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Misconduct outcome

 

IN THE MATTER OF PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE POLICE MISCONDUCT PANEL

CM/121/18

Before:

Miss Siobhan Goodrich (Chair)

Detective Superintendent Ian Middleton

Mr Paul Harvey

 

Heard at the East of England Showground  

On 14, 15, 16 June, and in part via Teams,

And remotely via Teams on 29 June 2021 and 14 July 2021  

 

PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS DEPARTMENT

v

FORMER POLICE OFFICER GEOFF LLOYD

 

DECISION AND REASONS ON OUTCOME

 

Representation:

Mr Matthew Holdcroft, counsel, on behalf of the Appropriate Authority

Mr Colin Banham, counsel, on behalf of Mr Lloyd, instructed by Slater Gordon

 

  1. We have made a finding of gross misconduct and refer to our earlier decision on Facts and Misconduct for the background to those allegations which we found admitted or proved.
  2. As we have already said these proceedings are conducted under the former officer regime.We recognise that we may decide not to impose disciplinary action or we may decide to do so. The only disciplinary action available in the case of a former officer is a finding that he would have been dismissed if he had still been a member of the police force.
  3. We have considered the principles that guide us in relation to the function of an outcome in disciplinary proceedings. The purpose of disciplinary action in these proceedings is not to punish the individual concerned, (although the outcome may have that incidental effect), but to protect the public interest. The public interest includes the declaration and maintenance of proper standards of behaviour and, thus, the protection of public confidence in the profession.
  4. We reminded ourselves of the principles set out on in Salter v Chief Constable of Devon [2012] EWCA Civ 1047 applying Salisbury v Law Society [2009] 1 WLR 1286and Bolton v Law Society [1994] 1 WLR 512.
  5. We have also considered the decision of R (Williams) v PAT and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2016] EWHC 2708 (Admin) which reinforces the cardinal importance and centrality of the protection of the public interest when deciding the outcome in cases of gross misconduct.  Holroyde J rejected the submission that the Salter principle should be confined to cases involving dishonesty or lack of integrity and said this:

66. “In my judgment, the importance of maintaining public confidence in and respect for the police service is constant, regardless of the nature of the gross misconduct under consideration. What may vary will be the extent to which the particular gross misconduct threatens the preservation of such confidence and respect. The more it does so, the less weight can be given to personal mitigation. Gross misconduct involving dishonesty or lack of integrity will, by its very nature, be a serious threat: save perhaps in wholly exceptional circumstances, the public could have no confidence in a police force which allowed a convicted fraudster to continue in service. Gross misconduct involving a lack of integrity will often also be a serious threat.  But other forms of gross misconduct may also pose a serious threat, and breach of any of the Standards may be capable of causing great harm to the public’s confidence in and respect for the police.

67. This does not mean, of course, that personal mitigation is to be ignored.  Nothing in the Salter principle suggests it must be ignored.  On the contrary, it must always be taken into account. I therefore reject the submission that the effect of the Salter principle is that dismissal will invariably be the sanction whenever gross misconduct is proved. But where the gross misconduct threatens the maintenance of public confidence and respect in the police – as gross misconduct often will – the weight which can be given to personal mitigation will be less than would be the case if there were no such threat, and if the disciplinary body were a court imposing a punishment.  Whether the circumstances are such that the sanction of dismissal is necessary will be a fact-specific decision: where the facts show dishonesty, case law establishes that dismissal will almost always be necessary, and dismissal will often also be necessary where the misconduct involves a lack of integrity; where the facts show that one of the other Standards has been breached, the appropriate outcome will depend on an assessment of all the circumstances, with proper emphasis being given to the strong public interest in the maintenance of respect and confidence in the police and consequentially less weight being given to personal mitigation.”

(our italics)

6. Mr Holdcroft relied upon his case summary which sets out the principles and the approach to be applied when considering outcome. He made the point that the facts were very serious. We must consider aggravating and mitigating factors. The aggravating factors included: premeditation; sexual gratification; abuse of trust and position; regular and repeated behaviour and the psychological impact - particularly on Ms A. Conduct concerning sexual boundaries is a matter of national concern and had been the subject of national guidance issued by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in 2012. There were multiple proven allegations. There was no evidence of insight: Mr Lloyd had continued to deny serious allegations. 

7. Mr Banham, on behalf of Mr Lloyd, did not advance any mitigation regarding the conduct, or in terms of personal mitigation. He made the point that the fact of Mr Lloyd’s denial of many of allegations should not be taken to be an aggravating factor. We agree and will return to this aspect later.

