The chief constable of Northamptonshire Police, Adrian Lee, is among 14 police officers who could face criminal charges after concerns were raised about witness handling in the investigation of the “execution-style” murder of a 20-year-old man.
A file of evidence has been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, following an investigation managed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into allegations against a number of former and serving Staffordshire Police officers.
The investigation has looked at how a protected witness was dealt with and disclosure issues prior to the trial of five men which concluded in 2008 for the murder of Kevin Nunes six years earlier.
A file of evidence has been passed to the CPS in relation to five officers up to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector who were part of the Staffordshire Police Sensitive Policing Unit, which had responsibility for handling protected witnesses. Three of the five officers are retired from Staffordshire Police.
A file of evidence will be formally submitted to the CPS in coming weeks in relation to a further nine officers, of the rank of Superintendent and above, who held senior positions at Staffordshire Police prior to the murder trial ending in 2008. Four of these officers are of ACPO rank and still serving within police forces. Four of the nine officers are retired from Staffordshire Police.
The senior officers are understood to be chief constable of Gloucestershire Police Suzette Davenport; Northamptonshire chief constable Adrian Lee; West Midlands assistant chief constable Marcus Beale and Staffordshire assistant chief constable Jane Sawyers.
Suzette Davenport served as deputy chief constable of Northamptonshire Police until earlier this year.
Five men were jailed in 2008 for the murder of amateur footballer Mr Nunes, who was found dead in a country lane in Pattingham, Staffordshire, in 2002, but had their convictions quashed last year amid concerns about the running of the unit.
The investigation has been carried out by the Chief Constable of Derbyshire, Mick Creedon, under the direction and control of IPCC Commissioner Tom Davies.
IPCC Commissioner Tom Davies said: “This has been a thorough and painstaking investigation which has required careful scrutiny of thousands of documents and hundreds of statements, and interviews have been carried out with relevant officers. I am satisfied that we have reached a point in the investigation where it is right for the CPS to examine the evidence gathered in relation to five officers, and we intend to submit a further file of evidence in relation to nine other officers in coming weeks.”
Chief Constable Adrian Lee, responded to the announcement saying that he welcomed the development and his focus will remain on the force.
He said: “The IPCC has announced today that the file relating to the investigation of historical events in Staffordshire has now been passed to the CPS. I welcome this development because it brings the conclusion closer. However, as I’m sure you’ll understand, as this is an ongoing investigation it would be therefore inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.
“My focus will remain on the force. We are quickly approaching that time when strong performance can be considered ‘business as usual’ for the force. We can see the significant improvement on last year but we need to retain the focus on improving our performance to become the safest place in the country.
“Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues for their continued support, both professional and personal.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds said that he remains confident in the chief constable.
He said: “I remain confident in Adrian Lee. We both have a lot of work to do in making Northamptonshire the safest place in England and our police service the best in class. That is what we are both focused on.”
There has been ongoing liaison with the CPS since the early stages of the investigation. It will be for the CPS to determine whether any criminal charges against any of the officers are warranted.
The investigation has considered over 8,000 documents and taken around 300 statements. Each of the fourteen officers has been interviewed at least twice by the investigation team.