Top policeman who lost secret files should be sacked, says disciplinary hearing

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale - PA
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale - PA

A senior counter terrorism police officer should be sacked for losing top secret documents that were stolen from the boot of his car, a disciplinary hearing has said.

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, of West Midlands Police, was on Tuesday found guilty of gross misconduct for leaving the papers unattended for days.

ACC Beale, 54, left the documents in a briefcase in his car boot for five days, in which time he went to the pub, went for a weekend away with his wife - leaving the car parked at a train station - and went supermarket shopping.

He only discovered the case was missing when he stopped at Warwick Services on May 15 2017 while on the way to Oxford.

The briefcase, containing four documents, included minutes from a high-level counter-terror meeting, counter-terrorism local profiles, details of regular organised crime and highly sensitive information about a high-profile investigation.

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale - Credit: Peter Manning / Alamy Live News
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale Credit: Peter Manning / Alamy Live News

The impact of the loss could have been “catastrophic” a hearing at force headquarters heard.

Corinna Ferguson, chair of the panel, said: “We have decided to recommend dismissal is the appropriate outcome.

“It is the necessary sanction for what we regard as a serious breach of protocol in relation to top secret and secret material.

“It is necessary to maintain public confidence and reputation of the police service.”

ACC Beale, who headed the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, was prosecuted last year, and admitted a breach of the Official Secret Acts at Westminster Magistrates' Court in December, for which he was fined £3,500.

He is weeks from retirement but is now set to lose a £215,000 tax-free pension lump sum if his chief constable agrees with the panel recommendation.

John Beggs QC, representing Mr Beale, said: “This is a moment of utmost seriousness to ACC Beale.

“If Mr Beale had appreciated what he was doing consciously, he would have seen the risk – he plainly didn’t otherwise he wouldn’t have done what he did.

“Although my learned friend said the harm could have been catastrophic, there is no evidence for you that actual harm has flowed from the misconduct.

“There is no personal gain, no attempt to shift blame, no attempt to cover up, any of the traditional aggravating factors.

“The police officer in England and Wales who most understands importance of security is Mr Beale.

“Dismissal would be patently and grossly disproportionate.”

The final decision on ACC Beale's future now rests with the Chief Constable David Thompson, in a meeting scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.