West Yorkshire's former Chief Constable has accused the county's crime commissioner of abusing the misconduct investigation process against him for "political and media purposes".
Mark Gilmore, whose legal case against police and crime commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson got underway today at the High Court in London, retired from policing last year after being told he faced a public hearing over alleged misconduct.
The Belfast-born officer, appointed as West Yorkshire Chief Constable in 2013, was suspended the following year and then re-deployed away from the force amid claims of an inappropriate relationship with a car dealership in his native Northern Ireland.
A judicial review application hearing at the Administrative Court was told today that in September 2015, more than a year after the suspension, Mr Burns-Williamson's chief executive Fraser Sampson told Mr Gilmore the PCC would not stand in his way if he wanted to retire.
This was despite the position of then-Home Secretary Theresa May that senior officers should not be able to retire while facing misconduct claims.
Jeremy Johnson QC, representing Mr Gilmore, said his client was told by Mr Sampson that the police commissioner "was prepared to take the public and political criticism that my retirement may bring him".
The court was told that a note of a meeting between Mr Burns-Williamson and the senior Lancashire Police officer investigating Mr Gilmore revealed that the crime commissioner said the investigation "must be thorough to justify the length of time Mark Gilmore has been suspended/redeployed".
Mr Johnson told the court this was not "properly a reason" why a case should be investigated thoroughly, and that such a probe should be "to reach a correct conclusion one way or the other".
He described the comment as a "glimpse behind the veil" of the PCC's approach and an act of "pusillanimous political planning".
Mr Johnson said: "He had got himself into difficulties, suspending a senior officer for a long period of time and re-deploying him for a long period of time and then having to justify that."
In his statement submitted to the court, Mr Gilmore said that in 2015: "I believed the defendant was abusing his authority and abusing the misconduct investigation process for political and media purposes."
The High Court hearing in front of Mr Justice Supperstone is due to take place over two days. Both the PCC and the former Chief Constable were in court this morning.
Mr Gilmore was suspended on full pay by Mr Burns-Williamson in June 2014 when news emerged of the investigation by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) into his relationship with a leading local car dealership, Donnelly Motor Group (DMG).
The officer, who had only been in post for 14 months at the time, was alleged to have been involved in an “inappropriate relationship” with senior DMG officials since 2013 and used this relationship to “improperly promote” the Belfast firm within West Yorkshire Police and the region’s other forces.
He was also accused of using his professional relationship with DMG to get a better deal when he bought the VW Golf, previously used for demonstration purposes, for his son Mark Gilmore Junior in 2014.
The Chief Constable, who insists he was wrongly accused and has done nothing wrong, had his suspension lifted in 2015 when Northern Irish prosecutors said he and eight others, including the owner of DMG, had no criminal case to answer.
But he did not return to his job as Mr Burns-Williamson commissioned Lancashire Police to determine whether he had a case to answer for misconduct.
The resulting report found that Mr Gilmore did have a case to answer over the purchase of the car and that if proved, his conduct could amount to a breach of police standards so serious it could warrant dismissal.
After receiving the report on July 26 last year, West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner then decided there was a case to answer on both allegations, meaning the man he appointed in 2013 would potentially face an embarrassing public misconduct hearing.
In August Mr Gilmore announced he would retire on full pension, meaning he was no longer subject to misconduct proceedings.