Blunkett row with police chief heads for court

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The Independent Online

The power struggle between David Blunkett and the Humberside chief constable moved to the courts yesterday when the Home Secretary applied for an injunction to force the suspension of the police officer.

The power struggle between David Blunkett and the Humberside chief constable moved to the courts yesterday when the Home Secretary applied for an injunction to force the suspension of the police officer.

The High Court action followed the refusal by Humberside Police Authority to remove their police chief, David Westwood, for his role in the loss of intelligence material on alleged sex offences by Ian Huntley, the Soham murderer.

Mr Blunkett also attacked the Humberside police's overall record saying it was ranked the second-worst performing force out of 43 in England and Wales.

The Home Secretary brushed aside a renewed request by the Humberside Police Authority to reconsider his instruction for them to suspend Mr Westwood. The chief constable has defied Mr Blunkett's calls for his removal arguing that despite being severely criticised in the inquiry report, by Sir Michael Bichard, into the blunders which allowedHuntley to get a job as school caretaker, he had the support of local people and other police chiefs.

But Mr Blunkett issued a statement yesterday saying: "In the light of the continuing failure of the Humberside Police Authority to comply under the 2002 Police Reform Act with my requirement to suspend their Chief Constable, I am lodging papers with the High Court asking them to enforce the law and grant a hearing."

He said the Bichard report highlighted Mr Westwood's personal responsibility for the "shocking" failings of his force.

It is the first time the Home Secretary has used powers under the Police Reform Act 2002 to order the suspension of a chief constable in this way.

Earlier in the day the authority revealed it had written to Mr Blunkett explaining why they want him to reconsider.

The move comes amidst mounting criticism of the Home Secretary's own handling of the Soham inquiry.

* Mr Blunkett said yesterday he wants to stay on as Home Secretary if Labour win the next general election. The politician said he would like to build on the foundations he has laid during his first years in the department.