Pump Court Chambers

Colin Banham successfully represents a Metropolitan Police Officer at disciplinary proceedings

News 21st March 2016

Colin Banham represented a Police Constable at a misconduct hearing arising from a breakdown of a relationship. The officer was said to have stolen the credit card details of his ex-partner and used them without her permission. He was also alleged to have used derogatory language in a drunken phone call, which was overheard by a fellow officer. The accused officer denied the allegation of honesty and integrity but admitted using some inexcusable language.

Prior to the hearing Mr Banham was able to advise in relation to the disclosure duties to be discharged by the appropriate authority (R (Bonnard) v Sharpling & Cleveland Police Authority [2012] EWHC 824 (Admin)). It was submitted that the appropriate authority had not obtained material relevant to the officer’s acquittal on criminal charges. The proceedings concluded in a judicial finding that undermined the appropriate authority’s case. The material was crucial for the panel to:

  1. Consider whether to dismiss the charges or stay them as an abuse of process (R v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, ex parte Merrill [1989] 1 WLR 1077);
  2. Alternatively, to evaluate the issues in the case, in particular the credibility of the witnesses whose evidence was considered in the criminal proceedings.

Under the CPIA, the test for disclosure applicable to the appropriate authority (Home Office Guidance, paragraph 2.195), there is a duty to serve material capable of supporting an application for a dismissal of the charges or a stay (R v DPP, ex.p. Lee [1999] 2 Cr.App.R. 304, DC). The onus is on the appropriate authority to obtain a transcript of previous proceedings where the same (or similar) evidence will be considered (Boodram v The State [2002] 1 Cr.App.R. 12).

It was also argued that it was impossible for the appropriate authority to have reviewed the case without that material (Home Office Guidance paragraphs 2.80-2.85).

On the day of the hearing the appropriate authority served additional material in relation to the acquittal. There then followed lengthy legal arguments about the manner in which the investigation was conducted and the way the appropriate authority sought to present the case in light of the, more recent material.

The panel found that the failures by the Investigating Officer meant that the investigation fell far below the standard to be expected in an allegation of this seriousness.

The panel agreed with the submission on the officer’s behalf and ordered that, if the appropriate authority did not present the material that undermined their case, there would be a substantial breach of the Regulations. After further submissions, the appropriate authority abandoned the most serious allegation relating to honesty and integrity.

The panel eventually found the officer had breached the Standards of Professional Behaviour in relation to Authority Respect and Courtesy on the officer’s own account. They did not find breaches of Honesty and Integrity or Discreditable Conduct.

The behaviour of the officer was found to amount to misconduct only and, after mitigation, the officer received a written warning.

To read more about this story as reported in the press please click here.

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