COUNCIL leaders have urged the government to empower police watchdogs to properly investigate police and crime commissioners.

Policing minister Nick Hurd has been told “a gap in legislation” had become apparent during an inquiry into the behaviour of North Yorkshire commissioner Julia Mulligan.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Cllr Carl Les and Hambleton District Council deputy leader Cllr Peter Wilkinson said they had been compelled to highlight the limited powers available to deal effectively with complaints about the conduct of a PCC.

The move comes after the county’s Police and Crime Panel upheld allegations that Mrs Mulligan subjected staff members to “bullying behaviour”.

She has until November 14 to respond to the report's recommendations, which included that she undertakes management training and uses a mentor to support her.

Mrs Mulligan said at the time she would have appealed against the findings if allowed.

The councillors, who lead the county’s Police and Crime Panel, said reviewing and deliberating on such a complex case without recourse to investigatory powers, meant the process could only draw on the complainants’ statements and the PCC’s written response.

While the panel had sought clarification from the PCC’s office on various points, its members received legal guidance that they would be unable to actively investigate the allegations made.

In a letter to the minister, the councillors stated the panel had been hampered in its efforts to conduct a fair and thorough inquiry into the allegations.

They stated: “In any other judicial process, those deliberating on a complaint would be empowered to test the evidence presented and cross-examine those involved to be able to  ensure that the reasoned assessment made is as robust as possible.

“In this particular complaint matter, as the case pertained to serious and significant concerns regarding the PCC’s behaviour to her employees and the impact on their health and wellbeing, the lack of power to investigate has had significant implications.”

The councillors said the allegations had been assessed “as fairly and thoroughly as it could”, but it had not been possible to fully test the evidence on a matter with wide-reaching ramifications for both the PCC, the complainants and the PCC’s current staff.

They stated: “This is concerning not only for this recent case but for any future complaints where the ability to investigate will enable the panel to feel fully confident about the assertions made and recommendations presented to the PCC.

“Currently there appears to be a gap in legislation in providing an open and transparent process for investigating a complaint against the PCC that falls short of criminal behaviour.”