The Independent Police Complaints Commission yesterday approved the terms of reference for an investigation into allegations that senior officers conducted a "witch hunt" against a top female colleague.
The inquiry into a complaint lodged by former Detective Chief Superintendent Ellie Baker will examine whether she was treated fairly during an 11-month probe into claims that she had manipulated a pensioner into giving her gifts.
An IPCC spokesman said the inquiry would also decide whether the original inquiry - which reportedly cost more than £2 million - was a proportionate response to the allegations made against Ms Baker. The officer - a former head of crime support who is said to have been the inspiration for Helen Mirren's character in the TV drama Prime Suspect - was suspended by West Midlands Police in November 2002, following a complaint made by members of the pensioner's family.
No criminal action was taken in relation to the claims but Ms Baker later received a letter of advice, the lowest form of sanction available under the Police Code of Conduct. The inquiry into the allegations made by Ms Baker against three former colleagues will be headed by Colin Cramphorn, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, under the supervision of IPCC Commissioner John Crawley.
Announcing the scope of the latest probe, Mr Crawley said: "The inquiry will examine the proportionality of the original investigation in relation to the complaint and allegations made.
"It will review the content and nature of communications with Ms Baker to see if there was a lack of politeness and tolerance shown towards her.
"The overall direction and control of the investigation will be assessed to see if there was any lack of fairness or impartiality.
"I have agreed with the police authorities concerned and Mr Cramphorn that the investigation needs to remain tightly focused on these issues so that it can be carried out thoroughly and as quickly as possible."