Police commissioner resigns after no confidence vote

Commissioner Philip Allott (centre) with North Yorkshire Police Chief Inspector Andrew Colbourne (left) and North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service District group manager Thomas Hirst (right).
A police commissioner who has sparked an outcry by stating women “need to be streetwise” following the murder of York woman Sarah Everard has resigned following a unanimous vote of no confidence.

Just 134 days after starting as North Yorkshire and York’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Philip Allott was confronted with dozens of demands for him to resign as he appeared before the area’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel, the only local body in the area which can hold him to account.

He later issued the following statement:

“Over the past two weeks I have tried to rebuild trust and confidence in my work as York and North Yorkshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.  I needed to do that following comments I made on an interview with Radio York regarding the horrific abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

“I need to be clear.  I apologise unreservedly for my remarks.  They do not reflect my views.  I misspoke and I am devastated at the effect that this has had on victims of crime and the groups that support them. I have tried to say this again and again but I recognise that what I have said has not always been heard as I intended.

“I had hoped I could rebuild trust, to restore confidence.  I was pleased that so many victims groups had accepted that I was genuinely sorry and were willing to work with me to help me in the mammoth task I had ahead.

“Following this morning’s meeting of the Police and Crime Panel it seems clear to me that the task will be exceptionally difficult, if it is possible at all.  It would take a long time and a lot of resources of my office and the many groups who do excellent work supporting victims.

“This is time victims do not have.  There are women and girls in York and North Yorkshire today suffering at the hands of men.  Victims and the groups who support them need to be heard.  They cannot be heard if the airwaves are filled with discussion about my future.

“That is why I am doing the honourable thing and resigning as Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner – to restore confidence in the office which I believe will be almost impossible for me to do, and to enable victims’ voices to be heard clearly without the distraction of the continued furore which surrounds me.

“I entered public life because I wanted to make a difference.  I still do.  So, I am committing myself to doing all I can as a private individual to support victims groups.  The pledge I made as Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner was genuine.  It is one I will keep.

“I would like to thank my office and especially my Chief Executive for his help and support, especially during the last two weeks which has been a challenging time for everyone at the OPFCC.

“Whoever the new Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner will be I wish them every success in what is one of the most demanding but rewarding jobs in the UK.”

Appealing to the panel to support him in continuing in the £74,400-a-year job, Mr Allott had earlier admitted he had given a “car crash of an answer” in comments on Radio York that had been grossly insensitive.

He added the fury his initial comments had generated had been exacerbated by being “continually played back on BBC Look North”.

The Tory commissioner said as someone who had experienced domestic abuse – and that he classified himself as “a survivor” – he was in a good position to understand the need to protect victims.

Mr Allott told the panel he had already approved a programme to identify potential offenders early, and highlighted schemes to create 400 new street lights and safe female refuges.

He said: “I am more than ever committed to protecting women and girls. My actions speak louder than words.”

Mr Allott read letters from numerous charities and women’s abuse groups stating they were willing to work or meet with him despite the comments and he highlighted how the Archbishop of York had warned against judging people over “15 minutes of madness”.

Nevertheless, the panel was told a total of more than 1,000 complaints had been made about Mr Allott’s comments, and the underlying expression of anger was over his “victim blaming”.

The panel heard most complainants believed the remarks implied the responsibility for keeping women from harm lay solely with women and betrayed a lack of understanding by Mr Allott about the issues that Miss Everard had faced before she was murdered.

One resident said it had been “gut-wrenching” that most of the commissioner’s staff had accused him of sexism and misogyny in a letter to the panel, less than three years after the panel had ruled against his predecessor, Julia Mulligan, for her treatment of staff.

Richmondshire councillor Helen Grant told the commissioner his comments could not be unsaid and that she was extremely saddened Sarah Everard’s family had to endure “the circus created by your comments”.

Harrogate district panel member Mike Chambers told Mr Allott: “This will continually haunt you Philip.

“You paid no regards to the concerns girls and women have going about their daily lives.

“I would ask you as a man of honour to fall on your sword.”

The committee’s chairman, Councillor Carl Les, told Home Office officials watching the virtual meeting that there needed to be legislative change to create a right of recall for the political post of commissioner as there is for MPs.

The meeting heard the panel’s powers were limited to “informal resolution” by making recommendations to the commissioner, but instead they held a vote of no confidence in Mr Allott, which was unanimous.

Coun Les told Mr Allott he was facing “a catastrophic loss of confidence”, adding: “Only you can resign, we cannot make you, and there is a frustration in that.”

Mr Allott replied that lived relived making the comments “every hour of the living day” and he could see “tensions are running high”.

He said if everyone resigned who made a mistake nothing would get done in the country.

He said if he could not regain people’s trust he would “do the honourable thing”.

Mr Allott said: “This issue will haunt me whether I walk or don’t walk.

“I genuinely believe I can win back confidence and that will take time. I am under no illusion as to the feeling of the panel or the views of the people who have written.”

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