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Gloucestershire Business News

Policeman found guilty of gross misconduct by filming a colleague in the shower

A policeman who was cleared by a jury of trying to film a naked female colleague as she showered at Gloucestershire Police headquarters has been found guilty by a disciplinary panel of gross misconduct.

The panel ruled on Tuesday (January 11) that if PC Jonathan Eaton, 33, of Lasne Crescent, Brockworth, Gloucester, had not already resigned from the Constabulary just before the hearing began he would have been dismissed.

Eaton quit his job three days before the disciplinary hearing, having been suspended from duties since his arrest on February 27, 2019.

He told the panel he would not be attending the misconduct hearing at Gloucestershire Police HQ in Waterwells, near Gloucester, or taking any active part proceedings.

Eaton had been acquitted of an alleged offence of voyeurism by a jury at Newport Crown Court in April last year. The charge alleged that he attempted to observe and record for sexual gratification a person involved in a private act without consent on February 27, 2019.

The jury cleared him after a retirement of more than five hours at the end of a six-day trial.

Presiding Counsel Gerard Boyle QC told this week's misconduct hearing on Monday (January 10) that, as a result of legislation in 2017, former officers could still face misconduct proceedings after leaving the police.

"However the outcomes are now limited because he is a former officer and those outcomes are determined by whether there is a finding of misconduct or gross misconduct," he said.

Mr Boyle said Gloucestershire Constabulary believed Mr Eaton had breached police standards of professional behaviour, honesty and integrity and failed to perform his duties consciously and diligently. The charges were denied by Mr Eaton.

Mr Boyle said that the initial incident occurred at the unisex changing rooms of Gloucestershire Constabulary's headquarters on February 27, 2019 when a woman employee, referred to as Witness A, was using the shower as part of her daily routine at around 7.15am.

The woman employee told the hearing that as she was drying herself off some 10 minutes later, she noticed a phone poking out from the gap at the bottom of the partition to the next door cubicle.

"I saw the front of the phone it was protruding into my cubicle. It was not on the ground; it was being hand held towards the top of the gap. I couldn't see a hand because the phone was angled," she said. "I noticed it had blue edging on it."

"I couldn't believe what I had seen. I immediately thought that somebody was taking pictures of me. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around me. I then heard movement of somebody scurrying away from the adjacent cubicle.

"I had to react quickly because If I didn't it would be too late. I shouted, 'stop that man'. I flew out of the cubicle and went straight up to the man, who I now know as Eaton, and challenged him about putting the phone under the partition.

"He said he hadn't and stated he had just come from the toilet. I grabbed his lanyard to see his name. He tried to brush me aside and started to walk away when two other women in the changing rooms joined me.

"I asked him where was his phone? When he showed me, I immediately recognised the blue edging and realised it was the same phone I had seen earlier.

"He did not unlock it or attempt to show me what was on it. Had he done so I would have kept the phone.

"I couldn't believe we were in this situation. I knew that if he left with his phone, that would be it as he would delete the evidence.

"Eaton didn't look as if he had just had a shower, his hair was not wet."

A woman constable who was in the changing rooms at the same time told the hearing that she knew Eaton, having been on a course with him prior to this incident.

She said: "When I heard somebody shout 'stop that policeman' above the noise of a hairdryer I could see that the woman was visibly upset. I took hold of his arm as he stated he had just come from the toilet. He was angry and defensive and he tried to pull away."

Mr Boyle told the hearing that Eaton claimed he had knelt down to use the high pressured shower to sculpt his hair.

Mr Boyle added: "Shortly after this incident Eaton accessed the internet and paid for additional cloud storage space for his phone before he reported to his supervisor and stated that he was unwell, having been off work immediately prior to this incident. He then went home at just after 8am.

"At his home he contacted the Police Federation at 8.45am, a clear indicator that he already knew there was going to be an investigation.

"At 9.25am Eaton accessed a website detailing how to back up his phone. Between 9.26am and 9.36am his phone was backed up to the cloud and he then performed a factory reset on the phone.

"At 9.49 his phone was then restored from the cloud and he manually deleted some of his web browsing history on his tablet.

"These actions were undertaken to sanitise his phone by removing any incriminating photographs or videos he had taken, which he did not want an investigation to discover. He restored his phone to make it look like it hadn't been touched at all and there was no evidence of any offending images on his phone.

"If he had not used his phone to film or video in the manner alleged, the untouched content would have provided the best defence available to him.

"The only reasonable inference that can be drawn is that his actions were to deliberately destroy any evidence of his phone use. He did so knowing the importance of securing evidence.

"The overwhelming conclusion is that Eaton's explanations that morning, simply defy belief. He acted in a deplorable fashion, utterly out of keeping with the high standards of behaviour expected of police officers."

Eaton, who had joined the Gloucester Constabulary as a special constable in 2009 before becoming a regular officer four years later, was arrested by officers later that morning and questioned.

The panel was told that the primary purpose of disciplinary procedures was to not to punish officers but to preserve public confidence in the reputation of the police service by holding officers accountable and making clear that improper behaviour would not go unchecked.

"This will also maintain high standards by demonstrating that misconduct will not be tolerated," added Mr Boyle.

"A third aspect will mean that the public will be protected by not allowing an officer to commit similar misconduct again by excluding them from the police service."

Hearing chairman Peter Cadman said the panel found that Eaton's actions amounted to gross misconduct in that he had:

*Filmed inside a shower cubicle at force headquarters and used or attempted to use his mobile phone to observe the person using the shower cubicle next to him (and/or photographing or videoing the person using the shower cubicle next to him) and failing to surrender his phone so that it could be examined;

*Interfering with what he knew or ought to have known was a potentially relevant piece of evidence, thus preventing the ability to examine the phone before he interfered with it, backed it up and restored the phone to factory settings;

*Deleted any photographs or video footage he had taken from inside the cubicle;

*Failed to inform the arresting or interviewing officers that he had backed up and restored his phone that morning.

The panel, which included Tim Smith, an independent observer, and Police Superintendent Steve Bean, found that had Eaton still been a serving officer he would have been dismissed.

Assistant Chief Constable Rhiannon Kirk commented after the two day hearing: "Former officer Eaton's behaviour was abhorrent and utterly at odds with everything we stand for. It was compounded by the fact that, despite many chances to be honest afterwards, he took measures to evade the truth.

"My admiration and thoughts are with our female colleague involved in the case, who has shown great courage and strength throughout this process - and we thank her for her commitment to seeing the case through.

"The Constabulary has a clear action plan in place to ensure we foster and maintain a culture of respect within the organisation and call out and root out any behaviour that undermines that.

"I hope this shows the public that where we do receive allegations of misconduct we will thoroughly investigate.

"It is of the upmost importance that we hold those responsible to account and where necessary take firm disciplinary action. But I also take some comfort from how colleagues who were present at the time of the incident reacted and supported the victim.

"It highlights that there is absolutely no place for individuals like Jonathan Eaton within Gloucestershire Constabulary."

The full finding will be published by the Constabulary's Professional Standards Department shortly.

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