Officers guilty of misconduct after encouraging man to admit drugs offence

Two Dorset Police officers have received written warnings after persuading a man to admit possessing drugs found at a property.

Dec 18, 2019
By Paul Jacques

An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found that, while there was no evidence the man had been “bullied and pressurised” by the officers, it was clear they “had acted inappropriately”.

An armed response unit had attended the address in Blandford on May 4, 2018, to arrest the man in connection with other offences.

Body-worn video (BWV) shows the man was found hiding in the loft, being handcuffed, cautioned and asked to sit on a sofa in the lounge of the property while officers completed their inquiries.

One of the officers found a small bag of cannabis on the table of the property and along with another officer, encouraged the man to admit possessing it so as not to get the homeowner in trouble.

The man was charged with possession of cannabis as well as other offences.

During interview he denied the cannabis was his and said: “I was basically bullied into saying ‘yeah it’s mine’.”

The interviewing officers raised this matter with their supervisor and the matter was referred to the IOPC in August 2018 as a mandatory conduct referral.

In December 2018, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped the charge of possession of cannabis due to lack of evidence.

The IOPC investigation found that while the man claimed to have been bullied and pressurised by the officers, “BWV appeared to show some brief interaction and attempted persuasion for him to accept responsibility for the cannabis, which did not support the officers’ actions as being threatening, persistent or bullying in tone”.

It added: “The evidence from all officers in attendance tended to support that there was a strong smell of cannabis on their arrival at the premises and that only the man was present inside.

“Based on the evidence available, we were of the opinion that two officers, who tried to persuade the man to admit to possession of the cannabis, and did not challenge each other’s actions, had acted inappropriately.”

IOPC Regional Director Catrin Evans said: “It is clear from the evidence gathered that the man did not freely admit to possessing the cannabis and was coerced by two of the officers who attended the address.

“While their actions did not support a claim of bullying, the behaviour fell below the standards expected of police officers. By encouraging the man into admission the officers did not respect his rights, and the evidence was later deemed potentially inadmissible and the CPS decided to discontinue prosecution of this offence.”

She said they found cases to answer for misconduct for two officers, which was agreed by Dorset Police. Misconduct was proven at their misconduct meetings run by the force and they were given written warnings.

“A referral was made by Dorset Police in August 2018, but we could not begin our investigation until December 2018 due to sub-judice concerns. Our investigation concluded in July 2019 and we have awaited misconduct proceedings before issuing our findings,” added Ms Evans.

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