Gwent police chief to meet with councillors over claims of misogyny, homophobia and racism
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
The chief constable of under-fire Gwent Police will be invited to a behind closed doors meeting with councillors as her force is probed over misogyny, homophobia and racism.
Pam Kelly has been asked to meet with members of Monmouthshire County Council by leader Mary Ann Brocklesby who said allegations of illegal activity and prejudices among officers uncovered by The Sunday Times newspaper were “shocking but not surprising”.
The full council has agreed to write to Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert to express its alarm at the “reports alleging a culture of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and corruption in the force” and request that he attend a select committee to address the concerns of councillors.
The motion had been put forward by Conservative group leader Richard John and the council’s Labour leader, Cllr Brocklesby, said she “fully endorsed” it.
She said she had also written to the force asking for a meeting with the chief constable and Labour politician Mr Cuthbert who is elected to oversee and scrutinise the police chief.
Cllr John told Monmouthshire council’s December 1 meeting at County Hall, Usk he had been disappointed by Mr Cuthbert’s response to the emergence of private messages between officers which were revealed when the family of retired police sergeant Ricky Jones, who took his own life two years ago, shared them with the Sunday newspaper.
Gwent Police are being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and Wiltshire Police in relation to the messages and allegations.
“I feel disappointed by the initial reaction of the police and crime commissioner who said he was confident this was more about individuals than a collective culture. I hope that’s the case but it’s a blasé attitude,” said Cllr John.
He said he acknowledged many areas of public life, including politics, which are dominated by men face similar issues, but said of Mr Cuthbert’s response: “I don’t think that attitude installs confidence.”
Both Cllr John and Cllr Brocklesby expressed their support for the chief constable and the leader said: “I absolutely concur with Cllr John it’s not a case of a few bad apples as was made very clear by the chief constable, it is an organisational and cultural issue.”
She added she had invited both Chief Constable Kelly and Mr Cuthbert to a members’ seminar with all councillors.
The seminar would be held behind closed doors, meaning the public including the press won’t be allowed to attend and hear what the pair have to say, though Mr Cuthbert’s appearance before a council scrutiny committee would be open to the public.
Several councillors at the meeting shared their concerns and Chepstow Labour councillor Sue Riley spoke of her own experience of sexism while a serving police officer.
She said: “Following the report in The Sunday Times I wrote to them about my own experiences as a young police recruit 40 years ago, and I also sent it to the Monmouthshire Beacon, and their headline was ‘Hounded out by vile sexual abuse’.
“It was distressing then and it is now.”
Cllr Riley said she was also concerned that recent figures have shown young females in Monmouthshire and Torfaen are more likely to be involved in serious crime than elsewhere and wanted to know how that may relate to the allegations around the police force.
Caldicot councillor Rachel Garrick said following the murder of Sarah Everard, in London in March last year by a then serving Met Police officer, Gwent Police had initially attempted to prevent a vigil taking place in Newport. She said that “pointed to institutional issues”. There were Covid restrictions in place at the time.
Cllr Garrick said she was also concerned at the case of Mouayed Bashir, a 29-year-old who died in February last year after being restrained by Gwent Police officers at his family home in Newport.
The case is subject to an IOPC investigation and Cllr Garrick said: “His family deserve truth and justice.”
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