Suspended South Yorkshire police chief to challenge commissioner in court


South Yorkshire's suspended chief constable David Crompton has responded to a call from his police and crime commissioner (PCC) for him to resign by saying he will take the matter to court.

South Yorkshire PCC Alan Billings suspended Mr Crompton in April following a statement the chief made the day after the end of the Hillsborough inquests.

Dr Billings explained that the statement by Mr Crompton sought to justify questioning by the force's legal team at the inquests "which touched on fan behaviour and caused the families distress".

The suspension of Mr Crompton triggered a lengthy statutory process which culminated on Friday with Dr Billings calling for the chief constable to resign.

Dr Billings said: "After careful consideration of all the views and correspondence I have received, I have decided that I should accept the police and crime panel's recommendation and should call on the chief constable to resign with immediate effect.

"This is due to the erosion of trust and confidence in his leadership which would have continued and intensified as long as he remained in post. This would not have been in the interests of South Yorkshire Police or people."

But, in a statement issued by his lawyers, Mr Crompton responded: "I believe the use of section 38 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, by the police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, to be fundamentally wrong and I will shortly be commencing judicial review proceedings in the High Court in order to challenge him."

Dr Billings said he had been assured by Mr Crompton when he became PCC in 2014 that no questions would be asked by his legal team at the inquests that upset the bereaved families.

He said that he received a number of warnings about the questioning as the inquests drew to a close and at this point he asked the chief constable to take responsibility on behalf of the force and resign, but Mr Crompton refused.

After the jury's verdicts were delivered, Mr Crompton read out an apology outside his Sheffield HQ. The following day, the chief constable issued a second statement.

Dr Billings said: "The chief constable's statement sought to justify the questions asked at the inquests. This was something that I believed the public had already concluded was wrong."

The PCC said the statement was immediately condemned, including by Theresa May, who was then home secretary.

He said: "The second statement made clear that the chief constable simply could not or would not see that the conduct of his legal team had caused distress to the families and that trying to justify the questioning simply added to that.

"This was insensitive and it damaged both the force and the chief constable himself. It indicated that the leadership of South Yorkshire Police had not learnt the lessons of past failures, but was still more concerned with its own reputation than harm done to victims."

Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor criticised Dr Billings's actions as part of his contribution to the statutory process.

In a document seen by Channel 4 News, Sir Tom said the decision was "conspicuously unfair, disproportionate and so unreasonable that I cannot understand how the PCC has reached this view".

But Dr Billings rejected Sir Tom's view, saying it was "too dismissive of local opinion" and that the chief inspector "made little attempt to understand the context in which these matters were playing out in South Yorkshire".

He said: "The force is trying to recover from its failures over child sexual exploitation. It may soon have to find a way of reaching out to those in the local community who were caught up in the events at Orgreave during the miners' strike, particularly the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

"The chief constable's statement the day after the Hillsborough verdicts were announced has seriously set back that possibility and this affects many ex-mining communities across this county."

Mr Crompton's suspension in April came as South Yorkshire Police found itself at the centre of a bewildering range of controversies, including the outcome of the Hillsborough inquests, the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham, calls for a new inquiry into the so-called Battle of Orgreave and its investigation into Sir Cliff Richard.

He had already said he would retire in November.

Dr Billings has appointed Stephen Watson as his successor. Mr Watson is currently running the force on a temporary basis.