Results of misconduct hearings

29 June 2021 - Officer X

In 2015 and early 2016, whilst in an intimate relationship with a colleague, Officer X sent the colleague 26 private messages which contained racist and homophobic language. It is accepted that this formed part of a private conversation between two consenting adults.

It is regrettable that the messages have taken so long to come to light.

Officer X has since left the Constabulary and has a different career path.

The content of the messages is not disputed. Nor that they were sent by ex-officer X. The chief constable, chairing the accelerated hearing, said she understood the nature of our digital world means that intimate conversations are now in a cloud in perpetuity, and there is a wider societal debate about the nature of privacy in a digital age. As a result, she understood that Article 8 for ex-officer X is cited, but that is qualifiably secondary to the public having confidence in their police service.

It is not relevant to my consideration that two colleagues, of equal rank, were in an intimate relationship. That is a private matter.

Finding: Notwithstanding that debate, these messages exist and their nature does not attune to the standards and Code of Ethics of policing and of Hampshire Constabulary. They are contrary to the Standards of Professional Behaviour relating to Equality & Diversity. This behaviour amounts to Gross Misconduct.

Sanction: The nature of these messages is deeply offensive and falls way below the standards our community can rightly expect from their police service. To that end, had officer X still been a member of the Constabulary, he would have been dismissed.

He is to be placed on the College of Policing barred list, but his details should be restricted for the same reasons which gave rise to the restrictions on undertaking this Hearing.

 

Tuesday 8 June 2021 - Former PC Simon Hawxwell

On 7 and 8 June 2021 a ‘virtual’ gross misconduct hearing was conducted using Microsoft Teams for former Police Constable Hawxwell, who faced two allegations of gross misconduct. 

The first allegation is that on 16 June 2020 at Portsmouth police station PC Hawxwell behaved in an inappropriate, disrespectful and sexist manner towards a female colleague when he made a sexual comment to her whilst putting his arm around her neck/throat area which allegedly shocked the female colleague, hurt her and caused her breathing difficulties for the few seconds that his arm was kept in place. It is argued that this is a breach of the ‘Authority, Respect and Courtesy’ and ‘Equality and Diversity’ paragraphs of the Standards of Professional Behaviour.

The second allegation is that on 17 June 2020 at Portsmouth police station PC Hawxwell behaved in an inappropriate, disrespectful and sexist manner towards the same female colleague by making sexual and offensive comments to her after which he picked up a pair of scissors and held the bladed end up very close to the female colleague’s cheek. This allegedly upset and shocked the female colleague. It is argued that this is a breach of the ‘Authority, Respect and Courtesy’ and ‘Equality and Diversity’ paragraphs of the Standards of Professional Behaviour.

The panel bore in mind that the burden of proving an allegation rests on the AA and the standard to be applied is proof on the balance of probabilities. Conduct would be proved on the balance of probabilities, if we were satisfied by the evidence, that it was more likely than not, that the conduct occurred. We reminded ourselves that the balance of probabilities is a single unvarying standard. However, the more serious the allegations of misconduct or the more serious the consequences for the individual which flow from a finding against the officer, the more cogent the evidence needed to be to meet the standard. This did not mean that the standard was higher. It meant only that the inherent probability or improbability of the conduct occurring was itself a matter to be considered when weighing the probability and deciding whether, on balance, the conduct occurred.

However, the issue of whether PC Hawxwell’s failings amounted to misconduct or gross misconduct remains a matter for the independent professional judgement of the panel.

Breaches of Standards of Professional Behaviour

Allegation 1: The Panel accepted that PC Hawxwell’s actions were an extremely misplaced attempt at workplace banter. Nevertheless, the Panel found that his actions and words in this regard were a breach of the Standard of Authority, Respect and Courtesy as he failed to act with self-control and did not treat Officer A with respect and courtesy. We did not find that the Standard of Equality and Diversity was breached as the conduct did not sit comfortably within the mischief envisaged by this Standard; PC Hawxwell was prone to talking generally inappropriately about sexual behaviour and also prone to being overly tactile and physical with male colleagues1 and it did not seem to the Panel that Officer A was particularly targeted because she was a woman.

