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Journalists thwarted after bid to name sex case sergeant

Jon LewisRegional journalists have been barred from naming a disgraced police officer who had a sexual relationship with one of his trainees – despite the force he worked for previously revealing his name.

Dorset Live has been refused the right to name the Dorset Police sergeant, who was struck off for forming intimate relationships with three junior staff he supervised.

The officer’s name was initially published on the Dorset Police website, but at a police misconduct hearing he was granted anonymity in order to protect the identity of his family.

A subsequent challenge by Dorset Live, PA and the BNPS news agency was rejected by legally qualified chair and lawyer Deni Matthews, independent panel member John Evans and Dorset Police’s acting chief constable Steve Lyne.

The hearing was then told the sergeant had flirted with, sexted and kissed his staff, and in one case had sexual relations with a trainee who had disclosed she was a victim of domestic abuse.

The officer had resigned in August 2022, but the panel said he would have been sacked, had he remained in post, after they found him guilty of gross misconduct.

In their challenge, the three news organisations pointed out the officer’s name was already elsewhere in the public domain and that the public could interpret the anonymity order as the force “protecting its own”.

Among other points, they further noted the principles of open justice, and the use in the criminal court system of naming and shaming being part of a punishment.

Mr Matthews dismissed their challenge on the grounds that the tribunal was not a criminal court and so need not be held to the same standard, and that the tribunal was not there to punish anyone.

He also claimed the officer being granted anonymity did not impact on the openness of the proceedings. Dorset Live is planning to appeal against the restriction.

Editor Jon Lewis, pictured, told HTFP: “The Dorset DCC says the outcome of this case sends a clear message to the public – that this behaviour won’t be tolerated.

“But I would suggest the decision to not name the officer in question sends an even clearer message to the public – police officers who break the rules are being let off the hook.

“Only in rare and exceptional circumstances should a police officer be granted anonymity.

“It is in the clear public interest for the public to know who they are, and in the case of misconduct hearings, ensures that public confidence in the police service is maintained. By not naming the officer, accountability is cast aside.”

The controversy comes after Dorset Live’s Reach plc sister title the Bristol Post succeeded in overturning two police secrecy bids in three weeks.

The Post won the right to name disgraced PC Kevin Curd and DC Scott Burton, who had also been initially granted the right to secrecy.

A Dorset Police spokesperson told Dorset Live: “We will be issuing a news release in relation to the hearing.

“Regarding the publication of the name is a matter for the independent legally qualified chair.”