Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Friday, 2 July 2004 18:32 UK

Embattled police chief suspended

Mr Westwood leaving the building after his suspension
Mr Westwood was suspended after the authority met

The chief constable who was heavily criticised over the Soham case has been suspended after a High Court ruling.

Home Secretary David Blunkett was entitled to suspend David Westwood from duty, the judge said in a legal first.

Humberside Police Authority had earlier refused to suspend Mr Westwood. It was denied leave to appeal against the court's decision.

Mr Blunkett welcomed the ruling and said he now wanted "serious issues" in the force addressed.

Authority chairman Colin Inglis said he was disappointed by the decision but accepted it.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Westwood will lose his job following a full inquiry.

He should have been suspended, but that should be a decision for the police authority
Ganesh Sittampalam, Oxford

The chief constable was personally criticised in the Bichard Inquiry report over failures in vetting checks on Soham murderer Ian Huntley.

Mr Westwood's deputy Steve Love has taken over as acting chief constable, Humberside Police confirmed.

Mr Love said he wanted to continue in "the direction David Westwood has set".

Making his ruling, Justice Stanley Burnton, said: "In my judgement it is clear the secretary of state validly exercised his power."

By refusing to suspend Mr Westwood or taking any action, the police authority was in default of its statutory duty, he said.

The home secretary's decision did not mean Mr Westwood was being asked to quit, the judge said, but was an interim step while an inquiry was carried out into the chief constable's future.

'Serious issues'

Criticisms in the Bichard report were serious enough to justify Mr Blunkett's action, the judge said.

After the hearing, the chief constable's solicitor Stephen Parkinson said: "Mr Westwood is grateful for the confidence shown in him by the Humberside Police Authority but as a result of the home secretary's action he is suspended with immediate effect."

Home Secretary David Blunkett
I now want a proper and full response from Humberside Police Authority on the very serious and substantial issues raised in the Bichard report
David Blunkett

Mr Blunkett said the authority should have abided by his order from the beginning.

"I now want a proper and full response from Humberside Police Authority on the very serious and substantial issues raised in the Bichard report which should have begun ten days ago," he said.

"The Home Office police standards unit and HM Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary will continue the work begun months ago to improve the delivery of policing in Humberside.

"In the meantime we will get on with pulling together all the agencies to address the wider inquiry recommendations."

Sex attacker

It is the first time Mr Blunkett has used the Police Reform Act 2002 to order a chief constable's suspension.

The Bichard Inquiry report, published last week, criticised Mr Westwood after his force's failings allowed serial sex attacker Ian Huntley to get a job as a school caretaker in Soham, Cambridgeshire.

Huntley went on to murder 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in August 2002 and is now serving life in prison.

Humberside Police failed to tell Cambridgeshire Police about earlier allegations Huntley was a serial sex attacker.

The force also destroyed notes about his past misdemeanours.

video and audio news
The BBC's John Andrew
"The fighting isn't over yet"

Colin Inglis, Humberside Police Authority chairman:
"We're on what could be a long process"


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