Ex-detective who sent sexual texts to schoolgirl committed gross misconduct
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter
5th Dec 2022 | Local News
A decorated former Avon & Somerset Police detective who sent sexual texts to a 15-year-old girl has been barred from policing after he was found to have committed gross misconduct.
DC Scott Burton sent "inappropriate flattering sexual messages" about her physical appearance and invited the vulnerable youngster to join him upstairs to watch Netflix together, a misconduct hearing was told.
Chief Constable Sarah Crew, presiding over the hearing at force headquarters in Portishead on Monday, December 5, ruled that he would have been sacked without notice had he not already resigned last month.
She said DC Burton's actions caused "psychological harm and emotional distress" to the victim and her family, and that a serving officer committing a sexual offence against a child would "undermine public confidence" in the police service.
The father-of-two said he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time, having received three chief constable commendations over a 20-year career at Avon & Somerset, including one for his work investigating the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 and another following a terrorist arson attack at an Exeter synagogue in 2018, the hearing was told.
DC Burton, who was based in North Somerset and did not attend the hearing, said his judgement was "undeniably skewed" when he sent the texts, although he accepted this did not excuse his behaviour, the Chief Constable Crew heard.
The ex-officer appeared in court earlier this year, having been charged in March with sexual communication with a child.
He initially denied the allegation and the case was set for crown court trial in January but he later accepted responsibility and received a police caution and placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for two years in September.
Chief Constable Crew told the hearing: "Any criminal offence is serious when the perpetrator is a police officer, however, a sexual offence must be of the utmost gravity.
"Such offending involves a fundamental breach of the public's trust in police officers, and it brings the profession of policing into disrepute."
Barrister Hywel Jenkins, representing the force, said DC Burton sent a series of phone messages to the girl over a three-week period which became "more sexual".
He said the officer encouraged the girl to delete the messages but her mother found out and went to his house to challenge him over them in front of his wife.
"The mother explained she was concerned and wanted to safeguard other children," Mr Jenkins said.
Avon & Somerset Police Federation chairman Mark Loker, representing the officer, said he had sent the messages to the girl "naively" and to "boost her confidence".
Mr Loker said the messages about Netflix had been "taken out of context" and were "completely innocent" but DC Burton had acknowledged that he "overstepped the mark".
In a diatribe written by the former officer attacking the constabulary and Chief Constable Crew read out by Mr Loker at the ex-detective's request, he said he would not be attending because the hearing, which was originally set to be private, would now be held in public following a successful application by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
He said: "I am not a sexual predator, a deviant or some kind of paedophile – what I am is a family man, loving husband and devoted dad."
The former officer said he had apologised to the child for using "inappropriate terminology" but that the police caution showed this was at the lower end of the scale of seriousness.
Ex-DC Burton said he accepted the caution to "draw a line" under what happened and that doing so was "never for my benefit" but to protect his family and the youngster.
He said there was no evidence that he sought sexual gratification by sending the messages.
The former officer said he had been suffering from PTSD and recurring nightmares following the Manchester Arena atrocity and used alcohol for comfort as his mental health continued to deteriorate.
"I have been completely failed by this constabulary," he added.
Chief Constable Crew vehemently denied the ex-detective's claims that the constabulary had given him assurances he would be granted anonymity and privacy and also that she had been "fully prepared for me to resign" quietly instead of having a public misconduct hearing.
She said: "I would like to make it clear on public record that I participated in no such conversations with the former officer or any individuals acting on my behalf."
Head of professional standards Supt Jane Wigmore said afterwards: "During the court proceedings, this former officer admitted sending inappropriate and sexualised messages to a child.
"The contact with this child was not connected with his policing role.
"Abhorrent and abusive behaviour such as this is completely incompatible with a role in the police service.
"His actions have had a significant and lasting impact on the victim and their family, and we will ensure they have any support they may need.
"His actions have also impacted on his colleagues, who were unaware of his offending until an investigation began.
"Our work will continue to root out officers and staff who fail to comply with the high standards expected of them, and who through their attitudes, behaviours and actions, let down their colleagues and the public they took an oath to serve and protect."