Officer suffering ‘epileptic seizure’ in fail-to-stop collision cleared of gross misconduct

A Norfolk Constabulary officer involved in a fail-to-stop collision while “suffering from an epileptic seizure” has been cleared of gross misconduct.

Feb 28, 2024
By Paul Jacques

Norfolk Police Federation said this was a “right and just result” for an officer who has “gone through hell” with the extensive local media coverage of the case.

PC Karl Warren was the driver of a police car that collided with an Audi A1 on the A146 at Barnby, near Beccles, in March 2022, and failed to stop at the scene. The driver of the Audi A1 was not injured but left shaken and minor damage was caused to the car.

Criminal charges initially brought against the driver were later discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service, following the provision of medical evidence.

The constabulary’s misconduct investigation found the officer had no case to answer, based on the same medical evidence.

The driver of the Audi A1 appealed this decision to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which upheld the complaint, recommending the driver should face gross misconduct proceedings.

The resulting two-day gross misconduct hearing, which concluded on Tuesday (February 28), accepted the expert evidence and dismissed the gross misconduct case against the officer.

Harry Ireland, the panel’s legally qualified chair, said the key evidence in the case was the medical evidence.

In particular, he referred to evidence from consultant neurologist Dr Pablo Garcia Reitboeck who concluded that at the time of the incident on March 5, 2022, the officer would not have been aware of his surroundings.

Mr Ireland said: “Dr Reitboeck stated that it remained his opinion that the officer had no control over the car when he collided with the car in front of him and was not aware of what was happening due to him suffering a neurological event, namely an ‘epileptic seizure’.

“Thus, we had two expert consultant neurologists arriving at the same conclusion, namely that the officer at the time of the collision was suffering from an epileptic seizure whereby he would be unable to appreciate his surroundings and have no memory of events.”

Chief Constable Paul Sanford said the investigation has had a “profound and serious impact on the officer and his family”.

“The outcome of this independent hearing is consistent with our original position in this case, in that the driver had no case to answer because of the medical evidence provided,” he said.

“Gross misconduct is a breach of the standards of behaviour that is so serious, it would justify the dismissal of that officer. In this case, the reason why the officer did not stop was because of a medical episode, and as a result of this, gross misconduct has not been found. The officer has my full support.

“As I’ve previously stated, I am sorry this incident happened. When we get things wrong, it’s important we take appropriate action, and my officers fully expect to be held accountable for their actions.

“However, the evidence presented about the driver’s neurological condition has been overwhelming. The officer has seen three different consultant neurologists and a specialist adult epilepsy nurse. With the officer’s permission, I can confirm he has been diagnosed with a form of epilepsy.”

Mr Sanford added: “Policing holds an important role in society; it’s only right we are subject to scrutiny by the media who act as the eyes and ears of the public.

“This case has received extensive local media coverage with allegations of ‘collusion and cover-up’ levelled towards the constabulary.

“Throughout this case, we’ve followed procedure, responded proportionately, been open and honest with the victim and shared all relevant information with them, as we would in any case. There is no cover-up. The independent chair of this gross misconduct hearing reached the same conclusion as the constabulary did when we first assessed this case.

“While not applicable to this case, I’ve made it clear that people who display the wrong behaviours have no place in policing and since 2022, 12 police officers have been dismissed for gross misconduct.

“We take allegations of misconduct extremely seriously and have robust measures in place to identify and investigate.

“This investigation and the associated publicity have had a profound and serious impact on the officer and his family. The medical evidence presented in this hearing was overwhelmingly clear that the officer suffered an epileptic episode and has continued to suffer seizures in the months that have followed. Any questions relating to the officer’s conduct and character must now finally be rejected.”

Norfolk Police Federation chair Andy Symonds said: “This is the right and just result. As we heard during the hearing, this officer has gone through hell. Much of it in public and for a number of months.

“Police officers are accountable for their actions – and we accept what we do comes under intense scrutiny – but there comes a point when scrutiny can frankly start to feel like an anti-police vendetta.

“Certain sections of the media – with the assistance it must be said of the IOPC – took it upon themselves to put his actions on trial.

“There has been no scandal. There was no hiding anything. He has faced up to it all. Karl sadly has a worrying medical condition. And is paying a heavy price for it.

“We have sadly seen an increase in the frequency of PC Warren’s epileptic episodes and this is in the main down to the last two years of intense scrutiny. And today PC Warren can hold his head up high as he has done nothing wrong and the panel found no case to answer.

“Karl has been dignified throughout and we as a Federation have been fully supporting him. He has a medical condition which three separate doctors have diagnosed and has been thankfully understood and appreciated by a legally qualified chair and the other independent panel members during the hearing.

“As this week’s hearing heard, Karl faces an uncertain future – and we wish both he and his family well at this time.

“We ask that the media now respect their privacy and leaves them alone to get on with their lives.”

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