Suspended chief constable ‘aggressive and unable to contain personal emotion’
Simon Byrne is accused of bullying and humiliating staff.
A “bullying” chief constable handed out pictures of characters from Dad’s Army to officers in a row over flooding which became known within the force as “puddlegate”, a misconduct hearing has been told.
Simon Byrne, who was suspended as chief constable of Cheshire Constabulary last year, is accused of bullying and humiliating staff.
Allegations, detailed in an opening note submitted to the hearing on Monday on behalf of the office of Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane, include that Mr Byrne became aggressive and angry with officers after flooding made him late for work and his son late for school.
I had never seen a colleague become so angry, aggressive and unable to contain personal emotion Inspector Kate Buckingham
In a statement, Inspector Kate Buckingham said the chief summoned eight officers of inspector rank or above to a meeting to discuss the force’s management of flooding incidents.
She said: “Prior to the meeting the Chief Constable had required me to print off several pictures depicting fictional comedy characters from the 1950s/70s UK TV series Dad’s Army.
“The Chief Constable presented each of the officers present with the said pictures.
“During the meeting the Chief Constable was physically shaking and was bright red in his face. I had never seen a colleague become so angry, aggressive and unable to contain personal emotion.”
She said Mr Byrne turned the incident, which became known as “puddlegate”, into a personal crusade.
Mr Byrne, who previously worked for the Metropolitan Police, as well as Greater Manchester and Merseyside forces, is accused of gross misconduct for breaching standards of professional behaviour in respect of authority, respect and courtesy and discreditable conduct.
John Beggs QC, representing the PCC’s office, said: “Mr Byrne, when chief constable of Cheshire, lacked self control on a personal level and exhibited volatile, unpredictable and sometimes offensive behaviour towards subordinate officers and staff.”
He was demeaning in words and behaviour. In short, he humiliated people John Beggs QC
He said witnesses described Mr Byrne as having a tendency to undermine people and said he would rant inappropriately at staff from lower ranks.
He said: “He would berate them on occasions. He was demeaning in words and behaviour. In short, he humiliated people.”
He added: “We are drawn to the conclusion you can and should fairly say Mr Byrne became a bully, he bullied people and he did so for no proper reason.”
He is also alleged to have failed to attend scheduled meetings and conferences, at a cost to the force.
Giving evidence, acting chief constable Janette McCormick said she never witnessed Mr Byrne shouting at or humiliating staff.
Mrs McCormick, who was deputy chief constable before Mr Byrne was suspended, said some of his personal assistants had raised concerns about their workload and one told her she didn’t like working with Mr Byrne, but none of them had spoken to her about bullying.
The hearing was told Mr Byrne’s fixed term contract had expired, but the panel would make a decision on whether it would have recommended dismissal had he still been in post.
Mr Byrne denies the allegations.
The hearing, at Warrington Town Hall, is expected to last nine days.