THE reputation of a former high ranking police officer with an exemplary record was unfairly tarnished by a botched British Transport Police (BTP) operation that breached his human rights, a tribunal has ruled.

The retired chief superintendent who had been based in Taunton, where he lives, was publicly arrested on a train following an unlawful surveillance operation that represented an invasion of his privacy.

As a result of BTP incompetence, Gary Davies, now 55, was charged with five counts of sexual assault but was found not guilty on all of them at trial.

The tribunal has released a scathing report against BTP and awarded Mr Davies £25,000 compensation and £21,694 to cover his defence costs, on top of £11,455.60 he had already been awarded from central funds.

The case hinged on BTP's failure to obtain the necessary authorisation for the surveillance operation on a train between Taunton and Bristol in May 2016, meaning it was "unlawful" and breached his human rights.

Photographs of Mr Davies were taken as he was observed on the journey by DC Day, who arrested him and removed him from the train in Bristol in view of fellow commuters.

BTP argued its officers' actions amounted to a "technical breach" of the law and that permission for the surveillance would have been granted if requested.

But the tribunal decided it was wrong not to take a proper statement from Mr Davies; DC Day had "only the sketchiest idea" of the details of the alleged assaults and even admitted he "doubted the credibility" of Mr Davies's accuser; and no other enquiries were made.

The report added: "Without the dubious and contaminated evidence obtained from the unlawful surveillance, Mr Davies would not have been arrested in public in front of other passengers with who he had been travelling for many years and we conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that he would not have faced any charges at all.

"Instead, the original complaint would have been properly investigated; Mr Davies would have been interviewed and given the opportunity to answer the allegations - (which, most surprisingly, he was not); and we doubt the file would even have been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service or, if it was, would not have led to charges."

To make matters worse, BTP sent out "a wholly gratuitous" press release before the trial identifying Mr Davies, leading to press reports that caused "considerable distress" to Mr Davies and his family.

The tribunal described Mr Davies, who now holds a senior post at Bristol City Council, as "a man with an exemplary record and of unimpeachable character".

He was forced to work at home for nine months and claims he missed out on promotion and considerable extra earnings because of the case.

The tribunal concluded that BTP's breach, which caused Mr Davies "extremely severe and damaging consequences", was "founded on ignorance"

It also described as "worrying" the fact that the connotations of the case "were missed by all ranks from constable to chief inspector" and praised the evidence from Mr Davies, who put his own case, as "lucid, cogent and balanced".

Following the ruling, Mr Davies said: "I am grateful for the tribunal's deliberation, which further assists in exonerating me, as did the jury.

"The internal police investigation, which found their officers grossly incompetent, does very little for public confidence.

"BTP have a lot of changes to make to the way they behave, their practices and to demonstrate they are an organisation that can learn from their mistakes.

"If I had not had the experience of being a former senior detective, I would not have been able to prove my innocence or take on an organisation like BTP. That is worrying for ordinary people.

"My wife and family and I have been through a terrible ordeal.

"It is sad that BTP despite all investigations into this matter and identifying a catalogue of errors have not been able to apologise, offer any explanation at any stage."

DCC Adrian Hanstock, from BTP, said: "Investigations into allegations of sexual offences are complex and challenging enquiries.

"However we accept the tribunal’s findings that in this case, officer standards of investigation and surveillance fell short of the quality we expect our officers to deliver.

"As part of an internal review to establish what could be improved both organisationally and for officers in this case, one officer appeared before a misconduct hearing and was issued with a gross incompetency notice.

"Another officer was issued a notice regarding his unsatisfactory performance. Likewise we have sought advice from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal who hear complaints regarding the use of police surveillance.

"We will now review the findings and comments made by the tribunal committee and consider how best to respond to them."