Today I met with Deputy Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave to discuss the recent disciplinary case involving Surrey Police’s Head of Finance, Paul Bundy. Mr Bundy had been dismissed for gross misconduct on 26 November 2013 then reinstated after an appeal on 19 December. Not much more than that was currently in the public domain except that the misconduct consisted of a failure to declare a personal interest and mishandling internal information.
Why was I there?
I have been on record calling for Surrey Police to reveal more details of the case. There were two main reasons I met with DCC Ephgrave this morning.
Firstly, on behalf of the people, the taxpayers, of Surrey. They deserve to know if their public money is being lost. For example, Surrey Police are selling some former police station buildings and no indication had been given whether assets had been sold inappropriately. The public is rightly concerned about protection of their own data. People will have wondered if the data that had been “mishandled” was their personal information. After today’s meeting I can reveal that neither of these events have occurred in this case. The public need to trust Surrey Police to inform them if their interests have been harmed and how. Obviously, Surrey Police was harmed by the misconduct, or there would have been no disciplinary hearing, so in that sense the public interest was harmed.
Secondly, I was there on behalf of the rank and file police officers in Surrey. They have been putting their lives at risk during the recent floods, as they often do to protect us all. They deserve to know that they can trust their leadership team.
Just the facts
DCC Ephgrave was very open and helpful about the case and started by explaining the facts of the case and the procedure. I took some notes to ensure I got it right:
The misconduct took place over several months before the disciplinary hearing on 26 Nov. This was chaired by Commander Adrian Hanstock of the Metropolitan Police. Paul Bundy, whom DCC Ephgrave described as “a member of the chief officer team”, was represented by a lawyer, as is his right.
The hearing found
- on the balance of probabilities that the misconduct took place
- that it was “gross misconduct” and
- the “sanction” ie punishment should be dismissal
Mr Bundy had 5 working days to appeal, which he did. The appeal hearing took place on 19 Dec and was chaired by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor also of the Met. It is a requirement for appeals to be chaired by an officer senior to the one who chaired the original hearing. It is not a requirement for it to be chaired by an officer from a different force to the first one, although Cmdr Hanstock does not report to DAC Taylor in the Met.
The appeal hearing found that the original hearing was correct on points 1 & 2 above but overturned point 3. It found that a more appropriate sanction was a final written warning. Mr Bundy was reinstated with immediate effect. Each hearing took two days and, along with the investigation, cost the Force an unspecified large amount of money!
It was expected that he would receive his salary for the time he had been wrongly dismissed. It was unclear how much extra was paid to the PCC’s finance manager during the period where he was standing in as finance head. It was unclear to what extent the Force’s financial management had been impaired during this period.
Paul Bundy had a previously unblemished employment record. The “interest” which he had failed to declare has now been declared properly. He has not admitted the mishandling of internal information charge but he did not appeal against the hearing’s finding that he did commit this.
…And now for the verdict
Although I have not seen all the confidential documents relating to the case, I am satisfied that DCC Ephgrave, in his capacity as the chief officer responsible for professional standards, has treated this with the appropriate seriousness. I don’t intend to speculate about why the initial sanction of dismissal was overturned on appeal. It would have been better for Surrey Police if the original hearing had come to a decision which was not overturned but that can only be said with hindsight.
I believe that Surrey Police were correct to release the fact that Mr Bundy had been dismissed after the original hearing. However, they should have been more specific about the nature of the misconduct. I now know what the misconduct consisted of, broadly, and although it is very serious, if Surrey Police had been more forthcoming initially it would have prevented some of the wilder speculation. I invite them to be publicly more specific now.
Rank and file police have a difficult job, sometimes impossibly difficult. They have a right to expect the highest standards from their leadership team. In this case they were let down by one member of it. This sometimes happens in big organisations. The best way to minimise the damage to trust in the Force’s leadership is to be as transparent as possible. Personally, I am not interested in discovering details of anyone’s private life but I think some more information should be in the public domain about this case.
This has been a difficult issue for Surrey Police and they have learned lessons from it.