PFEW treasurer given final written warning

A senior member of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has been given a final written warning for damaging policing’s reputation by “gossiping” about Wayne Couzens’ defence on a social media chat app.

Feb 28, 2022
By Tony Thompson
Simon Kempton

Sergeant Simon Kempton, of Dorset Police, was on secondment serving as treasurer to PFEW when Sarah Everard was abducted.

Following Couzens’ hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on March 13 last year, Mr Kempton was approached by a Daily Mail journalist who filled him in on details heard in court.

Publication of the evidence was prohibited by the Magistrates Court Act, but journalists have the right to be present in court or attend via video link.

Later that evening, Mr Kempton shared information about Couzens’ defence on chat app Signal in a group made up of members of the Police Federation’s governing body.

In one message, he said: “Wait til you hear what his defence was today.”

Mr Kempton went on to set out Couzens’ false claims he had abducted Ms Everard and handed her over alive to a gang of eastern European men in order to pay off a debt.

The messages were reported to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) by two members of the group, who wrongly believed the source of the information was a leak within the investigations team.

They assumed that anything heard in open court would be reported, and were unaware of the statutory reporting restrictions – they later retracted their concerns and supported Mr Kempton.

A four-month investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) determined that that Mr Kempton had a case to answer for gross misconduct as the messages, had they got into the public domain, would have brought discredit on the police service and potentially interfered with the course of justice.

Mr Kempton faced misconduct proceedings for breaching standards of police professional behaviour concerning respect and courtesy, duties and responsibilities, social media use and confidentiality. It was alleged his actions had the potential to undermine confidence in the police.

Mark Ley-Morgan, presenting the case for Dorset Police, said the “tone and content” of the messages was “indicative of someone who was gossiping”.

Mr Kempton denied wrongdoing, telling a panel it was vital PFEW be brought up to speed to inform its media response, as well as any decision on paying Couzens’ legal fees were he to apply for funding.

When asked about the tone of his messages, Mr Kempton said: “It was conversational and I regret that in light of where I am sat, but it is conversational because this is a conversation.” He added that the messages were “factual” and he was repeating what he had been told by the journalist.

Mr Kempton denied they showed a lack of respect and courtesy to Sarah Everard’s family, saying: “God only knows what they had already been through – if I had in any way contributed to their distress I would be beside myself.”

On Friday (February 25), the panel found Mr Kempton to have committed misconduct, namely by discreditable conduct and breaching standards on duties and responsibilities, authority, respect and courtesy. Mr Kempton was handed a final written warning valid for two years.

He was cleared of breaching standards of following orders and instructions, and of confidentiality.

Following the hearing, Deputy Chief Constable Sam de Reya said: “It is disappointing that a hearing had to find an officer guilty of misconduct, especially as it was in relation to an abhorrent crime, where the reputation of the police service nationally was already very much under scrutiny.

“Sergeant Kempton’s actions showed complete disregard to Sarah Everard and her family. Locally and nationally the public expect and deserve to have trust and confidence in the police.

“Locally and nationally the public expect and deserve to have trust and confidence in the police. This trust is immensely important to us and I hope the outcome of this case sends out a clear message that we take misconduct very seriously and will not tolerate any behaviour that falls below the standards expected.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick said: ““Dorset’s residents and communities deserve to have trust in their police service and every incident of this nature erodes that trust.

“Sergeant Kempton showed no regard to the abhorrent crime that was committed against Sarah Everard and has, quite rightly had to face the consequences of his actions.”

IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley said: “We also considered whether there was a legitimate policing purpose in sharing the information. PS Kempton did not explain why he felt he had to post it on a Saturday night, rather than wait until working hours. In our opinion his messages suggested he was passing on gossip rather than acting with a serious purpose. He drew responses from other members of the group that could be characterised as cynical and sarcastic.

“The panel decided that the manner and tone of his communications were not careful, mature or appropriate and they described his actions as a serious error of judgement. He has now been given a final written warning which will stay on his record for two years.”

The IOPC investigation also found that two officers, from Sussex Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary, had a case to answer for misconduct. The cases against both were not proven although it was determined that the Sussex officer, who was on secondment from the force at the time, should undergo reflective practice. The investigation found no case to answer for a further four officers who were members of the chat group.

As part of its inquiry, the IOPC reviewed national police policy concerning the use of social media, local policies from a number of police forces, legislation and relevant court judgments.

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