THE suspended Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

Nick Gargan has been told he may have breached the Data Protection Act by allegedly sending emails concerning police business to people not connected with the force.

Mr Gargan was originally sent home on full pay on May 13 after two members of staff complained that he had abused his senior position by making inappropriate advances to more junior female members of staff.

He denies any wrongdoing and the Independent Police Complaints Commission last month said he would not face a criminal investigation over the original allegations, although that investigation is ongoing.

Last week Rachel Cerfontyne, IPCC deputy chairman, said: “As part of our investigation the IPCC has uncovered evidence that the Chief Constable may have breached the Data Protection Act by sending e-mails concerning police business, some of which contained personal data, to individuals unconnected to the force.

“On July 8 I formally brought this matter to the attention of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset (Sue Mountstevens) who referred Mr Gargan's conduct to the IPCC the following day.

“Mr Gargan has now been served with a notice informing him that this aspect of his conduct is subject to a criminal investigation.”

IPCC investigators have examined a large amount of computer and telephone data and have spoken to over 50 people from the force who have provided information and intelligence.

Investigators continue to analyse the material generated as a result of the investigation and are now finalising arrangements to interview Mr Gargan in relation to allegations of both gross misconduct and criminality.

Mr Gargan will “continue to co-operate”

with the investigation, according to a spokesman for the Chief Police Officers' Staff Association.

He added: “Chief Constable Gargan is pleased that progress has been made in relation to the allegation concerning inappropriate behaviour and that this allegation is no longer being treated as a criminal matter.

"He is keen to return to work and hopes that the investigation can be progressed expediently."