A POLICE officer is fighting to save his job despite using his work email account to send a series of perverted messages to a convicted child molester.
Paul Woollard shared a sick joke about rape with sex offender Robert Meade and used Wiltshire Police’s intelligence system to run checks on the man he befriended.
He also “leant him a shoulder to cry on” while he was on bail for sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl, the High Court heard yesterday.
But the 40-year-old officer, based in Highworth, was cleared to work on by the Police Appeals Tribunal (PAT), which said he should be reinstated with a final warning.
That ruling was contested yesterday by Wiltshire Chief Constable Patrick Geenty. He warned it would massively undermine efforts by the force to encourage victims of sexual offences to come forward.
John Beggs QC, for Mr Geenty, told the court PC Woollard had used his police email address to send Meade a series of explicitly-worded messages. One read: “Just waitin for the women to come and open up. I might rape her as theres noone else here (sic)”.
Meade, who PC Woollard knew through a shared interest in cricket and angling, admitted sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl at Swindon Crown Court in October 2009 and was jailed for a year.
Mr Beggs conceded there was no evidence PC Woollard knew about Meade’s crime when he sent the rape joke email, but added that he had continued to associate with his friend even after he was charged and on bail.
He had also committed flagrant breaches of the Data Protection Act by repeatedly accessing the “Niche” police intelligence computer to look up details about Meade, the QC told the court. Mr Geenty’s predecessor as Chief Constable, Brian Moore, had ordered PC Woollard’s dismissal from the force but, in May last year, he was overruled by the PAT which directed he be reinstated and given a final warning.
Challenging that ruling, Mr Beggs argued: “No reasonable tribunal could have imposed a sanction other than dismissal for an officer found guilty of such a cumulative litany of allegations which undermined public confidence in the reputation of the police service.”
Describing parts of the PAT’s reasoning as “bizarre”, the QC asked: "How would a Wiltshire victim of rape react to learning that a sexual offences trained officer ‘joked’ about raping a woman himself? Would that encourage her to come forward to Wiltshire Police?”
He added: “How would a man on the Devizes omnibus view the fact that one of his local officers, on duty, is sending foul emails to an inappropriate associate, joking about home-made and barely legal pornography and masturbation.
“How would a local citizen respond to the knowledge one of his officers is lending a shoulder to cry on to a child sex offender on bail?
“What would the 14-year-old victim of Robert Meade, or her parents, or her friends, or other victims of sexual assault think of the police if they discovered PC Woollard accessed intelligence about Meade’s offence not for the proper policing purpose of detecting crime, but to check up on his friend?”
Hugh Davies, for PC Woollard, conceded his misconduct had been serious, however, he had expressed remorse and the case did not concern his “honesty and integrity”.
PC Woollard has been dismissed and is awaiting the outcome to decide his future with the force.
But urging Mr Justice Wyn Williams to find that “a lesser outcome than dismissal” was acceptable, the barrister said the chief constable “does not have a monopoly of wisdom” on what is and is not behaviour justifying the termination of a police officer’s career.
Emphasising that PC Woollard had not accessed police intelligence “at the direction of Meade”, he argued that the overall effect of the allegations he faced was “misleading and prejudicial” and that dismissal should not be “the default sanction” in such cases.
The judge has now reserved his judgement on the Chief Constable’s appeal until a later date.
A spokeswoman for Wiltshire Police said: “On receipt of the Judicial Review’s full written conclusion Wiltshire police and Wiltshire Police Authority will then take time to consider the next steps available to them.”