Officer dismissed for sexual relationship with vulnerable woman
A Dyfed-Powys Police sergeant has been dismissed without notice after engaging in a sexual relationship with a woman who was a vulnerable victim of crime.
Karl Longhurst, 44, admitted engaging in sexual activity with the woman but tried to argue that this amounted to misconduct, not gross misconduct, the force said.
However, a disciplinary hearing found gross misconduct proven after the panel determined the officer had breached the standards of professional behaviour in a number of areas, including honesty and integrity, and discreditable conduct.
The hearing was told Sgt Longhurst had been in a sexual relationship with a female member of the public and had continued to pursue this relationship following official police contact with her, despite her vulnerabilities.
He also failed to report the relationship in accordance with force policy.
While the female was in custody Sgt Longhurst made inappropriate sexual comments to her, the panel, led by a legally-qualified, independent chair, heard.
He also inappropriately accessed confidential police records relating to the woman.
“On becoming aware of the matter, the Professional Standards Department took immediate action and thereafter made a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), who decided to undertake an independent investigation,” said Dyfed-Powys Police.
The IOPC said its investigation began in July 2020 after the force referred a complaint made by the woman about the officer sending her messages of a sexual nature.
Sgt Longhurst had been a custody sergeant in August 2017, and it was alleged that while taking a DNA swab from the woman detainee’s mouth he made a sexual comment to her.
On occasions when off-duty, he had engaged in consensual sexual activity with the woman some time before, said the IOPC.
It added: “The investigation looked into allegations that Sgt Longhurst had failed to report the pre-existing relationship to his supervisor as required to by force policy, and to recuse himself from dealing with the woman at the time when she came into custody.
“It was further alleged that between January and June 2020, despite being aware of the previous policing contact and of her vulnerabilities, he was messaging the woman in a proactive effort to rekindle their former relationship.”
The IOPC said its investigators interviewed the officer under caution, examined his mobile phone and reviewed text messages downloaded from the woman’s phone.
“At the end of our investigation in May last year, we submitted our report to the force with our view that Sgt Longhurst had a case to answer for gross misconduct,” it said.
Dyfed-Powys Police Deputy Chief Constable Claire Parmenter said the outcome shows that the force “will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour”.
She said: “Dyfed-Powys Police expects the highest standards from all of its officers and staff and will ensure that members of the public can have complete trust and confidence in the force and its officers and staff.
“Where the conduct of officers and staff falls below our expected high standards, the public can be reassured that positive action will always be taken by the force.”In addition to being dismissed, Sgt Longhurst will also be added to the College of Policing Barred List.
IOPC Director for Wales, Catrin Evans, said: “While any sexual contact with the woman took place off duty, Sgt Longhurst had ample opportunity to report the relationship but failed to do so, contrary to force policy.
“He evidently displayed a lack of integrity and admitted unacceptable conduct towards a female detainee entrusted into his care while performing a critically important role as custody sergeant.
“Some time later, despite knowing of the woman’s vulnerabilities and past policing contact, he was messaging her in a sexualised manner in an attempt to renew their relationship.
“In our view Sgt Longhurst’s behaviour risked undermining public confidence in policing and amounted to gross misconduct.
“The police disciplinary panel having considered the evidence has decided to dismiss him without notice.”
Sgt Longhurst will also be added to the College of Policing Barred List.