Exclusive: Discount car purchase led to criminal probe into West Yorkshire Chief Constable
The investigation into Yorkshire's most senior police officer, which prematurely ended his career and cost the taxpayer Â£700,000, was prompted by the purchase of a VW Golf for his son from a car dealership in Northern Ireland, The Yorkshire Post can reveal today.
Nearly three years since West Yorkshire Chief Constable Mark Gilmore was suspended from the circa-£170,000-a-year role, new claims about the saga have emerged in court papers filed as part of his acrimonious legal battle with the county’s crime commissioner.
The Belfast-born officer was suspended on full pay by Mark Burns-Williamson in June 2014 when news emerged of the investigation by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) into his relationship with a leading local car dealership, Donnelly Motor Group (DMG).
Mr Gilmore, who had only been in post for 14 months at the time, was alleged to have been involved in an “inappropriate relationship” with senior DMG officials since 2013 and used this relationship to “improperly promote” the Belfast firm within West Yorkshire Police and the region’s other forces.
He was also accused of using his professional relationship with DMG to get a better deal when he bought the VW Golf, previously used for demonstration purposes, for his son Mark Gilmore Junior in 2014.
The Chief Constable, who insists he was wrongly accused and has done nothing wrong, had his suspension lifted in 2015 when Northern Irish prosecutors said he and eight others, including the owner of DMG, had no criminal case to answer.
But he did not return to his job as Mr Burns-Williamson commissioned Lancashire Police to determine whether he had a case to answer for misconduct.
The resulting report, whose contents have remained secret until now, found that Mr Gilmore did have a case to answer over the purchase of the car and that if proved, his conduct could amount to a breach of police standards so serious it could warrant dismissal.
After receiving the report on July 26 last year, West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner then decided there was a case to answer on both allegations, meaning the man he appointed in 2013 would potentially face an embarrassing public misconduct hearing.
In August Mr Gilmore announced he would retire on full pension, meaning he was no longer subject to misconduct proceedings.
In the papers lodged at the Administrative Court in London, the PCC’s legal team said this move was “plainly intended” to avoid a hearing and that he “chose to retire in the face of credible evidence of misconduct by him”. Mr Gilmore says the PCC could have stopped him from retiring but did not.
He has applied for a judicial review into what he says was the “continuing failure” of Mr Burns-Williamson to decide whether he has a case to answer for misconduct.
But the PCC says he is not obliged to make such a decision for someone who is no longer a police officer. Mr Gilmore says he has been exonerated by Northern Irish prosecutors and a police watchdog. He described the papers lodged by the PCC as “disingenuous and selective”.
His solicitor told The Yorkshire Post: “He retired from his post as Chief Constable secure in his values and confident that he had always behaved with integrity throughout his 32-year career in policing.”
Mr Burns-Williamson said his “overriding consideration” was what is in the best interest of West Yorkshire Police. He said: “I am disappointed that six months after he decided to retire that Mr Gilmore has requested a Judicial Review, which I will be fighting robustly as his claim is misconceived, out of time and at further cost to the taxpayer.”