8. We have considered carefully Mr Lloyd’s personal service record.  We reminded ourselves  of the written character evidence provided by Mr Lloyd’s wife in her MG11 statement dated 11 June 2021.  No further character evidence has been presented.

Assessing Seriousness

9. We have considered the “Guidance on outcomes in police misconduct proceedings” published by the College of Policing (“the Guidance”) which reflects the judgement of Popplewell J in Fuglers LLP v Solicitors Regulation Authority [2014] EWHC (Admin) at [28].  As explained therein, and in the Guidance at 4.2, there are three stages to determining the appropriate sanction:

(a). Assess the seriousness of the misconduct:

i. the Officer’s culpability for the misconduct

ii. the harm caused by the misconduct

iii. the existence of any aggravating factors and/or the existence of any mitigating factors. 

(b) Keep in mind the purpose of imposing sanction;

(c) Choose the sanction which most appropriately fulfils that purpose for the seriousness   of the conduct in question.

10. In our view we must assess the seriousness of the allegations we have found proven paying full regard to the purpose of the police misconduct regime (see 2.3 of the Guidance). This is threefold. It is to:

  • maintain public confidence in and the reputation of the police service
  • uphold high standards in policing and deter misconduct
  • protect the public.

 

11.  In our decision on facts and misconduct at paragraphs 85-96 we identified the gravamen of the matters proved or admitted in the context of the public interest.

12. In terms of culpability, (i.e. blameworthiness or responsibility), the facts proved involved Mr Lloyd’s abuse of trust and position in relation to 2 young women who, we have found, were vulnerable at the time, albeit in different ways. The facts involve sexual misconduct towards 2 women, albeit in circumstances that were very different. Both women were very significantly younger than himself.

13. In our view Mr Lloyd’s culpability is increased by what he told, and rather did not tell, Ms A or Ms B about his marital/relationship status.

 

  • Although Ms A was aware that he had a past relationship with a lady (who we know to be his wife), she did not know then that he was, in fact, married to this lady. She learnt this only when being cross-examined.  Further, Ms A was only aware that he had adult children by a much earlier relationship/marriage.
  • Mr Lloyd told Mrs B he was single and lived alone.   She knew that he had a young child from a past relationship because he sent pictures of him and the child to her.

 

14.  In considering culpability we considered the individual vulnerability of Ms A and Ms B:

 

(i)            Ms A was vulnerable from about 2010 in particular because she was a young single mother and without the support of her parents who, in her words, had “disappeared” from her life.  She was lonely. Mr Lloyd insinuated himself into her life by being helpful, supportive and generous. It was said by Mr Banham that Mr Lloyd was “besotted” by her. In our view a more accurate description is that he was obsessed by his desire to be accepted by her as her partner, whereas she saw him only as her “best friend”. His attentions to her continued on and off for years until a consensual sexual relationship began in or about late July/early August 2015. We have found that in August 2015, he forced sexual intercourse upon her to which she had not consented.

 

(ii)          The manipulative nature of his behaviour to Ms A is evidenced in the 2018 WhatsApp (WA) thread which contains examples of him seeking to foster Ms A’s dependence on him, and to manipulate her by trying to make her feel sorry for him and/or guilty, whilst also expressing his devotion to her.

 

(iii)         The legitimate public expectation, which is the bedrock of the Standards of Professional Behaviour, is that every officer will observe the highest ethical standards - both when on duty and in their private life.  Mr Lloyd repeatedly failed to meet this standard in his conduct toward Ms A because he repeatedly used the power of his office to try to meet his own personal desires and needs. He abused his power and position when he targeted an ex-boyfriend of Ms A’s by stopping his vehicle. He did so when he disclosed to Ms A confidential and sensitive information in breach of his duty of confidentiality and/or in breach of Data Protection laws.  These breaches were part of and parcel of him trying to be viewed by Ms A as a “hero” or her rescuer.

 

(iv)         We agree that there are clear differences regarding Mr Lloyd’s relationship with Ms B which was short lived, and that regarding Ms A. Ms B was in a “bad place”, was struggling with depression, and had little confidence. We also consider that Ms B was particularly vulnerable to the sexual advances made by Mr Lloyd before and during the Ride-Along because she wanted to join the police service. In our view he exploited her desire to join the police with a view to his own sexual gratification.  He abused the trust placed in him by the police service in connection with the Ride-Along scheme. He was on duty performing a public-facing role, and one in which he should have been acting with complete professionalism at all times. Instead, he used the power which he had by virtue of his role as a police officer, to try and take sexual advantage of Ms B. This was a situation which plainly involved an imbalance of power and authority. His behaviour towards Ms B was predatory.

