Decorated police officer appeals

Posted: 26th June 2012

A decorated police officer who tried to cover up a deceased colleague's affair to spare his grieving family is asking judges at the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) to salvage his career.
Whilst investigating a Constable's death in an October 2008 road accident, the appellant, a police sergeant, discovered that his colleague had been having an affair with a female Special Constable and had spent the night before he died with her.
Concerned about the impact of such a revelation on the deceased's long-term partner, the appellant - who had 22 years unblemished experience in the police - instructed a junior officer to 'find and destroy' the deceased's mobile phone, which he feared would contain 'awkward' text messages.
The junior officer reported the matter and, after an internal disciplinary inquiry, the appellant - who admitted what was described as a 'one-off aberration' - was required to resign by his Chief Constable in November 2009.
The Police Appeals Tribunal (PAT) later ruled that the claimant should be reinstated at the demoted rank of Constable. However, that decision was last year overturned by a High Court judge who upheld an appeal by the Chief Constable.
The appellant is now trying to convince the Court of Appeal that what he did out of 'misguided loyalty' to a deceased colleague was not serious enough to justify terminating his police career.
The appellant's barrister, Martin Westgate QC, argued: "The appellant's intention was solely to act to protect the deceased's family. His motivation was to avoid the further distress and devastation which knowledge of the deceased's affair would cause to his family.
Police car
"Unlike almost any other case of dishonest conduct, the appellant acted out of concern for others and did not act for personal gain of any sort, nor to cause harm to another.
"He acted out of a sense of misguided loyalty and altruism in order to protect the deceased's family and reduce the already immense grief and upset that they would most likely be suffering as a result of their loved one's death."
However, John Beggs QC, representing the Chief Constable, said that the public are entitled to rely on the absolute honesty and integrity of police officers and that the decision to require the appellant's resignation could not be faulted.
"The appellant's misconduct was very serious. He intended a junior officer to retrieve and destroy a mobile phone that could have contained evidence from a wrecked vehicle during an investigation into a fatal road traffic accident.
"The act of dishonesty was premeditated and calculated", said Mr Beggs, who added that the attempt to destroy evidence took place in "an operational context" and involved an "attempt to suborn" a more junior officer.
Recognised as a foremost expert in road traffic accident investigations, more than 20 years of flawless service saw the appellant receive commendations from his Divisional Commander and the Chief Constable.
Lords Justice Maurice Kay, Stanley Burnton and Gross have now reserved their decision on the appeal until a later date.