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Daily editor demands greater transparency from ‘toxic’ police force

Gavin ThompsonA regional daily editor is to meet a top police officer after demanding greater transparency from her force following allegations of corruption, misogyny and racism.

Gavin Thompson, who edits the South Wales Argus, has called for Gwent Police to commit to holding all misconduct hearings in public after the Sunday Times revealed claims of a “toxic” culture at Gwent Police based on the WhatsApp and Facebook messages of a former officer who took his own life in 2020.

Allegations of gross misconduct were also recently found proven against three senior officers within the force, although their misconduct hearings were heard in secret.

Since the claims were made public, Gwent chief constable Pam Kelly has agreed to meet Gavin and the Argus has been able to cover a misconduct hearing that resulted in an officer’s sacking.

Gavin, pictured, wrote in an editorial reacting to the claims made by the Sunday Times: “To build trust, you first need transparency. Sadly, that has been lacking in Gwent Police.

“Allegations of gross misconduct were recently found proven against three senior officers which stemmed from an incident at a leaving party and the cover-up that followed, resulting in two being fired, the third having already retired.

“The misconduct hearing was held behind closed doors. This was justified on grounds of protecting victims or witnesses.

“Whether or not that was the true motive, if the hearing had been held in public it would have exposed the culture at Gwent Police to scrutiny. Instead, we were denied that opportunity.”

The messages were discovered by a family member of retired officer Ricky Jones and shared with reporters at the Sunday Times.

One described the Grenfell Tower tragedy as ‘The Great Muslim Bake-off’, while another claimed an officer illegally offered to help hide a colleague’s money during a divorce.

Wiltshire Police is now investigating and is understood to have the former officer’s mobile phone.

Speaking to HTFP, Gavin said: “I wrote to the chief constable after publishing the editorial and I will be going in to talk to her in, hopefully, the next week or two to discuss how we can work with them to be more transparent and restore trust.

“I am hoping we can improve things but of course we will continue to hold their feet to the fire too.

“Since the Sunday Times story broke, we’ve covered a misconduct hearing resulting in the sacking of an officer and we’ve spoken to several domestic abuse survivors who feel let down by the force.

“Some of them date back a number of years and their experience won’t be shared by everyone but their stories are important and deserve to be heard.”

Chief constable Kelly told the Newport-based Argus: “The content we have been made aware of is abhorrent and any officers identified by the investigation as having breached either professional standards or the criminal threshold will be held accountable.

“The content shared with us paints a picture of a toxic culture which does not represent the majority of our service.

“Over the past three years we’ve worked hard to make sure that our colleagues are clear about the high standard of professional behaviour we, and the public, expect from them. We have also made it clear that those who do not uphold these standards have no place in Gwent Police – or in policing.

“The recent dismissal of three senior officers reflects our commitment to pursue and hold accountable those who let us all down, and we will continue to challenge unacceptable behaviour in court or through the independently chaired disciplinary process.”