A Dorset Police officer was today (Friday 25 February) given a final written warning after a disciplinary panel was told he had gossiped and shared jokes with colleagues on social media about sensitive information connected to the prosecution of ex-PC Wayne Couzens.
An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) led to Police Sergeant (PS) Simon Kempton appearing before the panel, led by an independent and legally qualified chair. The panel found three out of five allegations proven but that they amounted to misconduct rather than gross misconduct.
After a four-day hearing, organised by Dorset Police, the panel ruled that the officer had breached police standards of professional behaviour for respect and courtesy, duties and responsibilities, and discreditable conduct.
The IOPC’s four-month investigation began following a referral from Dorset Police. It was alleged that on March 13 last year (2021) PS Kempton used the Signal messaging platform to post details to a chat group of an interview given by Couzens under caution. The details, sent to other members of the executive group of the Police Federation for England and Wales, had been aired during a non-reportable court hearing after Couzens was charged with the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard. A member of that group alerted their force’s professional standards department.
We concluded that PS Kempton had a case to answer for gross misconduct after we looked at whether the messages, had they got into the public domain, would have brought discredit on the police service and potentially interfered with the course of justice. Dorset Police agreed with our conclusions.
IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley said: “We also considered whether there was a legitimate policing purpose in sharing the information. PS Kempton did not explain why he felt he had to post it on a Saturday night, rather than wait until working hours. In our opinion his messages suggested he was passing on gossip rather than acting with a serious purpose. He drew responses from other members of the group that could be characterised as cynical and sarcastic.
“The panel decided that the manner and tone of his communications were not careful, mature or appropriate and they described his actions as a serious error of judgement. He has now been given a final written warning which will stay on his record for two years.”
Our investigation also found that two officers, from Sussex Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary, had a case to answer for misconduct. The cases against both were not proven although it was determined that the Sussex officer, who was on secondment from the force at the time, should undergo reflective practice. Our investigation found no case to answer for a further four officers who were members of the chat group.
During our inquiries we analysed mobile phone data and the officers under investigation all provided written accounts. We also reviewed national police policy concerning the use of social media, local policies from a number of police forces, legislation and relevant court judgments.