Police chief Colin Port will meet own costs of legal battle
CHIEF Constable Colin Port will pay the escalating legal bills surrounding his High Court battle himself.
The outgoing head of Avon and Somerset constabulary lost a costly judicial review on Tuesday as he tried to delay the process of appointing his successor.
In an unprecedented move, he took the new Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens to court, claiming he had been effectively forced from his post "unlawfully" and that he was entitled to six months' notice of a decision not to renew his contract.
After speculation as to whether the taxpayer would end up paying the legal bill of either, or both sides, in the argument, a source has confirmed to The Post that Mr Port has decided not to take advantage of legal funding available to him in his contract.
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And The Post has learned he is still considering whether to appeal Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart's ruling, which would cost more money.
The contract clause entitles all chief constables to funding funded any legal actions they have to bring.
Formerly paid for by the police authority, it now comes under the commissioner's office.
Mr Port's decision means the tax-payer is not picking up the tab for Mike O'Brien, the experienced QC, who represented Mr Port, and Ms Mountstevens' legal costs, which Mr Port is also liable for.
The 58-year-old, who earns more than £150,000 per year, decided to stand down as Chief Constable when his one-year rolling contract expires on January 26.
He made the decision reluctantly after a heated meeting with Ms Mountstevens shortly after she was sworn in November, when she told him he would have to reapply for his job if he wanted to extend his tenure.
Ms Mountstevens wants an "open" and "competitive" appointment process and, ideally, a chief constable who will be in place for the whole of her term as commissioner – until May 2016.
As Mr Port has already been chief constable for eight years, by law he can only now extend his contract by a year at a time.
After reconsidering the circumstances of his decision to retire, Mr Port's lawyers sent a fax to the commissioner's office on December 21, requesting six months' notice and an injunction to be heard at The Royal Courts of Justice in London, aimed at blocking the interview process for a new chief.
But Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart ruled that Sue Mountstevens had not acted unlawfully in asking Mr Port to reapply for his job.
He did, however, say she had been "responsible for the breakdown in the relationship" with "successful and highly effective" Mr Port.
"I am extremely sorry that Mr Port's outstanding career has ended in such an unhappy way," he added.
Mr Port's barrister Mike O'Brien QC said his client was left with the impression that there was "no way" his tenure would be extended following the meeting.
A PCC spokeswoman said: "The High Court has confirmed that the Police and Crime Commissioner's decisions were lawful in every respect.
"The Judge rejected Mr Port's complaints in law, found that they were not even arguable and dismissed the case, and costs were awarded against Mr Port.
"We are going ahead with the process to recruit a Chief Constable.
"Colin Port has served the constabulary and the communities of Avon and Somerset with distinction and we wish him every success in the future."
Mr Port said: "This was never just about me. This was about the position of all chief constables."
Under the new policing system, PCCs have the power to hire or fire a chief constable, but that decision can be vetoed, with a two-thirds majority, by the new regional Police and Crime Panel, made up of councillors and independent members.
The interviews to find a new chief constable are due to finish today.