Sussex Chief Constable Paul Whitehouse "wilfully failed to tell the truth" when responding publicly to the shooting, a previously confidential report claims.

The accusation amounts to a claim that Mr Whitehouse lied, a charge close associates of the Chief Constable say he flatly denies.

The report, by Sir John Hoddinott, then Chief Constable of Hampshire, condemned Mr Whitehouse for holding a Press conference in which he wrongly stated Ashley was wanted for attempted murder and that the use of firearms was justified.

The report said: "The Chief Constable is a public officer and has a duty to tell the truth. He wilfully failed to tell the truth as he knew it; he did so without reasonable excuse or justification and what he published and said was misleading and therefore likely to injure the public interest."

On the basis of the report, the Sussex Police Authority suspended Mr Whitehouse for three weeks and later issued him with "written advice", one of the lowest sanctions.

The authority told Mr Whitehouse it was not satisfied he committed a disciplinary offence.

It urged him to take greater care with public statements.

Insiders today said Mr Whitehouse believed every word he said at the time to be true.

There have been calls today for Mr Whitehouse to resign but his supporters said that, in the light of the acquittals, his position was stronger than ever.

Mr Whitehouse has captained his ship through some stormy waters since taking over as chief in 1993 but his suspension from duty must rank as one of the most difficult. He has ended up in court for careless driving and his daughter has been convicted twice for assaulting his own officers.

His career began in 1967 when he joined Durham Police. Ten years later he was promoted to superintendent and in 1980 he moved to Newcastle upon Tyne.

He then became assistant chief constable in Greater Manchester.

He was appointed deputy chief constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1987 before moving to Sussex as chief constable.

He is married to lawyer Elizabeth and they have two children, Matthew, 23, and Frances, 20.

Mr Whitehouse's first foray into the national Press came when he backed calls to legalise cannabis, saying: "There are arguments on both sides and I believe it is a serious issue for discussion."

In September 1997 he admitted a charge of careless driving after his Saab ran into the back of a Ford Escort in Kent. Tunbridge Wells magistrates fined him £300.

In 1998, Mr Whitehouse went back on the beat for a documentary and during the animal protests, he donned civvies as he mingled with crowds secretly watching the crowds and how officers handled themselves.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Jordan joined the Metropolitan Police in 1977.

He reached the rank of chief inspector before moving to the Sussex force as superintendent in 1991.

He was promoted to assistant chief constable in 1996 and to deputy chief constable two years later on £80,000 a year.

Married, with three children aged 12, 15 and 17, he has received commendations.

Mr Jordan, 42, suffered cuts and bruises in May 1999 when he intervened in a disturbance involving juveniles on a train.

He was suspended in February 1999 by the Police Complaints Authority after accusations he authorised the release of firearms for the Ashley operation when there was insufficient evidence, a charge he has always denied.

His case is scheduled to be heard by an independent tribunal on January 7.