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Knacker’s £1m war chest
Police 5, Issue 1427
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AID TO THE CHIEF: Avon & Somerset’s Nick Gargan, who resigned last year after being found guilty of misconduct, had used the fund to fight his disciplinary case
CHIEF constables’ pay and perks hit the headlines recently, but one cosy arrangement has remained largely hidden from public view. While the vast majority of public-sector staff would expect to fund their own legal costs should they face disciplinary action, highly paid chief police officers can rely on a publicly funded legal insurance policy to pay for expensive lawyers, even if they end up being sacked.

Police and crime commissioners across the country are paying more than £3,000 a year per chief officer into what has previously been described as a “war chest” to fight costly long-running disciplinary cases. As a result, chief constables, whose pay packages typically exceed £150,000 a year, can access a policy run by their “trade union”, the Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA), to pay for their legal bills in misconduct cases.

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) somewhat surprisingly recommended its members continue the payments – despite a public furore when the arrangement first came to light when chief constables Grahame Maxwell and Sean Price were able to use the fund to fight gross misconduct cases at North Yorkshire and Cleveland Police respectively.

Maxwell received a final written warning in 2011 when he admitted gross misconduct for trying to help a relative get a job on the force. In 2012 Price became the first chief constable in 35 years to be sacked, when he was found to have lied about his role in the recruitment of the former police authority chairman’s daughter.

Self-discipline
At the time, North Yorkshire PCC Julia Mulligan described the CPOSA policy as a “war chest” which shouldn’t be supported by public funds. But it appears CPOSA had other ideas and persuaded the APCC to recommend carrying on paying – though individual PCCs are responsible for whether they choose to or not.

More recently, Avon and Somerset chief constable Nick Gargan was able to avail himself of the policy during a more than year-long disciplinary investigation before eventually being found guilty of misconduct – largely over a series of data-protection breaches – and subsequently resigning last October.

CPOSA is also receiving public money for the same legal cover for deputy and assistant chief constables, which means total payments can be substantial. West Yorkshire Police, whose chief constable Mark Gilmore has been involved in a conduct inquiry running for more than two years, paid £31,000 this year to cover its chief officers. Nationally forces are likely to be contributing close to £1m a year.

Insurance issue
The West Yorkshire PCC, Mark Burns-Williamson, told the Eye he would be raising the issue with the APCC. The APCC declined to respond directly. Instead a joint statement was issued from CPOSA on behalf of its deputy chairman, Lincolnshire chief constable Neil Rhodes and the APCC workforce chair, Durham PCC Ron Hogg.

It said paying for the policy was justified because chief officers might face false disciplinary claims as a device to thwart criminal proceedings, and needed to be suitably insured: “A requirement that chief officers insure themselves in such areas would be disproportionate because of the risks associated with the duties of public office.” The statement added: “The costs are also high and may well deter applications for chief-officer vacancies if self-provision of insurance in this area was required.”

It is unclear why false claims made during a criminal investigation would be considered a private matter for a chief officer, or why the policy would cover the entirety of long-running cases where it has quickly been established there is a case to answer.

The statement did make clear that the policy does not cover a PCC attempting remove a chief constable under a separate legal power outside of disciplinary proceedings, such as South Yorkshire’s ongoing efforts to remove David Crompton from office following criticism of the aggressive stance taken by his force’s lawyers during the Hillsborough inquests.

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