A police officer who failed to act on claims of harassment by a teenage abuse victim shortly before her death has avoided being struck off, after being found guilty of gross incompetence.
A disciplinary hearing found that Pc Sophie Dennis failed to fill out mandatory risk assessments for Katrina Makunova, and made a “premature and incorrect” decision to view the case as “non criminal”.
The 17-year-old died in July 2018 after falling onto a knife she was carrying in her handbag as she met her former partner Oluwaseyi Dada, 23, in Camberwell, south east London.
Allegations against the conduct of Pc Dennis and Pc Kerry Lynham were made after they attended a domestic incident involving Ms Makunova on June 23 2018, footage of which was shown to the panel.
The officers said that at the time they had viewed the incident as “non criminal” and that no allegation of criminal harassment had been made by Ms Makunova.
But Commander Alison Heydari, chair of the disciplinary panel, said that the analysis by the officers had been “premature and incorrect.”
“The body worn footage shows a course of conduct that amounts to harassment,” she said.
Commander Heydari said that as a result of the officers’ analysis, the investigation had been “narrow and bespoke” and that opportunities to help Ms Makunova had been missed.
The panel heard how Ms Makunova had provided the officers with an incorrect date of birth, stating that she was 18, when in fact she was 17.
Those under the age of 18 are legally considered children and a separate safeguarding report is required, which Pc Dennis did not fill out.
Pc Dennis also admitted she had failed to fill out two mandatory risk assessments following the incident, but said she could not recall the reason why she had not.
The panel concluded that the allegations of gross incompetence were proven against Pc Dennis due to her failure to fill out the appropriate risk assessments and providing false and misleading information on a crime report.
They concluded that Pc Lynham’s conduct was “unsatisfactory” but did not amount to gross incompetence.
The panel said that written improvement notices were “appropriate” punishments for the officers based on their previous records and character.
Richard Atchley, representing Pc Dennis, said that the officers had been “professional and proper” in their handling of the situation.
“It is very easy to be swayed by emotion when something tragic has happened,” he said.
“(Pc Dennis) is a proactive, involved officer and, with this exception, a very professional officer.
“She has not sought to duck and dive away from the responsibility.
“We all have bad days, and this was clearly one of hers.”
David Yeo, representing Pc Lynham, highlighted that 27 officers had taken time to write “really considered” character statements for Pc Dennis.
“It is notable that she has impressed people with her ability to deal with vulnerable victims,” he said.
“In your findings she made an error of judgment, but that is it in 12 years of service to the people of London.”
He said that Pc Lynham had acted “as the public would expect her to; professionally, diligently and compassionately”.
Ms Makunova’s mother attended the hearing with the help of a translator and shook her head as defence submissions were made.
Pc Lynham was given a written improvement notice for 12 months “to improve and maintain” her conduct.
Pc Dennis was given a final written improvement notice for 12 months, meaning a further mistake could warrant a dismissal.