Cleveland Police officer who sexually assaulted women at Christmas party given a suspended jail term

Lee Morgan, 46, was the most senior officer present when he groped two women’s buttocks during a social night out in Yarm, Teesside, last December. Credit: TEESSIDE LIVE/NCJ MEDIA

A police inspector who sexually assaulted two female colleagues while he was drunk at a Christmas party has been handed a suspended jail term.

CCTV showed Lee Morgan, 46, was dressed in a red Mickey Mouse Christmas jumper when he squeezed the women’s buttocks while they were in a pub in Yarm, Teesside, in December 2021.

The ex-control room inspector admitted two counts of sexual assault and was handed a six-month jail sentence, suspended for two years. He will also have to do 100 hours of unpaid work.

Newcastle Crown Court was told the married father-of-three had to resign from Cleveland Police after 23 years as an officer, having an unblemished career up to this point with a number of commendations for his work.

Morgan, from Ingleby Barwick, Teesside, was the most senior officer present at the night out when he groped the two women, named only as witnesses A and B.

Witness A felt two or three taps on her buttocks but when she turned around she said no-one was there.

John Harley, prosecuting, said: “She assumed the defendant had been responsible for the touching, he had been behaving in a loud and over-friendly manner.”

She felt “like a line had been crossed”, the court was told.

She later saw the defendant with witness B and thought he was being over-familiar with her as well, Mr Harley said. Pub CCTV also caught Morgan squeezing witness B’s buttocks.

Neither of his victims supported the prosecution, and neither said they had suffered psychological harm as a result of what he did, the court heard.

The events of the night out were passed on to police supervision and an investigation was launched, leading to him being charged.

Morgan offered guilty pleas on the basis that he had no recollection of committing the offences, having drunk a significant amount that night.

Jane Waugh, mitigating, read references which said Morgan’s behaviour that night was out of character and that he had lost his career in public service during which he had displayed “exemplary conduct”.

Miss Waugh said: “This is truly a fall from grace, this is a man who had an excellent career and was very well thought of. He has now lost his good character.”

Morgan had taken measures to control his drinking, his barrister said. He felt shame for what he did and he had a five-day stay in hospital after attempting suicide, Miss Waugh said.

Judge Sarah Mallett said: “I have read character references on your behalf and it is clear your behaviour on this evening was totally out of character.”

A police disciplinary hearing in November found Morgan was guilty of gross misconduct, and had he not already resigned he would have been dismissed. The hearing barred him from working as an officer again.

Following the sentencing hearing, Assistant Chief Constable Victoria Fuller said: “Cleveland Police welcomes today’s outcome. We hope it reassures our communities and our officers, staff and volunteers that the force will always take action against any employee or volunteer whose behaviour is called into question.

“Our communities quite rightly expect everyone working for Cleveland Police to adhere to the highest professional and personal standards – whether on or off duty.

“It is vital that we maintain public confidence, and sadly the behaviour of this officer fell well short of what is expected and acceptable. That is why the officer was immediately suspended from duty and disciplinary procedures, resulting in an accelerated misconduct hearing, chaired by the Chief Constable, were initiated at the earliest opportunity.

“The force has robust mechanisms in place for identifying and reporting any behaviour which is believed to be unlawful, unethical, unprofessional or simply inappropriate.

“These procedures have proven effective in this case.

“I would like to pay tribute to those colleagues who were brave enough to speak up so that immediate and robust action could be taken.”

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