Avon and Somerset Police chief Nick Gargan asked to resign over misconduct


A chief constable who used his police-issued iPhone to store intimate images has been asked to resign by his force's police and crime commissioner.

Nick Gargan was suspended from his £150,000-a-year job with Avon and Somerset Police on full pay in May last year after allegations he had made inappropriate advances to female colleagues.

During an investigation by the police watchdog, Mr Gargan was further accused of leaking internal emails and using his work phone to send, receive and store intimate images.

He was found guilty of eight charges of misconduct following a hearing in front of an independent panel last month but planned a phased return to his job with the force.

The panel's chair, Dorian Lovell-Pank QC, recommended police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens issue Mr Gargan with eight final written warnings.

Following the hearing, the force's three most recent former chief constables, the local police federation and hundreds of people through a petition called for Mr Gargan's resignation.

Ms Mountstevens handed Mr Gargan the recommended eight final written warning letters during a sanction hearing on Wednesday.

But separately she started the process of requiring him to resign or retire using section 38 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.

In a press conference, Ms Mountstevens said it would be the first time the legislation had been used to force a chief constable to quit.

She admitted the process could open the possibility of Mr Gargan receiving hefty compensation as he was only two years into a five year contract.

"He abused his position by forwarding confidential emails, interfering with a proper recruitment process and sending, receiving and storing intimate images on his police issue phone," she said.

"Nick Gargan has let down the colleagues he led and the communities he was there to protect and on the basis of what I have seen and heard, he has lost the confidence of local people, police officers and staff.

"I believe there is now a detrimental impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of him leading Avon and Somerset Constabulary."

Ms Mountstevens, who appointed Mr Gargan after insisting his predecessor Colin Port should reapply for his job after her election, said she would not resign.

The investigation into Mr Gargan's behaviour was launched in May 2014 following allegations that he had made inappropriate advances to female colleagues.

The following month, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found evidence Mr Gargan had "improperly" leaked information to people outside of Avon and Somerset Police.

The independent misconduct panel assessed evidence from the IPCC investigation to convict Mr Gargan of eight counts of misconduct in a process costing almost £600,000.

These included sending a woman a restricted paper he had written, with the words "my masterpiece" written in French at the top.

He also sent text messages and emails to a woman he was trying to head hunt for a new £55,000-a-year post with the police.

Ms Mountstevens said when appointing Mr Gargan, who is single, she gave him "advice" asking him to refrain from relationships with members of the force.

"I mentioned to him that I felt that as a leader he should not go out with or have intimate relationships with people within his organisation," she said.

One junior colleague told the IPCC that Mr Gargan had asked her to show him round and placed his hand on her back before speaking into her ear.

A total of 134 texts were found on Mr Gargan's phone between him and the woman but he later denied he had attempted to have a sexual relationship with her.

She told investigators he had asked if she wanted to go on a sunset walk with him one evening, which made her "panic" and "extremely worried".

The woman accompanied Mr Gargan to an official function, after which he gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her he had enjoyed a "really lovely evening".

He later sent her a message stating: "Thank you once again for Friday, you looked beautiful, were the perfect plus one and you were fantastic company."

In interview, Mr Gargan defended sending the woman kisses at the end of some messages, adding that he saw them as "throw away idiom of text communications these days".

On a different occasion, he texted the woman saying: "You were rocking a bit of a daisy duke look yesterday (which suited you very much).

"But I'm not going to say that on an email account that others have access to."

Investigators also found 32 messages between Mr Gargan and a manager at the force including one stating "Hope it's not awkward to ask but ... Glass of wine sometime?"

Mr Gargan had a "short lived intimate relationship" with a woman who was not employed by the force but did not disclose it to Ms Mountstevens.

The IPCC said Mr Gargan had posted a photograph online featuring a female colleague who was caught in an "unfortunate pose" while surrounded by colleagues.

Mr Gargan was not convicted of any charges of inappropriate behaviour towards junior colleagues and women connected to his force.

However, he was found guilty of misconduct by receiving and sending four intimate images on his police-issued iPhone and sending one image.

Investigators found a "large number" of personal and in some cases "very intimate" text exchanges between him and "various women".

The Chief Police Officers Staff Association said Mr Gargan would wait to see under "what grounds" the call for his resignation has been made.

"He has complied with every requirement of the protracted misconduct investigation and subsequent hearing," the spokesman said.

"He placed his fate in the hands of an expert professional panel, which made a clear recommendation that he should go back to work.

The spokesman said the panel had found Mr Gargan had carried out "flawed judgment" and "ill-advised" behaviour.

"He is deeply sorry for these and is committed to learning from them," he added.

Ms Mountsteven's decision will now be referred to Sir Thomas Windsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

The local crime panel will then consider his views, and those of Ms Mountstevens, in a process expected to take a further two months.

Ms Mountstevens will then have the final say as to whether Mr Gargan is asked to leave.