Chief constable compared to Darth Vader ‘had disregard for his subordinates’

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A chief constable who was compared to Darth Vader treated junior officers and staff like “roadkill”, a misconduct hearing has been told.

Simon Byrne, who was suspended as chief constable of Cheshire Police last year, is accused of gross misconduct for breaching standards of professional behaviour in respect of authority, respect and courtesy and discreditable conduct.

In closing submissions at his misconduct hearing, John Beggs QC, representing police and crime commissioner David Keane, questioned whether Mr Byrne was “privately rather pleased” with comparisons made between him and the Star Wars villain in the media.

He said: “Of course he knew that he had a reputation for being like Darth Vader, cruel, bullying and overbearing.”

Giving evidence at the hearing in July, Mr Byrne denied the allegations and said he never intended to cause worry or upset.

But at the Warrington Town Hall hearing on Monday, Mr Beggs said: “What we have is someone that is dysfunctional and had disregard for his subordinates. They became roadkill.”

“If they can’t keep up, they are dispensed with.”

Star Wars stamps
Darth Vader, as seen on a postage stamp (Royal Mail/PA)

Mr Byrne, 55, is alleged to have bullied and belittled staff after moving from the Met Police to take up the top role at the Cheshire force in 2014.

The hearing has been told he handed pictures of Dad’s Army characters to officers after he became angry when flooding made him late for work.

He was also accused of displaying “daily mood swings” for a fortnight after his application for the post of chief constable of Greater Manchester Police was rejected in 2015.

Mr Beggs advised the panel to make a finding of gross misconduct, as although many of the 72 allegations made against Mr Byrne were “trivial”, the context and repetition amounted to gross misconduct.

But Gerry Boyle QC, defending Mr Byrne, said the process had been “unfair” to Mr Byrne.

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Simon Byrne receiving the Queen’s Police Medal (Yui Mok/PA)

He branded some of the allegations “absurd” and said they demonstrated the depths the police and crime commissioner was “prepared to plunge to to get findings against Mr Byrne”.

The hearing was told Mr Byrne, whose fixed-term contact has expired, was on the “open labour market”.

Mr Boyle said: “The seriousness of a finding of misconduct and the blemish on his character and career would be a devastating blow.”

Rachel Crasnow QC, chair of the panel, adjourned proceedings and said a decision and report would be released at a later date.

As Mr Byrne is no longer chief constable, the panel will make a decision on whether it would have recommended dismissal had he still been in post.

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