A number of recent media reports have highlighted the continued prevalence of the problem of predatory Police Officers who exploit the authority and opportunity of their job for purposes of sexual gratification.
Witness DC Nicholas Pointon who used the police computer system to locate a woman who had previously been involved in a car crash, turned up at her home without invitation and then pursued a relationship with her. A Staffordshire Police misconduct panel convened this month rightly held DC Pointon’s behaviour to be “predatory” and dismissed him from the Force without notice. To make matters worse, DC Pointon, who clearly knew that his sexual pursuit of the woman was a gross abuse of his office had apparently made a false pocket book entry and then attempted to blame an innocent colleague for this.
As Deputy Chief Constable Emma Barnett said “The public expects police officers to maintain exemplary standards of contact, integrity and professionalism and DC Pointon fell far short of this and undermined trust and confidence in policing so it is right that he is dismissed from the service.”
Unfortunately, the case of DC Pointon is far from being a rarity. The last month alone has also seen:
· An unidentified Avon & Somerset Police officer dismissed for using his status for personal advantage, when he wooed a woman he had met online, and whom he was on notice had mental health problems, by sending her a picture of himself in uniform, before meeting her for sex.
· Kevin Hathaway, a West Midlands PCSO jailed after starting a relationship with a burglary victim, whom he had met in the course of his duty – and who he frequently met for sex whilst on duty (a very common feature of this type of case in my experience; that the Officer seems to get some perverse sense of extra satisfaction that he is not only transgressing in the fact of his relationship, but that he is transgressing whilst actively on duty and in uniform).
· DC Rene Murdoch of Surrey Police sacked without notice for gross misconduct for pursuing an improper relationship with a member of the public who he met on duty (and then trying to hide the relationship by deleting messages).
· An unidentified Devon & Cornwall officer fired for sending sexually explicit messages and images (“sexting”) to a female victim of crime whose contact details he had obtained in the course of his duty (whilst also neglecting the investigation of the crime she had reported, another sadly common occurrence in these cases).
None of the Officers who have done these things are innocent ‘fools for love’. The Police profession has known for a very long time that such relationships across the line of duty are flagrant breaches of the Police Codes of Conduct. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) have spelled this out time and time again , whilst highlighting concerns about institutional Police failure to control a problem, which on the evidence of the cases summarised above, is not going away.
These offences, often quite rightly recognised and punished not merely as disciplinary matters but as criminal behaviour, are absolute abuses of positions of trust; of the trust of the officer’s colleagues, of the trust the general public has in those given the special powers and confidences of a Police Constable; and above all, of the trust of vulnerable victims of crime who have turned to the Police for help in times of great difficulty or personal anxiety and who instead of being treated with professionalism and respect are eyed up for exploitation by certain predatory Officers, who seem to consider that access to these women is one of the ‘privileges’ of their job.
Over the years I have represented many such female victims of Police sexual exploitation and have won on their behalf hundreds of thousands of pounds of compensation from the Police Forces who are still failing to do enough to weed out the abusers, and stamp out this problem for good.