Top police lawyer loses employment tribunal

Denise Aubrey

Denise Aubrey

A police force's top lawyer whose employment tribunal raised a series of allegations about affairs between senior staff, has lost her case.

Denise Aubrey, 54, who worked as head of legal services at Northumbria Police, was sacked for gross misconduct after being accused of disclosing confidential information to other members of her team.

She denied the claims saying the rumours were common knowledge and instead took the force to a tribunal where a string of damaging allegations were made against police top brass including details of affairs, a punch up at a barbecue and public money being spent on a cover-up.

Ms Aubrey lost her case after accusing the force of "sex discrimination, disability discrimination, victimisation and harassment".

Workaholic Ms Aubrey was sacked for gross misconduct in 2014 despite 20 years of service, after apparently telling staff details of the allegations involving ex-chief constable Mike Craik.

Rumours had circulated in the force that in 2007 Mr Craik had an affair with assistant chief constable Carolyn Peacock, and that her husband Jim punched him at a barbecue at Mr Craik's home.

Armed police were alleged to have responded after an alarm was supposedly activated. It was said that this incident was covered up and removed from the police log.

Mr Craik and the Peacocks continue to deny all the allegations.

Ms Aubrey was also said to have disclosed information that assistant chief constable Greg Vant had an affair with Mr Craik's secretary.

At the tribunal, Mr Vant denied that they got together at work, and has stated that their relationship did not start until 2012 at a time when there were both single and Mr Craik's secretary had left the organisation.

Senior staff were said to have used force accommodation at headquarters to conduct affairs, so much so that they were dubbed "love pads".

The tribunal, held in North Shields, North Tyneside, over most of May, created damaging headlines about the force. But the hearing was expressly not intended to find out the truth about the alleged affairs between staff.

Rather, it had to examine whether Ms Aubrey had committed gross misconduct by discussing with team members the legal advice she gave senior officers in handling the allegations.

The tribunal concluded that Ms Aubrey, in a state of anger, had made the confidential disclosure for "purely self-serving" reasons.

The judgment said: "We accept that the disclosure was made to staff who were themselves bound by professional and contractual duties of confidentiality.

"Had it been made in a professional context, the disclosure would have been innocuous.

"But it was made for purely self- serving personal reasons, in anger and in the heat of the moment."

It goes onto say: "The evidence that Ms Aubrey committed the acts of misconduct is compelling, and they were serious, substantial acts of misconduct, with serious consequences for the employer, apt to attract dismissal for any employee of the police force let alone one of Ms Aubrey's seniority and position."

Judge Humphrey Forrest concluded that the wider allegations of sexual discrimination "had no substance" and no bearing on the acts of misconduct that Ms Aubrey was dismissed for.

He ended by saying: "This was a fair dismissal."

Chief Superintendent Tim Jackson, National Secretary of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, said: "This has been a long and difficult case for all involved. It has been very damaging to both the reputation of Northumbria Police and the morale of those who work there, in particular those individuals who have been the subject of personal attacks and allegations.

"The evidence given painted a picture of Northumbria Police that would cause the public serious concern. However it was a picture that our members tell us they do not recognise.

"We are pleased at the outcome and hope this judgment now brings an end to this matter so that our members, and their colleagues in the force, can focus on what they joined for police for, which is to protect and serve the public and keep the people of Northumbria safe."