Force accused of obstructing probe

A former officer who accused Norfolk police chiefs of misconduct last night claimed the force was attempting to obstruct an independent investigation.

A former officer who accused Norfolk police chiefs of misconduct claims the force is attempting to obstruct an independent investigation.

Recently retired chief constable Carole Howlett and deputy chief constable Simon Taylor are among those whose conduct is being examined after two ex-employees submitted complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

An external force - Lincolnshire police - is overseeing the investigation, which centres on claims that false evidence was submitted to employment tribunals lodged by two former officers, Insp Neil Ferguson and Sgt Christina Arthurton, who alleged discrimination and bullying.

Mr Taylor remains on long-term sick leave after first being signed off in July. It is not known if his absence is related to the ongoing complaints. However, the tribunal into the case of Mrs Arthurton found he had displayed "poor management".

It is also not known whether Mr Taylor is still on full pay despite being off sick for six months. Police refused to comment - describing it as a "private matter".

Mr Ferguson, whose claim of homophobic bullying was settled, said he planned to contact his MP, Charles Clarke, claiming Norfolk was refusing to co-operate with the inquiry.

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He said that though the current inquiry had been under way for six months, he had so far been unable to give a statement to investigators.

Mr Ferguson, who now lives in South Africa, said Lincolnshire police had made repeated attempts to arrange to visit him for an interview. But their investigation was funded by Norfolk police which had so far refused to authorise the trip.

He said: "Given I have made one of the most serious allegations it is possible to make against a police force, it seems incredible that they haven't even taken my statement after six months.

"How can the public have any faith in the way complaints are handled if even I, a retired police officer, am so frustrated by the process.

"The constabulary and police authority have a public duty to investigate this properly, but so far all they have done is attempt to obstruct and delay the work of the independent police force."

Chris Harding, chief executive at Norfolk Police Authority, said he could not comment on the claims until the investigation was concluded, but the force was co-operating with Lincolnshire police to ensure a "comprehensive investigation".

A spokesman for the IPCC, which is now supervising the investigation, said the commission could not comment.

Other findings at Mrs Arthurton's tribunal included Mrs Howlett being guilty of "bullying behaviour" in threatening an application for legal costs if the claimant did not enter mediation at a time when she was off on long-term sick leave.

Since the tribunal, Norfolk police has reached financial settlements with two other officers alleging sex discrimination and victimisation.