Police Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Staff Association representing Chief Officer grades.
All parties agreed that should these sort of very serious circumstances arise, it would be important to follow agreed steps, not engage in ad hoc talks or informal discussions. I am following these rules to the letter and had anticipated that all parties would also comply with them.
In the light of the fact that the Humberside Police Authority are continuing not to accede to the requirements of the law, I am left with no choice but now to take the necessary legal steps to seek a hearing.
I remain of the view that Chief Constable Westwood should not have operational control of the force while Humberside Police Authority and I consider the appropriate way to respond to Sir Michael Bichard's findings.
In this regard, I would draw particular attention to Paragraph 2.123 of the Bichard Report which states: "When the problems are of this scale in a function critical to effective policing, the importance of which had been highlighted nationally on several occasions by HMIC, then I do believe that senior management could and should have done more to identify and then deal with them. The nature of that responsibility has been described above. From March 1999, at the latest, that was ultimately the personal responsibility of Chief Constable Westwood."
In paragraph 2.121, Sir Michael Bichard says: "The lack of awareness of the nature or scale of these problems, failings and misunderstandings over such long periods is deeply shocking" and he says "I must therefore conclude there were very serious failings in the senior management of Humberside Police."
I have today received a letter from Humberside
Police Authority asking me to reconsider my decision. I have looked carefully at the grounds they put to me.
Having done so I have today replied to the Authority to the effect that I have seen no new information relevant to my decision to require the authority to suspend the Chief Constable.
Issues of the broader performance of the force which are raised in the letter are not relevant to this decision to suspend.
However, I have made two points in my reply:
Humberside Police Force is currently ranked 42 out of 43 of the police forces in England and Wales. I therefore do not consider selectively quoted data about its performance adds to the public understanding of these issues.
I continue to expect the Authority to produce a detailed response to the criticisms of the force in the Bichard Report, particularly its finding that there were 'systemic and corporate' failures in the way in which Humberside police managed their intelligence system."