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Police chief guilty of misconduct

A police chief who was suspended for a year after allegations he made "inappropriate advances" to female colleagues" has been found guilty of eight counts of misconduct.

Nick Gargan, the chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police, was suspended from his role on full pay in May last year, pending the outcome of a misconduct hearing.

The private hearing into the allegations - as well as claims Mr Gargan leaked internal emails - began at a private location last Monday.

Mr Gargan faced 10 charges of gross misconduct and three charges of misconduct. He was today found guilty of eight charges at a level of misconduct.

Chair Dorian Lovell-Pank QC will now write a report of the panel's findings and recommend any sanctions Mr Gargan should face under police regulations.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens will hold a sanction hearing with Mr Gargan after receiving the panel's report.

Mr Gargan's suspension has now been lifted and a phased return to work is being prepared for after the sanction hearing.

Ms Mountstevens previously found Mr Gargan had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

An initial investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) determined that Mr Gargan should not face criminal charges.

The police watchdog originally investigated allegations that Mr Gargan "abused his senior position by making inappropriate advances to junior female colleagues".

During the investigation, Mr Gargan was interviewed regarding allegations of gross misconduct and under criminal caution for alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act.

The independent panel hearing the case included Mr Lovell-Pank, HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams and independent member John Rickard.

Last year, the IPCC decided that the misconduct hearing should take place behind closed doors.

Speaking at the time, Rachel Cerfontyne, deputy chair of the police watchdog, said: "Having considered all the responses I received, I have decided that no part of the hearing for Nick Gargan should be held in a public forum.

"I have had to pay particular regard to the responses from those likely to provide evidence as witnesses, because as the regulations currently stand, I do not have the power to require specific protection for vulnerable witnesses.

"Following our thorough investigation, my priority now must be to ensure that the best evidence is put before the panel."

The sanction hearing will be a private meeting between Ms Mountstevens, Mr Gargan and legal representatives.

Mr Gargan has always denied the allegations.

Speaking through the Chief Police Officers' Staff Association, Mr Gargan said: "I accept the findings of the panel and apologise that my actions have fallen below the standards expected of a chief constable.

"I am pleased that the more serious gross misconduct allegations were found not to be proven including any allegation of inappropriate advances towards female colleagues. I am relieved and very pleased that my suspension is at an end.

"I am indebted to my outstanding legal team who have helped me through this incredibly long and complex process.

"I am equally indebted to the people closest to me, friends and family, whose support has been remarkable.

"Having learned a lot from this experience, I acknowledge that a lot of hard work lies ahead to move on and rebuild relationships.

"I will approach that in a spirit of reconciliation, humility and public service.

"I await the panel chair's report and my meeting with the police and crime commissioner and will have no further comment to make until then."

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