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Police officer sacked after throwing a ‘sickie’ to go to Royal Ascot

A police officer has been dismissed by a disciplinary panel after being spotted watching horse racing at Royal Ascot when he had called in sick.

PC Jonathan Adams told his bosses at Gloucestershire Constabulary he was too ill to work on 17 June 2016 because he was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Senior officers later saw Adams on Channel 4’s live coverage of the races.

After a disciplinary panel investigated two other sick days the junior officer had taken, it discovered that he had gone to horse racing events on these occasions too. According to The Sun, a number plate check revealed that he was at Nottingham racecourse on 30 September 2015 after complaining of diarrhoea, and at the same course again after calling in sick with a migraine on 6 April 2016.

When asked about these sick days, Adams said racing was “therapeutic” to him and a “coping mechanism” to help him deal with work-related stress. Richard Shepherd, who defended the police officer, claimed that Adams watched racing to alleviate his IBS and migraines.

Shepherd also alleged that the Gloucestershire Constabulary did not have a “modern” attitude towards wellbeing or mental health and added that Adams was a man of “impeccable character” who was “desperate to please” his seniors.

If Adams had chosen to go “walking, sailing or for a spa day”, it would not have raised eyebrows in the same manner as horse racing, Shepherd argued.

But speaking at the hearing, detective sergeant Lisa Thorley said she did not believe someone could attend racing on three separate occasions to alleviate stress or stress-related sickness. “I think officers off with stress would think it insulting to say it can be treated by one day at the races,” she said.

Stephen Morley, a lawyer for Gloucestershire Constabulary, said Adams had already been refused annual leave for the week of Royal Ascot. He claimed the officer had instead opted to call in sick and went “on a jolly” to watch the event. “Our position is he wasn’t sick at all, he was throwing a ‘sickie’ to go horse racing,” he said. 

Morley added that there was an “inconsistency” in Adams’ reasons for being off sick from work. “You may think that a public servant off sick from work with a sore throat, bunged up and freezing should be at home resting to make sure he is fit for work,” The Mirror reported him as saying. “There is no dispute that Adams was genuinely unwell and that he was suffering from general abdominal problems that would have been related to stress from work, or family issues or both. The [television] clip suggests the officer was well enough to come to work. He was well enough to be in the Royal Enclosure, jumping around.”

The panel concluded that the police officer was not as sick as he claimed and should be sacked. Alex Lock, chair of the panel, said: “It is important that police officers are honest and that public confidence should be upheld. In the circumstances, we conclude that dismissal without notice is appropriate in order to maintain public confidence in the force.”

Added: 24-07-2017

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