Merseyside police under fire over conduct of sacked officer

An alleged police culture of impunity helped an officer who took selfies while on duty at a murder scene commit a litany of disciplinary offences on an “industrial scale” for six years, it has been claimed.

PC Ryan Connolly, 37, from the Merseyside force, resigned after his taking and sharing of photos of the vulnerable came to light, as well as his sharing of racist and offensive images.

The Guardian revealed that between 2014 and 2020 Connolly took photos on his mobile phone of people in mental health crises, in hospitals, and had photos and graphics on his mobile phone that were grossly racist, including an image of a Ku Klux Klan member.

Merseyside police and court officials confirmed that Connolly was also convicted in November of three counts of possessing extreme pornography. He will be sentenced next month at Manchester crown court.

Connolly faced a discipline tribunal last month, and Vinny Tomlinson, former chair of Merseyside’s Black Police Association, attended. Tomlinson said: “In all of my time working at Merseyside police, Connolly’s conduct is the worst example of one person’s misconduct of this type I can recall. He transgressed on an almost industrial scale, over a number of years, most of which was carried out whilst he was on duty.”

Connolly’s case was referred to prosecutors for the photos he took while on duty over the material found on his phone relating to vulnerable people; sometimes it related those who had gone to the police for help, and sometimes suspects.

The case was investigated by police, who consulted lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service, sources confirm.

Connolly’s case echoes that of the two Metropolitan police officers who used their mobile phones to take pictures at the scene where two sisters lay murdered. The pair were convicted in court after admitting misconduct in public office.

Tomlinson said more answers were needed about the case: “Why has Connolly not faced criminal charges for misconduct in a public office and data protection breaches? Have all of the individuals abused by Connolly been contacted by Merseyside police and aware? Have the family of the murder victim been informed of Connolly’s behaviour at the scene of their son’s murder?

“Why has Merseyside police still not published the outcome of Connolly’s hearing within 28 days as it is required to do?”

Merseyside police said: “The allegations constituted breaches of force policy, and a gross misconduct hearing was deemed the most suitable means of dealing with the matters.”

Details about Connolly come after a horrendous year for policing.

In addition to the two Met officers were jailed for their taking of photos of a murder scene, one officer was jailed for a whole-life term after using police equipment to kidnap and murder Sarah Everard after plucking her off a London street in March 2021.

In the West Mercia force an officer became the first in over 30 years to be convicted of manslaughter for using violence during the course of his duties. Former PC Benjamin Monk fired an electric stun gun for over 30 seconds at former premiership footballer Dalian Atkinson, and kicked him twice in the head, which contributed to his death in August 2016.

Liz Fekete, of the Institute of Race Relations, said: “The increasing number of police officers found to have shared racist, sexist, homophobic and frankly depraved content via private WhatsApp groups suggests police leadership has lost control of the rank and file.

“No doubt they will spin these cases as examples of effective internal mechanisms to rid the force of rogue elements or rotten apples, but cases such as these, often undetected for years, are proliferating because these officers believe they are above scrutiny due to a culture of denying racism and silencing whistleblowers within the force.”

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said: “Racism and the canteen culture of the past appears to have moved to online platforms where people feel comfortable to speak openly about things they know are wrong in today’s modern police service. WhatsApp groups have been a particular area of concern …

“Senior leaders need to admit the systemic issues which allow individuals to thrive and racism to continue which erodes trust and confidence in our diverse communities.”

The discipline tribunal found Connolly guilty of gross misconduct. He had resigned before the November hearing, and after the tribunal he was formally sacked by Merseyside police. Connolly had also had an association with a known criminal without informing his bosses. He took photos in 2018 of himself at a murder scene where he had been assigned to guard the cordon after a teenager had been stabbed to death.

Merseyside police’s deputy chief constable, Ian Critchley, said: “The behaviour of this officer is deplorable and serves to undermine the public’s confidence and trust in the police.

“His actions are an insult to the uniform and the police service, which consistently strives to protect our communities and provide a professional and inclusive service to the people of Merseyside.”

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