Halford claims home and office phones tapped (CORRECTED)

CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 17 JULY 1992) APPENDED TO THIS ARTICLE

A MEMBER of the Police Complaints Authority was interviewed by police, and dismissed by the Home Office, after he advised Alison Halford about her sex discrimination case on the telephone, it was disclosed last night.

The case is being cited by Miss Halford's lawyers as proof of her claim that her home and office telephones were tapped by Special Branch.

Although the claim was rejected by the Interception of Communications Tribunal, it will now be taken to the European Court of Human Rights. Rex Makin, Miss Halford's solicitor, said yesterday that he had definite proof her conversations with an authority member were tapped.

The Independent has learnt that the proof involves the fate of Gerry Gillman asked by the Home Office to resign in March 1990.

Sources have confirmed that during 1990, Mr Gillman had about six telephone conversations with Miss Halford over her case.

These conversations came before and after allegations surfaced that she had frolicked in a businessman's swimming pool while on duty, allegations which led to a disciplinary investigation by the authority and then her suspension.

Mr Gillman, a former general secretary of the Society of Civil and Public Servants, knew Miss Halford because he was authority member for Merseyside, where she is an assistant chief constable.

He was interviewed by Sussex police officers investigating the disciplinary matters, who eventually told him the Crown Prosecution Service would take no action 'in the public interest'.

Both the police and Home Office officials refused to disclose how his conversations were discovered. Officials suggested a secretary might have been responsible. Mr Gillman, who declined to comment last night, is believed to accept that he made an error of judgement in talking to Miss Halford after the disciplinary inquiry began - which the authority supervised - but has no proof to confirm the tapping suggestions.

Mr Makin said yesterday: 'There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that she was tapped. For a police force to bug a senior officer of her rank, and her home as well, is not right.'

Miss Halford's lawyers issued a statement last night confirming that she was now involved in 'sensitive discussions' to resolve the case. The industrial tribunal in Manchester hearing her claim was last night adjourned until Monday to allow the negotiations for a settlement of the affair to continue.

The hearing has cost more than pounds 1m so far, and it could continue until April. The cost and the damaging publicity have dismayed the Home Office and senior police officers.

Merseyside Police Authority is to meet in private tomorrow to discuss an agreement, which would involve Miss Halford's retirement, ending the disciplinary case, with a large compensation payment to her.

She has claimed that sex discrimination by James Sharples, the Chief Constable of Merseyside, Sir Philip Myers, regional Inspector of Constabulary, the Home Secretary and Northamptonshire Police Authority had held back her promotion.

CORRECTION

In a report in yesterday's Independent, it was incorrectly reported that Gerry Gillman, a former member of the Police Complaints Authority, was dismissed by the Home Office after the disclosure of telephone conversations with Alison Halford, the assistant chief constable of Merseyside. We have been asked to make it clear that he resigned from the authority for personal reasons.

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