Police Officer Sacked

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IN THE MATTER OF THE POLICE (CONDUCT) REGULATIONS 2020
AND IN THE MATTER OF A SERVING THAMES VALLEY POLICE OFFICER
WRITTEN REASONS
HEARING ON 7, 8 & 12 January 2021
1. The Officer faced misconduct proceedings arising out of events between September
2019 and January 2020 whilst he was working as a case
officer.
2. On 7, 8 and 12 January 2021 the Panel comprising Miss Gabrielle Jan Posner (Legally
Qualified Chair), Detective Superintendent Kevin Brown and Mr Bryan McAlley
(Independent Member) dealt with the proceedings.
3. The Appropriate Authority was represented by counsel, Mr Peter Taheri, instructed by
Miss Nicole Beauchamp and the Lead Investigator was Dean Brown of the IOPC. The
Officer was represented by counsel, Ms Catherine Rabaiotti, and the Officer’s
Federation Friend was Inspector Foy.
THE DETERMINATION
The allegations
4. The Regulation 30 Notice dated 3 September 2020 concerns the personal relationship
that developed between the Officer and Mrs X who is the mother of Mr Y whom the
Officer had previously investigated. The Officer submitted a report in respect of Mr Y
in September 2019. He remained in contact with Mrs X and sent her e-mails from his
work e-mail address and text messages from his work mobile telephone. He was
dishonest to his supervisor about how he met Mrs X and failed to disclose the change
in his personal relationship circumstances to the force vetting department.
5. There are a number of strands to the Regulation 30 Notice. In this case the
background circumstances are largely undisputed and there is a list of agreed facts
dated 23 December 2020. In his Regulation 31 Notice the Officer challenges that the
facts relied upon by the Appropriate Authority amount to breaches of the relevant
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Standards of Professional Behaviour within the Home Office Guidance. Essentially
the task for the Panel was not to determine what happened because that had been
agreed, but to interpret and evaluate the relevant events in the context of the
Officer’s role
6. The agreed circumstances are that the Officer was assigned the case of Mr Y in midAugust 2019. The Officer completed his visit and had no concerns. He submitted his
closure report on 19 August 2019 that he considered there to be “No risk”. And
this was approved by his supervisor on 6 September 2019. In the course of
investigating Mr Y, the Officer spoke to his mother Mrs X.
7. The Officer remained in contact with Mrs X and by 26 October 2019 when they had an
exchange of texts about the Rugby World Cup, a personal relationship had developed
between them. They had a series of walks and talks in November 2019 and by 23
November 2019 they considered themselves to be in a relationship together. This
continued to develop and the Officer proposed to Mrs X on 20 February 2020; they
plan to marry in April 2021.
8. On 28 October 2019 the Officer supplied a report regarding Mr Y to the Disciplinary
Committee The format and content of
that report, which had not been solicited
came under scrutiny by the Panel.
9. A routine audit of the Officer’s work mobile undertaken in January 2020 revealed a
large volume of contact with Mrs X’s mobile between September and November 2019.
This included 23 SMS messages in late August 2019, 12 SMS messages in September
2019, 76 SMS messages in October 2019 and 375 calls / SMS messages in November
2019. These were subsequently deleted by the Officer. As well as sending the SMS
messages, the Officer exchanged e-mails with Mrs X using his work e-mail address.
The correspondence between them was of a personal nature, including about Mrs X’s
divorce proceedings, with the Officer assisting her in how she should deal with matters
in dispute with her ex-husband.
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10. In December 2019 in the course of a conversation with his Supervisor about his plans
for Christmas, the Officer informed him that he had formed a new relationship and
would be spending Christmas with this person. He lied to his Supervisor, giving him
an elaborate, detailed, but totally false account of having met Mrs X in a coffee shop
rather than through his work.
11. As part of his vetting on 5 October 2018 the Officer had signed a declaration
undertaking to notify the vetting unit of any changes in his personal circumstances. He
did not do this.
12. In the Regulation 30 Notice the Appropriate Authority relies upon four separate, but
related breaches of the Standards of Professional Behaviour, namely
1 Breach of the College of Policing Guidance on maintaining a professional
boundary between police and members of the public, by having an
intimate and sexual relationship with Mrs X.
