Shropshire Star

West Mercia Police sexual misconduct cases could damage public confidence - warning

The latest misconduct case involving a West Mercia Police officer has the potential to impact on public confidence in policing, according to a watchdog.

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The latest case was the third in recent months

Former PC Mark Hidden, 42, embarked on a sexual relationship with a vulnerable domestic violence victim he met through his work, a misconduct panel was told earlier this week.

Hidden, who met up with the woman for sex while on duty, would have been sacked for gross misconduct if he had not already resigned.

He has been barred from ever rejoining the police after the hearing, which was also told he had exchanged hundreds of explicit photos and videos with the woman on his work mobile, and twice breached Covid restrictions by visiting her home during lockdown.

The panel presiding over the hearing found all allegations against Hidden were proved – concluding that they amounted to breaches of the standards of professional conduct in relation to authority, respect and courtesy, confidentiality, orders and instructions, and discreditably conduct.

The panel concluded Hidden, whose patch included Bridgnorth and Ludlow, had committed gross misconduct.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) also confirmed it had sent a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, but it decided not to bring any criminal charges.

The case comes after two other officers were found to have become involved with victims of crime over the past 12 months.

Telford-based PC Andrew Hope, 27, was dismissed after an investigation by the IOPC at the end of last year.

He had faced allegations of gross misconduct after being accused of having inappropriate communication with two women he had met through the course of his duties.

Both women were victims of crime – one an assault, and the other domestic violence.

Another former Telford officer, Rhett Wilson, was jailed for 34 months earlier this year.

He had admitted three charges of police corruption and was found guilty of perverting the course of justice over his involvement with three women – all victims of domestic abuse, two of whom he had sexual relationships with.

Speaking after the latest case, IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said officers are well aware of expectations over how they deal with the public and warned cases such as Hidden's could erode public confidence.

He said: "Cases such as these have the real potential to impact on public confidence in policing. At the outset of their service, it is made clear to officers that it is unacceptable to have, or seek, inappropriate and unprofessional contact with members of the public who they deal with through their professional duties.

“Ex PC-Hidden continued a sexual relationship with a vulnerable woman, who was a victim of crime, over a number of months despite knowing his conduct was wrong.

"Following a gross misconduct hearing, it has been determined that he would have been dismissed had he still been a serving police officer. This sends a clear message that behaviour of this kind will be thoroughly investigated, has no part in policing and will not be tolerated."

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