The dismissed former director of West Yorkshire Police legal services is at the centre of a dispute that led to the suspension of another force’s temporary chief constable on grounds that the High Court subsequently ruled were ‘perverse and irrational’.
Afzal Hussain, dismissed from his legal director’s role after 17 years, brought a claim of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal citing, among other reasons, racial discrimination.
Lincolnshire temporary chief constable Neil Rhodes, as part of a police peer support scheme, acted as Hussain’s Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association friend to initiate a without-prejudice discussion.
Court papers show that Fraser Sampson, chief executive and solicitor to the office of the West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner (PCC), wrote to the Lincolnshire PCC, former radio and TV journalist Alan Hardwick, alleging that Rhodes had acted improperly during the tribunal proceedings by supporting the discrimination claim despite knowing that it was unfounded.
Hardwick suspended Rhodes from his post on 25 February.
However, the High Court found on 28 March that the suspension of a chief constable by a PCC should be an act of last resort.
Mr Justice Stuart Smith said that Hardwick’s decision to suspend Rhodes was ‘irrational and perverse’ because of ‘fundamental errors’ in his approach. He made an order quashing Rhodes’s suspension, allowing him to return to his role as temporary chief constable with immediate effect.
Manchester firm Lewis Hymanson Small partner Imran Khan, who acted for Rhodes, said that the court had ruled that PCCs cannot suspend a police head for ‘insignificant reasons’, but must be sure that the allegations will lead to serious disciplinary charges, and that the decision to suspend is ‘rational in the circumstances’.
He said that it was not in the ‘public interest’ to suspend a chief constable unless there are credible allegations that bring his or her ‘integrity or ability to perform the role into question’.
Hussain’s employment tribunal case continues.