WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?
The editor of the Argus has tweeted on the public row between the Police Commissioner (PPC) Ian Johnstone and the former Chief Constable Carmel Napier. Their meeting on May 23rd was reported to the Home Affairs Select Committee by both. As only the two were present, whose version do we believe?
There will be further evidence sessions. Until this week the former Chief Constable had maintained a dignified silence. Her evidence to the Home Affairs Committee had a galvanic effect that won the gratitude and praise of the whole committee. No further investigation can be complete without her evidence.
Credibility: The PCC claimed that Welsh MPs had 'planted' Chris Ruane on the Home Affairs Committee, presumably to embarrass him. This combines woeful ignorance of parliamentary procedure with a delusional view that the PCC is the centre of the universe.
Chris was voted onto the committee in a ballot of all Labour MPs months before this row blew up. I remember it well because I was also a candidate for the vacancy.
At the meeting with Welsh MPs and the PCC he first denied that he had received a letter from me. It when only when I showed him the reply he had sent to my letter that he recalled he had received it.
He told the meeting that he engaged the services of the best barrister in the country of police staffing matters to ensure that the 'other side' did not engage him. The Chief Constable had no chance of buying this legal support because she had no inkling that the PCC was planning to oust her. Amazingly he confessed that he had no idea of the cost of the barrister's fees. Presumably where the PCC's interests and public money is concerned, it's money no object.
Carmel Napier complained of the 'horrible words' he used at their meeting including a threat to humiliate her. The PPC's rebuttal was he said he said he did not want to humiliate her. Unless……? That's a threat we would all understand and find 'horrible.'
The PCC also claimed that Gwent MPs had forgotten a 'crisis' meeting that we had with Carmel Napier. Yes we have. Because it never happened. There have been a few meetings with her as there have been with all her predecessors. None could have been described as crisis. Presumably this is an example of the campaign of exaggeration against her that he has run. It's possible in any large organisation to get moans from staff about their boss. The PCC appears to have collected these stories and magnified their significance to create a complaint against her. All his criticisms of her were subjective - impossible to prove or disprove. He denied that he thought she was incompetent He could do little else in the light of her brilliant 30 year blameless career.
This episode has been a wasteful, expensive, time consuming and pointless interruption of the fine work of the Gwent Police. The investigation must be thorough and measures must then be taken to avoid any similar calamities.