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PCC Hardwick apologises over Chief Constable suspension

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick has formally apologised over the way he has dealt with the suspension of Chief Constable Neil Rhodes, a move which also cost taxpayers more than £165,000.

The move comes after the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel requested PCC Hardwick to formally apologise over the “unnecessary” suspension of the Neil Rhodes last year.

On February 24, almost a year since the suspension, PCC Hardwick has formally apologised to Chief Constable Neil Rhodes.

PCC Hardwick wrote to Neil Rhodes in a letter: “I want to express how sorry I am that you and your family ultimately endured an experience and anxiety which were never my intention. My apology is sincere and unreserved.

“My intent was always to discharge my functions as PCC and to deal with the matters in hand appropriately and in as timely a fashion as possible,” PCC Hardwick added.

Alan Hardwick also wrote to Norman Norris, Chair of the Police and Crime Panel, saying: “I have always sought to do the right thing as I go about discharging every aspect of my duties.

“However, I am very happy to apologise to anyone who feels an apology is deserved, and I apologised to the Chief Constable for the impact that the issues of 2013 have had on him and his family,” Alan Hardwick wrote.

Improved working relationship

Chief Constable Neil Rhodes for the first time appearing in public along PCC Alan Hardwick after his suspension was quashed. Pictured along with Inspector Simon Outen on a patrol walk in Saxilby in April 2013. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite
Chief Constable Neil Rhodes for the first time appearing in public along PCC Alan Hardwick after his suspension was quashed. Pictured along with Inspector Simon Outen on a patrol walk in Saxilby in April 2013. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

PCC Hardwick suspended the then-temporary Chief Constable Neil Rhodes in February 2013 over allegations of misconduct, with a judicial review, legal advice and report commissioning costing more than £165,000.

However, further investigation into the allegation cleared Chief Constable Rhodes of any misconduct, and a report by the panel’s task group said it is “unclear from the decision record and accompanying legal advice why the PCC felt the need to suspend TCC Rhodes from duty”.

Since, the PCC and Chief Constable’s working relationship has improved, the report said — with Neil Rhodes becoming the new Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police late last year after having the temporary role since 2012.

The cost of suspension

The first elected Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Hardwick. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite
The first elected Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Hardwick. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

More than £165,000 of costs have been incurred to the taxpayer following the Chief Constable suspension.

The costs include £37,000 paid to the PCC’s legal advisers prior to the Judicial Review, then £21,000 for the second firm of legal advisers consulted by the PCC.

A further £14,463 was paid to Sir Peter Fahy for his investigation into the matter, and £72,000 for the legal costs of Neil Rhodes, which are not final.

These costs will come out the of the PCC’s specific budget for his office.

In addition, the Crime Panel incurred professional service costs of £20,750 for completing their review, and task group members have not received payment for this work other than travelling expenses.

The Task Group costs will be paid from the Annual Government Grant provided to the Panel to undertake its statutory duties.

Lacking apology

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney welcomed the apology from PCC Hardwick, but thought the Commissioner missed some points.

He said: “Whilst I welcome this apology from the Police and Crime Commissioner to our Chief Constable, I am disappointed that it has taken nearly a month from the publication of the Police and Crime Panel Task Group’s Report for this to occur.

“The necessity of an apology was something which I had raised with the Commissioner following the publication of the Report.

“I am also disappointed that the Commissioner has sought to caveat his apology by selectively quoting from the text of the report and indicating that he would follow the same process again.

“Anyone in an elected position should act in a professional and courteous manner, regardless of any guidance in place or not.

“It was pretty clear to me at the time that the actions taken were not appropriate or of a suitable standard – suspending someone and then for a week giving no explanation at all as to what the allegations were.

“The Task Force Report was pretty clear on this matter and it is regrettable that Mr Hardwick has not taken this opportunity to acknowledge that fact.”