Four po­lice of­fi­cers sacked for of­fen­sive mes­sages

Hinckley Times - - NEWS -

FOUR po­lice of­fi­cers who shared of­fen­sive mes­sages about gay peo­ple and dis­abil­ity on their pri­vate mo­bile phones have been dis­missed from the force.

The four Le­ices­ter­shire of­fi­cers were sacked fol­low­ing a long dis­ci­plinary process which con­cluded they were guilty of gross mis­con­duct.

Four of their col­leagues who were also mem­bers of the pri­vate chat group on the mo­bile app What­sApp were found guilty of the lesser of­fence of mis­con­duct.

They will all re­ceive fi­nal writ­ten warn­ings.

All eight of­fi­cers ad­mit­ted shar­ing “dis­crim­i­na­tory or of­fen­sive” mes­sages on their pri­vate phones in 2013 and 2014. They said their be­hav­iour amounted to mis­con­duct.

Their force re­ferred the case to the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Com­plaints Com­mis­sion when the mes­sages came to light.

The com­mis­sion said the na­ture of their re­marks amounted to the more se­ri­ous of­fence of gross mis­con­duct and or­dered that the mat­ter should go to a for­mal hear­ing.

The process got off to a trou­bled start in Jan­uary this year when it be­came bogged down in le­gal ar­gu­ments with­out for­mally open­ing.

It re­con­vened last week and came to a con­clu­sion on Fri­day evening.

Mis­con­duct panel chair­man Mi­ran Ud­din said dis­missal of the four of­fi­cers who had shared the most of­fen­sive and nu­mer­ous mes­sages was the only op­tion open to him.

He told each of the four of­fi­cers in turn: “Pub­lic con­fi­dence in the po­lice would be wholly un­der­mined by any out­come other than dis­missal.”

A num­ber of the of­fi­cers - who can­not be named un­der a rul­ing made by the panel chair­man – be­came vis­i­bly up­set.

Their bar­ris­ters, Nick Yeo and Matthew Butt, had ar­gued the of­fi­cers had never dis­crim­i­nated against any in­di­vid­ual and that the mes­sages did not re­flect the of­fi­cers’ be­liefs.

The What­sApp group, which al­lows mem­bers to share pri­vate mes­sages, had been set up by a more se­nior of­fi­cer who is no longer with the force, they said.

Mr Yeo, rep­re­sent­ing the four of­fi­cers who were found guilty of gross mis­con­duct, told the hear­ing: “It is four and a half years since this con­duct and more than three years since it was first iden­ti­fied.

“It is a lit­tle over two years since the of­fi­cers were told their con­duct was going to be the sub­ject of these pro­ceed­ings.

“In each case, the of­fi­cers will tell you they are a changed per­son and their con­duct in send­ing these mes­sages is not re­flec­tive of their true char­ac­ter as you would find it to­day.

“There has been plenty of time for them to re­flect on their con­duct and mod­ify their be­hav­iour.

“It would seem that, at the time, there was an el­e­ment of it be­ing thought to be in some way ac­cept­able or per­mis­si­ble to be­have in this way. In the past two years, the of­fi­cers have had to con­sider their con­duct and come to a con­trary view.

“The char­ac­ter state­ments come from peo­ple who know these of­fi­cers and how they be­have now.

“These pro­ceed­ings have been hang­ing over their heads and this has had an im­pact on them in dif­fer­ing ways due to the stress which has been brought upon them.”

Matthew Butt, rep­re­sent­ing the four of­fi­cers who ad­mit­ted the lesser of­fence of mis­con­duct, said: “We are deal­ing with of­fi­cers who would never dis­crim­i­nate against any in­di­vid­ual on the grounds of any par­tic­u­lar pro­tected char­ac­ter­is­tic.

“Some of the of­fi­cers played a pe­riph­eral role in this case.

“They have had this hang­ing over them for some time.

“They have ad­dressed their fail­ings and learned a very hard les­son by virtue of these pro­ceed­ings.”

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