CHESHIRE Police's chief constable was a 'Darth Vader-like villain and dictator', an inquiry into his alleged gross misconduct has heard.

Simon Byrne, who is accused of 'exhibiting volatile, unpredictable and offensive behaviour' towards force staff, gave evidence to the panel at Warrington Town Hall over the course of three days between Wednesday and Friday last week.

John Beggs, representing Cheshire police and crime commissioner David Keane's office, accused Mr Byrne of having a 'Jekyll and Hyde character trait' and referenced a newspaper article which compared the chief constable to Darth Vader.

He also told the panel that staff who worked with Mr Byrne during his previous role in the Metropolitan Police were 'in morbid terror' of him.

Mr Byrne, who was suspended by the PCC in summer last year, said: “I was obviously concious of my reputation, and despite the evidence we’ve heard over the last few days I used to seek feedback about my behaviour from all sorts of different people - both within the organisation and third parties.

“At no time were issues like this raised with me.

“I was not aware of the actual effect I was having on the people we’ve heard from this week.

“Evidently, people have come into the hearing and described what they saw and felt - I can’t dispute that.

“Does what they see amount to behaviour in the descriptor of challenging or robust, or does it cross the line into gross misconduct?”

Mr Beggs also accused the force boss of 'using Cheshire Police as a stepping stone' in order to land the role of chief constable at Greater Manchester Police.

The panel also heard that Mr Byrne was 'in a bad mood' after an unsuccessful application to this job.

He said: "From the get-go I always had an eye on the horizon about what might be next.

"It’s a matter of fact, but as a matter of context the PCC always knew that the role at GMP was something I always preferred to end my career doing.

“When the GMP vacancy was announced it was actually him that encouraged me to apply.

“Apart from coming home, the thing that I thought was exciting about joining Cheshire Police was that because the scale was smaller I anticipated that I could innovate and experiment quicker and that we would learn more.”

During the two-week inquiry, the panel heard that Mr Byrne had failed to attend a number of meetings and conferences - with the chief constable's excuses including traffic causing him to miss a train and a clash with the Cheshire Show.

He also took issue with his deputy's hair clip, 'insisted' on being the one to make an arrest after attending a domestic violence call and 'berated and belittled' low ranking staff.

Mr Byrne added: "It was never my intention to cause people worry or upset through what I was doing.

"I'd just like to reinforce my reflections and my apologies if people have been upset by my behaviour."

The hearing has now been adjourned until September, when the panel is expected to reach a decision on whether Mr Byrne's behaviour amounted to gross misconduct.