BTP wins fight to overturn misconduct panel ruling
The British Transport Police (BTP) have won a legal battle which overturns a decision that allowed an officer who flashed his warrant card and harassed a lone female jogger to keep his job.
Central London-based Police Constable Imran Aftab was found guilty of gross misconduct by an independent panel in May 2021 but was given a final written warning rather than being dismissed from his job.
The BTP have successfully challenged the decision through a High Court judicial review which was described by the force’s Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi as “a landmark ruling that preserves my faith in justice” amid an “ongoing struggle to restore the confidence of women in policing”.
In a written ruling on Friday (March 17), Judge Charles Bagot KC described the misconduct panel’s decision as irrational and it was overturned. Pc Aftab is now formally dismissed from the force.
Ms D’Orsi said: “There is no place for anyone like Imran Aftab in policing, so we were resolute in overturning the decision of the independent panel which had allowed him to continue his role as a police officer, despite being a risk to the women he was employed to protect.”
On April 15 2020, Pc Aftab had parked his car while off duty and approached the jogger before using his police warrant card to try to talk to her, which was an attempt to abuse his position for a sexual purpose, the misconduct hearing was told.
The panel accepted he used his warrant card in an effort to impress and woo his victim while also telling her she “looked too curvy to be Asian” and asking for a hug.
This was deeply inappropriate and also breached Government social distancing guidelines that were then in place, the BTP said. His victim texted her friend at the time of the incident saying “help me”.
In its judicial review, the BTP argued that the panel’s approach was unlawful and it had failed to understand the seriousness of Pc Aftab’s behaviour.
He responded at the High Court by claiming he was a “victim of the times we are now living in today”.
But the judge ruled there “could only be one rational and reasonable disciplinary outcome” from his behaviour and BTP were “correct to observe that these proceedings capture a real and present national concern about male police officers’ conduct towards lone women”.
The judge stated it was his “own choice to approach a lone female and indulge in prejudiced racial stereotyping and sexualised language, amongst other troubling features of his conduct, which have been the undoing of his police career”.
BTP said that after the May 2021 misconduct hearing Pc Aftab’s suspension no longer applied as the regulatory process was over.
But Ms D’Orsi used her powers to remove his warrant card while the judicial review was considered, meaning he was banned from BTP premises.
After the BTP’s successful legal challenge on Friday, Ms D’Orsi said: “This is a strong position and a costly step for a police force to take, and I hope it reassures everyone of our determination to uphold the standards expected from those who work within British Transport Police and to root out those who corrupt our integrity.
“Using a warrant card to influence a lone woman for an officer’s sexual gain is a total abuse of police powers and so seriously undermines public confidence that it is destructive to the very fabric of policing by consent.
“It is completely unforgivable that any woman should feel so intimidated by the actions of a police officer that she feels compelled to text her friend for help. This is why we were so determined to ensure he doesn’t work another day as police officer, and I am pleased that the judge agreed with our challenge today.”
In a blog published after the ruling, Ms D’Orsi called for improved transparency and accountability to underpin professionalism in policing.
She wrote: “Most significantly, I have asked the Home Office to grant Chief Constables the power to decide whether to dismiss an officer where gross misconduct has been proven by an independent panel.
“I am ultimately accountable for the actions of every person I employ. We hear a lot about common sense policing these days and I’ve always been a big fan.
“What defies common sense more than a system that compels me to retain a police officer who I believe to be a danger to the public, and specifically to lone women? I can’t think of much.”
She added: “Whilst I am grateful for the judge’s ruling, it should never have come to this. Nobody would want us to have to use public money in this way. We don’t want to work with corrupt officers, abusers or sexual predators. But the system has to help us.”