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  1. ITV Report

EXCLUSIVE: Questions raised over new Chief Constable

Andy Marsh starts as the new Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset in February Photo:

Questions are being asked about how appropriate it is for Avon and Somerset Police's new Chief Constable to take his position.

When Andy Marsh starts in February, he will be making policing history. ITV News understands this is the first time in Britain a Chief Constable been married to another member of the same force's command team.

His wife is Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson.

The Avon and Somerset command structure

The Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens says a policy will be put in place to make sure he does not line-manage his wife. And if ACC Watson needs to be disciplined, that will be conducted by a chief of another force. Not her husband.

But some police experts say this set-up could lead to questions over objectivity and favouritism.

Neither Mr Marsh - who is currently Chief Constable at Hampshire Police, nor ACC Watson, wanted to comment.

"The question now, of course, is how is that going to work in practice. And does the policy and the behaviour of the two - will it make absolutely clear that there is no question of any conflict of interest or any difficulty that they are putting others in the force or indeed outside into by that relationship."

– Bernard Rix, Publisher, Policinginsight.com

This move comes after much turbulence over the top job at the force.

But Andy Marsh's appointment brings this unique set-up.

The appointments panel and I were unanimously satisfied that a policy could be put in place around reporting lines and discipline matters. Mr Marsh will not be directly line managing his wife.

If any discipline matters were to arise these will be dealt with by a Chief Constable of another force. A situation like this is not unique in the workplace.

– Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner

"Because this is a highly unusual circumstance, people won't have anything to judge it against.

They won't be able to say 'it worked like this in such and such a force or it worked like this back a few years ago. Nobody can have that kind of experience to judge it against.

So people are bound to ask questions. It's bound to be unusual.

People will, I think, have to give the benefit of the doubt and try to work this through. But it would be very unusual if eyebrows weren't raised and questions weren't asked."

– Tim Brain, Former Chief Constable, Gloucestershire

Lawrie Lewis, a Retired Assistant Chief Constable at Avon & Somerset Police, said he had come across both Mr Marsh and his wife during his career, and doesn't believe their relationship would hinder their jobs.

I spent over 30 years serving in Avon and Somerset. As we each progressed to senior ranks in the organisation my career path crossing many times with that of both Andy Marsh and Nikki Watson.

They are both consummate professionals, married to each other for all of the time I professionally worked with them. Their relationship never did nor do I believe ever would interfere with their judgement or decisions.

If I was still working at a senior level in the organisation I wouldn't be the least bit phased working alongside them both with Andy as Chief Constable. Andy is the ideal Chief Constable to be leading Avon and Somerset out of its recent past.

– Lawrie Lewis