A Sussex Police officer has been dismissed from the force without notice after it was found that he was guilty of gross misconduct after accessing computer systems without good reason and on one occasion, disclosing the content of a police serial to a third party.
PC Forrest Knight, 48, who was based at Sussex Police headquarters in Lewes, appeared before a gross misconduct panel on Wednesday (February 24).
The panel, chaired by Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith, heard how PC Knight had been under considerable stress in his private life following the breakdown of his marriage when he accessed the force’s command and control and intelligence systems in March 2014.
PC Knight claimed to have done so to input information about contacts associated with his estranged, now divorced, wife and believed that his doing so was a lawful policing purpose. However, he was given advice on the first occasion that he did so, but continued to access the systems with specific searches connected with his private life.
In April 2015, he made a false report to Sussex Police that his then partner was a ‘cause for concern’ as she had failed to respond to his text and phone contact. He then went on to access this record on the force’s command and control system on three occasions and, in doing so, noted her car had been caught on an ANPR camera. He phoned her the following day and told her this information. The officer denied passing this information and claimed she must have obtained information about the location of the camera from a police documentary. This explanation was not accepted by the panel.
He was found to have committed gross misconduct on four counts involving access to police information and systems and was also found guilty of misconduct with regard to having entered incorrect duty times in his computer record.
A challenge from PC Knight’s solicitor that the first of the breaches had been dealt with by management advice by his supervisor at the time and in effect resulted in double jeopardy was dismissed by the panel. However, ACC Smith did note that the management action taken at the time was incorrect and he was ‘disturbed’ that the incident had not been referred immediately to the Professional Standards Department. However, he accepted that the full facts had not been available to the supervisor at the time.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said: “Sussex Police expects the highest personal and professional standards of anyone who works for us and any allegations of behaviour that do not meet those standards are rigorously investigated.
“Despite being warned that the action he was taking was not authorised, PC Knight continued to access systems drawing himself deeper into the trouble that was entirely of his own making.
“We accept that he was under pressure in his private life, but he had shared this with force and was receiving the support of his colleagues. However, the panel felt that his actions did amount to gross misconduct and he has been dismissed from Sussex Police.
“It is important to show that the force has the ability to fairly investigate its own staff and this highlights our determination not to allow the name of Sussex Police to be tainted, nor bring into disrepute the enormous amount of good work carried out day-to-day by thousands of hard-working and enormously dedicated police officers and staff.”