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'Delighted' chief constable slams 'wholly unacceptable' tribunal claims

Published 05/08/2016

Northumbria Police solicitor Denise Aubrey was sacked for gross misconduct
Northumbria Police solicitor Denise Aubrey was sacked for gross misconduct

The chief constable of a force which won an employment tribunal brought by its former head of legal services has said allegations made during the hearing were "wholly unacceptable, deeply disappointing and very distressing".

Workaholic Denise Aubrey, 54, brought a case against Northumbria Police after she was sacked for gross misconduct for disclosing confidential information to other members of her team.

A string of damaging statements were made during the hearing about police top brass including details of alleged affairs, claims of a punch-up at a barbecue and public money being spent on a cover-up.

Ms Aubrey lost her case after accusing the force of "sex discrimination, disability discrimination, victimisation and harassment".

After the judgment, "delighted" Chief Constable Steve Ashman said: "There is no doubt this has been an extremely difficult case for everyone involved and a significant factor within it has been the nature and volume of the personal attacks on individuals.

"Many of the allegations were based on speculation, rumour and innuendo and are of an historic nature stretching back almost 10 years.

"The manner in which the allegations have been raised has caused significant distress and discomfort to a large number of people, many of whom have long since retired and therefore had little relevance, if any, to the claims made by Ms Aubrey."

He added: "The damaging and malicious allegations made under the protection of a tribunal, were wholly unacceptable, deeply disappointing and very distressing to those involved."

Ms Aubrey was sacked for gross misconduct in 2014 despite 20 years of service, after apparently telling staff details of the allegations involving ex-chief constable Mike Craik.

Rumours had circulated in the force that in 2007 Mr Craik had an affair with assistant chief constable Carolyn Peacock, and that her husband Jim punched him at a barbecue at Mr Craik's Northumberland home.

Armed police were alleged to have responded after an alarm was supposedly activated. It was said that this incident was covered up and removed from the police log.

Mr Craik and the Peacocks continue to deny all the allegations.

Ms Aubrey was also said to have disclosed information that assistant chief constable Greg Vant had an affair with Mr Craik's secretary.

At the tribunal, Mr Vant denied that they got together at work, and has stated that their relationship did not start until 2012 at a time when there were both single and Mr Craik's secretary had left the organisation.

Senior staff were said to have used force accommodation at headquarters to conduct affairs, so much so that they were dubbed "love pads".

The tribunal, held in North Shields, North Tyneside, over most of May, created damaging headlines about the force. But the hearing was expressly not intended to find out the truth about the alleged affairs between staff.

Rather, it had to examine whether Ms Aubrey had committed gross misconduct by discussing with team members the legal advice she gave senior officers in handling the allegations.

The tribunal judges concluded that Ms Aubrey, in a state of anger, had made the confidential disclosure for "purely self-serving" reasons.

Judge Humphrey Forrest concluded that the wider allegations of sexual discrimination "had no substance" and no bearing on the acts of misconduct that Ms Aubrey was dismissed for.

He ended by saying: "This was a fair dismissal."

Chief Superintendent Tim Jackson, national secretary of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, said: "The evidence given painted a picture of Northumbria Police that would cause the public serious concern. However it was a picture that our members tell us they do not recognise."

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