Press release relating to today's BBC broadcast
12th March 2020
On 12 March the BBC broadcast a programme relating to the discovery of equipment relating to Neil Taggart.
The information below sets out the facts of the matter.
On 6 June 2017 staff at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) informed West Yorkshire Police of the existence of IT equipment that had been issued to and used by Neil Taggart when he was a member of West Yorkshire Police Authority. The IT equipment had been stored by the Police Authority in May 2003 when Mr Taggart ceased to be a member.
Upon hearing the news, through local media, that Mr Taggart, the former Chair of the Police Authority had pleaded guilty to eight charges of child sex offences, business support staff at the OPCC, formerly employed by the West Yorkshire Police Authority recalled that there was a computer hard drive that had belonged to Mr Taggart stored in the safe and immediately informed West Yorkshire Police.
In accordance with the IT practices at the time, the IT equipment should have been destroyed or disposed of after Mr Taggart ceased to be a member of the Authority. Infact, the Members IT Protocol required each member to manage their document storage and apply the disposal criteria set out in the Authority’s record disposal procedure.
It appears IT practices and information protocols weren’t followed with regard to the storage of this hard drive and that as a consequence of this administrative oversight the IT equipment continued to be retained securely by the West Yorkshire Police Authority which transitioned to the OPCC in 2012.
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) was informed of the existence of the hard drive that same day. This was the first time that the PCC personally had any knowledge about the existence of the IT equipment or that it had been retained. The PCC then requested a full review of the record and data retention policy and procedures.
West Yorkshire Police collected the IT equipment on 9 June 2017 and carried out an investigation. This included interviews with staff in the OPCC, retired staff from the former West Yorkshire Police Authority who stored the equipment and the PCC.
Following police examination of the hard drive, six images (four unique images and two duplicates) were discovered.
Once the investigation was concluded, West Yorkshire Police then submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Although the hard drive could have been used as evidence in the original case against Mr Taggart during 2017, the Police were subsequently issued with charging advice from the Crown prosecution Service (CPS) that stated no further action would be taken against Mr Taggart on public interest grounds, as the sentence was not likely to be increased.
This was further supported by comments from the Judge at sentencing who confirmed that the evidence found on the hard drive would not have increased the sentence that was handed down to Mr Taggart. On 4 July 2017 Mr Taggart was sentenced to 32 months custody for making and distributing over 35,000 indecent images of Children.
West Yorkshire Police were not able to identify any victims from the four unique images on the hard drive or from the further 35,000 images investigated as part of the initial investigation.
In 2017 and 2018 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were made in relation to this matter. The PCC has a legal duty to ensure due process is followed and therefore information could not be released prior to the conclusion of all criminal investigation matters relating to the images that were contained on the hard drive and subsequent to that legal considerations regarding personal data under the relevant FOI processes.
The BBC appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and subsequently to the First Tier Information Tribunal. Both the ICO and the Tribunal upheld the decision of the PCC to comply with his obligations under the Act in following due process as PCC.
West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, said: “I was informed on 6 June 2017 that my office had a computer hard drive belonging to the former chair of the former Police Authority Neil Taggart, who was charged with and later convicted of serious offences.
“This was the first I knew of its existence. The police were immediately informed and I requested a review of the record and data retention policies and procedures of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“The retention was an administrative oversight by the former West Yorkshire Police Authority dating back to 2003 and I apologise for that oversight.
“Both the CPS and the judge in the case said that this evidence would not have altered either the charges or the sentence.”
Notes to editors
West Yorkshire Police Authority ceased to exist with the creation of Police and Crime Commissioners in 2012. Police authority equipment and resources were transferred to the offices of PCCs.
The hard drive was from a computer issued to Neil Taggart in his role as a member of the police authority. It was in storage from May 2003 when he ceased to be a member.
Neil Taggart was sentenced to 32 months custody for making and distributing over 35,000 indecent images of children.
West Yorkshire Police were not able to identify any victims from the four images found on the hard drive or from any of the more than 35,000 indecent images investigated.
The BBC FOI with further information and context provided by the PCC can be found here https://www.westyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/how-we-work/freedom-information-and-data-sharing/freedom-information-disclosure-log-2019