A DORSET Police officer will face misconduct proceedings after an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into social media messages related to former police constable Wayne Couzens.

An IOPC investigation looked at allegations that seven officers from several forces breached standards of professional behaviour when they used the Signal messaging platform to share information connected to Couzens’s prosecution.

It was alleged that on March 13 an officer from Dorset Police posted details of an interview given by Couzens under caution which were presented during a non-reportable court hearing. That was several months before Couzens admitted murdering Sarah Everard.

The IOPC concluded that the officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct after it looked at whether the messages, had they got into the public domain, would have brought discredit on the police service and potentially interfered with the course of justice.

It was considered whether there was a legitimate policing purpose in sharing the information, the watchdog said.

Dorset Police will now organise a gross misconduct hearing for the officer, who was on secondment from the force, for potential breaches of professional standards of behaviour relating to confidentiality, conduct, and challenging and reporting improper behaviour.

Evidence gathered during the six-month investigation also indicated that officers from other forces had joined in the conversation, endorsing comments made by others and making unprofessional remarks about Couzens.

In relation to this the IOPC found that two officers, from Sussex Police and Avon and Somerset Constabulary, had a case to answer for misconduct for alleged breaches of professional standards of behaviour for conduct, authority, respect and courtesy; and in the case of the Sussex officer standards for challenging and reporting improper behaviour.

At a meeting held this week for the Sussex officer misconduct was not proven although it was determined that the officer, who was on secondment from the force, should undergo the reflective practice review process in respect of one of the messages that had been sent and the tone of conversation.

The officer from Avon and Somerset Constabulary will face a misconduct meeting in due course.

The investigation found no case to answer for a further four officers who were members of the chat group, the IOPC said.

Sal Naseem, IOPC regional director, said: “In April this year we warned about the unacceptable use of social media by officers based on a number of cases involving the posting of offensive and inappropriate material.

“We wrote to the National Police Chiefs Council, asking them to remind forces and officers of their obligations under the police Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Behaviour.

“The allegations involved in these two investigations, if proven, have the capacity to further undermine public confidence in policing. They also once more illustrate the potential consequences for officers and come at a time when policing standards and culture have never been more firmly in the spotlight.”

The IOPC is continuing to investigate the conduct of five officers from three forces and one former officer who allegedly sent discriminatory messages as part of a WhatsApp group between March and October 2019. The messages were recovered from an old mobile phone discovered during the police investigation into Ms Everard’s murder.

A Dorset Police spokeswoman said: "Dorset Police is aware of the IOPC independent investigation into this matter.

"This involves a Dorset officer who is on a secondment from the force. The issue subject to the investigation did not concern any Dorset Police business and was not communicated on any Dorset Police channel.

"In accordance with normal protocol, the force will now convene a gross misconduct hearing in due course in line with the IOPC recommendation."