Glossop policeman given final written warning over Facebook cyberbullying investigation

A Glossop policeman admitted two breaches of the code of conduct at a Derbyshire Police misconduct meeting on 1st May 2015 and was given a final written warning, the highest sanction that can be imposed on officers who breach standards without committing criminal offences. An investigation by Derbyshire Constabulary's Professional Standards Department found that the policeman lied to his superior officers about action he took after a complaint of hate crime on the Glossopdale Facebook group, and failed to properly investigate or the record the incident. 

 

Derbyshire Police declined to comment on the misconduct investigation, which revealed that, because of the disciplined officer's inaction, the number of obscene and hate related posts on the group had snowballed, and other officers had had to visit the administrators of the Glossopdale Facebook Group and instruct them to remove the illegal material. At the misconduct meeting the investigating officer said the policeman had shown a lack of interest in the matter from the start, failed to record the incident properly, failed to update the complainant, given inappropriate advice and lied to his superior officers about the action he had taken. The Glossop Gazette has taken the decision not to name the disciplined officer.

Since its creation in 2013 the Glossopdale Facebook Group has attracted hundreds of insulting and often illegal comments about one of the editors of the Glossop Gazette. One of the group's administrators is Neil Johnstone, standing as an independent candidate for Old Glossop in the HPBC election on 7th May*. We asked Mr Johnstone about an unsolicited message he had sent to a member of the group who had complained about the expression "A Glossop destroying Gypsy loving mong". Mr Johnstone's message read "Hi Alan, I am one of the admin on this site. Could you please rephrase your comment about DB, although he is a nasty little man in my opinion. Your comment could cause offence to people with Downs or from a travelling background, don't like to censor stuff on this page but equally we need to be a bit sensitive to peope with disabilities and ethnic minorities. So please think of other insults for DB that do not involve comparing him to groups of people who probably don't want to be thought of as being like him, cheers Neil".

The recipient of the message had not made the comment, and was so horrified with the communication he received from Mr Johnstone that he passed it to the Glossop Gazette. The comment was not removed and still accessible as of 6th May. We asked Mr Johnstone if his message implied that personal attacks were encouraged on the group. He replied "I believe that your attempt to use a piece of correspondence that the writer wrote in confidence to another individual without the author's permission is in breach of the IPSO Editor's Code of Practise clause 3 and I have raised a grievance with IPSO accordingly. I would have preferred to deal with this matter amicably and offered you an opportunity to do so, which you rejected so I feel I have no option but to make a complaint of your harassment and bullying tactics." In later correspondence he said "I trust you can prove it is actually my statement and that the item is about you?".

Yes we can. Cyberbullying is an unpleasant phenomenon and sets a very poor example to young people. If Mr Johnstone thinks that cyberbullying is ok and wants to encourage it on Facebook, that is his prerogative.

 

* Full list of candidates for HPBC election, Old Glossop Ward

Moira Cunningham (Labour)
Jamie Douglas (Conservative)
Paul Francis Hardy (Conservative)
Neil Johnstone (independent)
Margo McKenna (Green)
Garry Lawrence Parvin (Labour)
Michael Graham Perry (UKIP)
Christopher John Webster (independent)

 

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