If you have a story call our newsdesk on 01722 426511 or email us. To advertise call 01722 426500.
Deputy chief constable facing harassment claims had not been vetted
A WILTSHIRE deputy chief constable who killed himself while being investigated over alleged sexual harassment had not been properly vetted, a report has revealed.
David Ainsworth, 49, hanged himself in his garage in March last year fearing he would “lose everything” and believing his family would be better off without him if he took his own life, following lengthy investigations into allegations of long-standing sexual harassment across two forces, which eventually revealed up to 24 complaints from female members of staff.
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has found lessons must be learned from the “deeply tragic circumstances”, a whistle-blowing policy should be brought in and force vetting procedures should be reviewed.
The report said a dedicated whistle-blowing policy allowing issues to be reviewed in a timely and transparent manner would promote trust and confidence in the organisation and could help embed equality and diversity into the core of the organistion. It also said vetting procedures for chief officers and how they are applied should be reviewed.
“The level of vetting required is determined by the nature of the role and the level of restricted information that is regularly accessed, not the rank of the officer. It should be completed on appointment to a new role that requires a different level of vetting, or at the regular review periods set out in vetting arrangements,” the report said.
“There were apparent failures in the operation of the vetting system in Mr Ainsworth's case. As a result of inaction on the part of both Mr Ainsworth and Wiltshire Police, this remained unresolved at the time of Mr Ainsworth's death, a period of 18 months.
“The review team were surprised that both the chief constable (Brian Moore) and police authority had ‘assumed’ that vetting had been correctly conducted and completed. However, the review found this is not an issue singular to Wiltshire Police. Senior officers across a number of forces believe that vetting processes occur automatically.”
After the allegations the £110,000-a-year officer was removed from his duties and later placed on secondment. He was determined to clear his name but felt he was being treated as a “pariah” by the Wiltshire force, the three-day inquest at Trowbridge Town Hall heard in June.
During the inquest Mr Moore defended the force and said Mr Ainsworth, who joined the Wiltshire force in 2008 from Kent Police, was offered support in the weeks before his death.
A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “We acknowledge that this review was a complex process and HMIC have tried to represent all the contributors' views. However, we are disappointed that, as result of feedback received from staff, it would appear that some of the high level issues, related to senior leadership and recruitment, have not been addressed.
“Through changes we have made internally and ‘lessons learned’ we will continue to build a progressive organisation where staff treat each other with respect and every staff member feels confident to report wrongdoing.
“We are confident that changes that have been made to our internal policies and strategies address many of the points raised by the review. We use these internal policies to embed a high level of values and professional behaviour in all that we do."