‘Another quite extraordinary tale of sustained, institutional and outrageous police corruption’


This is an article first written for the police whistleblowers’ website, uPSD WYP in January, 2013. It stands the test of time, given all that has been revealed about widespread and sustained police corruption across the entire police service, since. Now refreshed and updated in February, 2022 to incorporate links to other cases and events.

In July 2011, the Supreme Court, comprising five Law Lords – the highest Court in the United Kingdom – gave its judgment on yet another quite extraordinary tale of sustained, institutional and outrageous West Yorkshire Police corruption.

The case concerned perjury, far-reaching conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by West Yorkshire Police officers, supplying drugs and prostitutes to a criminal with over 500 known offences logged against him: Allowing the same criminal to commit serious assault, rape and buggery completely unchecked whilst under police supervision – and providing a female detective constable for the criminal’s own sexual gratification.

Not one single West Yorkshire Police officer has ever faced even internal disciplinary charges as a result. Let alone, criminal charges or jail. Prosecution files on at least ten West Yorkshire officers were submitted to  the CPS and many more dossiers for disciplinary action were prepared, but not a single one was processed.

Operation Douglas, at a cost of £45,000 per month to West Yorkshire taxpayers, collated 375,000 documents and carried out 102 interviews over six years. North Yorkshire Police’s Detective Chief Superintendent, Peter McKay, who led the inquiry for most of the time but retired before its completion, said the information uncovered at times “defied belief”. He was deeply shocked by the scale of wrongdoing and was liaising with the CPS over prima facie evidence of crimes committed by West Yorkshire office shortly before he left the enquiry.

Notices of potential disciplinary action (separate to the criminal allegations) were served on a large number of officers but, in the end, DCS McKay was only asked – by West Yorkshire Police who were controlling the disciplinary aspects of the investigation themselves – to develop full case files against four police constables and one sergeant.

It is topical, not only in the current climate of wider police misconduct/criminality, but also for the persistent involvement of none other than the now disgraced Sir Norman Bettison. Firstly, as a an ACC and member of the Command Team so heavily criticised by the Law Lords, and then as Chief Constable playing his part – along with his Deputy, and now Chief Constable in South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton – in obstructing the outside Force investigation. The North Yorkshire team were confronted throughout by a wall of silence amongst the corrupt West Yorkshire officers and their senior officers whom, according to DCS McKay, ‘were not making themselves available’.

Bettison and Crompton then chose to conceal the Operation Douglas report, at its conclusion, from their own Police Authority. Chaired by none other than the current Police Commissioner for West Yorkshire, Mark Burns-Williamson. There is also the other dynamic of the Police Authority Chief Executive, Fraser Sampson, acting as solicitor representing some of the West Yorkshire Police officers facing criminal charges. At the time he was working for Walker Morris solicitors in Leeds who had been retained by the Police Federation to represent Members. Sampson is now Chief Executive to the Commissioner and leading the charge, which includes police, CPS and IPCC, to keep the lid on the whole scandal. ‘In the public interest’. Or, should that read: ‘In Fraser’s interest’?

Of course, why would taxpayers want to know about a bill that will probably top £5 million that we have funded principally to protect bent coppers. The extent of the response from the hapless and hopeless Police Commissioner is this: He is “confident that West Yorkshire Police have dealt with this matter properly. Shortfalls were identified but, importantly, lessons learnt.”

Shortfalls, the man says. Shortfalls? That would beggar belief if it came from the mouth of anyone else but champagne socialist, Mark Burns-Williamson, whose mantra remains that there is ‘No corruption in West Yorkshire Police’.

The actual judgment of the Supreme Court can be viewed in full by clicking here. It is a very lengthy document but the main extent of the police wrongdoing is accurately summarised in the Criminal Cases Review section at Paragraphs 77 – 84.  The reader of this article is invited to read these extracts below, if nothing else.

Paragraph 77 states: Amongst the more surprising were that whilst in police custody (supergrass) Chapman was at various times permitted to visit a brothel, to engage in sexual relations with a woman police constable, to visit public houses, to consume not merely alcohol but also cannabis and even heroin, to socialise at police officers’ homes, to enjoy unsupervised periods of freedom, and indeed, throughout the actual period of the appellant’s trial, whilst threatening not to give evidence after all, he was permitted long periods of leisure (hours at a time) in places of his choice, ostensibly as “exercise”, and in addition phone calls and visits from his own solicitor.

