Frodsham councillor slams crime commissioner over “botched” inquiry

CHESHIRE Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane has been heavily criticised by a Frodsham councillor about the way he handled allegations of misconduct against former chief constable of Cheshire Simon Byrne.
An independent misconduct panel, chaired by Rachel Crasnow QC, considered 74 allegations of misconduct or gross misconduct made by police officers and other police staff but found none of them proven.
They described the inquiry as “an unfortunate experience for all concerned… that could – and should – have been avoided.”
Cheshire Police and Crime Panel will now send a written report on Mr Keane’s handling of the inquiry to the Home Office.
Mr Keane, a borough councillor at Warrington, says he acted after receiving sound legal advice, not from a local solicitor or barrister but from “the top QC in the land at dealing with these issues.”
He added: “It was clear to me from the legal advice received that if the allegations were true, this could easily constitute gross misconduct.”
Mr Keane also said he was following a process for dealing with the conduct of chief constables set by the Government.
Not to have taken action might have been seen as “sweeping something under the carpet.”
Cheshire Police and Crime Panel member Cllr Andrew Dawson (pictured), who represents Frodsham on Cheshire West and Chester Council, said Mr Keane had dealt with a complex and lengthy matter assisted by only one other member of staff and occasional “episodic” advice from a QC.
“He set himself up to fail… The Commissioner let everyone down. He did not resource this sufficiently”
Cllr Dawson accused the Commissioner of attempting to blame others for what he himself described as “suboptimal” work – including North Yorkshire Police, who he had asked to investigate the allegations
He said: ‘I don’t accept that it is reasonable for the man at the top constantly to refer to the blame and the responsibility of others… they were all working to and for the Commissioner.
“The Commissioner set the terms of reference for North Yorkshire… if their investigation was ‘botched’ he should have either started again or insisted that they correct those errors. I find it extraordinary that he was prepared to accept a ‘suboptimal’ situation for something of this gravity. It’s not fair to the chief constable. It’s not fair to the witnesses.
“What we should expect as Cheshire residents is that things should be done as well as they can be.”
Cllr Dawson said the Commissioner had shown a lack of judgement but his criticism was not necessarily in the exercise of his judgement. Rather it was that he didn’t set himself up to succeed.
“ He under resourced the department. He never fully understood what the issues actually were… He needs to be better than this.
‘This is a botched process that reflects badly on everyone.”
It is understood the inquiry cost taxpayers £350,000 while the chief constable’s suspension cost £100,000.
This was money that could have been spent on policing, said Cllr Dawson.

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