Allegation 2: In this regard, what started out as inappropriate sexist humour within the workplace turned somewhat more aggressive and threatening when Officer A challenged PC Hawxwell. The Panel found that this was a breach of the Standard of Authority, Respect and Courtesy as again PC Hawxwell did not act with self-control and tolerance. He did not treat colleagues and Officer A with respect and courtesy and he did not respect the rights of all individuals. It was also a breach of the Standard of Equality and Diversity because in talking about his preference for appointing a woman with “big tits” to the High Harm Team he did not act with fairness and impartiality. He discriminated unlawfully and unfairly.

Are the Breaches Misconduct, Gross Misconduct or Neither?

In considering the gravity of the breaches, the panel had at the forefront of its considerations the public interest, which includes not only the protection of members of the public, but also the maintenance of public confidence in the police profession, and the declaring and upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour. Overall, we found that when the breaches of the Standards were considered both individually or cumulatively in relation to Allegation 1 and Allegation 2, they amounted to gross misconduct, involving as they did offensive sexual language, a physical incident which - albeit only lasting seconds - caused Officer A discomfort and restricted her breathing, demeaning comments about female police officers and their physical appearance, and also threatening Officer A with a type of bladed article close to her face.

Overall, this was a case where the conduct is so serious that dismissal would have been justified if PC Hawxwell were still a serving officer. The Panel then went on to consider whether dismissal was in fact justified in this case or whether there was a more appropriate outcome.

OUTCOME

The primary purpose of the sanctions for misconduct and gross misconduct is to protect public confidence in, and the reputation of, the police service. The police service’s most valuable asset is its collective reputation and the confidence which that inspires. Further purposes are:

  • The declaratory purpose of maintaining high professional standards by demonstrating to others that misconduct of a certain kind and/or seriousness warrants a particular sanction and will not be tolerated;
  • The protection of the public and/or police officers and staff by preventing the officer concerned from committing similar misconduct again by giving an appropriate sanction, which might be dismissal.

In this case we were considering more than one allegation in relation to the same police officer. In these cases, the allegations may be taken together and treated as a single allegation for the purposes of making an assessment, finding, determination or decision in connection with conduct which is the subject matter of an allegation. We consequently considered “outcome” in relation to Allegations 1 and 2 together (as PC Hawxwell’s conduct in this regard collectively amounted to gross misconduct).

 In considering outcome, we also took into account paragraph 2.11 of the Guidance on Outcomes which is in the following terms:

The outcome imposed can have a punitive effect, however, and therefore should be no more than is necessary to satisfy the purposes of the proceedings. Consider less severe outcomes before more severe outcomes. Always choose the least severe outcome which deals adequately with the issues identified, while protecting the public interest. If an outcome is necessary to satisfy the purpose of the proceedings, impose it even where this would lead to difficulties for the individual officer”.

The Guidance on Outcomes also sets out that a Panel must consider the seriousness of the misconduct (by reference to the officer’s culpability, the harm caused, the existence of any aggravating and mitigating features) and also the officer’s record of service.

The Panel were provided with a copy of PC Hawxwell’s service history which showed that he was appointed as a police officer in 2002 and had a “clean” service record. We took this into account. There are no written references provided to the Panel and no witnesses called to give character evidence. The panel heard brief oral submissions from the parties’ representatives about outcome.

  • The Panel found that this is a case warranting a finding that PC Hawxwell would have been dismissed if he had not ceased to be a member of the police force because of the following factors:

 

  • Culpability: PC Hawxwell’s actions were deliberate and involved an unwarranted and un-called for level of physicality. He was also in a working relationship with Officer A which had an inherent imbalance of power: she was a PCSO who had only been on the High Harm Team for about 6 months whereas he was a long-standing PC. Although harm from his actions (particularly in relation to Allegation 1) was unintentional, his culpability is greater because he could reasonably have foreseen the risk of harm (both transitory physical discomfort and also upset). Officer A was also the only woman on the High Harm Team and she was the victim of inappropriate behaviour on two separate but consecutive days. This misconduct involved some violence (or at least the threat of violence) and sexual impropriety and this undermines public trust in the profession and is therefore serious. Allegation 2 also involved discriminatory conduct towards women. Discrimination towards persons on the basis of any protected characteristic is never acceptable and is always serious.

