UK Politics

Hundreds of UK police officers have convictions for crimes including assault, burglary and animal cruelty


More than 200 serving police officers in the UK have convictions for criminal offences including assault, burglary, drug possession and animal cruelty, Sky News can reveal.

Forces across the country employ at least 211 police officers and PCSOs who were guilty of crimes, according to data released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The actual number is likely to be much higher, however, after just a third of forces revealed how many of their officers have criminal convictions, with many claiming it would cost too much to retrieve the information.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) told Sky News that having a criminal record has "never been an automatic bar to joining the police" and insisted officers are vetted "throughout their service".

But Steven Smith, who was assaulted in Bristol by an officer who was allowed to keep his job, said he believes anyone with a conviction for violence should be banned from working for the police.


Image: Steven Smith was assaulted in Bristol by a police officer who kept his job

He told Sky News: "Obviously everyone makes mistakes but when it's a violent assault, I don't believe they should (be able to work for the police).

"You'd expect police men and women to have no convictions."

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Mr Smith, 45, said he was "gutted and upset" to learn that the officer who was convicted of assaulting him in 2014 continued working for Avon and Somerset Police.

"You should be able to go to the police and their judgement should be above board and impeccable at all times," he added.

Integrity in policing has been under the spotlight in recent weeks following widespread protests over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in the US.

Police officers and vans behind safety police line tape.
Image: Just a third of forces revealed how many of their officers have criminal convictions

Among the UK forces to reveal how many of their serving police officers have criminal convictions:

  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said 99 serving officers had received criminal convictions while employed by the force. The offences included death by careless driving, common assault, harassment and possession of a firearm/drunk in charge of a firearm
  • North Wales Police said 20 police officers and five PCSOs have criminal convictions, including a sergeant convicted of assault, two officers guilty of drug possession and two officers convicted of cruelty to animals
  • Kent Police said 22 serving officers have been convicted of crimes, including five officers ranked "inspector or above". The offences included common assault, criminal damage and drink driving
  • Fourteen Avon and Somerset Police officers have convictions for crimes such as assault, burglary, theft and obtaining money by deception
  • Seven Dorset Police officers have criminal convictions including a constable convicted of burglary and ABH, and a constable guilty of causing unnecessary cruelty to a protected animal
  • Devon and Cornwall Police said nine serving police constables have convictions for crimes including drink driving and Data Protection Act offences
  • Norfolk Police said three officers have criminal convictions including a constable guilty of battery and another constable convicted of possessing an imitation firearm in a public place
  • Cheshire Police said 18 serving police officers or PCSOs have been convicted of crimes but refused to reveal any further details, saying it would breach the Data Protection Act

It comes after Sky News submitted freedom of information requests to the UK's 45 territorial police forces as well as British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police.

Just 16 forces revealed how many of their officers had criminal convictions, with the Metropolitan Police, Police Scotland, Greater Manchester Police and Merseyside Police among those that did not provide the information.

Several forces said retrieving their records on police officers with criminal convictions would exceed the cost limit set out by the Freedom of Information Act.

Thames Valley Police said it would be a "disproportionate and unjustified diversion of policing resources" during the coronavirus epidemic.

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