Police officer keeps job after lying to insurance company for new driver

  • Gloucestershire
  • 13/10/2017
Police officer keeps job after lying to insurance company for new driver
A police officer has kept her job despite being branded 'dishonest' by a disciplinary panel after she lied to an insurance firm to help a newly-qualified driver.

Traffic officer PC Shelley Holloway admitted gross misconduct but denied she was being dishonest when she told Churchill Insurance a car she had pulled in was not being driven by the young motorist, but his dad.

She blamed her behaviour on being under severe stress from a variety of problems including a marriage break up at the time of the incident in August last year.

During a two-day misconduct hearing at Gloucestershire Police HQ the tribunal heard after stopping the uninsured young driver, 19-year-old Kuvazaiishe Shonwa, she spoke to Churchill on his behalf and backed up the untrue story that it was his father driving.

After hearing evidence yesterday the tribunal ruled PC Holloway had acted dishonestly.

Today the panel heard representations from her lawyer, Mark Ley-Morgan, urging them to let her keep her job.

The panel agreed there were exceptional circumstances and a final written warning should be issued to PC Holloway rather than sacking her from the force.

PC Holloway had told the panel "I'm deeply sorry to have let anyone down in this incident. I now have my entire career resting on just one or two minutes.

"My error of judgement was caused by my stressed state of mind. My career has been exemplary.

"Nothing like this will ever, ever happen again. I'm honest. I'm not corrupt. I'm human. I hope the public can trust me again.

"I pressed on trying to deal with my problems by myself. I am now far better equipped to deal with stress. The past 14 months have placed enormous stress on me and my family, but nothing like what I was going through at the time.

I am pleased the constabulary is placing greater focus on stress. I genuinely love doing what I do.

"I am good at my job. I've worked very hard in my career whilst raising a young family. I have so much more to give. I look forward to getting back to the workplace.

"My issues started off at home in 2015. I instigated a separation from my husband. That put an enormous stress on me. I was sent home by my line manager in November.

"I wasn't eating properly, not sleeping properly. I was off until just before Christmas 2015. A plan was put into place to put me back into the work place.

"I was supposed to be 'double crewed' but I wasn't double crewed for very long. I should have said something but it's not in my nature to come in and say that I should be double crewed.

"It was easier for me just to get on with it."

She explained how she moved out of her home in February 2016 and that things such as childcare and her finances became very difficult.

"It was very tight. I had no help from my ex-husband towards child maintenance whilst we owned the house together. It was tough."

PC Holloway said she tried to juggle her personal and professional commitments with her shifts and child care clashing and added her dog becoming ill added to that pressure.

She said had also become fearful about taking time off ill because of earlier comments from her bosses, she added.

Her Inspector, Mark Whitfield, told the tribunal he had been 'very impressed' by her frankness about the insurance incident.

"She now works in an operation targeting uninsured drivers," she said. "It has been very effective. The motor insurance bureau have put in funding."

He said she was "a hard-working and committed officer' and would welcome her back to duty.

Mr Ley-Morgan told the tribunal "The law is clear, where there is a finding of dishonesty, dismissal will be the usual outcome, but not always. There will be exceptional cases where dismissal is not appropriate.

"This is one of those cases. Dismissal is not necessary to maintain confidence or protect the public.

"A reasonable member of the public who knew all the facts would find dismissal disproportionate."

He read out character statements that described PC Holloway as an exceptional roads officer, always dependable and an asset to the service.

Mr Ley-Morgan added "When you tot up the things that were happening in PC Holloway's life, they are exceptional. Plenty of other people would have crumbled.

"But for all of those stresses, this simply wouldn't have happened, he said.

"The charade of pretending the father was driving was not her idea. Part way through she realised what was happening. Stupidly, stupidly, she accepts that she lied to Churchill.

"She didn't do it for personal gain. She did it to help.

The chairman of the panel, Alex Lock, said "We accept and are sympathetic to a very difficult personal circumstances. A combination of relationship, finance, health, child rearing and housing issues.

"We accept that these caused stress and anxiety and had an effect on her judgement. Such conduct was entirely out of character.

"She recognised her error and reported it. She knew she would get into trouble, and that it would not have been uncovered if she said nothing.

"Whilst public confidence was damaged, the public would have comfort that it was out of character and she self-reported. PC Holloway acted with integrity and honesty by reporting herself.

"The appropriate sanction is to impose a final written warning" he concluded.

PC Holloway was tearful as she thanked the panel and left the hearing.

Mike Harrison, Conduct and Performance Lead for Gloucestershire Police Federation, said the staff association noted the panels recommendation.

PC Holloway has diligently served the public of Gloucestershire for 12 years and this was a momentary lapse in judgement.

It is completely out of character and as the hearing heard it was at a time when she was under considerable personal stress and anxiety.

We are happy the panel took into account that PC Holloway immediately acknowledged her error to her manager and it must be highlighted how she self-reported this.

To do anything otherwise would have undermined the confidence of colleagues across Gloucestershire Police to admit their mistakes and learn the lessons from them.

It remains the view of Gloucestershire Police Federation that sadly thousands of pounds tax payers money has been wasted on holding a public hearing on this matter that could and should have been dealt with at a lower level.
  
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