Second call for Police and Crime Commissioner to say sorry to Lincolnshire public

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick
Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick has been asked for a second time to apologise to the public.

The county’s Police and Crime Panel has repeated its request for the commissioner to say sorry for spending thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money on the suspension of Chief Constable Neil Rhodes and subsequent costs surrounding the case.

Mr Hardwick suspended Mr Rhodes over his involvement in an employment tribunal in February last year, although the Chief Constable was later cleared of all wrongdoing.

Mr Hardwick apologised publicly and in person to Mr Rhodes yesterday (Monday) after being asked to by the Police and Crime Panel. But he did not apologise to the people of Lincolnshire, instead trying to justify the money spent pursuing the case.

A statement from the panel, also released yesterday, said there were lessons to be learned, adding: “It was important a full and sincere apology was made to the Chief Constable for the anxiety caused to him and his family during 2013. As stated in our task group report, we still believe some of the expenditure that was incurred through the suspension could and should have been avoided.

“The panel acknowledges that the commissioner has offered an apology to anyone who feels an apology is deserved; however, the panel still expects to see an apology given to the people of Lincolnshire as per its formal request.

“We also hope the commissioner will take on board the recommendations made in the report, which will go some way to preventing a similar situation in the future.”

The total cost to the taxpayer as a result of Mr Rhodes’ suspension was more than £164,000. This comprised £58,000 paid to legal advisors acting on behalf of the commissioner before and after the judicial review; more than £14,000 to Sir Peter Fahy for his investigation and £72,000 to date for the legal costs of Mr Rhodes. The costs will come from the commissioner’s budget for his office.

The panel has not yet said what actions will be taken if Mr Hardwick does not apologise to the public.

The commissioner published a letter to Police and Crime Panel chairman Norman Norris on his website yesterday (Monday).

He said: “As we both know, and this has been borne out not only by our experience in Lincolnshire but also by national events, transparency and clarity around the facts are fundamental to serving the public interest when allegations are made.

“These were the reasons for the expenditure incurred by me and it is clear that costs would be incurred in relation to the allegations in this case.”

Mr Hardwick also published his letter of apology to Mr Rhodes. He said he wanted to draw a line under the issue, adding: “I also 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.”

Mr Hardwick said his relationship with Mr Rhodes has been strengthened and remained professional and courteous.

The Police and Crime Panel has also asked Mr Hardwick to say whether or not he accepts the findings of its task group’s report into the events surrounding Mr Rhodes’ suspension and respond by April 4.

Mr Hardwick’s letters to Mr Rhodes and Mr Norris can be seen in full on the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner website.