Police officer given final warning for sexual harassment

January 28 2020
Police officer given final warning for sexual harassment

A FORMER Downend police officer has been given a final written warning after he was found to have sexually harassed a colleague.

PC Paul Fortune had been praised for saving a young boy from choking in Downend in 2015.

But the former Downend and Siston neighbourhood policing team member was brought before a misconduct hearing after being accused of sexually harassing a woman, failing to act with self control or treat female members of police staff with courtesy and respect, and acting less favourably towards them than their male colleagues.

PC Fortune also faced an accusation of undermining public confidence in the police force.

A misconduct panel decided the warning was “appropriate and proportionate” after multiple allegations against PC Fortune were proven. The incidents dated between April 2017 and February last year.

The panel heard the officer told a female member of staff he had a “really high sex drive” and told her to let him know “if you are ever in need of a partner”.

When she made it clear she was not interested, PC Fortune told her: “Are you saying I’m fat and ugly?”

The woman took that as a joke, the panel heard.

PC Fortune also asked the same woman what time she was finishing work and said: “I can come round to yours after work if you fancy.”

The woman complained to a sergeant last February, when PC Fortune massaged her shoulders without permission.

However, she accepted he was “tactile” with everyone, thoughtful, kind and caring, and wore his heart on his sleeve.

PC Fortune also made suggestive comments to another female member of police staff, the panel was told.

Following the hearing at Avon and Somerset Police’s Portishead HQ, misconduct panel chair Peter Cadman said: “The panel looked at the seriousness of the proven matters.

None of them were individually found to be gross misconduct, but cumulatively they were.

They took place over an extended period of time and were in a background of a more senior officer towards junior officers.

On the other hand, both junior officers had positive things to say about PC Fortune.

Proven allegations of this nature normally give rise to dismissal without notice.

This is the unusual case where a final written warning for such proven matters is actually appropriate and proportionate.”

Neighbourhood policing teams were reorganised into new areas last year. PC Fortune is not currently listed on the police website as a member of the Downend, Frenchay and Stoke Park, Staple Hill and New Cheltenham or Boyd Valley, Emersons and Lyde Green neighbourhood policing teams.

By Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporting Service