Two serving officers have been dismissed from the British Transport Police (BTP) after a misconduct hearing found them guilty of gross misconduct. The hearing discovered that the officers had been negligent when deleting photographs from a suspect’s phone and failed to investigate an allegation that the individual concerned had used one of the images to commit fraud.
The independently chaired panel eventually concluded that the actions of PC James Oughton-Martin, who was based at Milton Keynes, and PC Gary Williams (formerly based at Watford) breached the standards of duties and responsibilities in a way that amounted to gross misconduct. These officers were dismissed from the BTP with immediate effect.
In November 2015, the two officers were called to investigate an incident where it was believed that a man had unlawfully extracted photographs from a victim’s phone. They arrested the suspect and seized a laptop used in the offence, but decided to delete the photographs from the computer and take no further action.
When the victim subsequently reported that her credit card had been used without her permission, believed to be as a consequence of an image of the card being kept on her phone, the officers failed to follow up on her concerns in line with standard policing procedures.
Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock said: “This was a weak and flawed investigation and these officers seriously let down a victim of crime. Their fundamental responsibility as police officers was to protect the public and prevent and detect crime. By failing to carry out the most basic of actions, they not only allowed the offender to commit a further offence, but more worryingly damaged the confidence of the very person who sought their help.”
Hanstock added: “The panel quite rightly concluded that the officers had acted inappropriately and contrary to the standards of behaviour we, and most importantly members of the public, expect of professional police officers. On that basis, they’ve been dismissed from the force.”
In conclusion, Hanstock stated: “I’m proud of the commitment and compassion our officers demonstrate when responding to calls from the public, often in very troubling situations. This depressing episode doesn’t reflect the outstanding work the majority of our officers transact every hour of every day.”
Military deployment a “step change” in UK policing
The deployment of military personnel (as part of Operation Temperer) to assist police in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack in Manchester represents a significant step change in keeping the public safe.
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “As always, the response of the emergency workers in the face of adversity has been second to none. The welcome support of the military to free up armed officers and offer public reassurance will no doubt be managed in the same professional and resolute way. However, as welcome as this is, we cannot avoid the reasons that it’s needed at all. There’s no ignoring the fact that we, the police, simply do not have the resources to manage an event like this on our own.”
As the service continues to try and keep up with emerging crime types and additional demand, both immediate resilience and resilience going forward will be an area requiring robust debate and tough decisions.
Addressing the Home Secretary Amber Rudd at the Police Federation’s recent Annual Conference, White made the point that it used to be a case of ‘not if, but when’ but the reality is now ‘not when, but where next’.
White is clear that visible neighbourhood policing is the basis for helping to identify and tackle crime, including terrorism. He said: “Prevention is better than cure. We know the information to stop these mindless attacks exists within communities and great work is being done to forge strong and valuable relationships aimed at capturing this detail. That work cannot be jeopardised by reducing the contact the police service has with the public. Neighbourhood policing – bobbies on the beat, if you like – has never been more important.”
White went on to praise the efforts of all those involved in the response to the Manchester Arena attack, including members of the public, adding: “While the Emergency Services ran towards danger as always and did what they do best, so too did the people of Manchester, who offered help in countless selfless acts of kindness. This dogged resolve to unite in the face of adversity is what makes this nation great.”
In conclusion, White urged: “We cannot lose focus on the challenge ahead, and that is ensuring we have a resilient and fully-resourced police service, capable of not just reacting to contain a terrorist outrage, but also acting to prevent atrocities occurring in the first place.”