Police officer tries scamming £10k of public money for private school, gets off scot-free

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A senior police officer has been allowed to resign while under investigation for misappropriating £10,000 worth of police resources to entertain children at her son’s private school.

Former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Maxine de Brunner, had attempted to get riot officers, an armed response vehicle, police dogs and horses for a ‘fun day’ at Chinthurst School in Surrey. But the event was cancelled after the Met ruled it to be inappropriate.

Not only was the event at a private school, with fees as high as £4,190 a term, but the school is located outside of her jurisdiction as a Met police officer.

Retiring before the investigation has been completed means de Brunner will keep a clean record, and will get a full pension from her time with the police. According to a spokesperson for the Met Police, she was allowed to retire because:

No notices have been served on any officers at this stage. No officers are suspended or on restricted duties.

As previously reported in The Canary, retiring or resigning before misconduct proceedings has been a police tactic of choice for many years – meaning that officers can leave with their pensions and records intact.

In 2011, it was reported that 500 officers who were facing investigations had resigned over a two-year period – keeping both a clean record and their pensions. Speaking about a case in Manchester in 2014 where a senior officer retired, IPCC Commissioner Jan Williams said:

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A police officer resigning when subject to investigation can frustrate our investigations, leaving important questions unanswered. Such a practice can only be damaging to public confidence in policing.

Since then, the law has changed, meaning that officers are not allowed to retire if they are facing investigations of gross misconduct. Introducing the changes, the then Home Secretary Theresa May stated:

Direct damage has been done to public confidence by cases in which officers escaped justice by resigning or retiring where they might have been dismissed.

According to the Met police, charges of gross misconduct are brought against officers when there is “a breach of the standards of professional behaviour so serious that dismissal could be justified”. But this is where the problem is. Where is the line of behaviour that justifies dismissal?

There have been 57 police officers dismissed for gross misconduct so far in 2016. While one was an inspector, the vast majority were constables – the lowest rank of officer – and none were of a higher rank than the level of inspector. Many of the officers failed drugs tests, others were involved in domestic abuse, sexual assault or misusing data from the Police National Computer.

Undeniably, these officers should have been sacked, and in some cases they faced criminal prosecutions as a result of their actions. But in what other job could you misappropriate £10,000 worth of public funds to pay for entertainment at a private school without being sacked? At how many other places of employment would the penalties not be severe for such actions?

Questions should also be asked about whether de Brunner should be prosecuted for fraud. Section 4 of the Fraud Act covers fraud by abuse of position. The law states:

The defendant:

  • occupies a position in which he was expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of another person
  • abused that position
  • dishonestly
  • intending by that abuse to make a gain/cause a loss

As long as officers are allowed to retire during an investigation, there can be no trust in the transparency and accountability of the police force. As supposed upholders of the law, the police should face even more rigorous investigations into how they behave, and the penalties they face should be at least as severe as those faced by normal citizens.

But it is clear from this case that they are not.

In not investigating this matter as though it would be a cause for dismissal, the police have shown contempt for taxpayers’ money and allowed de Brunner to escape without sanction. They have also shown contempt for the standards by which the rest of us have to, and want to, live our lives.

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Featured image via Wikimedia

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