New police commissioner wins legal fight with chief constable Colin Port
A new police commissioner in Avon and Somerset has won a legal fight with a "highly effective" chief constable, despite a High Court judge concluding that she had been responsible for a breakdown in their working relationship.
Colin Port – chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police since 2005 – had complained that Sue Mountstevens unfairly "called upon him ... to retire" after taking office in November.
Mrs Mountstevens – a former director of her family's bakery company in Bristol – disputed the allegation.
Mr Justice-Edwards Stuart ruled in Mrs Mountstevens' favour, following a High Court hearing in London, and said she had broken no rules in her dealings with Mr Port.
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But the judge said Mrs Mountstevens was responsible for the pair's relationship breakdown and said he was sorry to see Mr Port's "outstanding career" end in such unhappy circumstances.
Mr Port said after the hearing that he had lost the fight on a "technicality" and was considering an appeal. Mrs Mountstevens left court without answering questions from waiting reporters.
Mr Port, 58, who began his police career in Manchester in 1974 and has also worked in Norfolk and Northern Ireland, took legal action following a meeting held a day before Mrs Mountstevens, 57, officially began work in November.
He said she had "banged her hand on the table" at the meeting and said "things would be different". He said she had a "vision for a new way of working".
Mr Port's term as force head was due to end later this month, the court heard. But he said he had not had any intention of retiring and wanted his appointment extended for another year.
At the meeting, Mrs Mountstevens had explained how she wanted to invite applications for the chief constable's job and hold an "open competition", said Mr Port. He had refused to take part, said he would not "apply for his own job" and told staff that he would be leaving. Mr Port complained that he had "effectively" been "called upon to create a vacancy, to retire".
Mrs Mountstevens gave a different account of the meeting. She said she wanted a chief constable who could stay for longer than a year. And she said her manner had been conciliatory. She denied raising her voice or banging her hand on the table. She said she had broken no rules and urged the judge not to halt job interviews.
Following the hearing, Mrs Mountstevens was said to be "delighted" with the judge's ruling.