A high-ranking police commander has been accused by his lodger of smoking weed daily, as well as using LSD and magic mushrooms.
Julian Bennett, a commander who has served in the police force since 1976, is currently the subject of a misconduct hearing as a result of the accusations.
He refused to take a drug test in 2020 after his lodger, Sheila Gomes, informed the police of his supposed cannabis use.
According to Sheila Gomes, Bennett, who was in charge of writing the Met drug strategy from 2017 to 2021, smoked weed in front of her every day.
Sheila Gomes is a nurse who lodged with Bennett for around 10 weeks at the end of 2019. She contacted the police seven months later regarding his alleged cannabis consumption.
He has been suspended from work on full pay for up to two years.
Bennett had explained to colleagues that the reason for drug test refusal was because he had been taking CBD for a medical condition he suffers from and didn’t want to register a false positive.
But Mark Ley-Morgan, representing the police, said that was implausible.
“He tried to resign on the spot, asked someone to go to speak to the commissioner and ask if she would let him resign,” Ley-Morgan said.
“He then provided an explanation for why he thought his sample might be positive. Why would you provide that explanation but then refuse to give a sample? It makes no sense.
“The refusal does make sense if you think your sample will reveal that you are a habitual user of cannabis or that it would be inconsistent with the mere use of CBD oil,” he continued.
Commander Bennett was nicknamed “Sacker” by his counterparts for his role in dismissing dozens of officers over the span of his 45-year career – including for drug misuse.
Now in his sixties, Bennett claims to have taken CBD to treat a medical condition – facial palsy – and may have his own tough approach used against him as he faces the boot.
Johns Beggs QC, representing Mr. Bennett, said: “Had he taken a drug test on July 21, 2020, he might well have tested positive for an entirely innocent reason.
“This man has a long and distinguished career in the force.
“This is not a man, to use a topical example, who is a junior officer accused of sending some offensive WhatsApps. This is an officer who was regularly praised by the most senior officers in this force.
“His high performance was being commented on in the weeks he was allegedly smoking cannabis on a daily basis. This was a period when his high performance was so impressive that the then Commissioner (Cressida Dick) was passing on her thanks.
“It almost seems to be a performance-enhancing drug given the comments by Cressida Dick and others.”
John Beggs has asked for the case to be abolished due to disclosure failures and because the police are now also seeking to rely on written evidence by Gomes rather than oral evidence.
Ultimately, this would deny the opportunity for any cross-examinations of the “sole and decisive witness” by the defence counsel.
Gomes failed to appear in the hearing due to illness and then claimed that she was “resting”, so Mark Ley-Morgan applied for the written evidence to be accepted by the panel.
The proper approach, according to John Beggs, would be to ask for an adjournment – which would allow Sheila Gomes the time to recover.
But Ley-Morgan said he had “no confidence” in Gomes being able to provide evidence in the future.
“Not a soul ever smelt the slightest hint of cannabis in that period. He denies ever taking cannabis or any controlled drug,” said Beggs.
“Are you seriously saying that he got his weed out every day and smoked it in front of you and no one (at work) smelled it?”
He concluded: “He had been taking cannabis tinctures and oils from Holland and Barrett and the like. He was taking them because he had a very unpleasant medical condition.”
On the 30th of September, the panel will decide on whether to move forward with the case and whether Sheila Gomes’s written evidence is admissible or not.
If found guilty of gross misconduct, Commander Julian Bennett will be barred from serving in the Met for the rest of his life, and his pension also being cut.