Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Colin Port takes new police boss to court
Chief Constable Colin Port is taking the new Police and Crime Commissioner to court.
In an unprecedented move, the head of Avon and Somerset constabulary has applied to the High Court for an injunction to prevent his successor being appointed.
The case was due to be mentioned in front of Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart at the Royal Courts of Justice today and, if the injunction is granted, interviews of possible candidates pencilled in for this Thursday and Friday will have to be cancelled.
Mr Port, who could not be contacted last night, previously told The Post he had decided to stand down when his one-year rolling contract expires on January 26.
He said he had made the decision reluctantly after a meeting with commissioner Sue Mountstevens shortly after her election in November, when she told him he would have to reapply for his job if he wanted to extend his tenure.
Ms Mountstevens wants an "open" and "competitive" appointment process and, ideally, a chief constable who will be in situ for the whole of her term as commissioner – until May 2016. As Mr Port has been chief constable for eight years, by law he can only now extend his contract by a year at a time.
The wheels have been in motion to find a new chief for more than a month and a shortlist has been drawn up by the commissioner's office.
But Mr Port could now have thrown a huge spanner in the works.
He appears to be trying to temporarily extend his tenure by requesting six months' notice that his contract would not be renewed, to which he believes he is entitled.
However, as the commissioner took charge little more than two months before the end of his contract, that has been impossible.
And, technically, the decision to step down was made by Mr Port himself – not Ms Mountstevens.
A statement from her office said: "After publicly announcing on November 22 that he intended to retire at the end of his fixed-term appointment on January 26, 2013, we were surprised to receive a legal letter from Chief Constable Colin Port, on Friday, December 21, requesting six months' notice and an injunction blocking the interview process for a new chief. We believe his claims are unfounded and we will resist them."
The commissioner has the power to hire or fire a chief constable, but that decision can be vetoed, with a two-thirds majority, by the new regional Police and Crime Panel, made up of councillors and independent members.
Last month Ms Mountstevens told The Post: "Colin has achieved a great deal over the last few years. If we could have worked longer together that would have been the best way forward."
A statement from Avon and Somerset Police said: "There are judicial proceedings ongoing by the Chief Constable against the Police and Crime Commissioner and therefore, because those proceedings are active it would not be appropriate for us to comment."