 

(v)          In terms of harm, Mr Lloyd’s conduct towards Ms A and/or Ms B, viewed objectively, is such that it could only serve to undermine public confidence in the police service and tarnish its reputation.

 

(vi)         The impact of Mr Lloyd’s behaviour on Ms A was evident before us. She remains angry. The impact on Ms B was not as marked but it was obvious to the panel that she was distressed by what happened to her.  

 

(vii)        Mr Lloyd’s quest to be in a relationship with Ms A began not long after he had met her in a professional capacity. We bear in mind that local warnings regarding professional boundaries were not issued until 2013. The comprehensive Bedfordshire Police, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Constabulary (BCH) policy was issued in 2017. In 2012 the Independent Police Complaints Commission had published policy on the abuse of police powers for the purposes of sexual exploitation. We consider that, in any event, Mr Lloyd’s continuing behaviour to Ms A, and his behaviour to Ms B, certainly occurred at a time when, as a matter of common sense, he must have known that his conduct was improper.

 

15. In terms of mitigatory factors (i.e. those which tend to reduce the seriousness of the misconduct), we recognise that Mr Lloyd made some limited admissions. The significance of his denial of his conduct in all other respects is simply that there is no evidence of any insight or remorse or acceptance of responsibility regarding the most serious allegations.  No mitigation factors were advanced by Mr Banham on Mr Lloyd’s behalf. However, we consider it right to recognise that the friendship Mr Lloyd had with Ms A was, at times, supportive. For example, he helped her prepare for an interview. It also seems to us that the fact that he was “besotted” (or obsessed) by Ms A should be recognised.  

 

16. We recognise, and have taken account of, the risk of overlap between some factors, and the risk of “double-counting”.

 

17.  In our view the facts found proved in relation to Mr Lloyd’s conduct towards Ms A and Ms B were individually very serious. His conduct towards each of these young women lacked integrity. His conduct towards each was discreditable. 

 

18. In terms of personal mitigation, we took into account the medical evidence before us regarding Mr Lloyd’s disability. He has undoubtedly suffered a great deal since his arrest in late November 2018, and whilst awaiting this hearing.  We took this into account when considering all his personal circumstances and by way of mitigation.

 

19. Mr Lloyd served as a police officer for some 17 years before his retirement in late December 2018. We accept that his retirement date had been planned before his arrest on 30 November 2018. There is nothing adverse in his service record.  We understand that he retired from the police service in order to take up a post in the Ambulance Service. We also understand that he has since been employed in that role. We recognise that our findings may well adversely affect his current employment and his future prospects, not least because our findings will be the subject of consideration by the Disclosure and Debarring Service in the context of national safeguarding.

 

20. We recognise the critical importance of the maintenance of public confidence in, and the reputation of, the police service, and the need to uphold high standards and to protect the public. It is necessary to reflect the seriousness of the matters proven and so protect the public interest. The exercise of proportionality requires that we make a decision that is the minimum necessary to serve that function.

 

21. In our view to take no disciplinary action would completely fail to protect the public interest. It would mean that Mr Lloyd’s name would not be liable to be entered on the College of Policing BarredList so he would be able to apply to work as a civilian officer in the police service, or even as a police officer, were he to end his retirement. Amongst other matters relevant to the public interest, this would not serve to protect female members of the public from any recurrence of his behaviour. In our view there is nothing in the evidence before us to suggest that Mr Lloyd has been, or will ever be, able to recognise that his behaviour was wholly inappropriate for someone working in a position of public service and trust.

 

22. Having balanced the interests of Mr Lloyd in his private and family life against the public interests engaged, we consider that, notwithstanding the impact upon him and his family, it is fair, necessary and proportionate to make a finding that Mr Lloyd would have been dismissed if he had still been a member of the police service.

 

23. In our view it is also appropriate to say that we consider that the proven facts regarding Mr Lloyd’s conduct towards Ms B alone are such as to fairly, reasonably and proportionately require a decision that Mr Lloyd would have been dismissed, had he still been in the service.

 

Siobhan Goodrich

Chair

Police Misconduct Panel

16 July 2021

 

NOTIFICATION OF RIGHT OF APPEAL

Mr Lloyd has the right to appeal against the findings made or the outcome to the Police Appeals Tribunal. Any request for an Appeal should be made within 10 working days beginning with the first working day after he is supplied with the written copy of this decision. It should be accompanied by written grounds of appeal.

 

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