Leicestershire police officer dismissed after calling member of public ‘Nazi’ among other slurs
A Leicestershire police officer has been dismissed after creating a fake X (formerly Twitter) profile to send abusive messages to a member of the public.
Police constable Lynsay Watson aimed posts at Harry Miller and the Fair Cop group which were abusive and derogatory, a police misconduct hearing heard today.
She called Mr Miller, founder of campaign group Fair Cop, a ‘Nazi’, a ‘fascist’, a ‘bigot’, and a ‘narcissist’.
PC Watson also doctored photos to suggest he was violent toward women, the hearing was told, and labelled the Fair Cop group ‘domestic terrorists’.
The Fair Cop group, which posts on X, under the handle We Are Fair Cop, describes itself as a gender-critical group of lawyers, police officers, writers and professionals dedicated to upholding Articles eight to 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and removing politics from policing. The articles include the rights to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom of expression.
The hearing also heard that PC Watson attempted to hide her identity by setting up five anonymous accounts over a number of months last year, including two accounts after she had received a warning over her online behaviour. She also ‘concocted personas’ to deceive and hide her identity, including claiming to be a retired officer from a different force and a member of the public with a masters degree in legal studies.
The force said it did not seek to prevent people expressing their views or beliefs. However, PC Watson’s actions went beyond simple debate and was discourteous, disrespectful and abusive and undermined the force’s reputation and public trust in it.
PC Watson accepted at today’s hearing that her posts breached the standards of professional behaviour expected of her in her role, those of authority, respect and courtesy, orders and instructions and discreditable conduct. She also accepted this amounted to gross misconduct.
However, Detective Sergeant Andy Spence, who was representing her from the Leicestershire Police Federation, told the hearing PC Watson had been advised to use anonymous accounts online by her superior. She denied breaching the standards of honest behaviour as a result.Leicestershire Police accepted she had been advised to use anonymous accounts. However, PC Watson was still found guilty of dishonest conduct as she ‘had made assertions [about her identity] which were not true and that she did not need to make’ and that went ‘well beyond seeking to maintain anonymity’.
Sergeant Spence added PC Watson felt she was acting in accordance with the police’s whistleblowing guidelines, as Fair Cop states it has police officers as members of its group. PC Watson, who is transgender, was using X and her accounts to try to find out who those officers were, he added, as she felt this was necessary to protect people in the wider LGBT+ community.
Sergeant Spence said: “This behaviour comes from someone who was trying to stand up for her community, to ensure they were protected and to ensure they are not subjected to the same behaviour she has faced in the past. She believes that there are members of the LGBT community who are being targeted, who are being harassed and she has tried to support them and help them. She has suffered as a result of this mentally and physically.”
He continued: “As a result of all this, she has been labelled a sexual predator and she has suffered significantly. She felt driven to protect members of the LGBT community, not only in the police but the wider community. Whilst [this investigation] has been ongoing, she’s felt she’s not been able to protect those people.”
Sergeant Spence called for a more lenient sentence of a final warning which would have stayed in place for five years. Given PC Watson’s age, this would likely be the rest of her career, he added.
However, PC Watson was found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed without notice. She was also added to a barred list.
Chief constable Kate Meynell, who was deciding on the case, said she was not there to examine the validity of PC Watson’s beliefs nor those of Mr Miller and Fair Cop, but to examine the conduct of PC Watson. She said: “I accept that the officer holds deep views on this subject and that those come from her personal experiences both in life and in policing.
“I also accept that she has a right to set those views out and to defend and debate them. However, as a serving police officer this must be done in accordance with the standards of professional behaviour.”
“The content of the officer’s Tweets is not in keeping with debate. It is abusive, insulting and certainly discourteous. Referring to people as terrorists, Nazis and doctoring photos to suggest that they are violent towards women is conduct entirely divorced from proper debate.”
The posts were quickly linked to PC Watson as a serving police officer and brought discredit on the profession, the chief constable added. There were also elements of premeditation here, she added, as the accounts were set up with a specific intention.