Avon and Somerset Police officer 'returned Class A drugs to addicts' in exchange for information
An Avon and Somerset Police officer who "returned Class A drugs to addicts in return for information about their dealers" committed gross misconduct, a panel has ruled.
PC Jonathan Biggins targeted suppliers by stop-and-searching known addicts in the street in Weston-super-Mare and “succumbing to the temptation” of ignoring the proper process by handing back their illegal substances after they told him who sold them.
The officer, who did not attend but denied the allegations, was also placed on a national policing barred list.
A misconduct panel ruled that the PC would have been dismissed if he hadn't resigned before the hearing at the force's headquarters in Portishead on 23 May.
Barrister George Thomas, representing the constabulary, told the panel: “PC Biggins was prioritising going after drug dealers over the victims of the drugs trade.
“It is, in a sense, a noble form of corruption but the public has to understand that police who are pursuing drug dealers do not succumb to lowering themselves to the standards of those they are seeking to catch.
“PC Biggins was genuinely trying to take out drug dealers but was using a completely inappropriate step to get to that.”
"Extremely difficult situation"
Mr Thomas also told the panel that one of the two officers who raised concerns to supervisors was PC Lauren Rickwood. She had been with PC Biggins at the time and had been put in an "extremely difficult situation" as not only had she witnessed PC Biggins' actions, but was told by him to omit it from her notebook.
PC Rickwood was on her first day with the plain-clothed Operation Avalon unit when the incident took place, and the information provided by the user led to them arresting three suspected dealers near the ferris wheel minutes later.
Mr Thomas said his conversation with PC Rickwood demonstrates that PC Biggins was "circumventing proper process."
He added: “It can do nothing but severely undermine public confidence in the police if it’s known that an experienced officer has succumbed to the temptation to try to tackle the drugs problem in this way.”
Barrister Nick Walker, mitigating, said the former constable had been a “respected and successful” police officer with a previously unblemished disciplinary record.
He said not every member of the public would consider what he did as serious as some other misconduct cases.
Announcing the panel’s decision, LQC Peter Cadman said: “His actions resulted in harm to public confidence in the police and the reputation of the profession.
“The supply of drugs was to vulnerable drug users. There was harm to PC Rickwood, a relatively new entrant to policing, there was an abuse of authority, there was concealing of his actions by deliberately omitting his actions from police records.
“The only appropriate sanction is that this former officer would have been dismissed if he was still an officer.”
Avon and Somerset Police head of professional standards Supt Mark Edgington said afterwards: “These were very serious allegations against this former officer who, from the evidence provided at the hearing, clearly did not follow the proper procedures or policies when carrying out these stop searches.
“Stop-and-search is a valuable tool in our fight against illegal drugs which cause harm and damage in our communities and unfortunately PC Biggins’ actions will have undermined the use of this power in the eyes of the public.
“We actively encourage our staff to report any concerns or information about potential misconduct, unprofessional behaviour or integrity issues, and we have a range of reporting methods in place, including a confidential and anonymous reporting line.”