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Cleared PC finally back to work after seven years

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Officer acquitted of assault in 2013 but misconduct proceedings finished this year.

PC Joe Harrington

PC Joe Harrington

Date - 21st September 2018
By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle


A Met officer, confined to his desk more than five years after being acquitted of assault while under investigation by the police watchdog, has finally been exonerated – after nearly seven years.

PC Joe Harrington’s life was effectively put on hold after the 2011 London riots where he restrained a teenager in custody. The 15-year-old accused him of assault and the then Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was called in.

In June this year his case was finally dismissed at a misconduct hearing with the panel citing ‘unreasonable delay’ as the reason, with the decision only made public this week.

The panel laid into the IPCC, its successor the Independent Office for Police Complaints (IOPC) and the Met for dragging their heels, saying the delays were “unacceptable” and “excessive” and they did not think justice could be served after such a lengthy period.

Its judgement said: “The personal and professional life of PC Harrington has been stilted and blighted by years of unresolved overhanging suspicion and his family life damaged to devastating effect, together with his health and wellbeing.”

The Newham based officer’s nightmare began when he was suspended from work until the trial in March 2013.

The Crown Prosecution Service initially said there was no case to answer, but reversed its decision and ended up charging him with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

At his trial, the jury took less than 20 minutes to acquit him, but PC Harrington, now 34, was put on restricted duties and banned from leaving the police station.

On one occasion, when he popped out move his car, the complainant spotted him in the street and made a further complaint – which the IPCC then decided to investigate as well, taking two years on that matter alone.

In a statement PC Harrington said: “I spent the five years since my acquittal in a seemingly endless cycle of being investigated and re-investigated, confined to a desk in the station.

“I was barred from any contact with the public at work, couldn’t be promoted, leave the service or move roles.

“The IPCC was unhappy with my acquittal and told the press it would recommend to the Met that I be sacked. Twice they went to the High Court to overturn reports that they had written, so they could have another stab at it.

“The effect on my private life was horrendous because this IPCC investigation was always hanging over me. I have been with my partner Kelly for 14 years and we have a beautiful six-year-old daughter but we had no stability in our home life; Kelly was eight months’ pregnant when this originally happened but we felt we could not get married with this hanging over us.

“For a long time there was the fear that I might go to prison, then it was the fear that we might be left with a single income.”

In 2017 PC Harrington and his partner were dealt two further blows when she tragically miscarried the baby they were expecting the day before her father died.

In August he and Kelly became proud parents to a baby son. He added: “It got to the point that Kelly and I decided we just had to get on with our lives, which effectively had been put on hold for the past seven years.

“I still love policing; it was all I ever wanted to do, since I was a child and I am thrilled that I can now get on with my life and my career. I can now properly plan for the future and even get married at some point without this constant worry hanging over us.”

Police Federation conduct lead Phill Matthews said: “Seven years is just not acceptable by any standards and puts officers under appalling pressure, during which they cannot move on or get on with their lives.

“The Federation has been working very hard to work with the IOPC to address those issues, not least to examine whether discipline matters could often be dealt with by way of performance management rather than going straight to misconduct as the default.

“We are calling for less of a blame culture to focus more on training or re-training, raising the performance not just of the individual, but forces as a whole.”

The watchdog says it is making efforts to bring down the length of its investigations.

IOPC director Jonathan Green said: “The background to this case details a sorry tale of complexity, bureaucracy, various legal challenges and delay and we regret any distress or anxiety caused by unnecessary delay on our part.

“The new senior leadership team at the IOPC is committed to improving both the quality and timeliness of our investigations and the experience of those who are engaged with the police complaints system.”

He added: “We believe that changes made and being made to the system along with improvements to our own procedures will help to ensure no repetition of cases like this.

“We have a small number of long running legacy cases which we are making good progress in bringing to conclusion and we are completing our recent cases quicker – a third within six months and three quarters within a year.”

View On Police Oracle

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