'Sex pest' former Hertfordshire police officer barred over inappropriate messages to colleagues

Hertfordshire Police
Credit: LDRS
Former PC Tom Witherspoon showed a “worrying pattern of behaviour”, said the chief constable. Credit: LDRS

A former police officer who sent inappropriate messages to his colleagues has been described by the force's chief constable as a “sex pest” who would have been struck off had he not quit.

Hertfordshire Chief Constable Charlie Hall said PC Tom Witherspoon had a “worrying pattern of behaviour” and would be added to the College of Policing’s barred list.

In one allegation, four female officers had messaged the former constable by text or on social media, but “these messages each time were turned towards sexualised comments”, the report said.

“His female colleagues have not invited such comments.

“These have occurred repeatedly across a number of females and he has not recognised that these are obviously not being wanted or reciprocated given the way colleagues have ignored these or moved to other subjects.

“It is my view that he has presented himself to them through his messaging as a sex pest.”

The police chief added there were “no mitigating factors” to his behaviour, which was “driven for his own sexual gratification” and could cause “considerable” damage to public confidence in the police.

In another allegation, former PC Witherspoon was accused of three inappropriate touching incidents, including touching his female colleague’s bottom.

“It has clearly resulted in some harm to his colleague,” said Mr Hall. “She has confided in others and been visibly shocked and upset.”

“He has in interview tried to play down any sexual element of touching, suggesting it was just fun and frivolity.

“I disagree. His whole behaviour underlines a sexual motive to his behaviour.”

PC Witherspoon also punched a man in the head while on duty in St Albans, added the report.

The male was resisting arrest, but “there [were] sufficient officers present with former PC Witherspoon to be able to handle the situation without significant difficulty”.

The report notes he “substantially overreacted” and that “he chose to punch the male to the head in a way he would have known from his training was not encouraged”.

In mitigation, the chief constable wrote: “I acknowledge this occurred in a public order setting where other officers needed assistance.

“The punch was a single episode, but this does not mean it was not disproportionate.”

The former officers was also sent a video containing extreme pornography, which he did not delete or report. He did not share the video further, said the report.

Summing up, the chief constable wrote: “Taken together, these four incidents describe a worrying pattern of behaviour from this former officer.

“He has shown no respect for colleagues or the public alike, and a disregard for the standards of professional behaviour expected of him both on or off duty.”

He added: “He has shown himself to be a predatory sex pest and had he not already resigned, then I would have had no hesitation otherwise in dismissing him without notice."

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