Senior Met officer faces the sack for refusing drugs test over cannabis claims

A senior Metropolitan Police officer who drew up an anti-drugs strategy for the force is facing the sack for refusing to provide a sample when he was accused of smoking cannabis.

Commander Julian Bennett, who has served in the force since 1976, was cleared by a disciplinary panel of using the drug at home in late 2019.

However he was found to have failed to provide a urine sample for a drugs test on July 21 2020.

His former flatmate Sheila Gomes claimed Mr Bennett had used the illicit substance daily before breakfast and leaving for work at New Scotland Yard, but the three-person panel rejected that allegation.

The panel also rejected an allegation that he had given an explanation for refusing a sample which he “knew to be untrue”.

After Ms Gomes reported Mr Bennett in July 2020, he was called in and, in the presence of an assistant commissioner, was asked to provide a sample.

He offered to resign on the spot instead, and asked for a meeting with then-commissioner Dame Cressida Dick.

Mark Ley-Morgan KC, representing the Metropolitan Police, said it would have smacked of “organised corruption at the highest level” if Mr Bennett had been allowed to resign on the spot.

The senior officer said he had been taking CBD (cannabidiol) to treat facial palsy and was worried the sample would come up positive for an innocent reason.

Panel chairman Akbar Khan said: “It is highly improbable the officer believed he had a good reason for failing to comply with a lawful order.

“Harm has undoubtedly been caused to the reputation of the Metropolitan Police Service.”

He said Mr Bennett’s behaviour was “deliberate and intentional, seeking a personal advantage or special treatment from the commissioner” and that he would have had a “unique insight” into what would have been a good reason.

Speaking of Ms Gomes’ claims, the panel chairman said she “exaggerates”, “lies” and that some of her claims were “entirely fabricated.”

He added: “Overall, the panel finds Sheila Gomes’ account to be unpersuasive and lacking in cogency.

“Of particular importance are the panel’s findings that Sheila Gomes exaggerates and has lied significantly damages her credibility and reliability.

“It is highly improbable that the officer smoked cannabis daily.”

By failing to provide the sample, Mr Bennett was found to have breached force standards for honesty and integrity, orders and instructions and discreditable conduct.

His actions were found to have amounted to gross misconduct.

Mr Bennett wrote the force’s drugs strategy for 2017-21 as a commander for territorial policing.

The document called Dealing With The Impact Of Drugs On Communities, set up plans to raise “awareness of the impact of drug misuse”.

Freedom of information requests showed Mr Bennett presided over 74 police misconduct hearings involving 90 officers between June 2010 and February 2012.

Out of the hearings involving Mr Bennett, 56 officers were dismissed – more than three-quarters.

He chaired 69 hearings during that time and two officers were dismissed for drug misuse, the figures showed.

He has been suspended on full pay since July 2021.

Allegations that he took magic mushrooms on holiday in France and LSD at a party were dismissed as hearsay by the panel during the summer’s tribunal hearing.

Those claims were made by Hugo Pereria, who lived with the complainant Ms Gomes and Mr Bennett in late 2019, but the tribunal was told he “always lied” before the panel threw out the claims.

A decision on whether he should lose his job would be delivered later on Tuesday.

His lawyer John Beggs KC has indicated that the gross misconduct finding would be appealed.