Ex-Gwent chief could have stayed in post’ - police watchdog
10:32am Monday 30th December 2013 in News South Wales Argus
THE most senior inspector of police in England and Wales has suggested the former chief constable of Gwent could have fought her corner in the row over her departure from the force.
Chief inspector of constabulary Tom Windsor told MPs that police and crime commissioners do not have unfettered powers to dismiss chief constables.
He said it was regrettable if Carmel Napier was given advice that the PCC’s power to dismiss her wasn’t restricted.
In the summer of 2013 the Argus exclusively revealed that PCC Ian Johnston had told Carmel Napier to retire, or else he would dismiss her.
If she had refused, Mr Johnston could have gone down a route set out in law to get rid of her, but this wasn’t implemented after she chose to leave.
Mr Windsor, speaking at the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the suggestion that Mr Johnston was dissatisfied with the quality of crime recording in Gwent “remained an accusation rather than established fact because the chief constable was persuaded, in my view, incorrectly, to retire rather than to fight the case. Therefore the police and crime commissioner did not have to invoke the statutory procedure to dismiss the chief constable.”
Mr Windsor, who was responding to a question from Newport West MP Paul Flynn, said he feared that Mrs Napier “proceeded in a misapprehension that the power of the police and crime commissioner to dismiss the chief constable was an unfettered power. There is no power conferred upon a public authority that is unfettered. If that is the advice she received and if that is the reason why she retired, then that is very regrettable.”
He went on to say that it was “perfectly legitimate for the police and crime commissioner to put pressure on the chief constable to improve statistics by cutting crime and locking people up” but ”not in any way to falsify the figures”.
Mr Johnston said: “Its history. It’s over six months ago. We’re moving on.” Paul Flynn said, " Of course Mr Johnston wants to have his conduct forgotten. It won\t be. A decision has to be made on the future -if any- of police commissioners. It is possible that the new Government of 2015 will replace commissioners if they decide that they are not working. A vital piece of evidence that will be considered by Select Committees is the forced resignation of the Gwent Chief Constable".
Mrs Napier had told the same committee in July that she initially wanted to fight Mr Johnston’s ultimatum – but after seeking legal advice she had discovered that commissioner’s have unfettered powers to remove chief constables, even if she fought it through the formal process.