04 August 2023

Police officer ‘could have given drugs test when he anticipated negative result’

04 August 2023

A senior police officer accused of smoking cannabis daily could have provided a drugs test when he believed it would not have come up positive because he was using CBD oil to treat facial palsy, 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 in late 2019.

He is also alleged to have failed to provide a urine sample for testing and lied about why.

He told a misconduct panel in Southwark, south London, he had done internet research after the missed drugs test which suggested CBD oil would not cause it to come up positive.

The tribunal heard that may not have been true but it is nonetheless what he believed at the time.

If that was your belief, why didn't you contact professional standards and say 'I will take the test now?'

Mark Ley-Morgan KC, representing the Metropolitan Police, asked him: “We have established that by August 28, at most five weeks after you refused to provide a sample, your belief was if you had provided a sample, you can’t have been positive and your previous belief was mistaken.

“If that was your belief, why didn’t you contact professional standards and say ‘I will take the test now?'”

He replied: “I did not believe the issue of failing to take the drugs test was determinative if I subsequently provided a negative sample.”

Mr Ley-Morgan later asked: “In 2014 you dismissed an officer. He had been offered and agreed to provide a sample and … if it had been negative, that would have been taken into account as mitigation.”

He replied: “The officer submitted a test… subsequently it was negative, that was not determinative in the test. I don’t think it would have been in mine either.”

When he refused the test, he offered to resign in a private meeting with Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe.

However, he denied this was a “cover up” because he did not believe it would have stopped the misconduct investigation.

Earlier, Mr Ley-Morgan asked: “Do you think that the police superintendent had authorised a drugs test because the MPS received intelligence you were using CBD products you had bought from Holland and Barrett?”

He replied: “That is exactly what I thought. I couldn’t think of anything else and have not done anything else wrong, as I have said categorically, I have not taken any illegal drug.”

The officer said only around seven people knew he was using the CBD products.

When Mr Ley-Morgan asked whether he believed any of them had reported his use of oils to the Metroplitan Police, he replied “no.”

Mr Ley-Morgan added: “That’s the end of our list.”

He replied: “Yes.”

He also told the hearing he believed Sheila Gomes, his ex-lodger who made the allegation, was a “lonely and troubled individual” with “a lot of issues”.

Mr Ley-Morgan asked: “Do you blame Ms Gomes for making up these allegations?”

He replied: “I blame myself, I don’t blame other people. I realised that I didn’t know that person (Ms Gomes) at all.”

I don't blame and judge people. Whether you believe me or not, she tried to ruin my life

Mr Ley-Morgan asked: “She was cross-examined, perfectly acceptably, and you say you didn’t believe her.”

He replied: “I don’t blame and judge people. Whether you believe me or not, she tried to ruin my life.

“She said I liked to be regarded as a nasty person, and I don’t hold a grudge against her and I don’t hold grudges against anyone but she has issues.”

Mr Ley-Morgan asked: “You feel sorry for her?

He replied: “I do a bit. I think she is a lonely, troubled individual. Some people might think I hold a huge grudge against her, it is not my nature actually.”

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.

Claims he took LSD and magic mushrooms were dismissed by the tribunal panel on Wednesday.

The tribunal continues.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox