Deputy PCC Matthew Barber accused of impartiality rule break

By Nathan Briant
BBC News

Image source, Matthew Barber
Image caption,
Ch Insp James Senior, Dr Rachel Ward and Matthew Barber appeared on a video hosted on Mr Barber's YouTube channel

A Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has been accused of breaking impartiality rules after officers appeared in videos marked with his campaign branding.

Matthew Barber, who wants to become the Thames Valley's PCC, hosted two chief inspectors in online discussions.

A rival said Mr Barber had "deliberately blurred" lines between his role and "campaigning".

Mr Barber and Thames Valley Police both denied any wrongdoing.

The videos' content is non-political but both start and end with messages advertising Mr Barber's campaign.

Image source, YouTube
Image caption,
Mr Barber's YouTube channel clearly advertises his campaign

The force said Ch Insps Jason Kew and James Senior appeared to "talk publically about the force's role in tackling serious violence, knife crime and county drug gangs".

Mr Barber has been the Thames Valley's Conservative Deputy PCC since December 2016.

Laetisia Carter, who will stand for Labour in the forthcoming PCC elections, said: "There has been a deliberate blurring of the lines of professionalism and party political campaigning for a number of years now by Matthew Barber."

Ms Carter said she "appealed for [Mr Barber's] campaign team to behave in a more responsible way and for Thames Valley Police to ensure appropriate distance".

Image source, Matthew Barber
Image caption,
Ch Insp Jason Kew and Mr Barber appeared with Berkshire GP Dr Rachel Ward on the recording

Liberal Democrat candidate, John Howson, said: "I will be taking advice on what he should do in respect of his position as Deputy PCC."

The discussions also included Dr Rachel Ward, who describes herself on Twitter as the "Resident GP on BBC Radio Oxford" and has appeared on BBC Breakfast.

Mr Barber served as leader of Vale of White Horse District Council in Oxfordshire from 2011 until 2018 and remains a councillor.

Image source, Matthew Barber
Image caption,
The advertisements are included at the beginning and end of Mr Barber's interviews with the chief inspectors

He said both officers had been shown the final videos before they were published and that he believed the campaign branding did not imply their backing.

But Mr Barber said he would remove the branding if the officers or the force felt "uncomfortable".

The videos are also available as an audio recording on streaming services, including Spotify, and are free from any branding relating to Mr Barber's campaign.

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said: "The force takes impartiality without fear or favour extremely seriously and the officers in these podcasts make no mention of politics whatsoever."

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