England

MPs criticise police chief misconduct case

Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan Image copyright PA
Image caption Nick Gargan was appointed chief constable in January 2013 and was suspended in May 2014

"Grave mistakes" were made in the investigation into a chief constable found guilty of misconduct, a Conservative MP has said.

Avon and Somerset chief Nick Gargan has been told to quit by his Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens.

MP Charlotte Leslie said Mr Gargan had been tried in a "media court".

The PCC's office said Mr Gargan had lost the confidence of the force at "all levels".

Ms Leslie, MP for Bristol North West, is one of several local MPs to raise concerns about the investigation and the decision by the PCC to "call upon" him to resign, which effectively means he has to go.

The Conservative MP for Bridgwater, Ian Liddell-Grainger, likened the process to a "witch hunt" and said Mr Gargan had been "pilloried", after an independent misconduct panel recommended he keep his job.

North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees Mogg has also criticised the process.

Data protection

Mr Gargan was suspended in May last year, amid allegations of inappropriate conduct towards female staff.

An IPCC investigation found those allegations were not proven, but that he had "repeatedly breached data protection principles" and had stored "intimate" material on his police-issue phone.

Ms Leslie, Mr Gargan's local MP, told the BBC she was concerned about the precedent set for future chief constables.

"I also have deep concerns over the way misleading accusations have been broadcast in the press while Mr Gargan has had no ability to defend himself during that process," she said.

"The whole case has been taken out of objective scrutiny and investigation and into a media court."

However, other local Conservative MPs, including Somerset MPs David Warburton, Rebecca Pow and James Heappey have backed Ms Mountstevens.

Mr Heappey said in August: "It is apparent that he no longer has the confidence of the men and women in his command, and both the complaints against him and the cost of the proceedings have outraged many of my constituents."

Ms Mountstevens said she had begun the process of requiring Mr Gargan to resign "following concerns raised to me from all levels of the police service that he had lost their confidence" as well as "hundreds of residents" and some MPs.

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