Police officers who had sex on duty found guilty of gross misconduct

Former Chief Inspector Rob Leet also had sex with a domestic abuse victim 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 16 April 2019 14:40
Both officers worked for Sussex Police at the time
Both officers worked for Sussex Police at the time

Two police officers who met for extramarital sex while on duty have been dismissed after being found guilty of gross misconduct.

Former Chief Inspector Rob Leet and Sgt Sarah Porter were found to have conducted their relationship while at work and misused Sussex Police systems to arrange their liaisons.

Mr Leet, 44, was also found to have taken advantage of a domestic abuse victim by having a sexual relationship with her, also while on duty.

A hearing in Lewes heard Mr Leet and Ms Porter exchanged more than 700 messages, including hidden text of a “graphic sexual nature” in emails and acronyms, and tried to hide their meetings from colleagues.

Ms Porter, 38, failed to attend a fatal road accident on one occasion because she was on the phone to her lover and could not be reached.

Mr Leet, who is married with four children, quit Sussex Police ahead of the hearing after 22 years’ service. The panel's finding means he will be barred from re-joining the force.

But both he and Ms Porter denied having sex on duty between August 2015 and 2017.

Ms Porter, who has a daughter with her former husband, admitted kissing but claimed it did not amount to sexual activity.

But the disciplinary panel found the allegation was proven at a hearing on Tuesday, and that the actions amounted to gross misconduct.

“That sexual activity was at least kissing and, on the balance of probabilities, more," chair Victoria Goodfellow said.

“The public would be appalled to learn two police officers were found in sexual activity at a time when they were supposed to be protecting them and upholding the law.”

Mr Leet did not attend the hearing but also denied the allegation, and developing an inappropriate relationship with a domestic abuse victim while on duty.

The hearing was told that he met the woman, referred to as Miss A, at a domestic abuse action group he chaired as a district commander.

Amy Clarke, representing Sussex Police, said what began as a friendship developed into a “sexual relationship which went on for some time” between November 2014 and January 2016.

The pair met up while he was on duty, including at Miss A's home, and exchanged messages of an “explicit sexual nature”, the hearing was told.

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Ms Clarke said: “Miss A is firmly of the belief that she was, in effect, taken advantage of by Mr Leet.

"There is also a clear gulf in power there. It should have been abundantly clear to Mr Leet that there was a potential vulnerability there that should not have been exploited."

The panel chair said Mr Leet's rank “afforded him power and influence” and that his actions were a “gross abuse of his position with a vulnerable victim for sexual gratification”.

“His actions may have caused psychological harm to Miss A,” she said. "His actions were for sexual gratification in relation to both Miss A and Sgt Porter.”

Representing Ms Porter, lawyer Stephen Chippeck said the police officer of 18 years had been described as able, “respectful and courteous” by a senior officer.

Mr Chippeck said Ms Porter has to carry out “horrendous” duties in the road traffic unit and received a certificate of congratulations after “putting herself in harm's way” to rescue a man from the River Ouse.

He urged the panel to allow the officer "to continue to do the job she both loves and is good at".

But announcing her dismissal from the force, Ms Goodfellow told her: “Your actions are likely to have caused harm to the reputation of Sussex Police and the policing profession ... your actions were for sexual gratification.”

Both officers had been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) by Sussex Police in March 2017.

The watchdog examined thousands of emails and text messages shared between the two officers, as well as GPS data taken from police vehicles they used and their work schedules.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick May said: “The behaviour of both of these officers is a violation of the trust that the public put in the police to serve and protect them. They have let down the people of Sussex and their colleagues.

“Rob Leet has also let down a vulnerable woman who looked to him for reassurance and support. He chose to resign shortly before the hearing.

“When police officers or staff abuse their position of trust for a sexual purpose, particularly in respect of vulnerable people, such behaviour represents a fundamental betrayal of the public and the values for which the police service stands.

“We have a responsibility to recognise abuse of power as a distinct area of corruption, behaviour which deflects from the work of the vast majority of officers. Vulnerable victims must be able to trust those they turn to for help.”

Additional reporting by PA

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