A police officer named as a road safety hero has been found guilty of gross misconduct.
But he has kept his job as a member of the North Yorkshire Police traffic bureau.
The charge against PC Andrew Forth was that on or around 7 September 2022, he disclosed confidential, or personal information, obtained whilst working in the bureau.
He admitted committing a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act 2018 and was given a caution on 11 September 2023.
The details of the offence are that he disclosed information to an individual via WhatsApp relating to the manner and style of a person’s driving in connection with a potential driving offence.
At a misconduct hearing at the force’s Northallerton HQ on 21 December, PC Forth faced potential dismissal if found guilty of gross misconduct.
Outgoing Chief Constable Lisa Winward conducted the hearing. In her report she found that “these breaches do collectively amount to gross misconduct.
“Whilst the officer’s conduct was thoughtless, there was the potential for serious harm as a result and whilst the officer’s culpability is reduced because he did not deliberately breach the standards, the standards were still breached and the outcome of the officer’s thoughtlessness has been a criminal investigation and his accepting of a criminal caution whilst on duty.
“Dismissal could be justified in these circumstances.”
The Chief Constable goes on: “I consider that the evidence set out above is all incontrovertible, as it consists of text messages and recorded admissions by the officer.
“I accept the submission made on behalf of the officer that he did not intend to breach the standards of professional behaviour and that he made the disclosure without properly thinking it through.
“I have found that these amount to breaches of the Standards of Professional Behaviour as alleged and admitted.”
PC Forth said in his defence that he “failed to think about who he was disclosing the information to”.
Because the information related to an ongoing criminal offence it was more serious “as there was a risk that the onward disclosure of information… would compromise that investigation”, Ch Con Winward wrote.
She added: “I have accepted that he did so in the erroneous belief that there was nothing wrong with sharing that information, and he did not do it for any personal gain. Nevertheless, as a trained and experienced officer, he ought to have known that this was a breach of the standards of professional behaviour.”
Mitigating circumstances included “this was a single episode, and there is some remorse shown, and he believed that there was a legitimate purpose to his actions, albeit he now accepts that this was wrong”.
He acted to “deter crime and dangerous driving” and he acted “thoughtlessly not maliciously”.
Road safety hero
The Chief Constable concluded: “A final written warning is sufficient to uphold the purposes of these proceedings in circumstances where an officer has unintentionally disclosed information and broken the law.
“This will deter future misconduct by him and by others, and will suffice to maintain public confidence.
“The warning sends a message that this conduct is not acceptable, but is proportionate to the seriousness of the breach.”
PC North was named Road Safety Hero of the day by Road Safety Support in 2021. They said of the officer: “Andy was nominated by colleague Richard Fletcher for his tireless work in the bureau for the last eight years.
“He has trained over 50 new enforcement officers in the use of enforcement technology to reduce road deaths and injuries, and on the relevant legislation.
“He has been recognised nationally for his outstanding work in preventing laser jammer use in the county and has helped to secure multiple convictions.”