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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Millom PCSO convicted of club assault resigns from job

A POLICE community support officer found guilty of assault after a nightclub brawl has resigned from her post.

PCSO Lorna Brookes, 27, from Settle Street, Millom, had been the subject of an internal investigation by Cumbria police into alleged gross misconduct following the incident.

A spokesman for the police confirmed Brookes handed in her resignation this month prior to the completion of the investigation.

According to Cumbria Constabulary’s police staff disciplinary policy, gross misconduct is defined as: “Conduct of such a serious nature that the constabulary can no longer tolerate the continued presence of the employee at work. Acts of gross misconduct will be considered as grave breaches of discipline.

“Police staff should be aware that a likely consequence of gross misconduct is summary dismissal (dismissal without notice).”

One of the definitions of gross misconduct is given as “conviction of a criminal offence”. On a social networking site Brookes described herself as “career driven” and said she was studying to be a teacher.

At her trial at Furness Magistrates’ Court in May, Brookes pleaded not guilty to assaulting Caroline Leonard in the ladies’ toilets of Reflections nightclub, St George’s Terrace, after midnight on February 17. The court heard the incident occurred when a dispute between two groups of women turned violent.

According to Mrs Vicki Atkinson, prosecuting, Brookes directed an offensive term at Ms Leonard and her friend Yvette Haston. The violence is said to have started when a friend of Brookes, Samantha Sharp, came into the toilets and threw a punch at Ms Haston, which did not land.

The court heard Ms Haston retaliated and Ms Leonard stepped between the pair to break up the fight – before being attacked by Brookes.

Brookes, who had been a PCSO for four and a half years, grabbed Ms Leonard – causing bruising to her arm – before dragging her to the floor.

Ms Lucy Wright, defending, argued Brookes had been trying to split up the fight by pulling Ms Leonard away. But presiding magistrate, Mrs Mandy Marshall, told Brookes the court considered her to be “significantly impaired” after drinking six vodkas and two or three bottles of Corona beer.

She said the court was “confident beyond reasonable doubt” Brookes had not been trying to prevent a crime. She was sentenced to 60 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £400 in court costs, £50 compensation and a £60 victim surcharge.

Speaking about Brookes’ resignation, a Cumbria police spokesman said: “Police officers and staff are treated in the exact same way as members of the public are when it comes to criminal prosecution.

“Does a suspension start from the moment they are arrested? Yes, the constabulary consider the nature of the arrest and the impact that this would have on their role within the constabulary. The DCC (deputy chief constable) authorises the suspension of all police staff.

“Once the criminal case is concluded, the constabulary progress the case as a quickly as possible in accordance with the police staff disciplinary procedure. This would initially involve a detailed investigation to ensure all the facts are collated in advance of a disciplinary hearing.

“Where an individual resigns from the constabulary prior to the conclusion of the disciplinary procedure, the constabulary would not be in a position to determine the outcome of a hearing, as this can only be determined once all the evidence has been heard and considered appropriately at a disciplinary hearing.

“There are a range of options available to the constabulary at a disciplinary hearing which range from no further action to dismissal with immediate effect.”

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