ALLEGATIONS of misconduct against an Avon and Somerset police officer have been dismissed following a hearing at the force HQ.

A panel, led by an independent legally qualified chairman, found allegations of gross misconduct not proven against T/Insp Justin French, following a hearing held between September 5 and 6.

A further misconduct meeting, which won’t be held in public, is due to be held at a future date.

The hearing followed recommendations made by the Independent Police Complaints Commission after its investigation into the death of 25-year-old James Herbert at Yeovil Police Station custody unit on June 10, 2010.

Following the hearing, Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson said: “Firstly, our thoughts are very much with the family of James Herbert who’ve had to wait almost seven years for a conclusion to these proceedings.

“James’ death was deeply distressing for everyone involved and we have been, and continue to be, fully committed to do everything possible to ensure lessons are learned from his death and a similar tragedy is prevented from happening again.

“We were unable to hold a misconduct hearing until the conclusion of the investigations by the IPCC, a review by the Crown Prosecution Service, which concluded there would be no criminal proceedings, as well as the coronial process.

“It’s clear there were missed opportunities in the way we dealt with James on that day and for that we’re extremely sorry, but we haven’t been waiting for the outcome of these proceedings to implement fundamental and wide-reaching changes in how we respond to people experiencing mental health crisis.”

ACC Watson added: “It’s vital that our work doesn’t stop here and we are continually learning and improving in this important area.

“We’re progressing schemes to improve training for officers and want to create teams of experts on mental health legislation and policy across our force area to help brief our officers and staff on any national and local changes.

“All frontline officers will undergo a classroom training session this autumn specifically around the Authorised Professional Practice (APP) relating to mental health and further training will be given to help officers who carry personal protective equipment recognise the symptoms of people suffering from Acute Behavioural Disorder (ABD).

“We’ll also continue to play a leading role in a review of Section 136 detentions to help minimise the need for these detentions and ensure patients are getting the help they need within the health and social care setting.”