 

  • Harm: Officer A suffered restricted breathing momentarily as a result of Allegation 1 and also shock and upset. In relation to Allegation 2 she was momentarily fearful that she would be “sliced” but had longer lasting feelings of shock and upset. It is only by the fortuity of Officer A’s strength of character that the victim of PC Hawxwell’s conduct was not more psychologically unsettled in a longer lasting way. Sexually inappropriate comments and inappropriate physical behaviour towards women is conduct that would have been perceived very poorly by the public had the public known about it. Such conduct is also a matter of local and national concern and this increases the severity assessment.

 

  • Aggravating factors: The evidence from PC Ward, PC McDermott and DS Hewitt was that they had on occasions felt it necessary to speak to PC Hawxwell about his inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and, on 5 February 2020, officers on the High Harm Team (including PC Hawxwell) were reminded generally about standards of behaviour at work and inappropriate banter. PC Hawxwell has therefore been warned not to engage in this type of behaviour.

 

  • Mitigating Factors: Whilst not accepting that he had done anything wrong, PC Hawxwell did nevertheless make a heartfelt and genuine apology by text message to Officer A on 17 June 2020 and also tried to telephone her to apologise for any upset that he had caused her.

 

  • Allegations 1 and 2 are proven. PC Hawxwell’s conduct in this regard amounted to gross misconduct. PC Hawxwell would have been dismissed if he had not ceased to be a member of the police force (PC Hawxwell’s resignation having taken effect on 1st March 2021). PC Hawxwell will be placed on the Police Barred List.
Date Rank Allegation Breach Outcome
27 April 2021

PC

Sought to pursue private relationships with a number of women he met when on duty.

Authority, Respect, and Courtesy; Confidentiality and Discreditable Conduct

Gross misconduct; dismissed without notice

22 April 2021

SC

Multiple misuse of police force systems

Confidentiality

Gross misconduct; would have been dismissed if not previously resigned

15 March 2021

PC

Committed an assault off duty

Discreditable Conduct

Not proven; case dismissed

2/3 March 2021

 

Former PC

Allegations were they lied to colleagues/supervisors about having a medical condition, sent a copy of a fabricated County Court Judgement which implicated a serving police officer to a member of the public (retired police officer), sent a fabricated surveillance log to a member of the public (the same retired police officer), composed false messages purporting to be from an officer in the Professional Standards Department to a member of the public, dishonestly told a member of the public (the same retired police officer) they had received offensive/threatening messages from other officers, when they had composed them 

Honesty and Integrity, Discreditable Conduct

Gross misconduct; would have been dismissed if still serving

23 Feb 2021

PC

Allegations were that when on duty, he sent messages via WhatsApp to another person, most of which were sexual in nature and that he dishonestly claimed for work including an hour of overtime which he had not worked.

Duties and Responsibilities, Discreditable Conduct, Honesty and Integrity

Gross misconduct, dismissed from Hampshire Constabulary without notice

3 Feb 2021

SC

Used a derogatory term for members of the Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers community

Authority, Respect and Courtesy

Gross misconduct; Dismissed from Hampshire Constabulary without notice

19 Jan
2021

PC 

Found guilty of committing a sexual touching offence whilst off duty, resulting in a criminal conviction

Discreditable conduct

Gross misconduct; Dismissed from Hampshire Constabulary without notice.

18 Dec 2020

Detective Inspector (retired), Detective Sergeant, Detective Sergeant, PC (resigned), PC and T/DC

More details of the allegations and the officers involved is available by clicking here

You can find out more details of the Panel's determinations about this case against these six officers by clicking here.

All Gross Misconduct

DI - would have been dismissed without notice had you not retired

DS - both dismissed without notice

PC -  would have been dismissed without notice had you not resigned

PC - dismissed without notice

T/DC - Final Written Warning 

 

8/9 Dec
2020

PC

 

It was said that clear allegations of an attempted sexual assault were disclosed to the officer on two occasions by a female member of the public, and the officer failed to take appropriate action. This included failing to record any criminal offence and failing to notify the Force Control Room.

