Posted: 12.01.22 at 16:51 by By Local Democracy Reporter Stephen Sumner
A Somerset police officer has been sacked after photographing a partially clothed dead woman and sending the image to a colleague.
Radstock-based PC Daniel Wallwork was sent to Lewin House in the town in April 2020 after reports of a sudden death.
Shortly after arriving he took a photograph of the deceased, 42-year-old Sharon Louise Stone, a woman he knew to be vulnerable, after finding her lying face down on her bed.
He then sent it to PC Steve Carey on WhatsApp with a message saying “look who’s turned up dead” before continuing his investigation.
PC Wallwork told his misconduct hearing he felt “instant regret” for choosing the “wrong method of communication” and an immediate feeling he had invaded Miss Stone’s privacy, but he made no apology until days later.
Representing Avon and Somerset Police, barrister Mark Ley-Morgan said: “There is incontrovertible evidence the officer has grossly misconducted himself. It’s in the public interest the officer should cease to be a member of the police service without delay.
“By taking and sharing that photograph the officer is guilty of a serious failure to act with integrity. It’s not a minor lapse.
“He has abused his position as a police officer. His behaviour undoubtedly brings discredit on the police service.”
Mr Ley-Morgan cautioned against comparing the case to that of former Metropolitan Police officers Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis who were jailed after sharing photos of murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman.
But he added: “There have been numerous cases of officers posting photos they have taken while on duty. This sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable. It does serious harm.
“A message needs to go out. Police officers need to understand if they engage in this sort of behaviour they are likely to face the most serious outcome.”
PC Wallwork, a 40-year-old father of two, said he had previously met Miss Stone in Midsomer Norton while she was intoxicated.
He told the virtual hearing on January 12: “I was trying to communicate a sad coincidence to a colleague. I didn’t need to take a photograph and I accept that. I chose the wrong method of communication.
“I had a feeling I had invaded her privacy immediately.”
Asked why he decided not to apologise immediately to PC Carey, he said: “I had already completed the action. My priority was to complete my job.
“I thought what was done was done and next time I saw Steve I would apologise to him.”
PC Wallwork served in the Army and as a prison officer before joining the police in 2014.
Representing him, Mark Loker from the Police Federation said: “He has completed 24 years of public service. This isn’t an officer who doesn’t take his duties and responsibilities seriously.
“He accepts he hasn’t acted with integrity and that his behaviour fell below the standard expected. He doesn’t believe he has done something that would undermine public confidence in the police.”
He added: “There’s a public interest in retaining officers who have gained experience. There’s a responsibility to the public purse. Training officers isn’t cheap. To lose someone with seven years’ experience would be harmful to the service delivery of the constabulary.”
Avon and Somerset Police chief constable Sarah Crew, chairing her first misconduct hearing since taking over the role, did not believe PC Wallwork had instantly regretted his actions and ruled that he should be dismissed without notice.
She said: “There was a conscious and deliberate act on the part of PC Wallwork in taking and sending the photograph of the deceased.
“He failed to treat a woman he knew to be vulnerable with respect, dignity or courtesy in the moment of her death when she was at her most vulnerable, partially clothed and exposed to his view.
“This would undoubtedly have caused upset and distress to her family and those that loved her.
“Such conduct will always have the potential to undermine the confidence of the public. Now the facts are in the public domain I believe they have done so.”
Wednesday 26 January 10am - 11am Suggested Donation £5 Zoom Course - Z0222 Join us for our Caring for Creation Zoom, the last Wednesday o...