01 August 2023

Drug strategy police commander ‘was never sober at home’, tribunal hears

01 August 2023

A senior police officer who allegedly smoked cannabis daily after drawing up an anti-drugs strategy for the Metropolitan Police was “never sober” at home, a tribunal has heard.

Commander Julian Bennett, who has served in the force since 1976, is said to have taken the drug before breakfast and work, where he would be praised by senior colleagues.

He is also accused of taking LSD at a party and magic mushrooms while on holiday in France.

The officer is also alleged to have failed to provide a urine sample for testing and lied about why he had not done so.

He has to drink and he has to smoke. Julian Bennett was most of the time not sober. He was never sober

Sheila Gomes, a nurse who lived with the officer between October and December 2019, claims the officer was “never sober”.

She told the hearing in Southwark, south London: “He was never sober at home.

“He has to drink and he has to smoke. Julian Bennett was most of the time not sober. He was never sober.”

She also claimed he was “in and out” buying the drug but she did not know where it came from.

In a text to a friend, she claimed he could be “part of a small mafia or bribed by a dealer, or be a big dealer, or he is a big dealer.”

John Beggs KC, representing Mr Bennett, told the hearing she is a “gold digger” and “serial litigator” who wants money.

Following an exchange about the officer being praised at work, he told her: “You are a liar.”

She replied: “I am not.”

He asked: “Or a fantasist?”

She replied: “I am not.”

He said: “You are just making it up as you go along?”

She said: “I didn’t.”

He said: “You are hoping this would be another bit of litigation or a book you can write to make money.”

She replied: “I asked the previous chair and I told this one that I wanted to be anonymous.

“That would be very strange if I want to be anonymous that I would write a book.”

She later claimed references to writing a book were jokes she shared with a friend after she had found out he had drawn up an anti-drugs strategy.

He said: “I am suggesting you are a gold digger; you are looking for money.”

She replied: “No.”

He said: “You do sue people.”

She replied: “I don’t sue people.”

He asked: “You are currently involved in a litigation. It is not a matter of confidentiality that you are currently litigating.”

She replied: “I am.”

He asked if she had previously litigated, and she replied that she had done so in Portugal, where she was born.

She was also said to have used “racist, homophobic and vulgar” language, including derogatory references to black patients at the hospital where she worked, which Mr Beggs suggested pointed to her “nasty” character.

The hearing was told Mr Bennett was praised for his performance by senior officers at the time and shortly after.

A former assistant commissioner had thanked him for a report on the released under investigation procedure which Mr Beggs said had “quite complicated statistical analysis” about a month before Ms Gomes moved in.

In April 2020, the then deputy commissioner and deputy assistant commissioner expressed “personal appreciation” for his work.

On April 28, deputy commissioner Sir Stephen House said he had shown “determination and real focus in leading many improvements in the criminal justice portfolio”.

Dame Cressida Dick, the then commissioner, praised him at work at the time of the alleged drug-taking, an earlier hearing was told.

Mr Bennett wrote the force’s drugs strategy for 2017-21 as a commander for territorial policing.

The document, called Dealing With The Impact Of Drugs On Communities, set up plans to raise “awareness of the impact of drug misuse”.

Freedom of information requests showed Mr Bennett presided over 74 police misconduct hearings involving 90 officers between June 2010 and February 2012.

Out of the hearings involving Mr Bennett, 56 officers were dismissed – more than three quarters.

He chaired 69 hearings during that time and two officers were dismissed for drugs misuse, the figures showed.

Mr Bennett is accused of breaching the force’s professional standards for discreditable conduct three times, honesty and integrity twice and orders and instructions once.

His actions are alleged to have amounted to gross misconduct.

He denies the allegations and has been suspended on full pay since July 2021.

The tribunal continues.

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