Merseyside police criticised in report

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Merseyside Police have come under strong attack from a deeply critical report published yesterday.

The report, by the Inspectorate of Constabulary, parts of which have already been leaked, strongly criticises the force's record in a number of areas.

It says the force was not following key Home Office guidelines and was slow to introduce reform. The report also criticises its handling of informants and intelligence.

The report attacked its policies on equal opportunities, domestic violence and child protection, stressing that reforms should be introduced 'as a matter of urgency.' It makes more than 50 recommendations for improvements.

The Inspector, Geoffrey Dear, a former chief constable of the West Midlands Police, says changes in the force will flounder unless a senior figure capable of directing personnel is appointed to its management team. The report's criticisms are highly damaging for Merseyside, and its Chief Constable, James Sharples. He has already rejected many of the criticisms in a leaked exhange of letters with Mr Dear, who he accuses of producing a report which is unbalanced, negative and 'gratuitously offensive.'

Mr Sharples is certain to be sensitive to the strong attack on his equal opportunities policy, which follows the Alison Halford affair and its serious allegations of discrimination against women.

Mr Dear is a former close colleague of Miss Halford when they both served in the Metropolitan Police.

Merseyside Police refused to comment until the report had been seen by the police authority.