A DISGRACED police officer — suspended on full pay for three years after looking up a criminal friend on the police computer — won’t face a second misconduct hearing over his links to the prisoner due to a police “cock-up”.
PC Christopher Hawke avoided the sack last week after a panel concluded he could not face a further misconduct hearing due to an “incompetent investigation” by South Yorkshire Police’s professional standards department.
The panel threw out an allegation the Rotherham officer had failed to tell bosses about his links to the criminal — referred to as Mr A — because the standards department had not been quick enough to act.
PC Hawke faced an allegation that he did not disclose his relationship with Mr A — who had been to prison — on a vetting form in December 2017.
The officer, who denied the allegation, had visited businesses run by the criminal and they had been “friends with shared interests”.
The standards department first became aware of PC Hawke’s links to Mr A in April 2018 and he was offered a chance to disclose his association with him.
PC Hawke (pictured) accepted at that time that he was linked to him but said he had never had any “policing interaction” with him.
He was suspended on full pay — which could be between £26,000 to £41,000 per year according to the Police Federation’s pay scale — in September 2018 when the standards department began to investigate him for the computer misuse.
At a hearing last October, a panel found he had misused the police computer to look up Mr A three times in 2015 and 2016.
Following the hearing, evidence emerged that PC Hawke had failed to disclose his relationship with Mr A in December 2017.
But because this allegation emerged after his first misconduct hearing, PC Hawke’s barrister successfully argued last week that he could not face a fair hearing.
His barrister, Mr Sam Green, said PC Hawke had no independent recollection of filling in the vetting form but would not have deliberately given a false answer.
He persuaded the panel that PC Hawke should have faced the allegation at his first hearing in October 2020.
“If all of this had been dealt with as one lot he might have had a final written warning overall and that would have been that,” said Mr Green.
Mr John Beggs, QC, who argued in favour of the hearing going ahead, said: “Far from there being any prejudice to PC Hawke, the bleak reality is that this officer, due to the ineptitude of the professional standards department, has eked out a fair number of months’ salary when he would not have done so.
“What you have got on the evidence before you is, at best, a cock-up.”
Det Supt Delphine Waring, head of professional standards, told the hearing it was clear that something had gone wrong for the department to have missed the alleged error.
Panel chairman Mr Simon Mallett found last Wednesday it would have been unfair for PC Hawke to face a second hearing, and potential dismissal, due to an incompetent investigation by SYP’s professional standards department.
Mr Mallett concluded that the officer could not have a fair hearing and dismissed the allegation.
A police spokesperson said PC Hawke remained suspended on full pay and did not have a current role, but that was being reviewed because of the outcome of the hearing.
After the hearing, Det Supt Waring said new “governance and accountability structures” governing all gross misconduct investigations would prevent a similar issue from arising again.