Thursday, November 24, 2011

British cop tries to destroy evidence

A veteran policeman is fighting to save his job after being sacked for trying to hide a dead colleague's affair from his family.

After Detective Constable Ian Morton died in a car crash, Sergeant Neil Salter asked another officer to destroy his phone in case it contained 'awkward' text messages, the High Court heard.

But that officer instead reported Sgt Salter to his superiors at the Dorset Police, and the long-serving sergeant was asked to resign.

A tribunal ordered that he should be reinstated at a lower rank, but the police force is now appealing that decision, arguing that Sgt Salter's 'operational dishonesty' made him unfit to continue his 22-year career.

Whilst investigating DC Morton’s death in October 2008, Sgt Salter uncovered evidence that he was, unbeknownst to his partner, having an affair with a female special constable from another force, with whom he had spent the night before his death.

He therefore instructed a junior officer to 'find and destroy' DC Morton’s mobile phone, which he feared would contain compromising texts.

After an internal disciplinary inquiry, Sgt Salter - who fully admitted a 'one-off aberration' - was 'required to resign' by the Dorset Chief Constable in November 2009, Mr Justice Burnett heard yesterday.

The independent Police Appeals Tribunal stepped in to save Sgt Salter’s career in July last year when it directed his reinstatement in the force, at the demoted rank of constable. But in court John Beggs QC, for the Chief Constable, argued that Sgt Salter had tried to 'suborn a junior officer' in 'a deliberate and premeditated attempt to destroy evidence' in the midst of a criminal investigation.

He told the judge: 'Put shortly, such operational dishonesty, from a supervising officer of many years’ standing, cannot be tolerated within the police service where honesty and integrity are of paramount importance'.

Due to his unblemished record of police service, Sgt Salter had been 'allowed the dignity of resignation rather than being dismissed', the barrister added.

However, Michael Ford, for Sgt Salter, said his motive 'was to protect another officer’s family' and he swiftly admitted 'a one-off aberration in an otherwise unblemished career'. He was 'genuinely sorry for what had happened'.

He had quickly apologised to other officers and the junior colleague he instructed to destroy the mobile phone had said Sgt Salter acted out of 'misguided loyalty towards the family of DC Morton to protect them from further upset'.

No evidence was in fact destroyed due to the junior officer’s 'courage' in informing his superiors and Sgt Salter 'accepted that he made a very bad decision', the court heard.

However, the chief constable's lawyer argued that to allow Sgt Salter back on the force could damage the public’s 'trust and confidence' in the police.

Mr Justice Burnett has reserved his decision on the Chief Constable’s appeal and will give his ruling at a later date.

Original report here

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