A police force is to carry out an investigation into the behaviour of one of its sergeants after he challenged a weekly newspaper over a critical story about a councillor.
Sgt Paul Beale from Hampshire Police contacted the New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times after the paper reported that Coun Goff Beck had been accused of making homophobic remarks towards an openly gay former council colleague.
The sergeant initially rang the independent paper to say that Coun Beck was not happy about the story and then asked for a meeting at the paper’s office to discuss its editorial policy towards the councillor.
The complaint by Sgt Beale took place last October but Hampshire Police are now launching a full investigation into the case after a resident raised the issue with the head of its professional standards department, Det Supt Colin Smith.
The paper has welcomed the investigation which it covered in a story this week.
In a statement, it said: “We didn’t complain about Sgt Beale at the time of his visit because while we thought his request to discuss our editorial policy towards Coun Beck was rather bizarre, he was the new sergeant in the town and may have been somewhat naive in getting involved in something that clearly has nothing to do with policing.
“We welcome Det Supt Smith’s pledge to now investigate this properly as clearly the police must be seen to be independent and free from any suggestions of favourable treatment for certain people.
“Coun Beck should have contacted us himself if he thinks we have been unfair, rather than the police coming round when they could be doing something more useful like catching criminals.”
When Sgt Beale visited the paper, he told journalists he did not want to be made out as a “guardian” to Coun Beck but said the councillor was not very happy the story “raked over previous stuff”.
He said: “Coun Beck’s view is that he was taken to task for perceived things he thinks he hasn’t done. He strongly disagrees with what is being said about him. He feels his credibility as a person of good standing is being undermined.”
Journalists at the paper who had spoken to Sgt Beale are now due to be interviewed as part of the investigation.