The sentencing of police officers
A recent decision of the Court of Appeal lays down the proper approach to the sentencing of a police officer.
A sanction resulting in a police officer having to leave the force will be the usual consequence of operational dishonesty but there is the possibility of exceptional cases.
Although police officers do not have a fiduciary client relationship with individual members of the public or the public at large, they do carry out vital public functions in which it is imperative that the public have confidence in them. It is therefore appropriate to apply to the sentencing of a police officer the advice of Sir Thomas Bingham MR in Bolton v Law Society on the sentencing of solicitors, provided that, ultimately, the decision-maker appreciates at all times that the case falls to be assessed in the context of policing.
The Court added the following observations on the effects of mitigation.
Because of the importance of public confidence in the police, the potential mitigation of an unblemished past and the esteem of his colleagues, is necessarily limited. Stanley Burnton LJ added that, ‘In cases in which the concern is with the abilities of an officer, it may be sensible, and perfectly rational, to consider that he is unfit for a supervisory role, but fit to act as a constable. In this case, however, the concern did not relate to the abilities of the officer, but to his integrity. An actual or perceived lack of integrity disqualifies a person from acting as either a constable or in a police supervisory role.’
Salter v The Chief Constable of Dorset  EWCA Civ 1047. (A deputy senior investigating officer instructed another officer to destroy a mobile telephone belonging to another policeman who had died in a traffic accident, even though he knew it would be required as evidence at the Inquest into the officer's death. The phone contained text messages indicating that the dead man had had an affair with someone other than his wife.)
6th Edition » | Chapter 14