High Court reviews misconduct finding and sanction in Thames Valley Police case, emphasizing public confidence in policing profession

Citation: [2023] EWHC 2693 (KB)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the judicial review case of The Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police v A Police Misconduct Panel, the High Court examined the decision of a Police Misconduct Panel regarding the gross misconduct finding against PC Hafeez Javeed and the sanction of a final written warning extended for five years. The Court was tasked with reviewing the Panel’s interpretation of PC Javeed’s behavior, the appropriateness of the imposed sanction, and the principles surrounding the maintenance of public confidence in the police service.

Key Facts

PC Hafeez Javeed was found guilty of gross misconduct for inappropriate conduct toward a female colleague, Miss A. Despite his acquittal in criminal proceedings for sexual assault, Javeed faced internal disciplinary actions. The main contentious actions involved Javeed placing his hands on Miss A’s shoulders and potentially brushing against her breast, which he contended was not intentional or of a sexual nature.

The core legal principles interrogated in this case include the standard of proof in misconduct proceedings, the interpretation of gross misconduct, the assessment of seriousness, the weight of personal mitigation, and the standards for imposing disciplinary sanctions to maintain public confidence in the policing profession.

Standard of Proof

In disciplinary proceedings, the standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities, which the Panel applied in assessing the evidence presented during the hearing.

Gross Misconduct and Seriousness of Conduct

The case reiterates that gross misconduct implicates actions so serious as to justify an officer’s dismissal. The Panel must evaluate the officer’s culpability, the harm caused by the misconduct, and the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.

Personal Mitigation

Consistent with the prevailing case law, such as Bolton v The Law Society and Salter v The Chief Constable of Dorset, personal mitigation, while considered, has limited weight in severe cases of misconduct that threaten public confidence.

Maintaining Public Confidence

The Panel’s role includes upholding public trust in police services, which necessitates disciplinary actions aligning with this objective. This principle was vital in considering whether the officer’s dismissal was required or whether a final written warning would suffice.

Outcomes

The High Court found that while the Panel was entitled to conclude that Javeed’s actions were not sexually motivated, there were inconsistencies and insufficient considerations within their reasoning, particularly regarding the change in public standards and Javeed’s lack of insight into his behavior.

Conclusion

The High Court decided that errors in the Panel’s reasoning, such as the impact of changing public standards and the weight afforded to personal mitigation, necessitated a remittal of the case for further consideration. The Court instructed that a new Panel reassess the sanction in light of its judgment, maintaining the underlying findings of fact and gross misconduct but reevaluating the harm to public confidence, the seriousness of Javeed’s actions, personal mitigation, and insightfulness. This case underscores the delicate balance Panels must strike in disciplinary proceedings, adhering to the principles of ensuring public confidence and transparently assessing the conduct of police officers.

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