31 July 2023

Police commander who wrote anti-drugs strategy ‘took LSD and magic mushrooms’

31 July 2023

A senior police officer who wrote an anti-drugs strategy for the Metropolitan Police allegedly took LSD and magic mushrooms while off duty and smoked cannabis daily, a tribunal has heard.

Commander Julian Bennett, who has served in the force since 1976, is alleged to have smoked cannabis before breakfast and had regular parties at his flat in 2019.

He is also accused of failing to provide a urine sample for testing and lying about why he had not done so.

Mark Ley-Morgan KC, representing the Metropolitan Police, told the tribunal in Southwark, south London: “In about mid-October 2019 Sheila Gomes moved into the officer’s flat, staying until about Christmas 2019.

“Between November 27 and December 10 2019 she sent (her friend) Mario a WhatsApp message in which she referred to Commander Bennett … smoking cannabis at the flat.

“Shortly before 10am on December 7 2019 she used her mobile phone to take photographs of a bag of cannabis, cigarette paper, tobacco and lighters lying on a glass table in the flat living room.

I didn’t like it at all. Why did I have to live in a place where it was just cannabis in the air, I was just trying to breathe oxygen

“She moved out just before Christmas that year.

“On July 17 2020 she telephoned the Metropolitan Police to record that Commander Bennett had been smoking cannabis before work.”

Ms Gomes told the hearing the flat was “like an Amsterdam coffee shop” because of the officer’s alleged activities.

She told the hearing under questioning from Mr Ley-Morgan: “It would start early in the morning, before breakfast and before he would leave and go to work.

“Sometimes when he was arriving at home it was there. I never saw him eat before going to work.”

She said she believed he was a lawyer rather than a senior police officer until after she stopped living with him.

Ms Gomes added that she had never seen him in uniform.

The nurse went on: “I didn’t like it at all. Why did I have to live in a place where it was just cannabis in the air, I was just trying to breathe oxygen.

“He (the officer) was the one who was using the cannabis, I will say a few times during the day he would bring it in.

“If he would go to work (he would do it) at least before going to work and arriving at home.”

She said his behaviour was “erratic” and that she would regularly ask her about her work rota.

She said: “He was extremely controlling and he was very anxious.

“The first thing he would ask me when I was waking up was ‘when are you going to work, when are you back, when are you off?

“I found him narcissistic and had a lack of empathy towards most citizens I would say. When he was not smoking he was very all over the place.

“He is still denying it. He is still denying something that I saw in front of me when I was living with him.”

She said her housemate told her “look at his age and he is doing drugs. He is very open-minded. He is smoking weed around people who are in their 20s”.

She told the tribunal she had received threatening messages after reporting the allegations but they are not said to have come from the officer.

John Beggs KC, representing Mr Bennett, asked Ms Gomes why she had not realised the officer worked for the police when he bought newspaper cuttings featuring himself back home, which she claimed she had read.

She claimed the article “had not mentioned that he was a member of the Metropolitan Police”.

She had also told the hearing her flatmate who told her about the LSD and magic mushrooms allegations was a “liar”.

When questioned by Mr Beggs, she said he only lied about whether he was “addicted” to drugs rather than more generally.

He also accused her of giving an inconsistent account about whether the officer was smoking cannabis “from day one” after she moved in.

In one exchange, when she was questioned about a date when Mr Bennett had surgery and would not confirm it without looking at notes, he told her “you are a deeply unreasonable individual”, accusing her of being a “liar and hypersensitive”.

He added: “Any decent witness would not argue such a silly point.”

Mr Ley-Morgan said a drugs test was authorised on July 20 2020, and a day later, in the presence of an assistant commissioner, Mr Bennett was asked to provide a sample.

It was “made clear” the order to give a sample was a lawful order but Mr Bennett refused and said he would resign, the tribunal heard.

He told officers he had been taking CBD (cannabidiol) to treat facial palsy and was worried the sample would come up positive for an innocent reason, the tribunal heard.

An earlier hearing was told he was accessing CBD oil “from Holland and Barrett and the like.”

Ms Gomes said she had never seen any evidence of him using CBD oil for this purpose.

The hearing was told the allegations about him taking magic mushrooms on holiday in France and LSD at a party are “hearsay” that Ms Gomes was told by a housemate of hers and the officer’s.

Mr Ley-Morgan said Mr Bennett’s explanation for not providing a sample was “nonsensical” as it would have come up with a much lower reading if it was not being used recreationally.

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.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox