FOLLOWING the abduction, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer, forces across the country have come under increased scrutiny.

On September 30 Wayne Couzens, who abducted Ms Everard as she walked home under the guise of an arrest, was sentenced to a whole-life prison term.

Couzens had been accused of indecent exposure in 2015, but was still able to transfer from Kent Police to the Metropolitan Police. 

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating both forces for their handling of Couzens.

The IOPC holds an oversight of the entire police complaints system and investigates the most serious police misconduct matters.

Sexual assault complaints against Avon and Somerset Police officers

According to data obtained by the RADAR news service under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI), 12 sexual assault complaints were made against Avon and Somerset Police officers between 2016 and 2020. 

Due to cases involving more than one officer, they relate to 15 officers – although an officer could also be involved in more than one case.

11 of the complaints were against male officers, two against female officers, and two against unidentified officers. 

One complaint against an officer had a case to answer, which resulted in a dismissal.

Seven complaints were not upheld and, in four, it was deemed that "acceptable service" had been provided by the officer.

In a further three, the claim was withdrawn or removed.

The data does not specify if the officers were on or off-duty at the time the alleged incidents occurred, and the sex of the person making the accusation was also unknown in each case.

Somerset County Gazette: SARAH: Lord Justice Fulton described Ms Everard as "an intelligent, resourceful, talented, and much-loved young woman"SARAH: Lord Justice Fulton described Ms Everard as "an intelligent, resourceful, talented, and much-loved young woman"
VICTIM: Sarah Everard

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police said: "We are committed to providing the public with the highest standards of service.

"When the conduct of an officer or member of police staff appears to fall below these high standards, our Professional Standards Department (PSD) will robustly investigate and if necessary, take action.

"Should an officer or member of police staff be accused of a serious wrongdoing or criminal behaviour then the matter will be referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

"The IOPC may decide to direct an investigation or independently investigate and where the evidence meets a criminal threshold, then the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will decide on whether criminal charges are brought.

"We take allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual offences extremely seriously and any officer or staff facing such an accusation is likely to be suspended from duty while an inquiry is carried out or, depending on an assessment of threat, harm and risk, removed from public-facing roles and duties involving gathering evidence.

"If evidence of gross misconduct is found, a hearing may take place chaired by a Legally Qualified Chair (LQC) who is independent of policing. In the majority of cases, misconduct hearings are held in public but on occasion the LQC may deem it necessary to hold the hearing in private.

"Regardless, the outcome of the hearing is always published on our website in the interests of transparency.

"We fully recognise that if we are to have legitimacy in tackling violence against women and girls, we need to ensure any such behaviour within our own workforce is not tolerated.

"We encourage all members of the public to report incidents of inappropriate behaviour, sexual misconduct or sexual offences to us whether they involve one of our employees or not.

"Similarly, we urge all officers and staff to report incidents of this nature, as well as any other matters which cause them concern to either a senior manager, Human Resources, PSD or via an anonymous confidential phone line."

Avon and Somerset Police's dismissed officers

25 officers from Avon and Somerset Police have resigned or been dismissed for crimes and misconduct since September 2018. 

They have been dismissed for reasons including use of cannabis, gross misconduct relating to honesty and integrity, theft, and some far more serious offences. 

Here are the officers who left the force because of crimes and misconduct of a violent or sexual nature. 

Somerset County Gazette: ACTION: Avon and Somerset Police has outlined its procedure for when an officer or staff member is accused of serious wrongdoingACTION: Avon and Somerset Police has outlined its procedure for when an officer or staff member is accused of serious wrongdoing

PC Adam Leighton-Price

Leighton-Price was jailed for a year in February 2019 after trying to groom a mother into sexually abusing her young children.

Leighton-Price found the woman on a dating website, Plenty of Fish, and they later messaged each other via messaging app, Kik.

He used a pseudonym and pretended he had a young daughter and was of a similar social background to the woman before encouraging the abuse.

The mother became "so unsettled" that she reported his behaviour to the authorities.

