Police officers in foul-mouthed voicemail case will keep their jobs
Two experienced police officers who were involved in leaving a foul-mouthed voicemail for an alleged domestic abuse victim, calling her a "slag", will keep their jobs, a misconduct panel has ruled.
A West Midlands Police misconduct panel found Constables Christopher Guest and Cavan O'Connell fell "substantially below" professional standards over the message left on Alex Faragher's mobile phone in which she was called a "****ing bitch", and a "****ing slag.
Following the ruling, Ms Faragher's solicitor said she was "disappointed" while a leading domestic violence charity sharply criticised both officers.
The chief executive of Refuge, Sandra Horley, warned that until such "canteen culture" attitudes among police forces were eradicated, similar incidents would continue.
During the hearing Pc Guest accepted making the comments about the young woman in an inadvertent recording on the evening of January 13 2014, as he sat chatting in a car with his colleague.
The 36-year-old, who has been with the force for 10 years and earned several commendations for bravery, said his remarks were borne of "frustration", and never meant for Ms Faragher's ears.
He has since apologised telling her he was "truly sorry" for his "ranting" voice message.
The panel on Tuesday ruled Pc Guest's actions amounted to misconduct but fell short of the higher level of gross misconduct, which might have seen him sacked.
He was handed a final written warning which will remain on his file for 18 months.
Panel chairman, Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, said Pc Guest's remarks were "substantially below what is expected of a West Midlands Police officer".
But he added: "The panel assess that the breach does not require full range of sanctions, and that it amounts to misconduct."
Despite making no abusive remarks on the recording, colleague 51-year-old Pc O'Connell, also a response officer on the busy Birmingham North patch, was before the panel for failing to pull up Pc Guest over his "unacceptable" comments.
The panel found the father of three's actions in not challenging Pc Guest were a "serious omission" amounting to misconduct.
He was handed a written warning, to stay on file for a year.
Mr Beale said the panel had acknowledged the impact of the words used on Ms Faragher, saying "they were dreadful and will inevitably have caused distress".
He added: "We hope she will be reassured through this process that West Midlands Police considers such behaviour unacceptable".
The two faced a lesser allegation of failing to make sure Ms Faragher had properly read her statement but the panel found the facts "not proven".
Speaking after the hearing, Ms Faragher's solicitor Matthew McConville of DPP Law, said: "She's disappointed.
"We've got an outcome but now have to assess whether to take it to a further civil claim."
Alison Hewitt, counsel for the force's professional standard's department, said: "Both officers attended a 999 call reporting a domestic violence incident, attending at an address just after 4.30pm.
"The complainant, the woman, who telephoned 999 was Alex Faragher.
"The officers agreed that they would return later to take a statement from her.
"But in a phone call made to her later that evening, in accordance with the allegations, there was an inadvertent recording of them talking about her in disparaging terms."
Pc Guest told Ms Faragher on Monday: "I am truly sorry for the recording left on your phone and I'm sorry for the way it made you feel."
He added: "I've been a police officer for nearly 12 years.
"It's totally against my principles.
"I'm proud to be a police officer, and I'm totally sorry."
Pc Guest went on: "I appreciate the damage it has done to the West Midlands Police force, and for that I am truly sorry."
Brian Dean, counsel for Pc O'Connell, said the comments were made in private and "in the cut and thrust of a busy shift where not challenging your colleague about everything is said might happen".
He offered an unreserved apology to Ms Fargaher and the force on behalf of Pc O'Connell.
After the hearing, Pc Guest and Pc O'Connell were driven off the wrong way along a one-way street, avoiding press and television cameras.
Mrs Horley said the officers' apologies were "too little, too late".
She said: "Apologising for the abuse they left on this woman's voicemail is all very well, but we will see no change until we eradicate the attitudes that allow incidents like this to happen in the first place.
"Day in, day out, we hear about police officers failing to respond to women experiencing domestic violence.
"Far too many women are disbelieved, ignored and denied protection.
"Evidence is not collected, photographs of injuries are not taken, and a 'canteen culture' still exists in forces where domestic violence is not taken seriously.
"Numerous IPCC reports - including those investigating West Midlands Police's own conduct in domestic violence cases - have further proven that police responses to domestic violence in this country are simply inadequate."