Police fight reinstatement of officer who joked about rape
A policeman who sent sordid emails to a friend who turned out to be a child molester is fighting to save his career at the High Court.
As well as “joking” about rape with sex offender Robert Meade, Paul Woollard repeatedly used the police intelligence system to run checks on his friend and “lent him a shoulder to cry on” while he was on bail for sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl, a judge was told.
Woollard was sacked from his job as a PC with Wiltshire Police for the sordid emails and use of the police computer, but was reinstated by a Police Appeals Tribunal, which ordered Chief Constable Patrick Geenty to give him his job back and issue a final warning.
Yesterday, the police chiefs went back to the High Court in London to appeal against that decision, describing the order to reinstate the errant policeman as ‘bizarre’ and ‘irrational’.
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John Beggs QC, for Mr Geenty, told the court that Mr Woollard had used his police email address to send Meade a series of explicitly-worded messages including one which read: “Just waitin for the women to come and open up. I might rape her as theres noone else here (sic)”.
Meade, who Mr Woollard knew through a shared interest in cricket and angling, admitted sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl at Swindon Crown Court in October 2009 and was jailed for a year.
Mr Beggs, in written submissions, conceded there was no evidence Mr Woollard knew about Meade’s crime when he sent the “rape joke” email, but added that he had “continued to associate” with his friend even after he was charged and on bail.
He had also breached the Data Protection Act by searching the police intelligence computer for details about Meade, Mr Beggs said.
Challenging the reinstatement and final warning, Mr Beggs argued: “No reasonable tribunal could have imposed a sanction other than dismissal for an officer found guilty of such a cumulative litany of allegations which undermined public confidence in the reputation of the police service”.
Describing parts of the tribunal’s reasoning as ‘bizarre’, he asked: “How would a Wiltshire victim of rape react to learning that a sexual offences trained officer ‘joked’ about raping a woman himself? Would that encourage her to come forward to Wiltshire Police?”
He added: “How would a man on the Devizes omnibus view the fact that one of his local officers, on duty, is sending foul emails to an inappropriate associate, joking about home-made and barely legal pornography and masturbation.
“How would a local citizen respond to the knowledge that one of his local officers is lending a shoulder to cry on to a child sex offender on bail?
“What would the 14-year-old victim of Robert Meade, or her parents, or her friends, or other victims of sexual assault think of the police if they discovered that Mr Woollard accessed intelligence about Meade’s offence not for the proper policing purpose of detecting crime, but to check up on his friend?”
Woollard’s barrister admitted that the misconduct was serious, but said he had expressed remorse and the case did not concern his ‘honesty and integrity’.
Mr Justice Wyn Williams has now reserved his judgment on the Chief Constable’s appeal until a later date.
Wiltshire Police declined to comment on the case until it has been decided, but a spokesman said: “Wiltshire Police would like to reiterate that it expects the highest standards of professional behaviour from its police officers and staff.
“There are a clear set of values and behaviours that all staff are expected to adhere to. Any inappropriate behaviour, whether on or off duty, will be investigated and appropriate action taken,” he added.