Keith Hellawell

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Keith Hellawell
Born (1942-05-18) 18 May 1942 (age 74)
Kirkburton, Yorkshire, England
Occupation Retired police officer

Keith Hellawell (born 18 May 1942) is a retired British police officer,[1] former UK Government drugs-czar, who currently serves as Chairman of Sports Direct plc.[2][3]

After starting his career as a coal miner, he joined Huddersfield Borough Police in 1962. Claimed to be Britain's then youngest police sergeant at age 23, after passing a fast track examination he was appointed Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1983.

Early life[edit]

Keith Hellawell was born 18 May 1942 in Kirkburton, near Huddersfield, Yorkshire, UK. He went to school at Kirkburton Secondary Modern School until the age of 15, when he left without a single exam pass, then went to Dewsbury Technical College and Barnsley College of Mining. He started work as a coal miner in 1958 but left to pursue a career in the Huddersfield Borough Police in 1962, gaining entry at the second attempt.

Police career[edit]

He became Britain's youngest police sergeant at the age of 23, and its youngest Inspector at 26.[2] Rising through the ranks, including working in CID, he was appointed Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1983, then Deputy Chief Constable of Humberside Police in 1985. He received the Queen's Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 1990. He also completed an MSc in Social Policy from Cranfield University and an external degree in Law from the University of London. He later became Chief Constable of Cleveland police and in 1993 became Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police. He has strong views on terrorists, child murderers and police murderers, believing all should face the death penalty.[4] He spent 36 years in the police.[5]

He was the New Labour government's drugs advisor and so called "drugs czar" from January 1998. He resigned from his position in July 2002 over the government's reclassification of cannabis from a Class B to a Class C substance. Differences in opinion with the government over strategy towards tackling drugs were common during his tenure, during which he was paid £106,057 a year. Use of all drugs increased as did drugs deaths in his four years in office.[6]

In November 2002 HarperCollins published his autobiography called The Outsider: The Autobiography of One of Britain's Most Controversial Policemen. It was serialised in the Mail on Sunday. Two former detectives, Roy Smith and Laurence Andrews, took objection to the book which claimed they had conspired to pervert the course of justice when investigating a murder in 1968 in Aspley. They sued for libel at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and won their case in 2004.[7][8]

Business career[edit]

Since 2006 Hellawell has been Chairman of Goldshield Group plc.[9]

Hellawell has been Chairman of Sports Direct since 2009. He was required to give evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Scottish Affairs on 25 March 2015 in relation to alleged poor employment practices at the company - particularly around its widespread use of 'zero-hours contracts' and the dismissal by its wholly owned susidiary, USC, of 200 warehouse staff in Scotland with only 15 minutes' notice.[10] 50 of those staff members were subsequently awarded compensation by an Employment Tribunal. Sports Direct's founder and Executive Deputy Chairman - Mike Ashley - was criticised by the tribunal for 'disgraceful and unlawful employment practices'.[11] In September 2015, Hellawell faced pressure to remove him as Chairman of the company by minority shareholders.[12] Following a profit fall during 2016 of 57%, Hellawell stated that an "extreme political, union and media campaign [had been] waged against this company". The company's share price had about halved during 2016.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Hellawell married, has three children and eleven grandchildren. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Bradford in July 1998,[14] and an honorary degree by Leeds Metropolitan University in 1997. He was the police chief in Bradford in the 1970s.


  1. ^ A career of controversy: Keith Hellawell, BBC News, July 10, 2002
  2. ^ a b Craven, Neil (24 January 2010). "Interview: Sports Direct's Keith Hellawell". 
  3. ^ "Keith Hellawell company director check". 
  4. ^ "Hanging Call for Killers of Police". Huddersfield Examiner. 29 December 2003. 
  5. ^ "Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell's controversial career". BBC News. 7 September 2016. 
  6. ^ Flynn, Paul. "Tsar Turkey". Paul Flynn MP. 
  7. ^ "Pay-out awarded over book claims". BBC News. 10 June 2004. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "Ex-police chief apology over libel in book". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. 11 June 2004. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  9. ^ "New Director Appointed: Goldshield Grp PLC (GSD)". TrustNet. 15 May 2006. 
  10. ^ Scottish Affairs Select Committee Hearing, March 25, 2015
  11. ^ Butler, Sarah (9 October 2015). "Sports Direct's Mike Ashley under fire after employment tribunal". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ Butler, Sarah (2 September 2015). "Sports Direct chairman under pressure to go". The Guardian. 
  13. ^ Kollewe, Julia (8 December 2016). "Sports Direct chairman hits out at critics as profits plunge by 57%". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2016. 
  14. ^ "University of Bradford Annual Report 1999".