Posted: Friday 14th November 2014
In the two weeks since my last column you’ll no doubt have read that the Police and Crime Panel met and as part of that meeting discussed a complaint against me. Before I was aware of the seriousness of the allegations made, I told the Chief Constable the name of someone who had raised concerns about him to my office. I soon realised the gravity of the situation, wrote to person concerned to apologise and I’ve accepted the finding of the panel.
This was an isolated incident and one which I’ve learnt from and I’m now looking ahead to delivering as much as I can for our communities during the rest of my term in office. One of my four priorities, and one I’m fiercely passionate about, is to give victims a louder voice and ensure they are at the heart of our criminal justice system.
I was delighted this week that Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove came to Bristol to help us launch our new Lighthouse service. A new team will provide enhanced support for some victims; those who are particularly vulnerable, persistently targeted or experience serious crime. I went to meet the team and look around the Lighthouse facility and I was impressed by what I saw. I believe it will make a real difference to victims, and Baroness Newlove’s visit means we were able to raise the profile of victim care in Avon and Somerset.
Victims will also be at the heart of one of the most important events in my diary in the next few weeks – a scrutiny panel I’m convening to review the police response to domestic abuse. It follows an inspection by the HMIC last year and the panel –including people who work with victims – will hear the Constabulary’s action plan to respond to the HMIC’s findings and discuss ideas and proposals which might help develop the plan further. This is a crucial step in ensuring everything is being done to give domestic abuse victims a voice and ensure they have the police response and support they need.
We also have Chief Constable Nick Gargan’s misconduct hearing coming up in the next few months. I’m keen that it happens as soon as possible but this is a process which naturally takes time to run its course. I thought it would be helpful to outline what happens next.
Having reviewed the IPCC’s report I made the decision that there is a case for the Chief Constable to answer for gross misconduct and arrangements are being made for the misconduct hearing. An independent panel, chaired by a Leading Counsel and which I will not be involved in, will be appointed and a date set for the hearing. There will then be some time for all parties to prepare for the hearing before it is held, which I hope will be early next year.
During the hearing, the panel will decide whether misconduct or gross misconduct has been proved. If it has, they will also make a recommendation on what sanction I should consider and present all their findings directly to me. I will make those findings public as soon as I’m able to.
Chief Constable Nick Gargan is being treated the same as any other officer facing similar allegations would be. I’m confident that Acting Chief Constable John Long, an excellent and experienced officer, is providing the force with stability while this process continues.
I want to be as open as I can be about the process and will keep you updated as we go along – and I assure you I will proceed with as much urgency as I can within the prescribed process. After all, it’s your police service and you deserve to know.