Former Norfolk police officer who 'pursued teenage victim for sexual relationship' found guilty of gross misconduct
PUBLISHED: 17:15 28 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:15 28 March 2018
A former police officer who ‘pursued a teenage victim for a sexual relationship’, while investigating the nightclub assault against her, has been found guilty of gross misconduct.
Although Norfolk police constable Thomas Turrell has since resigned from the force, at a misconduct hearing today an independent panel said he would have been dismissed if he was still serving and agreed to add the 31-year-old to police barred list.
The hearing at Norfolk Constabulary headquarters in Wymondham was told that on December 3, 2016, the victim, referred to only as Ms B, and another woman were victims of an assault at a nightclub in Lowestoft.
Ms B, who was 19 and a student at the time, did not report the assault to the police immediately and it was only a couple of days later, when as a result of her injuries she had to go to the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, that the police were involved.
Barrister Simon Walsh, on behalf of Norfolk Constabulary, said Mr Turrell met her, for the first time, because he was on duty at the hospital and subsequently became involved in the investigation of the assault, going to her home to take details to produce a formal statement and receiving pictures of her injuries, sent from her mobile phone.
Mr Walsh said: “This was information he got simply because of his status as a police officer, and not information he would have otherwise had.”
The panel heard that Mr Turrell and Ms B exchanged messages on social media, as well as text messages and photographs, the sheer number of which showed that the contact between them was excessive and far beyond what was required of his duties.
Mr Walsh said a “peak point” was a “very uncomfortable visit to her home on Christmas Day”, when he turned up at her house and asked her to come out to speak to him.
The relationship developed in January 2017, with drinks and dinner and an invitation for her to spend a weekend with him in London.
He added: “She makes it clear that it is Mr Turrell, rather than she, that was the driving force behind their relationship. He was definitely making the going.”
The panel heard how Mr Turrell, who did not have to be present and chose not to attend, had not admitted the facts of the case, but also offered no mitigation.
Paul Ridgway, of Norfolk Police Federation, said Mr Turrell, who had previously worked for Suffolk Constabulary, had indicated that he had no interest in serving as a police officer in future, mainly because he could not continue to work under the current code of conduct and ethics, as he did not agree with it.
Monica Daley-Campbell, the chairman of the independent panel, said Mr Turrell had been in breach of standards and that there had not been a pre-existing relationship between them before December 2016, despite the fact it was possible that Mr Turrell had seen her or been aware of her prior to this date.
She said although Ms B was not “inherently vulnerable”, her vulnerability arose out of the fact she was a victim of a crime who provided information to a serving police officer in the context of an officer carrying out an investigation of the crime.
She said: “There was an imbalance of power which continued throughout the relationship on that context as she believed the investigation to be ongoing and the contact she had with the officer was in furtherance of the investigation.”
The panel felt the nature of messages between the pair showed that Mr Turrell had made it clear he found her to be attractive and an aggravating feature was that he continued to investigate the crime until April 17, 2017, when he finalised her statement.
Ms Daley-Campbell said: “We find the relationship was pursued with a sexual motive, but with regard to whether it was a sexual relationship or not we make no finding.”