Login Register

Chief Constable Colin Port claims he was unlawfully asked to retire

By ChrisAllen  |  Posted: January 08, 2013

Avon and Somerset Police Chief Constable Colin Port

Avon and Somerset Police Chief Constable Colin Port

Comments (0)

Details emerged in court today of a heated meeting at which Avon and Somerset Chief Constable, Colin Port, says he was unlawfully "called upon to retire" by the Police and Crime Commissioner within days of her election.

Sue Mountstevens, who was elected on November 15 last year, faces claims that she raised her voice and slapped her hand on the table during the meeting six days later, leaving Mr Port feeling "shocked and humiliated".

She denies asking him to quit - insisting he "resigned unilaterally" - but Mr Port has now gone to the High Court in London in an 11th-hour bid to block recruitment of a successor, with candidates due to be interviewed on Thursday and Friday this week.

His counsel, Mike O'Brien QC, said Mr Port, 58, had enjoyed an exemplary police career and, when he went to the November 21 meeting, was confident of forming a good relationship with Ms Mountstevens and having his appointment confirmed for up to another two years.

Related content

Describing the meeting as "clearly mishandled", the barrister said of Ms Mountstevens: "She raised her voice to him; she slapped her hand on the table and told him that this was what was going to happen".

Mr Port was left with the impression that there was "no way" that his tenure would be extended and that Ms Mountstevens was bent on holding a recruitment competition for a chief constable who would serve five years, the court heard.

Mr O'Brien added: "Mr Port has done extraordinarily well; his record speaks for itself.  He went into the meeting in a very positive way but came out feeling shocked and humiliated."

Mr Port was "presented with a fait accompli" after Ms Mountstevens "made it clear she wanted his job" and that she "wanted a vacancy to fill", claimed the barrister, who added: "She had just been sworn in and she decided to assert her authority over the chief constable."

The court heard Mr Port "walked out" of the meeting and shortly afterwards emailed his officers to tell them he was leaving the force and would not be re-applying for the chief constable's job.

Mr O'Brien said it was only later that Mr Port realised that he had been "called upon to retire" unlawfully without the safeguards enshrined in the Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011 having been observed.

The Police and Crime Panel - which the barrister described as "the voice of the people" - should have been consulted prior to Mr Port being asked to resign and he should have been given the right to fully put his case before any decision was made.

Parliament had intended that Police and Crime Panels should supervise commissioners and ensure that they do not act in an "arbitrary or capricious" way and Mr O'Brien added: 'She tried to short-circuit the voice of the people; she thought that she was it, but she wasn't".

Speaking of the wider importance of the case, the barrister said: "Mr Port is concerned about the effect it will have on the wider police service if a commissioner can just walk in and say 'you're finished; you've got to retire'".

Emphasising that chief constables are appointed by the Crown, Mr O'Brien said the issues raised by the case go to the route of their operational independence.

Also arguing that Mr Port was entitled to at least six months notice of any decision not to renew his appointment, the barrister said that was essential for efficient policing and to ensure a smooth transition between chief constables.

Mr Port is asking Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart to grant an injunction forcing an end to the process of recruiting his successor.  He also wants the judge to direct that he remains in office, at least until after the Police and Crime Panel has heard his case.

Arguing that the chief constable and commissioner can continue to work together, Mr O'Brien emphasised that Mr Port does not consider Ms Mountstevens unprofessional and that there is "no high level of personal antagonism" between them.

Lawyers for Miss Mountstevens, who disputes Mr Port's account of the critical meeting, insist that she never asked him to retire, only saying that she was "minded" to hold an open competition for the chief constable's role.

They say he "unilaterally retired", that his term of office in any event ends on January 26 and that his case is based on a "fundamentally flawed" interpretation of the law.

The hearing continues.

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters
  • IBM_Out  |  January 08 2013, 7:02PM

    In 2005, the then wife of Colin Port, Sue Barnes, was appointed to a £90K Director's job in Somerset County Council WITHOUT competitive interview. Sue Barnes lead the outsourcing procurement that led to the disastrous joint venture Southwest One which was formed in 2007. It is reported that 5 years into a 10-year contract barely 10% of the promised £190m of savings for Somerset have materialised, with something like £60m paid out to IBM via Southwest One - much of that on an expensive but troubled IT system called SAP. Southwest One are now incredibly suing its 15% shareholder & lead partner Somerset County Council for even more money as Government cuts reduce service spend. When BBC West reported on a clear & potential conflict of interest between his Wife leading the outsourcing project and "his" Police Force being a major partner in Southwest One, Colin Port responded by launching libel proceedings. That time he used £90K of OUR money that could have been spent on Policing, with posh libel lawyers Carter Ruck, to bring about legal proceedings against the BBC's democratic reporting that failed. Once Southwest One was created (with IBM holding a majority 75% share holding) Colin Port was then appointed to and accepted a position as Director on the board of Southwest One as his largest contractor. Yet again, he saw no conflict of interest with being both the Head of the Police as a customer and being on the board of the major supplier Southwest One as a Director. As Southwest One is a private limited company, what he did and said & how he voted as a Director of Southwest One remains secret. After a long campaign by the Bridgwater & West Somerset MP and a report to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Colin Port finally accepted a conflict of interest (citing changes in Somerset's contract) and stood down as a Director of Southwest One in Sep'2011. "His" Police force has of late had success with improving crime detection and reducing crime. Mr Port should now show some dignity and retire quietly (on a very good 6-figure est.pension) and bring this ill-judged & un-dignified epsiode to an end.

    Rate   8
    Report
  • Charlespk  |  January 08 2013, 4:48PM

    I just wish someone would explain to me just why if crime is going down year on year as Colin and others kept telling us, the prisons are still full to bursting? Have they all lost their pencils???

    Rate   4
    Report
  • Mikey_Blake  |  January 08 2013, 4:05PM

    Well his appeal was thrown out. SEE - http://tinyurl.com/abuttzk

    Rate   7
    Report
  • MarkB29  |  January 08 2013, 4:04PM

    So, Mr Port is upset that he didn't have a"job for life", despite knowing that his contract expired on 26th January??? It seems to me that Mrs Mountstevens simply gave him notice that his contract would not be renewed and now he's acting like a spoiled child. Sausage roll anyone?

    Rate   13
    Report
  • Charlespk  |  January 08 2013, 3:43PM

    Had he seen the role as his by 'right'? . Welcome to the real world Colin. . Our postman didn't want to have to retire. . . The difference is; we didn't want him to either. . He was pure 'Gold' . And he just wanted to share the role with another because his pension wasn't very good.

    Rate   6
    Report
  • GanjaCrew  |  January 08 2013, 3:38PM

    What are you trying to hide MR Port .. i think sue should get a team together and get on it. Why is he trying to weasel his way out of this? A police chief shocked and humiliated by a small women pull the other one big boy. You got tricked in a contractual word game....! well i never did she manage to manufacture your CONSENT. Sounds like justice. Sue didn't leave you any wiggle room, your outta here. Jimmy Saville ever work out of BBC Bristol? Lord Kenyon ring any bell to the Mason crew.

    Rate   1
    Report
  • Joke_Bristol  |  January 08 2013, 3:21PM

    Nice to know we've got such a delicate little flower in charge of our police.

    Rate   5
    Report

      YOUR COMMENTS AWAITING MODERATION

       
       

      MORE NEWS HEADLINES

       
       
       

      MOST POPULAR