Investigation into Lincolnshire chief constable suspension finds ‘no proof’ to substantiate allegation

An investigation into the suspension of Lincolnshire’s chief constable has found that there was ‘no proof’ to substantiate the allegation and recommends it be withdrawn.
Neil Rhodes and Alan Hardwick.Neil Rhodes and Alan Hardwick.
Neil Rhodes and Alan Hardwick.

Sir Peter Fahy, the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, carried out the investigation in the suspension of Neil Rhodes in February by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire Alan Hardwick.

The 39-page report published this afternoon exonerated Mr Rhodes and Mr Hardwick admitted that the ‘recommendations are the right ones’.

Mr Rhodes was suspended in February because of allegations of inappropriate behaviour. It was claimed he helped a senior Muslim lawyer from another force use his ethnicity to pursue damages following his dismissal.

Neil Rhodes and Alan Hardwick.Neil Rhodes and Alan Hardwick.
Neil Rhodes and Alan Hardwick.

He strenuously denied any wrong-doing saying his suspension was ‘unlawful’ and referred it to a judge at the High Court in Manchester who later quashed the suspension and Mr Rhodes returned to work.

Ray Wootten, the chairman of Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Panel, which oversees the work of the police and crime commissioner, resigned in the wake of the suspension after he and Mr Hardwick were grilled by MPs in Westminster.

A statement from Sir Peter Fahy today said: “That report has concluded that no proof has been found to substantiate the allegation and Sir Peter recommends the misconduct allegation against Mr Rhodes be formally withdrawn.

“The investigation team concluded that Mr Rhodes did not exceed the intended boundaries or scope of a CPOSA (Chief Police Officers Staff Association) “friend” as he properly understood them.

“However Sir Peter recommends that CPOSA on behalf of ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) and in consultation with national Police and Crime Commissioners’ representation agree a written protocol and clear definition of the role of CPOSA friends in employment grievance and other similar cases.

“Such a protocol should specifically assist with clarity around many of the issues highlighted in this case for example: without prejudice conversations, appropriate negotiating channels and conflicts of interest.

Mr Hardwick, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire, said: “I wish to express my thanks to Sir Peter for a thorough investigation. His recommendations are the right ones.

“I am pleased that we are able to bring what has been an unwanted and unwelcome distraction for the Chief Constable and me to a conclusion.

“We will both now be able to continue to focus fully on the business of policing Lincolnshire.

“I also want to express my thanks to Chief Constable Rhodes for the professionalism he has displayed throughout what has been a difficult period. I look forward to continuing our successful working relationship.”

“Elsewhere in the public service we have seen what happens when investigations are not carried out. In this case, the allegation was so serious that Sir Peter confirmed in his severity assessment it would have amounted to misconduct if proven.

“I therefore had no choice but to investigate it. I remain troubled by the nature of the allegation and that it has not been possible for the investigating officer to determine exactly what happened in a private conversation between two highly regarded and credible professionals in the policing world.

“This was exacerbated by significant inconsistencies in the evidence.”

“In a statement, chief constable Neil Rhodes said: “I am very grateful to Sir Peter for a thorough and comprehensive investigation and lam naturally delighted that I have been completely exonerated in relation to all aspects of the conduct allegation.

“I have sought over the last six months to maintain a dignified silence, safe in the knowledge that I knew that there was never any substance in the spurious allegation.

“I do not intend to depart from this approach, and wish simply to get on with my job of working with the Commissioner to provide effective and improving policing for our county of Lincolnshire.

“When the Commissioner decides to recruit a permanent Chief Constable I can confirm that it is my intention to apply for the position.

“The past few months have been unusually challenging. I’ve been really grateful for the incredible support of my wife, our children and my close friends.

“The family that is Lincolnshire Police have been really strong in their encouragement and support.

“If I was surprised by the support of the professional community across the county who work with the police, I was simply humbled by the many, many messages I received, and continue to receive, from ordinary members of the public who I have never met.

“I just can’t thank all of you enough. It inspires me to work harder for you all.

“Following the Judicial review decision, the Commissioner and I resolved that we must draw a line beneath this matter, for the good of Lincolnshire, and demonstrate that we could work together productively and positively.”

Interim Chairman of the Police and Crime Panel for Lincolnshire, Norman Norris, said: “The panel is pleased the Commissioner has published the full report following the Sir Peter Fahy investigation.

“The report will be scrutinised by the Panel and incorporated into our Task Group’s work, which is also looking at the events surrounding the Chief Constable’s suspension and the implications of that.

“It’s clear from what we already know that lessons need to be learned from this situation and we hope that our report, once completed, along with Sir Peter’s findings, will help to prevent such issues in Lincolnshire and other parts of the UK in the future.”