West Midlands Police Federation has welcomed the successful appeal of an experienced detective who was dismissed after using his personal mobile phone to help identify a suspect in a murder case.
Detective Constable Paul Knowles, a devoted 19-year veteran in safeguarding the communities of West Midlands, was dismissed due to gross misconduct in May.
A disciplinary panel determined that his actions had risked compromising the integrity of a crucial investigation.
But the decision to dismiss him has been overturned and replaced with a written warning, and DC Knowles will now be able to return to work.
Federation branch conduct lead George McDonnell described the appeal panel’s ruling as “absolutely the right one”.
He said: “This would have been one of the biggest travesties of justice in all the years I’ve been doing this, but thankfully, the appeals panel found the original decision to be wrong and overturned it, which was absolutely the right thing to do.
“There was never any wrongdoing or misconduct, and they have put this officer through immeasurable suffering for three years for no reason.
“And obviously there is also a financial implication for the Force because it will have to reimburse the officer for 10 months from his dismissal to his reinstatement.”
George said the original decision to dismiss DC Knowles centred on his request to a colleague to delete information he had forwarded on his mobile phone, which led to allegations of honesty and integrity breaches amounting to gross misconduct.
A second allegation of discreditable conduct was found not proven.
Following his dismissal, DC Knowles took his case to a Police Appeals Tribunal (PAT) with the full backing and financial support of the Police Federation, which funded his legal challenge.
A legally-qualified PAT chair then ruled he had grounds for appeal, which led to the second panel ordering the officer’s reinstatement and replacing the original sanction with a written warning.
“It appears the original panel concentrated on an allegation of dishonesty that never was. He did what he did for the right reasons,” said George.
“The result of this officer using his own initiative was three offenders getting convicted and given lengthy custodial sentences.
“He should have received an acknowledgement around what his decision-making ultimately achieved, and that was very much the view on social media and with members of the public at the time.
“Instead, he was dragged through a misconduct process and sacked for gross misconduct.”
George said the Force’s policy which forbids the use of personal mobile phones except in extreme circumstances, must now be reviewed.
“There was never any dishonesty or wrongdoing in this case,” he said.
“I think it is accepted that the policy on mobile phones has to be much, much clearer and therefore this should go back to the Force or some organisational learning.”
George said the Police Federation stood shoulder-to-shoulder with DC Knowles from the moment the initial allegations against him were made.
He added: “We are here to represent our members. We were happy to fund this appeal and pleased that he has got his job and his livelihood back.”
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So much essential detail is missing to make any sort of informed decision, but let us suppose that the official mobile was not working for whatever reason and the only solution was to use a private mobile to capture an image that might otherwise be lost and a prosecution fail. Bear in mind that three villains ended up behind bars.
To fire someone for successfully locking up villains strikes me as utterly absurd. Who brought the charge in the first place? Their future should be under the spotlight. As things stand, even a written warning seems over kill. No wonder morale is at rock bottom. A scolding and reinforcement of official policy seems to me quite sufficient in this case.
Villains have been locked up and can therefore no longer prey upon the public. This is the job and raison d’etre of the police, something that seems to no longer matter.