AVON AND SOMERSET: Officer drove without licence
Image: Stephen Sumner
A former constable who put others at risk when she drove alone for weeks without a licence or insurance will never serve in the police again.
Shannon Carnell lied to her bosses about passing her driving test and claimed a friend was driving her from south Bristol to Keynsham before a colleague took her the rest of the way Shepton Mallet station.
She would have been sacked if she had not resigned days before the misconduct hearing on October 4, only a year after she joined Avon and Somerset Police.
Miss Carnell was caught out in February after her colleague, PC Lloyd Whitcombe, became suspicious as the friend who was supposedly dropping her off was available at any time of the day or night.
He reported his concerns and acting inspector Anthony Watson sent crews to the rendezvous point who found Miss Carnell’s car parked there.
PC Whitcombe said he knew how difficult it was being unable to drive in a rural area so he would have gladly added time to his journey to help Miss Carnell.
He said he was left feeling annoyed and guilty that he did not act on his gut feeling sooner.
Representing the force, Clare Hennessy said: “Miss Carnell accepts that she told acting inspector Watson a friend drove her to the pickup point and accepts she knew that was untrue and the purpose was to avoid detection.
“She said she felt like a deer in the headlights. She was trying to convey that she was panicked and anxious.
“Once she started to drive it became harder to disclose her wrongdoing. She said if the public knew it would have a really bad effect.”
She said the former officer was “forever tarnished” by the dishonesty.
Miss Carnell was fined £100 and received three points on her licence after admitting the offence.
Presenting a finding of gross misconduct, panel chair Peter Cadman said: “This was repeated behaviour over a period of time.
“This officer drove uninsured, without L plates, unsupervised, deliberately and repeatedly. In driving she put the public at risk because she had actually failed her driving test.
“During this period she repeatedly lied to her colleagues. We praise PC Whitcombe for confronting this issue and note and understand how hurt and angry he felt.
“This sworn officer continued her lies when challenged formally when interviewed under caution. She made some admissions.
“We have had no hesitation in finding her conduct dishonest.
“Taking no further action is manifestly inadequate. Our decision is she would have been dismissed had she still been a serving officer.
“We further order that her name be placed on the barred list.”
Supt Jane Wigmore, the force’s head of professional standards, said in a statement after the hearing: “The public rightly expects officers and staff to act with honesty and integrity and follow the laws they have taken an oath to uphold.
“When standards of behaviour do not meet the high thresholds we expect, a thorough investigation will always be carried out by professional standards and whenever appropriate, misconduct proceedings will be instigated.
“In this case, our investigation resulted in a gross misconduct hearing held in public in front of a panel. This panel is always led by a legally qualified chair, who is independent from policing.”
Words: Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter
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