Officers found guilty of gross misconduct over retirement party incident
Three Gwent Police officers have been found guilty of gross misconduct three years after being accused of inappropriate behaviour at a retirement party for a former chief constable.
Detective Chief Superintendent Marc Budden and Detective Chief Inspector Paul Staniforth were sacked without notice after a misconduct hearing concluded on Tuesday.
Former chief superintendent Mark Warrender would have been dismissed had he not retired from the force prior to the outcome of the hearing, the panel said.
Mr Budden and Mr Warrander were suspended from duty following the incident at a retirement party held in Cardiff city centre in June 2019 for former Gwent Police chief constable Julian Williams.
Mr Warrender was accused of a sexual offence against a female officer, while Mr Budden and Mr Staniforth faced allegations of misconduct.
During the misconduct hearings held between April 7 and September 6, it was proved Mr Warrender had inappropriately touched the officer.
All three were found to have had inappropriate conversations with the woman, who was described as a more junior member of police staff.
And they all failed to challenge or report the improper behaviour of the others who were engaging in the conversation.
Mr Budden was also found to have engaged in inappropriate behaviour while on duty, provided a dishonest account of his conduct, inappropriately disclosed information in relation to the misconduct and criminal investigation to the victim, and failed to disclose a conflict of interest in relation to the incident.
He was also accused of improperly influencing the misconduct and criminal investigation, but police and the legal representatives involved in the disciplinary process were unable to confirm the outcome of that allegation.
The lawyer who chaired the hearing excluded the press and public from proceedings and directed that only a brief summary of the findings be released afterwards.
The decision to hold the hearings behind closed doors was criticised by several Senedd members, who said it was important for the public to have confidence in the police in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard by a Metropolitan Police Service officer.
Prior to the misconduct hearing, Avon and Somerset Constabulary carried out an independent investigation into the criminal allegations made against Mr Budden and Mr Warrender and submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for consideration in 2020.
In March 2021, the CPS decided there was “insufficient evidence” to bring any criminal charges, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
The officers’ names will now be placed on the public Barred List held by the College of Policing pursuant to Part 4A of the Police Act 1996.
Deputy chief constable Amanda Blakeman said: “This outcome sends a clear message that these kinds of behaviours will not be tolerated within Gwent Police.
“The public expect high standards of integrity from us and where officers abuse their position of power they will be held to account.
“Over the past three years we’ve reflected on behaviours and changed our culture.
“We’ve made great strides in reinforcing the standards we expect from everyone in our service, regardless of rank.
“This event was a stark reminder to us that the highest standards of behaviour must be upheld by all, on or off duty.
“Every day the vast majority of our officers behave with professionalism and honesty when serving their local community and behaviour such as this lets us all down.
“Our focus has remained on the needs of the victim and ensuring that anyone, within the force or within our community, feels confident to come forward and report unacceptable behaviour to us and that they will be believed and supported.”
She added: “The chair’s decision to hold the hearing in private meant that individuals in this case felt able to participate in the process.
“Taking action against senior officers is a huge step for colleagues and we can only applaud the courage of the individuals who came forward and participated in this complex investigation.”