Allegations that a police constable from the Mets Roads & Transport Policing Team breached the standards of professional behaviour in relation to use of force, duties and responsibilities have not been proven following an investigation that has lasted nearly two years.
The IOPC forced the Metropolitan Police to undertake the misconduct hearing despite both the CPS and the force itself finding no case for the police officer to answer.
The gross misconduct hearing of Police Constable Edwin Sutton, currently based in the Roads and Transport Policing Team, concluded yesterday, Wednesday, 8th May, at Empress State Building.
The hearing was chaired by legally qualified chair Catherine Elliot.
It was alleged that PC Sutton breached the standards of professional behaviour in relation to use of force and duties and responsibilities following an incident on 21 May, 2017.
It was alleged that whilst driving a marked police car, PC Sutton manoeuvred his vehicle into the path of a moped being driven by a 17-year-old male in order to stop it, causing a collision.
At the time, there was a spike in criminal behaviour where suspects were using mopeds in order to carry out a string of violent offences including robbery.
The panel hearing the case considered that the manoeuvre carried out by PC Sutton in order to bring the pursuit to a halt was for a legitimate policing purpose.
They found it was one taken in a dynamic and fast-moving situation where PC Sutton had few, if any, other practical options to stop the fleeing suspect.
The panel concluded that, in the circumstances in which he found himself, PC Sutton’s action was necessary for the apprehension of a suspected criminal; that it was proportionate, in that it was a slow and measured movement in clear sighting of the suspect; and that it was reasonable in all the circumstances.
The panel found that PC Sutton was ‘diligent in seeking to apprehend a suspect’.
The panel highlighted the fact that there is an overarching duty on all officers to protect members of the public.
The panel accepted that PC Sutton, in assessing the situation and deciding what pre-emptive action to take, had regard to all the circumstances surrounding it, which will have included the risks.
A spokesperson for the Met Police cited the fact that PC Sutton is a very experienced traffic officer, ‘used to making dynamic risk assessments’.
The panel concluded that PC Sutton was not neglecting his duty in this respect.
However, the fact that PC Sutton has had to endure two years’ worth of investigations has once again called into question the IOPCs ability to instruct police forces to carry out misconduct hearings against their officers despite there being no obvious indications of any misconduct.
IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said:
“While there is public concern about moped enabled crime and what tactics and protections are available to officers to respond to such incidents, it is important to draw the distinction between tactical contact and the manoeuvre used by the officer in this case.
“Our finding of a case to answer was in part based on his stated intention to ‘box in’ the moped and how his training said it should be done.
“When evaluating the findings we decided that a tribunal, when presented with the evidence, could conclude that PC Sutton had breached police professional standards when carrying out the manoeuvre.
“That is the test we must apply.
“As is its role, that tribunal has tested the evidence and today concluded that his actions did not amount to gross misconduct.”
In October 2017, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (now IOPC) passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which decided in May 2018 to take no further action.
Despite this fact, the IOPC then directed the MPS to hold a misconduct hearing in March 2018, regardless of the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service had found that there was no case to answer.
This latest case also brings into question the length of time it takes for officers, who are facing misconduct hearings, to find out their fate.
Drawn out hearings, many of which last several years, can take their toll on the welfare and mental health of officers who have to endure investigations which can last many years.
It was only a few weeks ago that several Met Officers were exonerated after an investigation that lasted over ten years.
One of the officers involved in that investigation, Andrew Birks (Twitter: @AGBirks), who is now an ordained Priest, has been calling for the system to be completely overhauled.
Father Birks said:
“I believe that the current system for investigating police officers is broken and beyond repair.
“The system needs to be reviewed and an inquiry into how the system could be amended to ensure that it is fair for all, whilst at the same time being achieved in a timely and expeditious manner”.
One of the IOPCs lead investigators in the case involving Father Birks, Steve Noonan, has been promoted to Acting Deputy Director in the Directorate of Major Investigations.
Talking about yesterdays findings in relation to the RTPC Officer being fully exonerated, Police Federation Chairman, John Apter said:
“The officer involved has had to endure almost 2 years of hell, this is not right.
“The @policeconduct, who directed this hearing, needs to take a long hard look at itself and review its decision making.
“They are destroying good people who deserve better”.
Ken Marsh, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said:
“This officer and his family have been put through hell.
“And in the end for what?
“Nothing. He was just doing his job”
Of the 11 executives at the IOPC, none of them have any ‘real world’ police experience, a fact that many in the world of policing have indicated as being a serious cause for concern.
A source told Emergency Services News:
“Here we have a huge organisation that has to justify its enormous budget, seemingly hunting down officers when it is clear to most people that many of the officers who have been subjected to IOPC directed investigations have done nothing wrong.
“In this case, we have the IOPC trying to get an officer fired for doing his job, simply because he mentioned utilising the tactic of ‘boxing in’ a suspect who was fleeing from the police.
“How can the police reasonably be expected to do their job, when they have the constant fear of the IOPC directing their employers to carry out lengthy investigations against them when the people running the IOPC have no idea of the challenges which law enforcement personnel face on a daily basis?”.