Kate Cornell successfully presents a police misconduct case against two officers sacked for exchanging racist text messages

PC George Cooper and PC Stephen Newbury were dismissed without notice from the Metropolitan Police on 7th October 2015 following a three day misconduct hearing held in public. Both officers had exchanged text messages with a third (now ex-) officer which contained racist and otherwise discriminatory circular “jokes”. In addition, both officers had drafted and sent conversational messages expressing racist sentiments and using derogatory racial slurs such as “monkeys” and “spades” to describe black people.

Both officers argued that the messages, sent on private phones and whilst off-duty, ought not to attract disciplinary action since they were private and engaged the protection of the Article 8 ECHR right to respect for private life and correspondence. In addition the officers argued that the messages, which were discovered during a lawful consensual search of computer equipment linked to an unrelated criminal matter, had been unlawfully used for misconduct purposes because misconduct proceedings were outside the permission given for the search.

The legal arguments were resoundingly defeated with the panel holding that Article 8 was not engaged in the circumstances. Where the officers had sent the messages and thus lost control over them, they could have no remaining legitimate expectation of privacy in them, particularly where many of the messages were circulars intended for onward transmission. The panel also determined that the use of the messages for misconduct proceedings was lawful and appropriate in the circumstances.

The panel deemed the sending of such messages incompatible with the role of a police officer amounting to gross misconduct, and both officers were dismissed without notice.

Kate Cornell acted on behalf of the Appropriate Authority.

The case was widely reported in the press including by the BBC, Telegraph and Guardian.