AN investigation into gross misconduct allegations made against Cheshire Police’s chief constable was ‘flawed and flimsy’, a panel has found.

Simon Byrne was head of the force between his appointment in 2014 and suspension in 2017, after which an inquiry found that he had ‘a reputation for being like Darth Vader and treated staff like roadkill’.

But the 56-year-old was cleared of a total of 74 gross misconduct accusation by an inquiry at Warrington Town Hall last year, which cost more than £450,000 in public money.

Now the Cheshire Police and Crime Panel has criticised North Yorkshire Police’s investigation into Mr Byrne’s behaviour, as well as the actions of police and crime commissioner David Keane.

Mr Keane was grilled by the panel during a meeting in March over his decision to bring gross misconduct proceedings against the police boss – who was recently appointed chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

David Keane, pictured right, on the beat

And a subsequent report released by the police and crime panel has found that the PCC ‘had incomplete knowledge of the regulatory regime that had to be followed and the underpinning law’.

He had only been elected to his post a few months before proceedings were first brought and was ‘still finding his feet in what was a new and demanding role’.

The panel’s report said: “The panel were of the view that it was very unsatisfactory that a poor, suboptimal investigation report was relied on.

“It was particularly concerned that Mr Byrne was not interviewed at any stage of the investigation, nor given any chance to put his side of events or made aware that he could be facing gross misconduct charges.

“The panel were concerned that so many flimsy allegations were put forward against Mr Byrne, needlessly adding to the length, costs and complexity of the subsequent disciplinary hearing.”

Recommendations made in the report have asked the Home Secretary to give police and crime panels an ‘early and direct role’ in such proceedings in the future.

The report added: “There is reason to criticise many of those involved in the disciplinary action taken against Simon Byrne, including David Keane and former North Yorkshire Police chief constable Dave Jones – who was responsible for the investigation into the allegations against Mr Byrne.

“The way in which Mr Keane managed the process of the disciplinary process was flawed.

Runcorn and Widnes World: David Keane and Simon Byrne

David Keane and Simon Byrne

“It was unsatisfactory that the PCC blamed others for the shortcomings in the work done for him or in his name.

“North Yorkshire Police made serious mistakes in their investigation and provided Mr Keane with a suboptimal report.

“The report should have been referred back to the chief constable of North Yorkshire Police for further work to be done.

“The mistakes made were compounded by what was viewed by the panel as an overly complicated, bureaucratic and unbalanced national regulatory system – introduced when police and crime commissioners were created in 2012.”

Mr Keane is now expected to ‘consider the report and respond to the panel in due course’.

A spokesman for the PCC’s office said: “Following the police and crime panel’s meeting held in March 2019, the commissioner has now received a copy of the written report from the panel in relation to misconduct proceedings regarding the former chief constable.

“The commissioner will now be taking time to consider the report and will respond to the panel in due course.”