Police officer who shared image of man posting letter through burqa keeps job

·4 min read
Shot of the back of a police officer's jacket with the word police written across the back
The officer was found guilty of gross misconduct and misconduct. (Getty)

A police officer who shared an image of a man trying to post a letter through a burqa has kept his job despite being found guilty of gross misconduct.

During a five-day misconduct hearing, PC Andrew Sexton, who has served with Wiltshire Police since 1997, admitted to sending the image to colleagues last year.

The photo, which was captioned with the words “Should have gone to Specsavers”, shows a white man trying to post a letter into the eye-opening of a woman’s burqa.

Sexton told the panel that he sent it in a fit of frustration over being told contradictory information during a live police drug operation.

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The officer was also found guilty of using other racist and homophobic slurs at work.

But Sexton, who is based in Swindon, has been allowed to keep his job, despite the panel finding him guilty of misconduct and gross misconduct.

Panel chairman Derek Marshall told the hearing, at Wiltshire Police’s headquarters in Devizes: “There is no room in the police service for racists or homophobic views or behaviours.”

It comes after an independent inquiry found that Boris Johnson's comments comparing women wearing burqas to "bank robbers" and "letterboxes" gave the impression the Tories are "insensitive to Muslim communities". 

Sexton, who now works on an elite squad responsible for gathering intelligence on drug gangs, apologised immediately after sending the message, the panel heard. 

Officer found guilty of gross misconduct over burqa comments

He also claimed it had not occurred to him at the time that the image might be offensive.

The hearing heard he had previously been placed on a support plan in September 2019, requiring him not to use derogatory language in the workplace.

He said he agreed to go on that “informal action plan” because his sergeant told him he may be causing offence without realising it.

The officer, originally from Australia and formerly of the Australian federal police, said: “It was put to me that someone in the office was upset about language that I may have used.

“Therefore to prevent further upset I had to be mindful of my language.”

But further allegations were then laid against the officer while he was on the support plan, the hearing heard.

These included claims that he used the phrase “black blokes” to refer to two alleged drug dealers who had been arrested.

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In paperwork sent to Wiltshire’s professional standards department, he also said: “I am sure Romania has many nice people in it but I have never met any of them so I associate that country with bulk shoplifters and criminals.”

In August 2020, he also said in a team meeting about joint working with another force: “Once we get an in, then they will know we are not benders.”

Sexton told the panel he had never used the word before and had not used it as a homophobic slur.

He suggested it could have been a reference to “banana bender”, an Australian slang term for someone from Queensland and taken to mean a time-waster.

He apologised after the offensive nature of his comments were pointed out, the panel heard.

But Mark Ley-Morgan, for Wiltshire Police, accused the officer of telling the panel a “pack of lies”.

The barrister added that said the comments cause serious reputational harm for Wiltshire Police.

He said: “What has been the key issue so far as policing is concerned all over the world in the last couple of weeks? How police treat ethnic minorities."

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Maria Brannan, representing Sexton, presented 11 character references to the panel in support of her client, including a Chief Constable’s commendation.

But the panel found the allegations that Sexton sent the offensive image and made racist and homophobic slurs were proved.

He was found guilty and was given a final written warning as well as being placed on a “support plan” for five years.

Following the hearing, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said: “It is very important that all our officers and staff feel confident to report anything that they feel is inappropriate, unfair or unlawful.

“As a force, we remain committed to robustly and proportionately tackling inappropriate behaviour in the workplace and supporting those who report wrongdoing."

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