New sexism row at scandal-hit Northumbria Police as female ex-chief constable says male colleagues accused her of 'hissy fits' and commented on her make-up 

  • Ex-chief constable Sue Sim has accused force of 'macho, laddish culture'
  • She claims male colleagues commented on her make-up and 'hissy fits'
  • Emerged at tribunal after Denise Aubrey brought unfair dismissal claims
  • Tribunal heard how ex-Chief Constable Mike Craik had 'affair with deputy'
  • Northumbria Police reportedly spent around £250,000 fighting sex claims 

Sue Sim, 53, chief constable of Northumbria Police between 2010 and 2015, claimed the force had a 'macho and laddish' culture and accused former male colleagues of remarking on her make-up

Sue Sim, 53, chief constable of Northumbria Police between 2010 and 2015, claimed the force had a 'macho and laddish' culture and accused former male colleagues of remarking on her make-up

An under-fire police force hit by a string of explosive allegations has been rocked by a fresh sexism row after an ex-chief constable claimed that male colleagues accused her of 'hissy fits' and commented on her make-up.

Sue Sim, 53, who was chief constable of Northumbria Police between 2010 and 2015, claimed the force had a 'macho and laddish' culture and accused former male colleagues of remarking on her eye make-up.

She also told an explosive tribunal how senior male officers were 'concerned about her coven' – in reference to a number of her senior advisors being women - and how lower-ranking officers claimed she had bullied them.

The allegations emerged in a four-week employment tribunal in which a number of sex allegations have emerged, including a love-triangle affair involving three other senior officers from the force.

Denise Aubrey, 54, brought a claim for unfair dismissal, discrimination and harassment against her former employers after apparently being sacked for 'gossiping' about another ex-chief constable, Mike Craik.

Rumours had circulated in the force that Mr Craik had an affair with his Assistant Chief Constable, Carolyn Peacock, and that her husband Jim – a fellow officer - punched him at a barbecue.

It was also said that this information – following the alleged bust-up in 2007 - was covered up, and that Mr Craik used public money to alter police records to keep the affair quiet.

Mrs Sim, who retired last year, was called to the stand to give evidence during the tribunal, and it was in the hearing that she claimed the force had a 'macho and laddish' culture.

She added: 'At some point in my early tenure as temp chief constable I was told... that male senior officers were concerned about my 'coven'. A significant number of my senior advisers were women.'

It was also revealed that she was accused of bullying by her male colleagues before she retired.

She said that a report by barrister Joel Bennathan, QC concluded that complaints by lower-ranking officers that she had bullied them would 'probably not have been made if I had been a male chief officer'.

The tribunal heard that she was cleared of misconduct and breaching standards but that she had apologised to two officers.

Maureen Berne said rumours had been flying within Northumbria Police that former Chief Constable Mike Craik (pictured) had been having an affair with assistant Chief Constable Carolyn Peacock
Carolyn Peacock was assistant chief constable of the force at the time

Northumbria Police reportedly spent £250,000 trying to fight allegations of an alleged affair between ex-chief constable Mike Craik (left) and Assistant Chief Constable Carolyn Peacock (right), which was said to have led him to be punched by her husband Jim at a barbecue. The force spent the money while on a cost-cutting drive

According to The Times, Mrs Sim told the tribunal: 'Mr Bennathan found that some of the complaints would not have been made against a man — for example, complainants referring to my eye make-up and described me as having hissy fits.'

She said she was horrified to read his report which 'made clear that my gender had been an issue for the complainants'.

A complaint by Mrs Sim about Steve Ashman, her deputy and successor, is now being assessed by an officer from West Yorkshire Police. No further details have yet been made public about the complaint.

It comes as the cash-strapped force - which is in the middle of a £100million cost-cutting drive - came under fire for spending around £250,000 fighting the string of explosive allegations which have emerged over the last four weeks.

Jim Peacock, chief superintendent at Northumbria Police, allegedly attacked Mr Craik after finding out that he was having an alleged affair with his wife

Jim Peacock, chief superintendent at Northumbria Police, allegedly attacked Mr Craik after finding out that he was having an alleged affair with his wife

According to The Sun, the force has spent around £72,000 on lawyers' fees for the 15-day hearing with further legal costs in preparation and lead-up to the tribunal taking the total up to £250,000. 

Campaigners, including John Johnson, 65, have now called for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to probe the claims and allegations that taxpayers' cash was used in a cover-up.

During the trial, Ms Aubrey was also said to have disclosed information that Assistant Chief Constable Greg Vant had an affair with Mr Craik's secretary.

Mr Vant has denied that they got together at work, and has stated that their relationship only started when they left Northumbria Police.

The tribunal began on May 3 and has been the source of lurid headlines about the alleged affairs.

Tribunal Judge Humphrey Forrester yesterday told the hearing he would reserve judgement and the decision should be handed to the parties in around five weeks.

On the final day of the tribunal in North Shields, North Tyneside, Angus Moon QC, for the police, made closing submissions about Ms Aubrey's alleged disclosure of confidential information in 2013.

He said: 'She made reference to the personal conduct of the two named former chief officers, Mr Craik and Mr Vant.

'She did so in order to demonstrate how good her relationship with these former chief officers had been.

'She had no proper grounds to share that information.'

Ms Aubrey has told the hearing she suffered from mental health issues.

Denise Aubrey, 54, (pictured yesterday), brought a claim for unfair dismissal, discrimination and harassment against her former employers after apparently being sacked for 'gossiping' about chief constable Mike Craik

Denise Aubrey, 54, (pictured yesterday), brought a claim for unfair dismissal, discrimination and harassment against her former employers after apparently being sacked for 'gossiping' about chief constable Mike Craik

Assistant Chief Constable Greg Vant and Mr Craik's secretary Juliet Bains (pictured outside the tribunal) were also said to have had an affair, the tribunal was told. Mr Vant has denied that they got together while working

Assistant Chief Constable Greg Vant and Mr Craik's secretary Juliet Bains (pictured outside the tribunal) were also said to have had an affair, the tribunal was told. Mr Vant has denied that they got together while working

In her closing submissions for the claimant, Daphne Romney QC said the information Ms Aubrey was said to have discussed could not have been confidential, as she was only speaking to other legal staff in her department.

In any case, knowledge of the allegations was widespread, she told the hearing, and journalists had tried to confirm the story at the time.

Ms Romney added: 'It is obvious the topic of Mr Craik and Mr Peacock and an alleged scuffle went around the force like wildfire.'

The tribunal decision will not include any judgement on whether the allegations of staff having affairs were true. 

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