A Metropolitan Police commander who chaired misconduct hearings and wrote the force’s drug strategy has been accused of taking cannabis, LSD and magic mushrooms. Commander Julian Bennett took the three drugs while on holiday in France between February 2019 and July 2020, a gross misconduct hearing heard on Monday.
Bennett is also accused of refusing to provide a drug sample on July 21, 2020, after being informed there was reasonable cause to suspect that he had used cannabis. He allegedly then claimed he had taken CBD (cannabidiol) for a medical condition, which is legal, as a reason for refusing – an excuse the charge says he “knew to be untrue”.
The hearing also heard that a photo sent on WhatsApp showing cannabis on a table had been submitted as evidence. Chairman James Tumbridge said he would be adjourning proceedings, which had been listed for five days from February 14 to May 23 later this year.
His decision came after Bennett’s lawyers argued that the hearing would not be “fair” because they had not received all the WhatsApp messages, emails and SMSs they wanted, including a year’s worth from one of the witnesses.
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.”
Mr Beggs said the witness may have “cherry-picked” the messages that had been disclosed. However, 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 to 2021 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 (FOI) request lodged in 2021. Out of these hearings involving Bennett, 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. Bennett has been suspended on full pay since July 2021, pending the investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s directorate of professional standards.