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New police commissioner wins legal fight with chief constable Colin Port

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 09, 2013

Sue Mount-  stevens leaves     the court yesterday

Sue Mount- stevens leaves the court yesterday

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A new police commissioner in Avon and Somerset has won a legal fight with a "highly effective" chief constable, despite a High Court judge concluding that she had been responsible for a breakdown in their working relationship.

Colin Port – chief constable of Avon and Somerset Police since 2005 – had complained that Sue Mountstevens unfairly "called upon him ... to retire" after taking office in November.

Mrs Mountstevens – a former director of her family's bakery company in Bristol – disputed the allegation.

Mr Justice-Edwards Stuart ruled in Mrs Mountstevens' favour, following a High Court hearing in London, and said she had broken no rules in her dealings with Mr Port.

But the judge said Mrs Mountstevens was responsible for the pair's relationship breakdown and said he was sorry to see Mr Port's "outstanding career" end in such unhappy circumstances.

Mr Port said after the hearing that he had lost the fight on a "technicality" and was considering an appeal. Mrs Mountstevens left court without answering questions from waiting reporters.

Mr Port, 58, who began his police career in Manchester in 1974 and has also worked in Norfolk and Northern Ireland, took legal action following a meeting held a day before Mrs Mountstevens, 57, officially began work in November.

He said she had "banged her hand on the table" at the meeting and said "things would be different". He said she had a "vision for a new way of working".

Mr Port's term as force head was due to end later this month, the court heard. But he said he had not had any intention of retiring and wanted his appointment extended for another year.

At the meeting, Mrs Mountstevens had explained how she wanted to invite applications for the chief constable's job and hold an "open competition", said Mr Port. He had refused to take part, said he would not "apply for his own job" and told staff that he would be leaving. Mr Port complained that he had "effectively" been "called upon to create a vacancy, to retire".

Mrs Mountstevens gave a different account of the meeting. She said she wanted a chief constable who could stay for longer than a year. And she said her manner had been conciliatory. She denied raising her voice or banging her hand on the table. She said she had broken no rules and urged the judge not to halt job interviews.

Following the hearing, Mrs Mountstevens was said to be "delighted" with the judge's ruling.

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  • IBM_Out  |  January 10 2013, 3:04PM

    In 2005, the then wife of Colin Port, Sue Barnes, was appointed to a £90K Director's job in Somerset County Council WITHOUT competitive interview. Sue Barnes lead the outsourcing procurement that led to the disastrous joint venture Southwest One which was formed in 2007. It is reported that 5 years into a 10-year contract barely 10% of the promised £190m of savings for Somerset have materialised, with something like £60m paid out to IBM via Southwest One - much of that on an expensive but troubled IT system called SAP. Southwest One are now incredibly suing its 15% shareholder & lead partner Somerset County Council for even more money as Government cuts reduce service spend. When BBC West reported on a clear & potential conflict of interest between his Wife leading the outsourcing project and "his" Police Force being a major partner in Southwest One, Colin Port responded by launching libel proceedings. That time he used £90K of OUR money that could have been spent on Policing, with posh libel lawyers Carter Ruck, to bring about legal proceedings against the BBC's democratic reporting that failed. Once Southwest One was created (with IBM holding a majority 75% share holding) Colin Port was then appointed to and accepted a position as Director on the board of Southwest One as his largest contractor. Yet again, he saw no conflict of interest with being both the Head of the Police as a customer and being on the board of the major supplier Southwest One as a Director. As Southwest One is a private limited company, what he did and said & how he voted as a Director of Southwest One remains secret. After a long campaign by the Bridgwater & West Somerset MP and a report to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Colin Port finally accepted a conflict of interest (citing changes in Somerset's contract) and stood down as a Director of Southwest One in Sep'2011. "His" Police force has of late had success with improving crime detection and reducing crime. Mr Port should now show some dignity and retire quietly (on a very good 6-figure est.pension) and bring this ill-judged & un-dignified episode to an end.

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