High Court Dismiss Challenges Against The Handling Of Kristina O’Connor Met Police Sexual Misconduct Claim
Mr Justice Swift has today handed down his judgment in R (O’Connor) v (1) Police Misconduct Panel (2) The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, a judicial review of handling by the Metropolitan Police of a complaint about the conduct of a former Detective Chief Inspector, Mr Mason.
In 2011 Kristina O’Connor reported an assault by a group of young men at Kentish Town Police Station. Mr Mason, then a Detective Sergeant, made wholly inappropriate advances of a sexual nature toward Ms O’Connor and continued to make advances to her over email, including suggesting that rejecting him would be “frowned upon”.
Ms O’Connor complained about Mason’s conduct in October 2020 and the following year a Police Misconduct Panel found Mason guilty of eight breaches of behaviour standards, amounting to gross misconduct. Mason was served with a written warning, but was allowed to remain in post and keep his rank. In October 2022 he resigned.
Ms O’Connor issued her claim in January 2022. The judicial review was heard over two days at the High Court in May 2023. Ms O’Connor argued that the investigation into Mr Mason’s conduct, including the failure to unearth evidence showing he had behaved in a predatory manner on other occasions, was unlawful. She also challenged the decision of the misconduct panel not to dismiss Mason, which the Metropolitan Police itself criticised; their position was that officers who behave in this way have no place in the Metropolitan Police.
There was a further hearing on 20 October 2023 after a complaint about Mr Mason was brought to the attention of the Claimant by a former colleague of Mason’s who was also the subject of his despicable behaviour. Extraordinarily, this complaint (and, it emerged, a further allegation about his conduct) was known to the Metropolitan Police though not disclosed in the judicial review proceedings.
Mr Justice Swift has dismissed the application for judicial review. He found the steps taken in the investigation were reasonable and appropriate, and it did not matter whether it could have been conducted differently. Similarly, he concluded that a misconduct panel has discretion to impose a penalty as they see fit, providing the reasons set out are sufficient to support their decision.
Ms O’Connor will seek permission to appeal.
Kristina O’Connor said: “This has been a frustrating process and it is not the outcome I was hoping for but I want to keep fighting for justice for women. I am so grateful for the continued support of Nancy Collins, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Fiona Murphy KC.”
Nancy Collins, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, said: “It is very disappointing that the High Court has dismissed Kristina O’Connor’s challenge to the police disciplinary process. Kristina has been courageous in bringing public attention and legal scrutiny to the shocking and pervasive issue of police- perpetrated harassment of women. Without the bravery of Kristina (and the officer who came forward to support her claim) such harassment and the culture that permits it will continue unchecked.”
Kristina O’Connor is represented by Nancy Collins of Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, and Fiona Murphy KC and Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC of Doughty Street Chambers. The Good Law Project supported the case.