Police chief denies being 'monster' after latest allegations

Steve Ashman

Steve Ashman

A police boss has denied being a "monster" after he was accused of trying to drive out a colleague who complained to him of sexism at work, a tribunal heard.

Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman is alleged to have bullied Denise Aubrey, the force's former head of legal services, leaving her feeling "scared" of him.

Ms Aubrey was sacked for gross misconduct after she was accused of disclosing information about affairs involving high-ranking officers, but she denies this and instead has claimed unfair dismissal, discrimination and harassment.

During the tribunal details about the affairs have emerged, as well as a string of accusations involving a punch up, a cover up and force flats being used as "love pads".

Under questioning from Daphne Romney QC, Mr Ashman was accused of taking "a course of action to drive [Aubrey] out of the organisation" after she complained to him about "a glass ceiling, equal pay and sex discrimination".

Ms Romney also alleged that the top lawyer had been apprehensive and "quite scared of you".

But he denied this, saying: "I found it deeply offensive, why would I have become this monster overnight?"

Mr Ashman claimed he had enjoyed a "pleasant working relationship" with Ms Aubrey, but under questioning admitted he had a notebook where he wrote down details of all contact with her.

The tribunal previously heard claims from Ms Aubrey that "the physical effects of being bullied by DCC Ashman frequently caused me to experience disorientation, dizziness, hot and cold sweats, headaches, fainting, physical vomiting, palpitating heartbeats, lack of breath, seizures and pains in my chest.

"I became physically afraid of what he would do or say next. I was married to my job and it meant all the world to me and I was devastated by what was happening."

She also claimed she once received a "bollocking" from him that was "so aggressive and unpleasant that it made me ill".

The court heard that while serving as deputy chief constable, Mr Ashman instructed Ms Aubrey that all communication with the then chief constable Sue Sim had to come through him.

But despite in her evidence Ms Sim saying she knew nothing about this, Mr Ashman said it was "inconceivable in the extreme" that she was unaware of it.

The latest evidence from the tribunal has added to a damaging few weeks for Northumbria Police, after the former chief constable Mike Craik was accused of lying to try and cover up an affair he had with his assistant chief constable Carolyn Peacock.

He was then allegedly accosted by her chief superintendent husband, Jim, and punched at a barbecue, with the police being called but the record of this was then said to have been deleted and officers told not to look for it.

Details of a second fling involving "tassels with nipples" and "hula hoops" also emerged, which is said to have involved assistant chief constable Greg Vant and Mr Craik's secretary, Juliet Bains.

Both the Craiks and the Peacocks deny that the affair or the altercation ever took place and on Friday submitted statements to Judge Humphrey Forrest.

But he rejected them, saying despite reading them they would not be admitted as evidence, denying them the chance to have their say.

Mr Craik was also accused of allowing a colleague, who pressured a vulnerable member of staff into two sex acts, to stay on so he would not lose his pension.

The exchanges between Ms Romney and Mr Ashman continued, with Ms Romney saying: "You are trying to come across as very saintly, do you ever lose your temper?"

He replied: "I haven't been prone to random bouts of anger in my police service, I don't berate people or belittle people."

In reference to the notebook where he kept logs about Ms Aubrey, Ms Romney said "what you were doing was stockpiling complaints to launch in one nasty package", which Mr Ashman denied.

She also asked him about an entry he made noting Ms Aubrey had gone off for the birth of her granddaughter, but in fact it was a grandson and he was born the day after the note was made.

She asked how this could have happened "unless you were writing a lot later than you say you were".

The case continues.