Misconduct proceedings against a senior police officer accused of misleading an inquiry into the fatal shooting of an unarmed man have been dropped.
A previous investigation into Steven Heywood, the former assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), found he may have committed a criminal offence with evidence given to a public inquiry into the death of Anthony Grainger.
He was accused of retrospectively changing a written log and adding inaccurate information that would “retrospectively justify” his decision to authorise the firearms operation leading to Mr Grainger’s death.
In November 2018, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would not bring charges against Mr Heywood because of insufficient evidence and the case went to a disciplinary hearing.
Proceedings started on Monday but on Tuesday, GMP said it wanted to stop them.
Gerry Boyle QC, representing the force, said it would be “unfair” to continue as the hearing would not have access to redacted material, including evidence given during a closed session of the public inquiry in 2017.
Formally dismissing the allegations against Mr Heywood, the chair of the panel accused GMP of a “fundamental disregard” for all parties.
Nahied Asjad said: “Mr Grainger’s family, Mr Heywood and the public have been let down by the appropriate authority in this case and we note there was no contrition or apology to anyone in what was said on their behalf.”
Mr Boyle had initially asked for an adjournment to see whether redactions could be lifted but a lawyer representing Mr Heywood said it would not be possible for the evidence to be heard and accused the force of an “omnishambles”.
Mr Grainger‘s partner, Gail Hadfield Grainger, requested to make a submission to the hearing but was not allowed.
Speaking after the hearing, she said: “The police have fought at every stage to avoid being held accountable.
“It is contrary to the public interest not to proceed with the gross misconduct hearing and offensive to Anthony’s loved ones who are still waiting for justice from GMP eight years later.
“GMP wishes to avoid disciplining Heywood in order to hide its own wrongdoing during the aborted criminal prosecution it faced. The system has been set up to fail.”
Deborah Coles, director of charity Inquest, said: “This shameful outcome points to the impunity of the police, and a process which frustrates the prevention of abuse of power and ill treatment.”
Mr Grainger was shot in the chest while behind the wheel of a stolen car in Culcheth, Cheshire, in March 2012.
The father-of-two was unarmed but the GMP officer who fired the fatal shot said he believed he had reached down as if to grab a firearm.
Last July, a public inquiry concluded the decision to shoot the 36-year-old was not unlawful because of the officer’s “honestly held belief” that he and colleagues were in mortal danger.
But Judge Thomas Teague QC slammed “serious deficiencies in the planning and conduct of the firearms operation that led to Mr Grainger’s death” and said GMP was to blame.
“Firearms commanders authorised and planned the Masts operation incompetently and without keeping proper records of their decisions,” his report said.
“They inaccurately briefed the firearms officers who were to conduct the operation, distorting and in some respects exaggerating the risk presented by Mr Grainger.”
On Monday, the misconduct hearing was told Mr Heywood admitted a firearms log from the days leading up to the shooting was completed afterwards, and he did not initially tell the inquiry he had not filled it in on the date shown.
Mr Heywood told the inquiry that log entries were “retrospective” in a closed session on the day after his public evidence, the hearing was told.
Mr Boyle said the document, which was used in evidence, contained inaccurate information about Mr Grainger’s previous convictions.
He said it was asserted that entries in the log were made to “misrepresent” the information available at the time and to “retrospectively justify” Mr Heywood’s decision to authorise a firearms operation on 1 March, 2012.
In January 2014 the then chief constable of GMP Sir Peter Fahy was charged with a health and safety breach over the shooting, but the case was thrown out after it was argued evidence was so secret it could not be put before a jury.
The IOPC said three investigations stemming from evidence given at the public inquiry, relating to the conduct of six officers, were ongoing.
The watchdog’s director of major investigations, Steve Noonan, said: “We are disappointed that, two years after our investigation concluded, GMP has decided to offer no evidence in this matter.
“Anthony Grainger’s family, and the wider public, deserved to hear the evidence and Mr Heywood account for his actions.”
GMP’s assistant chief constable said the case had involved “complex issues” on information and intelligence that could not be provided to Mr Heywood, the misconduct panel or made public for legal reasons.
Deputy Chief Constable Ian Pilling said: “Following submissions made on Monday, the force has accepted that some of these matters could not be overcome and it would be unfair to pursue the case against the retired officer.
“These are complex issues and the available options were often constrained by the law. Decisions have been made based on professional advice and in the best interests of reaching the most appropriate outcome. However, in this case this hasn’t been possible, which I very much regret.”
Mr Pilling admitted that the proceedings “should have been handled much more effectively” and apologised to Mr Grainger’s family.
Additional reporting by PA