2 Breach of Honesty and Integrity by supplying the report regarding Mr Y to
the Disciplinary Committee
because allegedly this was not done for a police purpose but to gain a
personal advantage i.e., to further his relationship with Mrs X
3 Breach of Duties and Responsibilities and Discreditable Conduct by using
his police e-mail account and work mobile to communicate with Mrs X
and intervening in Mr Y’s disciplinary case creating a conflict of interests
between his police work and personal life
4 Breach of Honesty and Integrity by lying to his Supervisor about the
origins of his relationship with Mrs X and failing to declare it.
13. In his Regulation 31 Notice and his Voluntary Statement, which is undated, the Officer
responds to these alleged breaches as follows:
1 He disputes this save for the failure to notify the change in his personal
circumstances. In particular he says that Mrs X was not vulnerable to an
abuse of trust or power.
2 He disputes any abuse of his position as a police officer
3 He disputes this save for using his police e-mail account and work mobile
to communicate with Mrs X
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4 He partially accepts this i.e. he does not dispute the lie, but says it was
because of the stress he was under and although he apologises and regrets
this he does not accept any of the actual or potential consequences of the
lie.
14. The Appropriate Authority says that the Officer’s conduct looked at individually and
cumulatively amounts to gross misconduct such as to justify dismissal. The Officer
accepts misconduct by using his police e-mail account and work mobile to
communicate with Mrs X, but says that this is not gross misconduct.
The Panel’s approach to its task
15. The Panel must consider the case in the following stages:
Whether the Appropriate Authority has proved on the balance of probabilities
1) The factual basis i.e. what happened
2) That it is a breach of the relevant Standards of Professional Behaviour and, if
so
3) That it is misconduct or gross misconduct i.e. so serious that dismissal would
be justified,
And if is satisfied about these things, the Panel then goes on to decide the
appropriate outcome.
The burden and standard of proof
16. The Appropriate Authority carries the burden of proof in relation to establishing the
factual allegations and whether there is any breach of the Standards of Professional
Behaviour which is misconduct or gross misconduct. The standard of proof is on the
balance of probabilities.
17. Here the facts are not in dispute and the only live evidence was from the Officer. Mrs
X had submitted a witness statement in support of the Officer, but Mr Taheri had no
questions for her. The Panel considered itself bound by the parties’ list of agreed facts.
The Panel started from the assumption that because it was not challenged by the
Appropriate Authority, Mrs X was not vulnerable and that the relationship between her
and the Officer was one of equals. In considering the officer’s conduct overall the
Panel firstly, took into account the positive character witnesses submitted by him, and
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secondly, gave itself a Lucas direction namely it reminded itself that people lie for all
sorts of reasons, including shame, misplaced loyalty and fear of the consequences and
the fact that somebody lies about something does not mean it actually did or did not
happen and / or that they have lied about everything.
18. Before coming on to the four alleged breaches, the Panel considered that the
Regulation 30 Notice was not helpful because it was overloaded with allegations. The
Panel also considered that the approach taken by the Appropriate Authority
overcomplicated a comparatively straightforward case by trying to pigeon hole
behaviour into certain standards rather than looking at the behaviour to see what if any,
breaches of any of the standards were readily apparent. The Panel concentrated solely
on those matters it needed to consider in order to determine whether there had been a
breach of the relevant Standards of Professional Behaviour and whether this amounted
to misconduct and, if so, whether it was gross misconduct.
The College of Policing Guidance: the relationship with Mrs X
19. Paragraph 6 reads:
“Do not engage in, or pursue, a sexual or improper emotional relationship, on or off
duty, with any member of the public, who you have come into contact with during the
course of your current work or duties”
20. Paragraph 7 reads:
While you may find yourself attracted to a member of the public, or find yourself in a
situation where someone is attracted to you, it is your responsibility not to act on those
feelings. This is to prevent any harm that such actions may cause and to maintain the
integrity of the policing profession.
21. The Panel found the wording of these provisions very clear and easy to understand.
The Panel accepted that the Officer had submitted his report by the time any personal
relationship with Mrs X developed. The Panel did not consider that the Officer was
using the investigation of Mr Y as a pretext to develop a relationship with Mrs X.