Investigating officers also found extreme pornographic images on his laptop and a sexual fantasy novel which referred to relationships between parents and children.

He had been a serving officer since 1994 until he was dismissed in January 2019.

He was placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.

PC Ed Farrow

Bridgwater-based Farrow had inappropriate sexual relationships with two vulnerable members of the public and engaged in sexual activity with them while on and off duty.

He also disclosed confidential details about police investigations, inappropriately demonstrated the use of a Taser, and failed to take appropriate action in response to a domestic abuse allegation.

He resigned before he could be dismissed.

His case was investigated by the IOPC and was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

No charges were authorised, but Farrow was given a conditional caution for breaching the Data Protection Act 1998.

PC Darren Bond

A PC who lived in Weston-super-Mare and worked in Bristol was jailed for two years and eight months in September 2020 after admitting eight counts of possessing, making and distributing indecent images of children.

Some of the victims were as young as eight.

His offences took place between January 2014 and November 2017.

Two phones seized from his house contained 579 indecent images and six videos. More than 150 were the highest-severity Category A.

He was dismissed without notice earlier in September 2020 and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register.

PC Adam Crockett

Crockett drank "excessive amounts of alcohol" before indecently assaulting two women - one of whom was a fellow officer - at a party in December 2018. 

A disciplinary hearing in May 2019 ruled that his behaviour amounted to gross misconduct and breached professional standards.

Had Crockett not resigned, Chief Constable Andy Marsh said he would have been sacked.

PC Jason Vernon

Vernon abused his position by forming inappropriate relationships with two vulnerable women he came into contact with during the course of his duties.

He also made a false statement to his sergeant when he claimed he was going to a nightclub to collect CCTV evidence when he was actually going to see one of the women.

A hearing at Avon and Somerset Police HQ heard that if he had not resigned in February 2019, he would have been dismissed.

PC James McCall

McCall was sacked after touching a female officer’s bottom and slapping her on the arms at a work Christmas party.

He had been drinking before he arrived at Sheppy’s House of Cider in Taunton on December 13, 2018.

He also abused two junior police officers and made homophobic slurs at the event.

McCall was dismissed without notice.

A year earlier, McCall had sworn at two on-duty police community support officers (PCSOs) in Taunton.

PC Adam Kitchener 

Kitchener was sentenced to 14 weeks in prison after admitting to assaulting a 15-year-old boy in Bristol.

He pleaded guilty to common assault at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on October 22, 2019.

Officers were called to attend a report of a robbery in Broad Quay, Bristol, on March 31, 2019.

The 15-year-old was arrested, but one of Kitchener’s colleagues lodged an internal complaint after witnessing the assault during the course of the arrest.

Kitchener kicked the teenager in the face while he was handcuffed, on the floor and compliant.

According to his colleagues, he told the boy: "Oops, sorry mate, I didn’t see you there." 

He was suspended and the matter was referred to the Independent Office for Police Misconduct, whose investigation led to the assault charge.

Kitchener resigned from his role before facing trial.

PC Toby Rideout

Married police officer Toby Rideout was dismissed for gross misconduct in July last year after sending a photo of his genitals to a woman he met while on duty.

A misconduct hearing heard that Rideout gave the woman his personal phone number and Facebook details while attending a traffic accident in Brislington on March 8, 2020.

Officers are required to inform a manager if they enter a relationship with somebody they met on duty.

PC Stuart Box

Box admitted gross misconduct after breaking a 70-year-old man's jaw in two places in a roadside altercation. 

While off duty, Box was cycling on the road in Frampton Cotterell when he was overtaken by a car driven by Peter Burgum. 

Box banged on the side of the car to indicate that he felt he had been overtaken too closely. 

He collided with the car's wing mirror when Mr Burgum pulled over to the side of the road, damaging it. 

In a physical altercation, Box slapped and punched Mr Bargum and threw his mobile phone over a fence. 

He left the scene without identifying himself as a police officer, calling the emergency services or leaving his details, and he did not report the incident. 

Box admitted gross misconduct but faced no criminal charges.

He would have been sacked for gross misconduct if he had not already resigned.