The Crown Prosecution Service is facing a High Court challenge over its decision not to charge a single police officer involved in the shocking misconduct surrounding the treatment of a supergrass which led to two murder convictions being overturned.
The legal move follows the CPS’s refusal to reconsider charges despite revealing prosecutors received files on 18 West Yorkshire officers involved in the handling of Karl Chapman, who was allowed access to heroin and alcohol, taken to a brothel, had a relationship with a policewoman and given thousands of pounds in rewards he wasn’t entitled to.
The scale of wrongdoing was concealed by officers who lied in court. After the misconduct was uncovered during a lengthy inquiry by North Yorkshire Police, the 1998 convictions of brothers Paul Maxwell and Daniel Mansell for the murder of Wakefield pensioner Joe Smales were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2009. A subsequent Supreme Court judgement on the case in 2011 delivered withering criticism of the police, including incredulity that no officers were either charged or disciplined for their actions.
Mr Mansell’s lawyer, Matthew Gold, wrote to Kier Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, in May this year to formally request charges against police officers were reconsidered. The CPS has refused, prompting a planned judicial review in the High Court.
Mr Gold said: “Despite the serious criticisms of the Supreme Court of the officers’ conduct, a request by Danny Mansell that the CPS reconsider bringing criminal charges against the officers has been refused.
“The officers were involved in unquestionably very serious misconduct that resulted in two convictions for murder subsequently being quashed by the Court of Appeal.
“Danny Mansell does not accept the decision of the CPS and has been advised that it should be challenged by judicial review in the High Court and it is intended an application will be brought as soon as possible.”
A investigation by the YEP’s sister paper the Yorkshire Post earlier this year detailed the scale of police wrongdoing but at the time the CPS failed to respond to a freedom of information (FOI) request asking for more details on decisions in 2005 and 2006 not to charge any officers, including how many had been considered for prosecution.
After ignoring the FOI request, the CPS was eventually forced to respond by the Information Commissioner following a formal complaint by this newspaper.
The response said: “There are 12 written advices from counsel and 7 CPS review notes prepared by a senior lawyer in respect of possible charges against 18 officers and 4 civilians. The review notes and advices (not to prosecute) are thorough and clear.”
The specific charges considered remain unknown but the CPS has also provided parts of a recent letter to Mr Gold detailing why it declined to reconsider charges.
Malcolm McHaffie, Deputy Head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, provided a list of reasons why the CPS decided not to prosecute any officers which included the unreliability of civilian witnesses. Although not named in the letter, one of them is Karl Chapman who was a career criminal when he decided to turn supergrass to give evidence against criminal accomplices.
The reasons also included a lack of corroboration, lack of evidence to prove criminal intent as opposed to mere incompetence and evidence suggesting officers were motivated by keeping Chapman happy rather than perverting the course of justice.
The letter also refers to the historical nature of the misconduct although this seems to be at odds with ongoing criminal inquiries into other dated alleged misconduct by police officers, such as the Hillsborough disaster which occured several years before.
The Supreme Court judgement, which drew on the North Yorkshire Police investigation into the misconduct, named individual officers including former Dc Derek Dunham, who took Chapman to a brothel, and former DC John Daniels, Chapman’s main handler for five years, who lied in court about the rewards given to the supergrass.
North Yorkshire’s Operation Douglas also served notices of potential disciplinary action on numerous officers but ultimately was asked – by West Yorkshire Police – to provide files on just five, including DC Daniels. In October 2006, West Yorkshire decided no further action would be taken against any officer.