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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Police authority chairman defiant
David Westwood (front) and Colin Inglis
David Westwood (front) has been backed by Colin Inglis
The chairman of Humberside police authority has defended its stance against the home secretary over the suspension of its chief constable.

It had refused to take action against David Westwood, who was criticised in the Bichard report into the Soham case.

Mr Westwood was suspended on Friday after Home Secretary David Blunkett took the case to the High Court.

Colin Inglis said authority members had "reflected local opinion" and Mr Blunkett had undermined the body.

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

The authority chairman said he was not surprised at the High Court ruling as the home secretary had created the law which was invoked in the judgement.

Is there a point in having a police authority if all we are is a rubber stamp?
Colin Inglis, chairman of Humberside police authority

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Inglis questioned the wisdom of the decision to suspend the chief constable.

He believes it is the first step towards a national police force.

"We have reflected local opinion and also brought our own knowledge and experience to the question," said Mr Inglis.

He said the authority had received many messages of support for Mr Westwood from Humberside residents.

Mr Inglis added: "In terms of local public confidence, the message is quite clear - we don't know how the home secretary has judged public confidence."

"The course he has taken is wrong and will not achieve what he wants to achieve".

'Power vacuum'

Mr Westwood was personally criticised in the Bichard Inquiry report over failures in vetting checks on Soham murderer Ian Huntley.

The authority must provide a report responding to the inquiry by Tuesday.

It remains to be seen whether the chief constable will lose his job following a full inquiry.

Ian Huntley
Huntley worked at a school despite sex accusations
Mr Westwood's deputy Steve Love has taken over as acting chief constable, Humberside Police confirmed.

Mr Inglis said the suspension had left a power "vacuum" within Humberside police force.

The Bichard Inquiry report 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.

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