Officer disciplined by misconduct panel
Main article content
A police officer who was driving a car involved in a fatal collision with a pedestrian in Brighton has had a number of allegations found proven against him at a gross misconduct hearing.
However, the independently-chaired panel found that where he had breached standards of professional behaviour, they amounted to misconduct and not gross misconduct, which may have led to his dismissal from the force.
PC Richard Harris, 29, based at John Street police station in the city, faced five allegations when he appeared at the four day hearing, which commenced on Monday (July 13) at Sackville House in Lewes. It was alleged that he breached standards of professional behaviour relating to duties and responsibilities, all relating to the manner of his driving on August 25, 2017.
David Ormesher, 79. from Poole in Dorset, died when he was struck by the police car driven by PC Harris responding to an emergency call.
The incident was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct who referred a case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in August 2018 to consider criminal charges. In September 2019, the CPS advised that they would not press charges and two months later, Mr Ormesher's family exercised their Victim’s Right to Review (VRR). In April 2020, the VRR was completed by the CPS who again ruled that no charges would be brought.
The IOPC shared their report with Sussex Police and it was agreed that there was a case to answer for gross misconduct, where the threshold for bringing disciplinary action is lower than those of criminal charges. It was alleged that PC Harris's speed as he drove through Brighton was not necessary, reasonable or proportionate in the circumstances and during the blue light run, he had narrowly avoided collisions with two other vehicles.
On Thursday (July 16), having considered the evidence and heard a number of submissions and statements in PC Harris's defence, the panel decided that three out of the five allegations were proven, amounting to misconduct and that he should receive a final written warning.
Assistant Chief Constable Jayne Dando said: "Our thoughts are with Mr Ormesher's family and friends who have had to wait nearly three years for this matter to be resolved and I would reiterate our profound and deepest sympathies for this tragic incident.
"PC Harris was understandably extremely shocked by the incident and we accept that he was seeking to do his job and was en route to deal with an emergency. However, the panel has found that his actions were not in keeping with the very high standards that we set all of our officers and staff, especially in such circumstances where we expect them to adhere to the high levels of training that we provide.
"Every single day, we look to our officers and staff to make rapid decisions and perform to the very high standards that we expect and train them to carry out. Every single day, hundreds of them do so, but on this occasion events conspired to bring about this desperately tragic result."