Nine Sussex Police staff referred to watchdog on suspicion of abusing position for sexual purpose since 2019

Since 2019, Sussex Police has referred nine of its officers or staff to a police watchdog on suspicion of abusing their position for a sexual purpose.

Sussex Police
Sussex Police

The figures were shared with Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne during a performance & accountability meeting on Tuesday (November 16).

Deputy Chief Constable Julia Chapman said five referrals were made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in 2020, four of which resulted in independent investigations.

In three of the cases, the officers face misconduct hearings at a date yet to be set – though one of them has since resigned from the force.

The investigation into the fourth officer has been completed and a final decisions on the next steps have yet to be made.

The fifth case was returned to the Sussex Police professional standards team for a local investigation, which deemed there was a case to answer for gross misconduct.

In 2019, two referrals were made, both of which were investigated by the IOPC.

One investigation decided the officer involved would have been dismissed without notice had they not already resigned from the force, while the other saw a file of evidence sent to the CPS to consider criminal charges.

A further two referrals have been made so far this year.

One of the officers is being being criminally investigated by the IOPC, while the other is to face a misconduct hearing with a file of evidence being sent to the CPS to consider criminal charges.

Ms Chapman, who is the head of the force’s professional standards department, said: “I’m personally disappointed if any of our officers and staff come to notice for any offences, particularly of this nature.”

While acknowledging that just one such offence was one too much, she stressed that Sussex Police has more than 5,500 officers, staff and volunteers who are dedicated to their duty to protect the public.

She added: “All of our officers and staff are duty bound by the code of conduct which lays out very clearly what our expectations are – and that they are ones I would expect each and every member of our staff to hold personally as well.

“They joined the police in order to protect our communities, so anybody who would take action that undermines why they joined and what we all stand for is very disappointing to me.”

Last month, it was reported that there were 131 referrals across England and Wales for the abuse of position for a sexual purpose, compared to 74 in 2016.

Those referrals resulted in 70 and ten investigations respectively.

Ms Chapman told the meeting: “We’ve put a huge amount of work into making sure people understand what the expectations are.

“We have a dedicated team – the anti-corruption unit – as part of our professional standards department who manage and assess all forms of corruption.”

The anti-corruption unit is also represented on the National Abuse of Position working group.

On top of this, Sussex Police has set up a peer review with Hampshire Police. Such peer reviews allow forces to share with and learn from each other’s way of working.

Chief Constable Jo Shiner told Mrs Bourne: “[We have] unapologetically high standards because, frankly, that’s what the public should and does expect from us – and that’s what we endeavour to deliver.”