A senior Metropolitan police commander, Julian Bennett, has been dismissed from the force after being found guilty of gross misconduct. The disciplinary panel cleared Bennett of using cannabis, but he was found to have breached force standards by refusing to provide a urine sample for a drug test. The accusation arose from claims made by a former lodger, Sheila Gomes, who accused Bennett of smoking cannabis daily. However, the panel deemed Gomes' account implausible, as none of Bennett's colleagues had noticed any behavioral changes over the alleged period.
WhatsApp messages sent by Gomes to a friend demonstrated a hostility towards Bennett and a tendency to lie, according to the panel. Bennett explained that he refused the drug test due to his use of legal CBD oil to treat Bells palsy. The panel accepted this reasoning but noted that Bennett should have been aware of the seriousness of refusing a lawful order, given his position as a senior officer.
The Metropolitan Police's assistant commissioner, Barbara Gray, expressed her condemnation of Bennett's actions and emphasized the public's justifiable outrage at a senior officer refusing to take a drug test. Gray highlighted Bennett's extensive experience in the force and his past role in leading disciplinary panels. The panel concluded that Bennett's deliberate failure to follow the order undermined public confidence in the Metropolitan Police.
Bennett faced further accusations of attempting a cover-up by contacting the then commissioner, Cressida Dick, to request resignation. The panel concluded that this action was an attempt to secure high-level protection and avoid embarrassment. Bennett's decision to involve Dick was questioned, as media attention was drawn to the disciplinary process regardless.
In response to the panel's findings, a statement released on behalf of Bennett maintained his innocence of drug use. However, he acknowledged his guilt in refusing the drug test and intends to appeal the sanction decision. The panel recognized certain mitigating factors, such as the misconduct being a brief episode and Bennett showing hindsight insight into his poor decisions.
Julian Bennett, previously responsible for the force's drug strategy, had a prominent role in chairing misconduct hearings that led to the dismissal of 56 officers. His nickname of "Sacker" reflects his reputation. Bennett has been suspended on full pay since July 2021.