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26 Apr 21 Back to Listing

Barney Branston appears for West Midlands Police in gross misconduct case involving inappropriate behaviour to Domestic Abuse victims

The Code of Ethics specifically prohibits police officers from pursuing private relationships in the course of their professional duties; paragraph 2.3 expressly sets out that in relation to the Standard of Professional Behaviour relating to Authority, Respect and Courtesy, officers ‘must not engage in sexual conduct or other inappropriate behaviour when on duty’ and ‘must not establish or pursue an improper sexual or emotional relationship with a person with whom [they] come into contact in the course of [their] work who may be vulnerable to an abuse of trust or power.’

After hearing several days’ worth of evidence, primarily given by four anonymized complainants, a tribunal chaired by a Legally Qualified Chair held on Monday 19 April that PC Colin Noble had breached this prohibition in respect of each of them. A common aggravating feature of their complaints was that they had all come to West Midlands Police for assistance because they suffered from varying degrees of domestic abuse; they were most unfortunate that PC Noble was allocated to deal with their cases.

PC Noble, who at the time worked in the Domestic Abuse Investigation Unit, had been assigned to assist them yet on each occasion took the opportunity to try to pursue his own personal relationships with them. The key evidence was derived from a covert recording taken by one of the ladies in question; she had been so troubled by his conduct when he first visited her that she surreptitiously recorded the meeting when he returned to take a statement from her some time later.  That audio footage recorded him openly flirting with her, describing her as being ‘fit’ and attractive, asking if she had any nude pictures of herself and suggesting that if he and she were to have a relationship it would have to be ‘on the down low’, acknowledging that he was fully aware that his conduct would be subject to criticism if it became known.

He replicated his approach and contact with the other women, none of whom were known to each other, and when they all came forward to give evidence and to take a stand, the panel were impressed by the clarity of their accounts, finding every material particular proven against him.

The officer accepted that the recording demonstrated behaviour that was entirely inconsistent with the values of West Midlands Police, but sought to explain it as being intended only to boost this vulnerable young lady's confidence. The panel rejected that explanation and found every material particular proven.  In considering outcome, it was noted that very many of the ‘Aggravating factors’ that are listed in the College of Policing’s “Guidance on outcomes in police misconduct proceedings” were present in this case and yet there was not a single mitigating factor. He was dismissed without notice and his name has been placed on the barred list.
 

Barney Branston presented for West Midlands Police Force.

Read about the case on BBC News here