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Chief constable 'flipped after hearing allegation against force's legal boss'

Published 09/05/2016

Sue Sim was giving evidence in support of Denise Aubrey
Sue Sim was giving evidence in support of Denise Aubrey

A chief constable "flipped" when she was told her force's legal boss had disclosed confidential information about a predecessor who allegedly had an affair with a colleague and was punched at a party, she has told a tribunal.

Northumbria Police's ex-chief Sue Sim was giving evidence in support of Denise Aubrey, who has brought a claim against the force after she was sacked for gross misconduct in 2014.

Mrs Sim, now retired, said she initially felt betrayed but now does not believe the allegation against Ms Aubrey, 54.

The employment tribunal at North Shields, North Tyneside, has heard how ex-chief constable Mike Craik was accused of lying to cover up an alleged affair he had with his assistant chief constable Carolyn Peacock, but was accosted by her chief superintendent husband, Jim, and punched at a barbecue.

The police were called to deal with the altercation, but the record of this was then said to have been deleted and officers told not to look for it.

Ms Aubrey was said to have advised Mr Craik, who has retired, about libel at the time.

During an investigation into Ms Aubrey's conduct, Mrs Sim was told the senior lawyer had breached Mr Craik's confidence by gossiping about the alleged affair.

At the hearing, Mrs Sim said: "I was told Ms Aubrey had breached the personal confidence of the former chief constable by relating a conversation that was personal to her and to Mr Craik, and that was an absolute breach of confidence, and if you want to know, I flipped."

Mrs Sim said she was "devastated" by the allegation against Ms Aubrey, a trusted colleague.

"It was horrendous," she said. "I'm not going to refute that when I was told that, I wanted her sacked."

She felt the "betrayal" was like her GP discussing her medical notes with a neighbour.

But Mrs Sim was now backing Ms Aubrey, claiming she was misled about the allegations against the lawyer.

In her written statement to the tribunal, Mrs Sim said she had now seen all the evidence against Ms Aubrey and concluded: "I do not believe what the claimant allegedly said came close to what I was being told, or to breaching confidentiality."

Ms Aubrey was now acting for Mrs Sim in the former chief's ongoing legal battle with her successor as chief constable, Steve Ashman, who was sat 15ft away from her in the tribunal room, listening to the evidence.

Mrs Sim was reminded by the tribunal judge not to make irrelevant comments about Mr Ashman in her evidence.

She said: "I am sure he is an excellent chief constable. I'm not being facetious.

"It's a fact, it's a force I loved. I'm not being facetious about the Chief Constable."

Angus Moon QC, for the respondent, asked Mrs Sim if she was lying in her evidence to help her friend Ms Aubrey.

"I'm not lying and she's not my friend," Mrs Sim said.

She had been accused of going drinking in Newcastle with her former head of legal services - a question she scoffed at, saying she was actually with another woman.

Mrs Sim referred to recent police scandals when she explained she agreed to be a witness for Ms Aubrey.

"The reason I put myself forward for this is when chief constables get it wrong, they should admit it," she said.

"That has been seen over the previous few weeks on quite a few occasions.

"I got it wrong because I had been misled that she had described a private and confidential conversation."

Mr Moon was not allowed to ask Mrs Sim about accusations of sexism on the force following a ruling by the judge, but he did state: "The allegations that Northumbria Police was a boys' club, that there was an institutional sexism or there was a general discriminatory ill-treatment of women is disputed by the force."

The case was adjourned until 9.30am tomorrow.

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