AN independent misconduct panel which controversially sat behind closed doors despite protests about ‘open justice’ from the press and politicians has ruled that three high-ranking officers breached professional standards of behaviour.

Two Gwent Police officers – Chief Superintendent Marc Budden, who was acting assistant chief constable, and Chief Inspector Paul Staniforth – will be dismissed, while former chief superintendent Mark Warrender, who had previousy retired, would have been sacked, said a force statement.

The trio will also be added to the list of barred officers.

The force supplied no details of the proven allegations ‘relating to professional standards of behaviour’ in its statement issued yesterday.

But the findings by the behind-closed doors hearing held by Avon and Somerset Police reportedly related to an incident at a police social event.

Mark Warrender was found to have committed gross misconduct by “inappropriate touching”, while all three were found to have held an “inappropriate conversation” at a police social event and “failed to challenge and report” the alleged improper behaviour of others.

The officers denied the allegations and the CPS declined to bring any prosecutions after reviewing the evidence.

Allegations of failing to disclose a conflict of interest; inappropriately disclosing information in relation to the investigation into the inapproproate touching; providing a dishonest account about his conduct; and engaging in inappropriate behaviour on duty were found proven against Budden.

Gwent Police’s statement yesterday said: “An idependent panel has today found allegations relating to professional standards of behaviour proven against Chief Superintendent Marc Budden, Chief Inspector Paul Staniforth and Mark Warrender, formerly a chief superintendent with Gwent Police.

“The findings mean that the two serving officers will be dismissed and all three added to the barred officers list.”

Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman said: “This outcome sends a clear message that these kinds of behaviours will not be tolerated within Gwent Police.

“The public expect high standards of integrity from us and where officers abuse their position of power they will be held to account...

“Every day the vast majority of our officers behave with professionalism and honesty when serving their local community and behaviour such as this lets us all down.

“Our focus has remained on the needs of the victim and ensuring that anyone, within the force or within our community, feels confident to come forward and report unacceptable behaviour to us and that they will be believed and supported.

“The chair’s decision to hold the hearing in private meant that individuals in this case felt able to participate in the process.

“Taking action against senior officers is a huge step for colleagues and we can only applaud the courage of the individuals who came forward and participated in this complex investigation.”

The CPS decided in March 2021 there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges over any allegations made in connection with the police investigation.