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Kent Police officer jailed for six months for inappropriate relationship with suspect

A former Kent Police officer has been jailed for six months after initiating an inappropriate relationship with a suspect he was assigned to supervise. Thomas Hill pleaded guilty to a charge of misconduct in public office following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

The regional director of the IOPC, Mel Palmer, noted that Hill’s behaviour was a “breach of the public’s trust” and “seriously undermines confidence in the police service and discredits the profession”.

Unfortunately, Hill’s actions aren’t the only recent events that have threatened to undermine public trust in the police. Tragic and high-profile incidents such as the murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens and the conviction of former Met Officer David Carrick for sex offences have served to call into question whether police officers can always be relied upon to protect the public. And the growing discussions around institutional racism in the police force have added further complications.

Nevertheless, it’s important to know that you do not need to accept improper behaviour on the part of a police officer. If you have been a victim of police misconduct, there are steps you can take to seek redress. In this post, we’ll look more closely at the events surrounding Thomas Hill’s conviction, as well as outlining how victim of police misconduct can seek compensation through a civil action against the police.

Photograph of two British transport police officers stood inside a train station.

The case

The events for which Hill was charged took place in December 2020, as reported by the BBC. Hill was assigned to supervise a female suspect while she was recovering in hospital. During this time, he initiated a relationship with the woman, sending her explicit text messages and visiting the woman’s home, where he behaved “in an unprofessional manner”. The content of the text messages suggested the two had a physical relationship.

Hill ultimately confessed the relationship to his supervisors after the woman threatened to tell his employer. The matter was referred to the IOPC, which conducted an investigation. The investigation concluded in April 2022, and Hill was charged with misconduct in public office. He pleaded guilty to the charge in July 2023, and was sentenced in October.

The impact on public trust

After Hill was jailed for six months – reduced from eight months due to his early guilty plea – there were understandably a number of strongly worded statements issued by members of various police bodies.

In addition to the strong comments by Mel Palmer of the IOPC, quoted above, there was also a statement by Detective Chief Superintendent Jon Armory, the head of professional standards at Kent Police, who echoed Palmer’s views. Armory remarked that Hill’s “behaviour is unacceptable and undermines trust and confidence in the police service.”

This repeated emphasis on trust and confidence is understandable, given the growing evidence that public trust in policing has been harmed by recent scandals. As a report from the Institute for Government notes, public trust in the police is at “historically low levels” and has further declined in recent years.

Nevertheless, this case does show that misconduct is taken seriously. As Armory went on to note, though Hill has already resigned from Kent Police he will still face a disciplinary hearing in which he will be charged with gross misconduct.

And this fact raises an important question. While it’s good to see this kind of behaviour being taken seriously, what can victims of police misconduct do to seek redress?

Photograph of several police officers stood on a busy street in the rain

What is police misconduct?

To begin, let’s clarify what we mean by police misconduct.

Police misconduct is a term used to describe behaviour by police officers that falls short of the expected professional standards. This can include:

  • Assault or battery by police officers
  • Police dog bites
  • Wrongful arrest/false imprisonment
  • Unlawful stop and search
  • Breach of human rights (e.g. unlawful strip search/trespass to your home)
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Negligence
  • Breach of data protection

In each of these examples, the police have failed in their responsibility to uphold the law and protect the public – and the consequences for those affected can be significant.

For a closer look at specific types of police misconduct, read our blog on examples of police misconduct cases. We also have a blog explaining police gross misconduct, which refers to more extreme situations in which the officer responsible would be justified in losing their job as a result.

Making a police misconduct complaint

As we mentioned above, police misconduct can have a significant impact on those affected. Victims of police misconduct may experience:

  • Physical injuries
  • Reputational damage
  • Loss of earnings
  • Emotional distress

Each of these on their own can be painful, but in combination it can be a deeply distressing experience with significant and ongoing consequences. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware that victims of police misconduct can take a number of steps to seek redress.

In the first instance, you can make a complaint directly to the police force responsible. This may lead to disciplinary action being taken, and you may receive a formal apology. In more extreme cases, such as that of Thomas Hill, the case may be referred to the IOPC for further investigation.

However, you will not receive any compensation if you make a complaint directly to the force in question. To secure compensation, you will need to pursue a civil action against the police.

Photograph of a blue police light above a police station.

What is a civil action against the police?

A civil action against the police involves taking the police force to court in order to seek compensation. While this may seem like a significant step, it’s important to recognise that compensation can be a big part of moving on with your life following an instance of police misconduct.

Not only can compensation help to financially offset some of the issues you may have faced, it can also act as an acknowledgement of the challenges you suffered. Importantly, a civil action against the police can also help to ensure appropriate action is taken and that the same issues don’t occur again in the future.

If you are considering pursuing a civil action against the police, the most important thing is to consult an experienced solicitor with a proven track record. With their specialist knowledge of the relevant statutes, they will be able to present your case in the most effective way and ensure that you receive the full amount of compensation you are entitled to.

HNK Solicitors can support your civil action against the police

The case of Thomas Hill is the latest in a number of shocking instances that have served to threaten public trust in the police. Aside from the horrifying acts of Wayne Couzens and David Carrick, there have been less well-publicised incidents, such as the recent case of a Lancashire Police officer jailed for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

Amidst all this troubling news, it is vital to remember that there are steps you can take if you have been a victim of police misconduct. And that includes seeking compensation through a civil action against the police.

Here at HNK Solicitors, we’ve helped a great many clients to secure the compensation they deserve following a police misconduct incident. Take a look at our case studies page to see some recent examples of successful cases we’ve pursued on behalf of our clients.

Our highly experienced team of solicitors have both exceptional knowledge of the relevant regulations and an unwavering commitment to ensuring our clients get the full amount of compensation they’re owed. We also provide free consultations, with no obligation to pursue a claim. So if you have been a victim of police misconduct, get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help.

Call us on 0151 668 0809, or email us at enquiries@hnksolicitors.com

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