Met commander who wrote drugs strategy faces sack for taking drugs – The Guardian
Julian Bennett, a senior commander in the Metropolitan police, allegedly took cannabis, LSD and magic mushrooms on holiday
Last modified on Thu 17 Feb 2022 06.07 EST
A senior Metropolitan police commander who wrote his force’s current drug strategy faces the sack after being accused of taking cannabis, LSD and magic mushrooms.
Commander Julian Bennett – who oversaw the dismissal of two officers for drug misuse – took the drugs while on holiday in France, a gross misconduct hearing has been told.
The police officer – who has been suspended on full pay since July 2021, pending an investigation by the Met’s directorate of professional standards – allegedly took the drugs on holiday between February 2019 and July 2020.
He is accused of refusing to provide a drug sample on 21 July 2020. After being informed on that occasion that there was reasonable cause to suspect that he had used cannabis, he allegedly claimed he had taken CBD (cannabidiol) for a medical condition with his face as a reason for refusing.
A photograph sent on WhatsApp showing cannabis on a table had been submitted as evidence, the hearing in London was told.
The hearing, which had been listed to take place over the course of this week, was adjourned until 23 May this year after lawyers for Bennett argued that it would not be “fair” to proceed because they had not received all the WhatsApp messages, emails and SMSs they wanted, including a year’s worth from one witness.
John Beggs, defending Bennett, said: “Although we are all committed to getting this hearing on the way in the public interest, in the interest of the Metropolitan police service and in the interest of Mr Bennett, fairness must trump disposition.”
Beggs said the witness may have “cherry-picked” the messages that had been disclosed.
Mark Ley-Morgan QC, representing the police, said they had disclosed all relevant material.
Bennett, who faces dismissal from the force for gross misconduct over the alleged drug use, wrote the MPS drug strategy for 2017-21 as a commander for territorial policing.
The document, titled “Dealing with the impact of drugs on communities”, set out plans to “raise awareness of the dangers of drug misuse”.
Bennett also presided over 74 misconduct hearings, involving 90 officers, between June 2010 and February 2012, according to a freedom of information request lodged in 2021. Out of these hearings,, 56 officers were dismissed – more than 75%.
A further FoI request in 2020 found that Bennett chaired 69 of the hearings during the time period and that two officers were dismissed for drugs misuse.
When he was suspended, Bennett was a lead for the Met on criminal justice – an area that includes managing prosecutions and pandemic planning.
He joined the force in 1977 and has served in a range of high-profile roles including operations to tackle moped gangs in London and planning for the 2012 London Olympics.
He also chaired the panel that sacked PC Simon Harwood, the Met police officer who struck and pushed Ian Tomlinson as he walked away from riot officers on the fringe of the G20 protests in London, after a disciplinary hearing found he had committed gross misconduct.
He headed a Scotland Yard panel that dismissed misconduct charges in 2019 against five officers involved in an incident that led to the death of Sean Rigg, a black musician.
This article’s headline was amended on 17 February 2022 to better reflect the text of the article.