Anne Studd KC and David Messling act for the Metropolitan Police in the application by Kristina O’Connor for judicial review of a police misconduct investigation

22 November 2023

The High Court this week gave judgment in R(O’Connor) v Police Misconduct Panel & the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2023] EWHC 2892 (Admin), on the judicial review application of Kristina O’Connor, in a case concerning how misconduct panels and police forces should investigate complaints of sexual harassment by police officers. Mr Justice Swift rejected the Claimant’s challenges to the decisions of both the Commissioner and the Panel.

In 2011 Ms O’Connor was the victim of a mugging. She contacted the Metropolitan Police and attended a local police station, where the now former officer Mr Mason (then a Detective Sergeant) took a witness statement from her. Mr Mason asked her inappropriate questions about her personal life and relationships, including asking her out for dinner that evening. On the following day, in response to Ms O’Connor emailing for an update on the police investigation, he made comments on her appearance and sought to establish a relationship with her.

In 2020 Ms O’Connor made a complaint to the Metropolitan Police where she disclosed her experience from 2011. The matter was investigated by the Metropolitan Police, who decided that Mr Mason (who was by then a Detective Chief Inspector) should face gross misconduct proceedings. In October 2021, a Police Misconduct Panel found that Mr Mason had committed gross misconduct, including by abusing his position through attempting to establish a sexual relationship with a victim of crime. The Panel imposed a Final Written Warning for a period of three years, but decided not to dismiss Mr Mason. Mr Mason later resigned from the Metropolitan Police Service in 2022.

Ms O’Connor sought judicial review of the Police Misconduct Panel’s decision to impose a Final Written Warning, alleging that the Panel had erred in its approach to sanction and that the sanction it imposed was irrational. Ms O’Connor also alleged failings in the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of her complaint, in particular whether the investigation had been legally required to consider breaches of the Standards of Professional Behaviour relating to Equality and Diversity.

Swift J dismissed the application against both the Metropolitan Police and the Panel. He determined that the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of the complaint had been lawful, noting that an investigation could reasonably be conducted in different ways each entirely consistent with the statutory purpose. It had not been unreasonable, given the age of the complaint, for the investigating officer to look for patterns of behaviour by checking whether or not other complaints had been made against the officer. There was no failure to have regard to IOPC Statutory Guidance and it was reasonable to characterise Mr Mason’s conduct as falling within the Discreditable Conduct standard of behaviour.

The Court also reviewed the Panel’s decision on outcome, concluding that there was no failure to have regard to the Outcomes Guidance from the College of Policing, nor a failure to treat the matter as one of operational dishonesty, and that the sanction imposed by the Panel was not irrational.

The case has been widely reported, including by the BBCthe Times, and the Evening Standard.

Anne Studd KC and David Messling acted for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.


Authors

Anne Studd KC

Call 1988 | Silk 2012

David Messling

Call 2017

Search

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and event updates.

Subscribe

Popular

21 November 2023

Robert Cohen appeared in the Court of Appeal for the Home Office

Discover more

19 December 2023

A message from Head of Chambers, Jason Beer KC, looking back at the past 12…

Discover more

10 March 2023

AI and the law – a look at what the future holds In 2022, when…

Discover more

Portfolio Builder

Select the practice areas that you would like to download or add to the portfolio

Download    Add to portfolio   
Portfolio
Title Type CV Email

Remove All

Download


Click here to share this shortlist.
(It will expire after 30 days.)