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Downfall of Lancashire's ‘untouchable’ police chief recalled
NORTH Yorkshire’s top cop Grahame Maxwell is the first Chief Constable in more than 30 years to face a gross misconduct charge.
Yesterday he was given a final written warning for helping a relative gain unfair advantage in a police recruitment drive for 60 jobs.
But three decades ago it was the then-Lancashire Chief Constable Stanley Parr, whose behaviour was on a much greater scale, which made local and national headlines.
We look back at the explosive case.
In the time-honoured tradition of the very best stories, it was an anonymous leak that led to the downfall of Lancashire Constabulary’s Chief Constable Stanley Parr in 1977.
Humble detective sergeant Harry Roby, who had learned the ropes as a crime prevention officer in Blackburn, was the man who took a stand against his ‘untouchable’ boss.
His ‘sincerity and integrity’, while those around him were cowed by rank and power, led to a Home Office commissioned report by Sir Douglas Osmond, Hampshire’s chief constable.
According to archived editions of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph and Lancashire Evening Post, the 150-page ‘dynamite’ report by Sir Osmond was sent to the Lancashire Police Committee.
But one of the 30 members leaked it to the press and its ‘startling revelations’ were in the public domain.
Stanley Parr’s persistent intervention in cases was at the root of his wrongdoing.
- An elaborate cover-up including Parr and two detectives in which charges over a fatal accident were downgraded from causing death by dangerous driving to careless driving
- Parr tried to suggest that a man accused of the illegal possession of firearms with intent to endanger life should be dealt with by breach of peace. The man was eventually jailed for five years and hanged himself in his cell
- A man on a violence charge was bailed on Parr’s specific instruction, overruling a detective sergeant
At married father-of-three Parr’s funeral eight years later in February 1985, Canon Davies of St Paul’s Church, North Shore, Blackpool, hit out at the media’s ‘sensationalism’ surrounding the case.
He said: “I, and I know a large body of people, believe that it was basically because of his kindness that he found himself in difficulties.”
Indeed, Sir Douglas’ report continued that scrutiny of hundreds of cancelled tickets in the Blackpool area showed that if you wrote to Parr with a pleading letter and emotive photograph, he would take a direct interest in the case.
It said: “Virtually any representation will result in excusal, however feeble or irrelevant the excuse.”
But the investigation made it clear Parr was far from just a bleeding heart using his position to help poor unfortunates.
Further allegations involved his ‘unwise’ friendships which led officers in his force to believe certain drinking associates of Parr had ‘some sort of special protection’.
A ‘sinister’ affair of missing paperwork and cancelled summons for a drinking pal of Parr, who was also a county councillor, police committee member and local businessman, was described as a ‘flagrant and systematic disregard’ of regulations regarding his haulage fleet.
His ‘undesirable’ friendships in the seaside resort included bookmakers, club owners, amusement caterers and a ‘swag shop’ proprietor.
The report suggested that not all the money from police charity dinners was handed over and that Parr used police vehicles for his wife Lilian’s jaunts and hospital visits.
Following the report and several secret policy committee hearings later, Parr – a CBE and holder of the Queen’s Police Medal – offered to resign.
Under media pressure, it was refused and he was eventually sacked.
His career ended in disgrace with 26 breaches of discipline including showing favours, improper use of police vehicles and falsification of records.
Bob Satchwell was assistant editor of the Lancashire Evening Post in 1977.
Now executive director of the Society of Editors which campaigns on behalf of the media, he recalls the Stanley Parr scoop as the biggest story of his career.
He said: “The story took nearly a year to crack after we started hearing rumours.
“We heard that a detective sergeant had complained during an annual inspection of the force.
It all went very quiet, but we were being briefed by senior figures describing DS Roby as mentally ill and dismissing the rumours.
“But when we discovered that an outside team were conducting an investigation and had built up a picture of him that was far from trivial, we set out to get a copy of that report.
“We were hearing that this report had found Parr making phone calls to senior officers ordering the release of people in custody and incredible levels of misuse of police cars including picking up fish from Fleetwood to bring back to HQ and taking people to parties.
“It was as much the breadth of issues as the seriousness of them.”