Tag Archives: misconduct in public office

Keith Wallis sentenced to 12 months for ‘Plebgate’ offending

Image from Getty

Image from Getty

On 6th February 2014 PC Keith Wallis was sentenced for misconduct in a public office.

On 10th January 2014 PC Keith Wallis pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office in relation to an email that he sent to the Deputy Chief Whip of the Tory party stating that he had witnessed Andrew Mitchell confront diplomatic protection officers in Downing Street in 2012 and supporting the allegation that Mr Mitchell had used the ‘P word’. Mr Wallis wrongly claimed to be a constituent of Mr Mitchell. In fact, Wallis was at home at the time of the incident. Wallis was drunk at the time he sent the email, having drunk “a significant amount of alcohol”.

Wallis insisted that no one had put him up to it and the prosecution said that there was no evidence of a conspiracy against Mr Mitchell.

Responses

On 10th January, David Cameron said: “It is completely unacceptable for a serving police officer to falsify an account of any incident. Andrew Mitchell has consistently denied the version of events presented in the email and I welcome the fact that the officer concerned has now pleaded guilty.”

Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe issued a personal apology to Mitchell, acknowledging the damage to the public trust in the police.

Wallis is the only police officer to have faced criminal charges over the Plebgate incident.

Scotland Yard said that Wallis would face a misconduct hearing at the conclusion of the legal proceedings.

Bail

Wallis was released on bail between entering his plea and the sentencing hearing and it is not clear whether the Judge gave Wallis the ‘all options are open’ talk, indicating that his release on bail did not create a legitimate expectation that he would receive a non-custodial sentence (we suspect he was).

Mitigation

Patrick Gibbs QC mitigated on Wallis’ behalf. He said:

Wallis was later diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression. He had to move out of his home because his wife was so upset. When arrested, he said ‘I knew I should have thrown myself under a train yesterday’.

Wallis was ‘mortified by the disgrace brought onto the Metropolitan Police Service’ by his actions.

Wallis “expected nothing to come of it…didn’t expect John Randall [MP] to contact him” after sending  the email.

Maggs said there was “general outrage” among police at Andrew Mitchell’s behaviour and feelings  were “running extremely high”.

Wallis’ account “got completely out of hand” … “A sad and solitary piece of grave foolishness”

Maggs said ‘It’s plain that Wallis was psychologically damaged at time of his offence. Plainer still he’s in a worse state now.’and ‘…to speak with PC Wallis is not really like speaking to an adult at all’

Maggs suggested that Wallis should be treated for his mental health problems and not made a scapegoat.

Sentence

We predicted that he would receive an immediate custodial sentence. There are no sentencing guidelines for this offence.

When the plea was entered, Wallis’ barrister Patrick Gibbs QC, told Mr Justice Sweeney that Wallis had offered his resignation to the Met police and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. He received full credit for that.

Wallis received 12 months. That would suggest a starting point of 18 months (or above) when taking account of his credit for pleading guilty and his personal mitigation.

The sentencing remarks are available here.

Judge’s comments

A victim impact statement written by Mr Mitchell referred to the truthfulness of his account but was not read out in court.

Mr Justice Sweeney said:

Wallis had engaged in “devious misconduct” and his actions amounted to a “betrayal” of standards expected of police.

Wallis’ actions had a significant negative impact on public trust, confidence and integrity of the police service.

The Judge said that an immediate custodial sentence was required and sentenced him to 12 months.

Appeal?

Have a read of the sentencing remarks before forming a view. A starting point of 18 months – as selected by the Judge – was exactly what we expected. Mr Maggs QC argued that the mental health condition was a reason to suspended the custodial sentence. It is arguable that such a proposition is correct but in this case, if an appeal is lodged, we would not expect much of a reduction in sentence, if at all.

The courts seek to mark examples of misconduct in public office with immediate custody and a case would need to be exceptional to warrant a departure from the standard practice.

Advertisements

CPS caseworker sentenced to 12 months for passing case files to girlfriend

Scales of
justice

Martin Tranter, 30, was employed by
the CPS as a casework support officer. He pleaded guilty to
misconduct in a public office.

Here’s some background on the
offence of Misconduct
in a Public Office
.

His girlfriend was Michelle Ward,
whose father was being prosecuted for numerous offences including
rape.

In an apparent
attempt to impress Ward, Tranter accessed the CPS computer and
passed details of the case against her father to her.

The prosecution
said:

“It may not
have been his intention to derail this prosecution, but it was only
a matter of good fortune that his actions did not have a
significant impact on that trial.”

Tranter eventually printed off
documents and gave them to Miss Ward who started to read them but
stopped because she felt “uncomfortable”.

Sentence

Mrs Justice Thirlwell, sitting
at Birmingham
Crown Court
, said he had breached trust placed
in him “in order to gain favour with your girlfriend”.

“You did not just
restrict yourself to obtaining and printing statements. You
repeatedly checked computer records.”

He was sentenced to 12
months.

The Courts
obviously treat this sort of behaviour very seriously and there is
a strong deterrent element to the sentences.

We have previously looked at cases
of police officers misbehaving whilst on duty, which is charged as
misconduct:

  1. Ricci
    Giff – anti-terrorism officer – jailed
    for misconduct

2.
Peter
Bunyan – Sex on duty PCSO gets seven years

3.
First
Operation Elveden – 15 months imprisonment for
DCI Cashburn

It is of course relevant that
the intention was, as was pointed out in mitigation, not to derail
the criminal process but to impress his girlfriend. This acts as
mitigation – to lessen the seriousness of the offence. Obviously,
had he passed on the information for a criminal purpose, that would
necessitate a much higher sentence.

Is 12 months reasonable? Well as
usual we don’t have a great deal to go on, save for the news
reports which can be seen here:

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/cps-worker-martin-tranter-jailed-4057125

12 months seems appropriate to
operate as a deterrent, to punish him, and to mark the seriousness
of his offence. In practice he will serve far less than that, and
probably much less than 6 months.

One might ask whether, in such dire
economic circumstances, whether it is necessary – or indeed
justifiable – to send non-dangerous criminals to prison. Tranter
has lost his job and has a conviction on his record. Would a
community penalty for this sort of behaviour not be more
appropriate, bearing in mind such a sentence is about 1/10 the cost
of 12 months in prison?

What do you
think?