THE Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset police is now being investigated for criminal offences, it has been revealed.

Nick Gargan has already been suspended from his job, pending an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) inquiry, after he was accused of making ‘inappropriate advances’ to junior female members of staff at the force.

He has now been told a criminal investigation will be carried out following allegations that he passed on sensitive information to people outside the force.

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 emails concerning police business, some of which contained personal data, to individuals unconnected to the force.

"On the 8 July I formally brought this matter to the attention of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset 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.”

The IPCC has said Mr Gargan, 47, will not face a criminal inquiry on allegations that he abused his senior position by making inappropriate advances to more junior female members of staff over a period of time.

Investigators have so far interview 50 staff and officers from the force as part of their inquiry and are finalising arrangements to interview Mr Gargan.

The Chief Police Officers Staff Association, on behalf of Mr Gargan, did not address the Data Protection Act allegations.

A spokesman for the association said: "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.

"Chief Constable Gargan shall continue to co-operate with the investigation. He is keen to return to work and hopes that the investigation can be progressed expediently."

Mr Gargan, who was appointed in March 2013 by Avon and Somerset Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, was suspended on full pay in May this year.

He has been a police officer since 1988 and was later seconded to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, based at the London bureau of Interpol and then the British Embassy in Paris, where he worked on the high profile investigation into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed.

He was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in the 2012 New Year’s Honours list.