Legal action against chief police officers abandoned after files go missing (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Legal action against chief police officers abandoned after files go missing
LEGAL action to recover £100,000 paid to a controversial former chief constable and his deputy has been abandoned, after the pair’s police personnel files vanished.
An unprecedented report published by North Yorkshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) Julia Mulligan has exposed:
* Allowances apparently outside of the legal power of the police authority being paid to chief officers;
* That at the height of the economic downturn chief constable Grahame Maxwell asked for more money, despite his six figure salary;
* Concerns dating back several years over the legality of proposed extra allowances for top officers;
* Consternation at the disappearance of official documents about senior officers.
After publishing the report, police and crime commissioner (PCC) Julia Mulligan, said she had “with great reluctance” decided against pursuing former chief constable Grahame Maxwell and ex-deputy chief constable Adam Briggs through the courts for the money.
Lawyers had advised the absence of comprehensive evidence, of which the pair’s personnel files would have been a key part, to compile a case, combined with its complexity and cost, made litigation inappropriate.
But last night the PCC called on the Home Secretary to provide clarity over what payments could be given to chief police officers.
Mrs Mulligan said: “It is important for the integrity of the police service as a whole that any grey areas are erased to avoid matters such as these arising again in the future.”
Documents in the report state Mr Maxwell, who left the force after admitting gross misconduct, asked North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA) to make his role a “more financially attractive prospect”, on top of his six-figure salary, during the economic downturn.
In a confidential report in November 2009, the NYPA chief executive stated Mr Maxwell had "expressed frustration that the salaries of the deputy chief constables of the larger forces are equitable to the salaries of chief constables in smaller forces which is again motivating him to consider his long-term future".
The same paper warned significant increases in the package would be politically and legally risky.
In a separate statement, Mrs Mulligan said Mr Briggs would have faced disciplinary action for potential gross misconduct in connection with one of the allowances he received had he not retired.
She added the lack of a clear and comprehensive set of chief police officer personnel files from her predecessor, NYPA , was “highly regrettable and frustrating”.
The report stated while solicitors instructed by both Mr Maxwell and Mr Briggs had sent letters to Mrs Mulligan declining an invitation to repay the money, given in good faith by NYPA, both she and the force’s chief constable Dave Jones felt there remained “an overwhelming public argument” for the ex-officers to return the funds.
In a joint statement they said: “The commissioner and the chief constable are determined that issues of this kind shall never be allowed to occur again.
“All chief officer appointments made since November 2012 do not deviate from national regulations and determinations.”
They said in future all pay and expenses given to chief police officers and the commissioner’s statutory officers would be published and that top officers’ personnel files would be stored securely.
Mr Maxwell’s solicitor, Will Burrows, said: "My client welcomes the decision of the police and crime commissioner not to attempt recover the benefits paid to him in good faith by NYPA.
“He is presently considering the report and will respond formally in due course, however he notes that there are no allegations of wrongdoing by any officer who received these payments from NYPA.”
Mr Briggs said he had been stunned by the allowances investigation and subsequent “political posturing” by Conservative Mrs Mulligan.
He said: “I am pleased, though not surprised, to learn the review concluded I acted in good faith throughout and that the PCC has accepted advice to drop this action.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Chief officers' pay and allowances are set nationally, with only limited discretion for payments outside those rules.
"The regulations have been made clear to police forces and PCCs and we will continue to provide clarity to chief officers and PCCs if needed.
"The decision on recovery of any payment is a matter for PCCs, if they believe they have been made unlawfully.”
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