Ex Northumbria Police’s legal boss deliberately disclosed confidential information about a chief constable’s alleged affair to “bolster herself” in the eyes of colleagues, an employment tribunal has heard.
Denise Aubrey, 54, was sacked for gross misconduct from her role as director of legal services at Northumbria Police in 2014.
During an employment tribunal in North Shields, a series of allegations about senior officers’ affairs have been aired.
Former Chief Constable Mike Craik was said to have had an affair with Assistant Chief Constable Carolyn Peacock, and was alleged to have been punched at a barbecue at his home by her husband Jim.
Mr Craik was advised at the time by Ms Aubrey about libel when reporters began to make inquiries into the allegations in June 2007.
She was accused of gossiping about the rumours with colleagues during a meeting and a disciplinary hearing was called in 2014, chaired by Cheshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Helen King.
Ms King, who has since moved to the Metropolitan Police, said in her witness statement to the tribunal that the head of legal services had a “professional obligation” to keep the information confidential.
Ms King said she decided that Ms Aubrey talking to colleagues about it constituted “gross misconduct”, as she should have realised the importance of confidentiality.
Without trust, she could not be an effective director of legal services, said Ms King, appearing for the respondent.
She added: “My decision that the allegation should be categorised as gross misconduct was also influenced by the fact that Miss Aubrey’s breach of trust was not inadvertent, but it was rather a deliberate sharing of information to bolster herself in the eyes of those present at the meeting.”
The tribunal has heard the chief constable at the time, Sue Sim, “flipped” when she heard about the breach of trust, and wanted to rid of Ms Aubrey.
But the retired chief now believed she was wrong, saying: “I do not believe what the claimant allegedly said came close to what I was being told, or to breaching confidentiality.”