Paragraph 83 states: A large number of police officers involved in the investigation and prosecution of the Smales robbery and murder case, including several of very high rank, engaged in a prolonged, persistent and pervasive conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. They colluded in conferring on Chapman a variety of wholly inappropriate benefits to secure his continuing cooperation in the appellant’s prosecution and trial. They then colluded in Chapman’s perjury at that trial, intending him throughout his evidence to lie as to how he had been treated and as to what promises he had received. They ensured that Chapman’s police custody records and various other official documents presented a false picture of the facts, on one occasion actually forging a custody record when its enforced disclosure to the defence would otherwise have revealed the truth. They lied in their responses to enquiries made of the CPS after the appellant’s conviction and, in the case of the two senior officers who gave evidence to the Court of Appeal, perjured themselves so as to ensure that the appellant’s application for leave to appeal against his conviction got nowhere. To describe police misconduct on this scale merely as shocking and disgraceful is to understate the gravity of its impact upon the integrity of the prosecution process. It is hard to imagine a worse case of sustained prosecutorial dishonesty designed to secure and hold a conviction at all costs.

Paragraph 84 states: Scarcely less remarkable and deplorable than this catalogue of misconduct, moreover, is the fact that, notwithstanding its emergence through the subsequent investigation, not a single one of the many police officers involved has since been disciplined or prosecuted for what he did.

The Law Lords judgment in this case states, unequivocally, that West Yorkshire Police officers have committed numerous serious crimes, and that they have turned a blind eye to other serious crime committed by a known and persistent criminal.  This is not one or two rotten apples in a barrel, it is institutional corruption endorsed and sustained at the most senior levels of the force.

Since these crimes were committed there has clearly been a carefully orchestrated,  Hillsborough type, ‘cover up’ designed solely to protect the reputation of WYP as a whole, and the reputation of the individuals responsible.  To cover something up of this magnitude relies upon a culture of dishonesty, a closing of the ranks, favourable treatment to those involved and the exclusion of those who object.

These unhealthy attributes surfaced during an independent investigation by North Yorkshire Police, allocated the task of discovering the truth.  The view of the North Yorkshire investigators is that they were obstructed in their impartial search for the truth by the Command Team of West Yorkshire Police which included, at its centre, the aforementioned Bettison and Crompton.

The IPCC, HMIC and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, remarkably allowed the investigation flowing from the Supreme Court judgment to be undertaken by West Yorkshire Police themselves in what is now known as Operation Waldhorn.  Any normal, clear-thinking person would immediately see that this does not serve the interests of justice in any way shape or form. Indeed, on any independent view, is an outrage: A case of this seriousness and magnitude should not have been conducted by a police force that was controlled by Bettison.  As stated above, he was on the Command Team back in the late 90’s when these criminal offences were being endorsed. Having scrutinised all the documents relating to Bettison’s application for the post of chief constable of Merseyside he makes no mention of the Chapman supergrass debacle at all.

Another interesting development to emerge is that West Yorkshire Police Supt John Holt, who led the team using Karl Chapman as a supergrass, was found to have regularly signed false cash receipts by North Yorkshire Police investigations. This was a regular occurrence and sometimes the differences in cash unaccounted for were substantial. It was alleged by Holt that the cash differences were used to fund trips to brothels, drugs and alcohol for the informant. The very same John Holt who in the guise of Intelligence Analysis Training now supplies ‘consultancy’ services to West Yorkshire’s HMET whom, under the codename Operation Waldhorn, re-investigated the Operation Douglas corruption following the withering criticism of five Law Lords in 2011.

The previous investigations and court judgments tell the truth already.  The facts are plain to see.  The reality is that West Yorkshire Police emerge from such a horrendous chain of events with no credit, whatsoever, and this bad smell of corruption will hang around the corridors of HQ until there is a top down clear-out of the criminally minded.

Bettison has gone, to the relief of many, and so has Temporary Chief Constable John Parkinson. Others must follow soon. Including the complicit Police Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson and his slippery sidekick, Fraser Sampson .

Page last updated at 1045hrs on Thursday 24th February, 2022.

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Photo credit: West Yorkshire Police

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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