Cheshire chief constable probe 'flawed' and 'flimsy'

Simon Byrne, Chief Constable of Cheshire
Image caption Simon Byrne was suspended by Cheshire Constabulary last year

A gross misconduct investigation into a chief constable was "flawed" and based on "flimsy" allegations, a report has found.

Simon Byrne was suspended and accused of bullying staff at Cheshire Constabulary before being cleared last year.

A report has blamed police commissioner David Keane for "failures in the investigation and a lack of rigour".

Mr Keane said he would "consider" the findings of the report.

The misconduct hearing eventually completely absolved Mr Byrne and ruled that the case, which cost more than £450,000 in public funds, "could and should have been avoided".

Mr Byrne has since been appointed chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland

The newly-published report by cross-party councillors on Cheshire's police and crime panel, who hold Mr Keane to account, said he was "still finding his feet" as a newly-elected commissioner when the allegations were first made in 2016.

'Bureaucratic and unbalanced'

The commissioner had "incomplete knowledge" of the relevant rules and laws, his investigation was "under-resourced" and it had "insufficient attention to detail", the report said.

The panel said the cost and complexity of the process was inflated because "many" of the allegations were "flimsy" due to "failures" and a "lack of rigour" at the commissioner's office.

Mr Keane previously blamed "sub optimal" work by the investigators he appointed, but the panel said it was "unsatisfactory" for the commissioner to "blame others for the shortcomings in work done by him or in his name".

The report, to be sent to the Home Office, called for the government to change the "overly complicated, bureaucratic and unbalanced" regulations that govern the discipline of chief officers.

It added it was a "serious oversight" that there was no national appraisal system for chief constables.

The Home Secretary is asked to give police and crime panels "an early and direct role" so they can hold commissioners to account if they suspend a chief constable.