Having said that, the Panel considered that there was very little time between the
submission of the report and the development of the relationship which appears to
have occurred whilst the Officer was following up on the case after he had submitted
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his report. The Officer considered that to be as part of what he described as his pastoral
duties. The Panel felt that the situation would have been very different if, say, the
Officer had submitted his report and then some time later met Mrs X again by chance
in a social context.
22. The Panel felt that the way the relationship was allowed to develop by the Officer and
was nurtured by him was a clear breach of the Guidance. If having realised he was
becoming attracted to Mrs X he had spoken to a line manager or taken steps to put
some distance between them whilst looking for a solution to the problem, the Panel
might have viewed things differently. However notwithstanding that he appeared to be
unable to take this on board, the fact remains that he is a policeman and she is a
member of the public whom he had only met in the course of his
work. Accordingly, the Officer should not have embarked on the relationship
without having met the requirements of the Guidance. It does not matter that he
considers the relationship “blossomed” in a healthy way with no sexual gain /
advantage. Nor does it matter that he has genuinely helped Ms X and Mr Y and
improved the quality of their lives because he is a caring person who wants to do his
best for people. The bottom line is that a brake should have been applied to the
relationship at the outset and the reason for that is the obvious one of the scope for
both compromise and conflict of interest.
23. In fact, the Panel considered that doing something that the Officer should not have
done in the first place was aggravated by the speed with which the relationship became
intimate and sexual. No thought appears to have been given to whether this might be
wrong. On the contrary, the Officer appears to regard it as one of his human rights to
be able to enter into a relationship in which he could find happiness and fulfilment. He
failed to consider the restrictions brought about by his duties and responsibilities to the
wider |public by virtue of his role .
Honesty and Integrity: the report
24. Police officers are honest, act with integrity and do not abuse or compromise their
position. For the first time in evidence the Officer said the report came within what
he described as his pastoral duties; he had taken the view that if Mr Y was not
expelled this might keep him “on the straight and
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narrow”. Even if to that extent there was a police purpose, the Panel could not see
how the Officer could maintain his argument that the report was in effect just a
character reference. It was headed “Official – Sensitive”
The Panel
considered that on the balance of probabilities he did it in order to advance an
intimate / sexual relationship with Mrs X. In order to please her he abused his
position and sought to influence the outcome of the disciplinary process by providing
what looks like a formal report written on behalf of Thames Valley Police. By so
doing, he compromised his position and this demonstrated both a lack of judgment
and a failure to understand the consequences of his actions, which are aggravating
features.
Duties and Responsibilities and Discreditable Conduct
25. Police officers are diligent in the exercise of their duties and responsibilities. Police
officers behave in a manner which does not discredit the police service or undermine
public confidence, whether on or off duty.
26. The Panel could see no justification for the Officer to use his police e-mail account
and mobile to communicate with Mrs X especially as he appeared to be redrafting
her emails for her in the dispute with her ex-husband. Again this shows a lack of
judgment by the Officer in how the public would regard this. He did say that in
November they switched to WhatsApp and it appears he only appreciated his misuse
of his work e-mail and mobile when he was audited. An officer of his age and
experience would be expected to think through his actions and how they would be
perceived by the public. The Panel was aware many items were deleted by the
Officer, he says he did that for routine housekeeping i.e. to clear space on his phone
and Mr Taheri says to avoid detection. Whether or not any of the communication
was sexual, it was still wholly inappropriate to use forms of communication intended
only for police work, which is another aggravating feature.
Honesty and Integrity: the lie to his supervisor
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27. The Panel took this aspect very seriously. The Officer admitted the lie and prayed in
aid the stress and pressure he was under from the acrimonious break up of his
previous relationship and his delayed grief at the first anniversary of his mother’s
death. The Panel would have had more sympathy for the Officer if he had sought
support for these problems at the time and / or if they were the reason he did not
disclose the relationship in the first place.
28. Instead he chose to tell an elaborate and detailed lie all about how they met in the
queue in the coffee shop and discussed the kind of coffee Mrs X liked. The Panel
was concerned that as well as preventing inappropriate station gossip, this would
throw his supervisor off the scent and not allow for appropriate monitoring and
scrutiny of the relationship. The Panel found the lie a clearly aggravating feature.
