AMBER PEAT HEARING FULL REPORT: Officer’s ‘betrayal’ over text messages led to her sacking, tribunal hears

A police officer who told a friend via text message about the discovery of Amber Peat’s body before details were made public has been fired from the force.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 7th October 2015, 3:30 pm
Amber Peat, body found on Westfield Lane, Mansfield.
Amber Peat, body found on Westfield Lane, Mansfield.

PC Samantha Goodwin’s actions were described as a ‘fundamental betrayal’ during a misconduct hearing at Nottinghamshire Police headquarters today, Wednesday, October 7.

The officer was not present at the hearing which lasted more than three hours and was chaired by Chief Constable Chris Eyre.

However, had PC Goodwin faced the allegation surrounding the Amber Peat case only, in which the 13-year-old went missing from her Mansfield home and was found hanged in a bush three days later, Chf Con Eyre would have been given a final written warning.

But four other allegations were put to her dating back to 2012, including using racist language in text messages to an acquaintance, disclosing information to a colleague about a person they stopped and both knew, derogatory personal comments about victims of crime and sending an image of a vulnerable victim taken from a police interview and making comments about them.

Chf Con Eyre said she would have been dismissed on each of these four allegations.

Regarding the Amber Peat texts, the hearing was told that she sent one text before the information surrounding her death on Westfield Lane was made public.

The texts came to light after a complaint was made about the officer.

Although Amber’s name was not used during the hearing, it was confirmed to the Chad recently by Amber’s father, Adrian Cook, who had been told by officers it related to the search for the teenager.

However, David Ring, the force’s legal representative, described an inquiry with ‘substantial press interest and was a matter of high priority for a missing teenager who was found deceased’.

He said the information PC Goodwin disclosed was confidential and sent to a third-party acquaintance about the discovery of a body and the manner in which the young girl died.

In one text she sent, she wrote: “That’s not knowledge yet, keep quiet.”

Mr Ring added: “There was nothing derogatory in those comments, but this was a case of the utmost importance.

“The emotions of the family can’t be underestimated or understated.

“That displays a profound lack of respect.”

With the case of Amber Peat attracting such huge media interest, he referred to the possibility of the details in the text messages being leaked to the press by saying: “It’s fortunate it did not happen, but it was more by chance than design.”

Malcolm Spencer, the police federation representative, spoke on PC Goodwin’s behalf and said the reason for her not attending the hearing was because of a recent harassment case involving the officer that was dealt with by Derbyshire Police.

She also declined to appear via videolink for the findings of the hearing.

Mr Spencer argued that although she admitted all five misconduct allegations, she was never dishonest about what she had done and complied with the investigation.

He said: “There’s no dishonesty intended by this officer.

“There’s no suggestion whatsoever that she acted dishonestly, she has never tried to hide the fact.

“Only in the cold light of day has it become apparent how abhorrent they (the texts) are.”

He said that she ‘expressed sadness and remorse’ when she looked back at what she did. He said that she was in an ‘emotional state’, had been asked to assist a family liaison officer but had no previous experience or training, and was caught up in a ‘maelstrom of what was taking place’.

But Chf Con Eyre, said it was proven that she had acted dishonestly and without integrity.

He added: “Clearly she could not be trusted with the most sensitive and personal information.

“In my view, breaching that trust is a fundamental betrayal that amounts to the breaching of honesty and integrity.”

However, he did say that some of the comments made, which included describing the situation as ‘heartbreaking’, were respectful but had formed part of a pattern of misconduct.