Standard of Professional Standards in respect of Duties and Responsibilities.

Gross Misconduct and imposed a sanction of a Final Written Warning. 

13 Oct 2020

PC

Alleged to have driven under the influence of cocaine whilst off duty

Discreditable Conduct

Would have been dismissed had he not resigned following a criminal conviction through the courts.

21 Sept 2020

Sgt

Alleged to have driven to work while over the drink drive limit and of being unfit for work due to alcohol consumption.

Discreditable Conduct, Orders and Instructions and Fitness for Duty.

Would have been dismissed had you not ceased to serve (retired) and, as a result, are included on the barred list with the College of Policing. 

9/10 July 2020

PC

Alleged to have breached the police Standards of Professional Behaviour by claiming to have visited a victim of crime it is not believed she has and has then subsequently falsified the Record Management System. 

Honesty and Integrity.

Gross misconduct;
Dismissed from Hampshire Constabulary without notice had officer not previously resigned

 

 

 

26 June 2019

SC

Attempted to use police identification off duty to influence staff at a premises in Portsmouth, failed to treat members of the public with respect and courtesy by using inappropriate language and being verbally abusive

Authority, Respect and Courtesy, Equality and Diversity and Discreditable Conduct Gross misconduct;
Dismissed from Hampshire Constabulary without notice had officer not previously resigned

2 April 2019

PC Assaulted a member of the public while off duty, resulting in a criminal conviction for assault Discreditable Conduct Gross misconduct; Dismissed from Hampshire Constabulary without notice.
28 January 2019 PC Accessed police computer and data management systems without a policing purpose Confidentiality and Discreditable Conduct Gross misconduct;
Dismissed from Hampshire Constabulary without notice for the first two allegations. No separate sanction for the third.
8/9 November 2018 PC Accessed police computer systems without a policing purpose Confidentiality Gross misconduct; Dismissed without notice
30 July 2018 SC Sent inappropriate photographs to someone known to be a police officer, took photographs of sensitive information and forwarded a photograph to another employee without an operational need, discussed operational police matters with another employee, accessed a police computer system without an operational need, sent inappropriate messages and images to others using a mobile phone and failed to challenge or report the improper conduct of colleagues about the nature of their messages. Integrity, Conduct, Confidentiality, Authority, Respect and Courtesy and Challenging Improper Behaviour. Gross misconduct; Dismissed without notice.
1 May 2018 PC Made false, misleading and inaccurate written statements in an operational context. Honesty and Integrity and Discreditable Conduct. Gross misconduct; Dismissed without notice.
15 March 2018 PC Stole cash to the value of £2,106 from an evidence store and stole £50 and 50 Euros from a bag handed to the PC by a member of the public and that the PC, while on duty, sent offensive messages about a colleague to a group of fellow officers. Honesty and Integrity for the first two allegations.Equality and Diversity and Authority, Respect and Courtesy for the third allegation, Gross misconduct; Dismissed without notice.
14 September 2016 PC The details of the allegation were held in private to protect the anonymity of the victim. Discreditable conduct; Authority, respect and courtesy Gross misconduct; Dismissed without notice
21 July 2016 PC Engaged in sexual activity with a member of the public whilst on duty, committed an indecent act on police premises whilst in police uniform and racially abused an individual during a Skype conversation. Discreditable conduct; Equality and diversity Gross misconduct; Dismissed without notice.
7 July 2016 PC Gained secondary employment without having the relevant authorisation, worked at the business whilst claiming sick pay from Hampshire Constabulary, failed to abide by a lawful order and was dishonest in an application to gain secondary employment. Honest and integrity; Orders and instructions Gross misconduct; Dismissed without notice.
13 April 2016 Sergeant Habitual use of inappropriate language and repeatedly exhibiting inappropriate sexualised behaviour towards a female member of staff under their supervision. Authority, respect and courtesy; Discreditable conduct Gross misconduct; Dismissed without notice.