Is it misconduct which is gross misconduct?
29. Ms Rabaiotti argued the case very attractively on behalf of the Officer. However all
her arguments focused on individual aspects of his behaviour viewed from his own
perspective i.e. he did not think he was doing anything wrong and he saw himself as
entitled to form a relationship with a consenting person of the opposite sex. The
Officer, who is an experienced officer, appears to have had little or no regard for
how his conduct would come across to the public and the great discredit he was
likely to cause to Thames Valley Police. The Panel considered that at each stage he
demonstrated a lack of insight into the consequences of his actions, little selfawareness and very poor judgment. This related to the individual aspects of his
behaviour and his conduct overall exacerbated by all of the aggravating features
referred to above.
30. The Panel had no hesitation in finding the Officer guilty of gross misconduct.
THE OUTCOME
31. In deciding the appropriate sanction, the Panel heard representations by both counsel,
had in mind the College of Policing Guidance on outcomes in police misconduct
proceedings and read the bundle detailing the Officer’s antecedents and service history
as well as the character references.
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1. The Panel noted that the Officer had 17 years of service with an unblemished record, a
commendation and a certificate of recognition. The Panel also noted that his character
references speak well of him and he comes across as somebody who is very supportive
and steadfast as a colleague and in his personal as well as in his professional life.
2. The Panel noted that since moving from a neighbourhood role
there were some issues about the Officer’s performance, particularly his
attention to detail and the planning of his own work; some additional support was put
in place.
3. The Panel had regard to the purpose of the police misconduct regime, namely to:
 maintain public confidence in the reputation of the police service
 uphold standards in policing and deter misconduct
 protect the public.
4. In assessing the seriousness of the misconduct the Panel had regard to the following
 Culpability
 This was an intentional course of action which the Officer chose to
pursue without any reflection or consideration of the consequences.
 He could at any time have desisted and / or notified a line manager for
guidance, but these courses did not occur to him notwithstanding he
received a reminder vetting form.
 Harm
 There was a risk of harm to the reputation of Thames Valley Police
, although no harm did occur.
 The Panel was concerned about the potential for harm if the report fell
into the wrong hands given its explicit references
 Aggravating factors
 These are set out in the first part of the decision which deals with the
Officer’s lack of insight into the consequences of his actions, his lack of
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self-awareness about how his actions would come across to the public
and his poor judgment.
 In the Officer’s own words “My decision making and judgment skills
became flawed and I was not operating at the level I knew I was
capable of”. [Voluntary Statement, page 81 of bundle].
 In terms of the lie, the Panel did not consider that there was
operational dishonesty in connection with the assignment of Mr Y’s
case to the Officer for investigation. In other words the lie was told
when the Officer’s report had already been submitted and there was
no ongoing investigation in relation to Mr Y
 However the panel was satisfied there were operational implications
because the Officer extended his relationship with Mrs X under the
guise of pastoral care and through his unsolicited submission of the
report
 The lie had management and operational implications because had the
Officer told the truth about Mrs X the procedures for scrutiny and
monitoring the relationship would have been brought into play
 The Officer admitted misconduct but did not admit gross misconduct..
By continuing to contest the case the Officer lost the credit the Panel
might otherwise have given him for developing insight and displaying
remorse.
 At no stage did the Officer show any real recognition that lying to his
supervisor is unacceptable.
 Because he showed no acceptance of having done anything wrong,
there is no scope for him to learn from his own mistakes.
 Mitigating factors
The Officer was under a lot of stress in this personal life.
5. Ms Rabaiotti was unable to present anything to the Panel to displace the paramount
need to protect and maintain the integrity and reputation of Thames Valley Police in
the eyes of the public in order for the public to have confidence in TVP
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6. In all the circumstances the Panel determined that the only appropriate sanction to
impose was dismissal without notice. A final written warning would have been
inadequate to mark the severity. Immediate dismissal was both necessary and
proportionate as well as inevitable.
Reasons were delivered orally on 12 January 2021 and the Panel has agreed these written
reasons on.16 January 2021
GABRIELLE JAN POSNER, LQC

Thames Valley Police
  • Stats since 1st January 2022
  • 17 Misconduct Hearings
    88% held in public

Thames Valley Police covers Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire.

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