Officer’s “conflict of interest” case

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Sunday, November 24th, 2019 8:44pm

By Alex Moore - Local Democracy Reporter

A police officer was appointed to handle a case where their own partner was the alleged victim and carried out unauthorised data searches about the defendant, a watchdog’s report says.

An anonymised Independent Office for Police Conduct report says the man was convicted of four offences, one of which was against the officer’s partner, in 2017. He later appealed.

After the same defendant was suspected of writing graffiti on the couple’s home and documents about him were found in the officer’s possession. A colleague raised this with their inspector.

The ombudsman found “no legitimate policing purpose” for the files to be there, and said the West Mercia Police officer should have declared an interest and not been appointed to oversee the appeal case.

The IOPC report says a man was convicted of four public order offences in 2017, one of which was against a serving West Mercia Police officer’s partner. The man later appealed the conviction and sentence.

“Following a report by the officer’s partner that there was graffiti by their house, which they believed the man had been responsible for, in July 2018, a police officer went to their home to obtain a statement,” it adds.

“While there, he observed the file of papers relating to the man in the officer’s possession. The matter was passed to a chief inspector, who conducted an interview with the officer in which the officer gave their reasons for retaining the file.

“It became apparent that the officer had assumed an officer in case [OIC] role for the ongoing appeal matter.

“An audit of systems access was carried out, which showed the officer had conducted checks on the man, their partner and themselves on police systems, which did not appear to have a legitimate policing purpose.”

West Mercia Police referred the case to the IOPC, who interviewed the officer.

The report says “no obvious explanation” for the searches was recorded at the time, and the officer didn’t give one when questioned.

“The officer carried out other searches that appeared to have a legitimate purpose and be commensurate with their role of OIC.

“However, we were of the opinion that the officer should not have been OIC.”

It adds that the officer accepted failing to declare the potential conflict was “an error of judgment”.

“We noted the officer had done nothing that could be considered to have enhanced the evidence available or in any way made the case stronger,” the report adds.

Following the watchdog’s investigation, in February this year, the officer attended a misconduct meeting and received management advice.

The IOPC report does not say what part of the West Mercia area the investigated officer worked in. The force covers all of Shropshire, Hereford and Worcestershire.

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