Suspended Cheshire police chief denies bullying claims

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

A chief constable accused of bullying has rejected claims he was volatile, moody and "like a bear with a sore head".

Simon Byrne, who was suspended from Cheshire Constabulary last year, is accused of bullying and humiliating staff between May 2014 and March 2017.

Mr Byrne has denied any wrongdoing and said he had been a "new broom" at the force with a mandate to change things.

The officer denies gross misconduct at the Warrington Town Hall hearing.

Giving evidence in his defence, Mr Byrne said he had exacting demands and his approach was to "let a thousand flowers bloom".

The former Metropolitan Police officer said that when he arrived at the force, it had a "silo mentality" and areas of the headquarters were so untidy they looked like a "teenager's bedroom".

Staff would also let phones ring out if the call was not to "their" phone, he said.

The hearing has previously heard about a series of incidents involving Mr Byrne's alleged misbehaviour.

These include "puddlegate" where he handed out photos of Dad's Army characters to officers, allegedly because flooding made him late for work and his son late for school.

The panel also heard about "shoegate" involving a pair of mislaid shoes.

'Blunt and direct'

Taking questions from his lawyer Gerry Boyle QC, Mr Byrne said "puddlegate" was nothing to do with his son being late.

He said he simply chanced upon some flooding and decided his force's response was not good enough.

He then summoned senior officers and handed out photos depicting characters from Dad's Army to make his point.

He said: "I felt we let the public down. I was trying to push them to get them to understand."

He said he had used photos of Dad's Army characters before and knew "it could go either way" but had asked the Police Federation, which represents junior ranks, and it told him it was a "good idea".

Mr Byrne also denied slamming his office door, claiming it had a "loose hinge".

After getting lost on his way to a meeting, he told staff in future he needed a full address, postcode and a photo of the building he was visiting, with staff describing him as "needy", the hearing was told.

Mr Byrne said: "I can understand now. It is not something I was aware of at the time."

Mr Byrne also denied sending an excessive number of emails to staff during their time off, or making an unreasonable number of calls to his office while travelling to work.

He said he could be "blunt" and "direct" but denied he had bullied staff, been short-tempered or intolerant.

The hearing continues.

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