Scotland Yard let staff ‘resign to avoid justice’

Nearly a third of the 274 officers and staff were allowed to quit before conclusion of hearings despite serious allegations

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard officers accused of sexual assault, racism and theft have been allowed to resign from the force before facing dismissal and professional disgrace at misconduct hearings, according to new figures out today.

Nearly a third of the 274 officers and staff were allowed to quit before the conclusion of their hearings despite serious allegations remaining against them.

Critics claim that the system would allow some former officers to renew their careers in the burgeoning private policing sector.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, said: "I am very surprised by the number of officers who were able to resign to avoid justice. Hearings must be taken to their conclusion notwithstanding the officer's departure from the force."

The force detailed on its website 14 months of misconduct hearings of officers - ranging in rank from community support officers to commander - over allegations including "internet paedophile activity" and accessing the police national database to spy on an ex-partner.

Of the officers who faced disciplinary measures in 2012, about 20 of them received criminal convictions, a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said.

None of the officers are named but they include former Commander Ali Dizaei - the highest ranked officer on the list - who was sacked in May 2012 after being jailed for perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office over an attack on a web designer.

The tables reveal that a constable was fired last September after being caught with child porn, while another was sacked for holding an ex-partner's 10-year-old in a headlock.

A total of 115 officers and police staff were dismissed during the 14 months from January 2012 while 87 resigned and 62 faced other forms of censure short of being sacked. The publication of the data follows the lead of other forces around the country, including South Yorkshire.

The release of the figures by the force - welcomed as step towards transparency for the police disciplinary system - followed the scandal of Simon Harwood, an officer who quit the Met while facing a misconduct panel but later rejoined with the slate wiped clean.

His disciplinary history came to light during investigations into the death of Ian Tomlinson, a homeless man, who died after the officer struck him with a baton and shoved him to the ground during the G20 protests in 2009. Mr Harwood was cleared of manslaughter but sacked after a rare public misconduct hearing.

In February, Home Secretary Theresa May said a national register of sacked officers would be set up to prevent them from being recruited by other forces. The force said yesterday that it could not stop officers resigning if they were on restricted duties but any suspended officer would have to get permission from Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey.

Mr Mackey previously told London Assembly Green Party member Jenny Jones that officers could only leave in "rare instants" because of cost considerations of keeping them suspended. "Predominantly my line is, if they are due to go before a board and it is a substantive case, they go before a board. The rules are very strict on that," he said earlier this year.

Jules Carey, of Tuckers Solicitors, who represents the family of Ian Tomlinson as they pursue a civil claim against the Met, welcomed the publication of figures but criticised the high level of resignations.

"Often when complaints are rejected by a force they go on to succeed as a civil claim in court," he said. "Until complaints are dealt with robustly by professional standards departments, the forces will have to pick up the cost of compensating victims of misconduct while the officers responsible can look forward to renewing their careers in the private sector."

Scotland Yard said it will publish the figures every quarter. "The Metropolitan Police Service is committed to delivering a professional service and we expect our employees to behave professionally and with the utmost integrity at all times, whether on or off duty," it said.