Gwent Police urged to make gross misconduct hearing public after alleged incident at party

Three Gwent Police officers are due to face a disciplinary hearing next month. Credit: PA Images

There are calls for Gwent Police to publicly hold a gross misconduct hearing involving three high-ranking police officers, after it was determined it will take place behind closed doors.

Acting Assistant Chief Constable Marc Budden and Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Warrender were suspended following an alleged incident at a retirement party held in Cardiff in June 2019.

Mr Warrender was suspended after an alleged sexual offence against a female officer, with Mr Budden also suspended for alleged misconduct.

A misconduct hearing notice published by Gwent Police says Mr Warrender is alleged to have committed "inappropriate touching" and Mr Budden is alleged to have "failed to challenge or report" his colleague's conduct.

Mr Budden is also accused of "attempting to improperly influence the misconduct and criminal investigation" into Mr Warrender.

The two men, along with another colleague, Chief Inspector Paul Staniforth, are due to face a disciplinary hearing next month.

The lawyer chairing the hearing has decided to exclude the press and public from proceedings, with only a brief summary released afterwards.

That decision has been criticised by two Senedd members, who said it was important for the public to have confidence in the police.

They cited the murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of a police officer, and problems with misogyny, discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment within the Metropolitan Police, as reasons for the hearing to be heard openly.

Dame Cressida Dick stepped down as Metropolitan Police Commissioner after a series of scandals in the force. Credit: PA Images

Laura Anne Jones, Conservative MS for the South Wales East region, said: "Quite clearly it's in the public interest for the public to hear the full facts of this case, especially in light of the recent problems with the Metropolitan Police.

"There have clearly been failings in the force and the full details need to be publicly available for all to see, if the force is to rebuild trust with women in the community, otherwise Gwent Police risk alienating thousands of women in the area.

"Public expectations around standards of behaviour are quite rightly very high. There should be no place for inappropriate behaviour or the abuse of an individual's position to exploit others.

"I hope Gwent Police do the right thing and allow the hearing to be held in public, it's now the only way the community can rebuild trust with the force."

Conservative MS Natasha Asghar said the hearing should be 'totally transparent'.

Fellow Conservative South Wales East MS Natasha Asghar added: "It is absolutely vital that the public has confidence in our police and gives them their full support in the tough job they do in keeping our streets safe.

"Anything which undermines public confidence is therefore a matter of great concern.

"Recent events such as the Sarah Everard case and the appalling misogyny, racism and bullying revealed by a recent report into the behaviour of Metropolitan Police officers have seriously damaged the reputation of the service and will disgust the thousands of decent police officers who do a fantastic job.

"Women have been made cautious of dealing with the police and we must be reassured that such behaviour is not embedded in police culture and that every effort is made to root out deplorable and shocking attitudes.

"I support calls for this hearing to be made in public as it is in the interest of the public and the police that there is total transparency in this matter."

Avon and Somerset Police carried out an independent investigation into the allegations of a criminal offence made against both Mr Budden and Mr Warrender.

There was deemed to be insufficient evidence to bring any criminal charges in the case.

Following an investigation, which was directed by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), a file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration in 2020.

An IOPC spokesman said: "At the conclusion of the investigation, carried out by Avon and Somerset Police under our direction and control, we submitted an investigation report to Gwent Police along with our view that three officers had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

"The police force agreed and is responsible for making arrangements for the misconduct hearing.

"The three officers all face allegations that they breached professional standards of honesty and integrity, authority, respect and courtesy, and of challenging and reporting improper behaviour and conduct.

"The allegations relating to their conduct centre on a retirement party for the former Gwent chief constable held in Cardiff city centre on the evening of June 28 2019.

"In March 2021 the Crown Prosecution Service, following a referral of a full file of evidence for consideration in respect of Mr Budden and Mr Warrender, decided there was insufficient evidence to bring any criminal charges."

Gwent Police has been asked to comment.