A Pc who sent sexually inappropriate texts and Facebook messages to a woman he met in his capacity as a serving officer walked free from court today.
Intelligence officer Pc Simon Abell was handed a six-month sentence, suspended for one year, at Nottingham Crown Court after pleading guilty to misconduct in a public office at an earlier hearing.
The court was told he sent inappropriate texts and Facebook messages between November 4, 2011 and the end of August 2012 to a woman he met in his capacity as a police constable.
Sentencing the 42-year-old, Judge Michael Stokes, Recorder of Nottingham, said: “You have pleaded guilty to a single offence of misconduct in a public office, which is always a serious offence.
“You were at the relevant time, and had been for over 20 years, a serving police officer.
“It is always a matter of regret and gravity when a police officer offends in this way.
“A police officer is in a position of trust in relation to all members of the community who he serves.”
The court heard Abell, who was based at Sutton-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, had been a serving officer for 23 and a half years.
The judge said: “It is quite inappropriate for a police officer to be engaging with someone who started as a potential witness in this sort of sexual innuendo.”
The court heard the complainant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, initiated contact with the officer in 2011 by sending him a Facebook message after being a potential witness in an earlier case.
She asked him in the Facebook message, sent on November 5, whether he remembered her.
Father-of-two Abell, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, replied: “Hi of course i remember a sexy lady like you. I remembered you in an instant xx. I was coming to see you, as i remember, then you didn’t invite me lol.”
A flurry of texts and Facebook messages between the pair then commenced.
The court heard that he had met the woman when she was a potential witness in a police investigation but at the time of the offences that case had been discontinued.
The matter came to the attention of the Professional Standards Directorate in September 2012 after a friend of the complainant handed a CD with screenshots of Facebook messages between Abell and the woman into Mansfield Police Station.
Abell, who appeared in the dock wearing a blue shirt, striped tie and black trousers and was seen to hold his head in his hands at times during today’s hearing, was arrested in January 2013.
He was suspended from Nottinghamshire Police and resigned in May this year after pleading guilty to misconduct in a public office at Nottingham Crown Court.
The 42-year-old pleaded not guilty to two further misconduct charges of sexually inappropriate behaviour between November 4, 2011 and December 31, 2011, and on August 2, 2012.
The prosecution agreed that no further action should be taken against the officer, who has been suspended by his force, on the further charges.
In mitigation today, Harpreet Sandhu said: “He had not only lost his occupation but he had effectively lost his reputation. He is lucky that those who know him have stood by him”.
Abell’s partner and ex-wife were in court for the sentencing.
Mr Sandhu added that his client had shown “genuine remorse”.
He said: “The regret is not for him but for those who he has placed in a precarious position due to his offending”.
The judge noted that the complainant had initiated the contact but said she had been “undeniably vulnerable” and that Abell had “taken advantage” of that vulnerability.
He handed Abell a six-month custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months.
The former officer was also ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work for the benefit of the community over the next 12 months.
Speaking after today’s hearing, Detective Superintendent Jackie Alexander, head of the Force’s Professional Standards Directorate, said: “Abell should have been there to protect vulnerable people and uphold the law but instead he abused his position and failed to meet the high standards of integrity and professionalism that we expect from all our officers and employees.
“We need to acknowledge that in all professions there will be a minority of individuals who try and use their position for abuse or sexual exploitation, and sadly this will, on occasion, also include these who work in policing. It is only by acknowledging this fact, and ensuring that where there is any suggestion of abuse a transparent and professional investigation is conducted, that we can then reassure the public that we continue to deserve their trust and confidence.
“Simon Abell not only acted criminally towards a vulnerable person, but he also let down the vast number of officers and staff who are committed to helping and supporting people in their time of need. I hope that this case does reassure the people of Nottinghamshire that we are actively committed to identifying and rooting out these kinds of behaviour when they occur.”