No case to answer for police chief, but management style criticised

Northumbria Police Chief Constable Sue Sim
Northumbria Police Chief Constable Sue Sim

An independent investigation into Northumbria Police Chief Constable Sue Sim has found that she has no case to answer on breaching police standards, but levels criticism at her management style.

The inquiry, by Recorder Joel Bennathan QC, which looked at whether she should face disciplinary proceedings, also recommended that she should apologise, in particular to two officers.

Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “I have written to Ms Sim, who remains a serving officer although she has recently announced her retirement, and directed her to apologise to two officers named in Mr Bennathan’s report before she leaves the force.

“Had she not been retiring, I would, despite the clear finding that there is no breach of standards, have required her to undertake some fresh management training to significantly moderate her management style which is what has given rise to these complaints. It is a long-standing style of working which may have been typical in policing some time ago, but would have had to change if Ms Sim had stayed on.”

It had been alleged that the Chief Constable had breached the police standard on authority, respect and courtesy, which requires that officers act with self-control and tolerance, treating colleagues with respect and courtesy.

Mr Bennathan considered statements and heard oral evidence both from complainants and from Mrs Sim during his six-week investigation and found that the behaviours complained about ‘fall short of a sufficiently serious conduct, when viewed in the context in which they occurred, to amount to a case to answer in respect of either misconduct or gross misconduct.’

He further dismissed allegations, by one officer, that Mrs Sim was in breach of the honesty and integrity standard of professional behaviour as ‘without foundation’.

Ms Baird added: “I am grateful to Mr Bennathan for the thoroughness and speed of his investigation and to the complainants and the Chief Constable all of whom entered fully into this process. It was in the interests of the public of Northumbria and their high-performing police force to have these complaints investigated, as soon as they were raised, by an independent judicial figure to whom all officers could speak openly and confidentially.

“I am grateful for the support I have had in adopting this process from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and from the IPCC commissioner with responsibility for the North East for confirmation he found it appropriate.

“We are in the process of recruiting a new Chief Constable who will build new relationships with officers and I look forward to working with him or her to take forward Northumbria Police, a force of which I am proud to be Commissioner’.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “This investigation has now concluded. The process has begun for the selection of a new Chief Constable for Northumbria Police. It is important now that we concentrate our efforts on delivering the best possible service we can to the communities of Northumbria.”

Chief Constable Sue Sim said: ““I am pleased that the independent investigation undertaken by Mr Joel Bennathan QC found that I have no case to answer in respect of misconduct or gross misconduct.

“I have always accepted that there have been times when I have raised my voice. This has always been about work-related issues and, as a result of the significant challenges we faced, my frustration at the speed of progress. It was never my intention to cause any upset and, if I did, then obviously I apologise wholeheartedly. I have always supported my officers fully whenever they have faced work related or personal difficulties.

“Of course, I am saddened that some senior members of the organisation chose to act in this manner and I have also raised my concerns with the Police and Crime Commissioner in respect of the motivations and intent of some of those involved in making complaints against me.

“I have received tremendous support from the majority of my officers and staff during this difficult time and I would like to publicly thank them. I also want to thank partner agencies and members of the public who have provided messages of support throughout this process.

“My motivation has always been to provide the best service we can for local people and I have been immensely proud and honoured to lead Northumbria Police as Chief Constable and to serve the communities here.”