Sir James Anderton, controversial former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, dies aged 89


Sir James Anderton, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, has died at the age of 89. Sir James led Greater Manchester Police between 1975 and 1991 and became one of the country’s most high profile police chiefs.

Known for his controversial opinions and hard line views, he inspired a Happy Mondays track and once had his job saved by Margaret Thatcher. He had faced calls to step down after claiming that victims of Aids were in a ‘human cesspool of their own making’.

Current GMP chief constable Stephen Watson has led tributes, describing him as a ‘public servant of significant stature’. Sir James was well regarded by many police officers who regarded him as a ‘copper’s copper’, but also severely criticized by others for his views of him.

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Born in Wigan, Sir James joined the police in the 1950s and rose through the ranks. He gained senior roles at forces in Cheshire and Leicestershire before being given the top job at GMP.

After being appointed he pursued a policy of ‘public accountability’, and demanded that the force maintain closer contact with the community. He helped to introduce ‘Community Contact Departments’ to foster relationships with the public.

Sir James’ tenure included high profile incidents including the Moss Side riot of 1981, the latest civil unrest to hit the country. He launched crackdowns against pornography and prostitution, against late night drinking and also launched the Tactical Aid Group, which was deployed to tackle public disorder.

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But he perhaps became most well known for his controversial views on a number of subjects. Known as ‘God’s Copper’, he was heavily influenced by his Christian faith and once claimed to be ‘used by God’ to speak out on moral issues.

He was heavily criticized after saying that people with Aids were ‘swirling in a human cesspit of their own making’. It was later revealed that the then Prime Minister backed him after he faced calls to quit.

He was also quoted as supporting the reintroduction of capital punishment, called on rapists to be castrated and said homosexuality should be outlawed. The Happy Mondays track ‘God’s Cop’ is thought to have been inspired by him.

Stephen Watson QPM, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, paid tribute to Sir James: “During his fifteen year service as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, James Anderton led the force through some of the most extensive periods of change in UK policing.

James Anderton pictured in 1987

“He was a public servant of significant stature who oversaw many innovative and important operational developments, leaving behind a lasting legacy in policing.

“He was highly regarded by police officers and staff and is still well remembered within GMP after over twenty years of retirement. “On behalf of everyone at Greater Manchester Police I extend our sincere condolences to Mr Anderton’s family.”

Sir James is survived by his wife Joan and daughter. Former officers who served under Sir James paid tribute on Twitter.

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Ian Campbell said: “Hearing sad news that my very first Chief Constable Sir Cyril James Anderton has passed. He was the best I ever served under and I mourn his passing. RIP Sir, you were a force of nature and we won’t see your like again.”

Pete Jackson said: “Very sad to hear of Sir Cyril James Anderton passing away today. Condolences to his family. GMP Chief Constable 1976 to 1991. A great leader & the only Chief Constable of GMP to command the respect of the entire force!”

Gordon Johnson said: “So sad to hear that Sir Cyril James Anderton has passed away earlier today. The first and the best Chief Constable that I served under in @gmpolice. Thoughts and prayers are with his wife Joan and daughter Gill. RIP.”


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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