Northumbria Police officer avoids jail after being found drunk in van parked in Gateshead

Helen Kane was sentenced after admitting drink driving and being found guilty of misconduct in a public office. Credit: NCJMedia

A police officer who was found slumped in a police van with a bottle of wine has avoided being sent to prison.

Helen Kane, 38, was found by a dog walker in a transit van with police dogs in the back.

Teesside Crown Court heard how she was slumped at the wheel and the member of the public alerted the police.

Kane was found to have 117 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath - the legal limit being 35 micrograms.

Despite admitting to a charge of drink driving, Kane, denied misconduct in a public office, but was found guilty following a trial.

At a sentencing hearing at the Middlesbrough court on 16 December, Judge Jonathan Carroll said: "In the position you had it was a cataclysmic failure to meet standards expected of a serving police officer."

The 38-year-old was found asleep behind the wheel of a parked police van in the middle of the day on 3 November last year.

The marked van, which also contained three police dogs, was seen parked in the middle of a junction on Waggs Lane in Whickham, near Gateshead with its engine still running.

When the member of the public took a look inside, Kane could be seen slumped against the driver side of the car with a bottle of white wine between her legs.

It took a jury less than an hour of deliberation to find the former Northumbria Police officer guilty of misconduct in a public office.

During the trial, Kane, of Belmont in Durham, gave evidence and told the jury she was going through "personal and professional" difficulties at the time.

These included one of her police dogs being wrongly identified as having bitten someone at a protest in Newcastle.

At the sentencing Judge Carroll, said as a result of this incident Kane had been dismissed from Northumbria Police for gross misconduct.

He said: "Before this, the fact is you were an extremely good officer, you had a series of commendations."

The judge said Kane clearly loved her job and that losing it would have caused her great distress, as well as shame and disappointment in herself.

He said: "I believe that your remorse is genuine and significant."

He said a series of personal crisis and trauma had led to the defendant descending into alcoholism.

He said that since the incident she has sought help to address her drinking.

Kane was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and banned from driving for 24 months.

She was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work, complete 15 RAR days and a 12 month alcohol treatment programme.

Superintendent Steve Ammari, Head of the Professional Standards Department at Northumbria Police, said: “We are aware of the sentencing of a former officer on Friday.

“When concerns were raised in relation to this individual we began an investigation and they were subsequently suspended from duty and misconduct proceedings were progressed.

“At an accelerated misconduct hearing held in March they were dismissed without notice.

“We want to make it clear that the actions of this former officer were completely unacceptable.

“Her behaviour is in no way representative of the officers, staff and volunteers who every single day display the highest levels of professionalism and commitment to the communities we are proud to be a part of and to serve.

“If anyone is found to have fallen below the standards expected we are committed to taking appropriate action.”

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