Two police officers have been dismissed from Sussex Police without notice after a gross misconduct panel found that they had breached standards of professional behaviour.
Chief Inspector Rob Leet, who resigned from the force before the hearing, and Sergeant Sarah Porter had denied meeting up to engage in sexual activity. However, the independently-chaired panel meeting at Sackville House in Lewes heard that an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation concluded that both officers had a case to answer for gross misconduct.
Details of a Sussex Police investigation into both officers became public in early 2017 and prompted a woman, known as Miss A, to come forward to say that she had been in a sexual relationship with Ch Insp Leet between 2014 and 2016. She had met him as a survivor of domestic abuse. The IOPC investigated the allegations and in May 2017, Sussex Police made a voluntary referral to them in relation to the conduct of Ch Insp Leet and Sgt Porter and a second investigation was launched.
IOPC investigators examined thousands of emails and text messages shared between the two officers along with GPS data from police vehicles they were using and their work schedules. Evidence suggested that they had travelled to meet while on duty when there was no policing purpose and repeatedly misused Sussex Police communications systems to exchange unauthorised messages.
Rob Leet did not attend the hearing, which was scheduled for five days, but concluded on Tuesday (April 16) after just two. He was found to have taken advantage of a potentially vulnerable survivor of domestic abuse by having a sexual relationship with her.
Chairwoman Victoria Goodfellow said: "The public would be appalled to learn two police officers were found in sexual activity at a time when they were supposed to be protecting them and upholding the law.
"Your actions are likely to have caused harm to the reputation of Sussex Police and the policing profession."
Both officers were dismissed without notice. Rob Leet resigned in March before he could face the hearing, but the sanction bars him from re-joining the police service.
After the hearing, Assistant Chief Constable Nick May said: “We expect the highest possible standards of our officers and staff and we take any report of inappropriate behaviour extremely seriously. The behaviour of both of these officers is a violation of the trust that the public put in the police to serve and protect them. They have let down the people of Sussex and their colleagues.
“Rob Leet has also let down a vulnerable woman who looked to him for reassurance and support. He chose to resign shortly before the hearing. When police officers or staff abuse their position of trust for a sexual purpose, particularly in respect of vulnerable people, such behaviour represents a fundamental betrayal of the public and the values for which the police service stands.
“We have a responsibility to recognise abuse of power as a distinct area of corruption, behaviour which deflects from the work of the vast majority of officers. Vulnerable victims must be able to trust those they turn to for help.
“We have adopted and implemented the National Police Chiefs' Council’s national strategy to address the issues of police officers and staff who abuse their position for a sexual purpose or to pursue an improper emotional relationship. We are ensuring that all staff are aware of appropriate professional boundaries and the serious consequences of any abuses of position.”
Author: Andy Freeman