A police misconduct panel was held in respect of British Transport Police (BTP) officer, PC Imran Aftab (the Officer). The panel found the officer guilty of gross misconduct but allowed him to keep his job. BTP successfully challenged the decision by way of judicial review - R (on the application of the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police) v Police Misconduct Panel and others [2023] EWHC 589 (Admin).

In this insight, we look at why the actions of the BTP and the decision of the Court are important for police misconduct proceedings.

The facts

BTP’s Professional Standards Department and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated the Officer in respect of his conduct on 15 April 2020, following a complaint by a female member of the public.

Following the investigation, the Officer appeared at a public misconduct hearing on 19 May 2021. The allegation of misconduct related to the off-duty conduct of the Officer, namely that he had approached a female, before showing his police warrant card, thereby attempting to abuse his position for a sexual purpose.

Evidence was heard at the hearing that, on 15 April 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdown, the Officer had approached a lone female, who he did not know. He parked his car alongside her and left the engine running before speaking with her. During the course of the conversation, the Officer told the female that “she looked too curvy to be Asian”. The female tried to rebut any advances of the Officer, informing him that she was “taken” and that she would be meeting someone. The female texted her friend saying: “Help me.”

The Officer showed the female his warrant card to show that he was a police officer. He remained in close proximity to her before showing her photographs on his phone. He asked the female for her mobile number and called it whilst still in her presence to check he had been provided with the correct number. Before leaving, he then asked her for a hug, which was in breach of lockdown guidelines. As she walked away, the Officer drove his car at slow speed and waved at her. That evening he sent her a message in which he called her “babe”.

A Police Misconduct Panel found that the Officer had used his warrant card to try to impress the female, that he made a remark which was sexual and unwanted in nature and that he asked the female for a hug. The Panel considered that the Officer had breached all five Standards of Professional Behaviour alleged, namely Honesty and Integrity, Authority, Respect and Courtesy, Equality and Diversity, Duties and Responsibilities and Discreditable Conduct. The Panel found that the Officer’s conduct amounted to gross misconduct, but imposed an outcome of a final written warning.

The challenge

BTP were not satisfied with the sanction and applied for permission to judicially review the decision of the Panel, which was granted. BTP were supported by the IOPC.

BTP claimed that the only rational outcome was dismissal and that the Panel had failed to consider its factual findings from the perspective of those whose confidence in the police is most eroded by the officer’s conduct, namely lone women. As such, they failed to understand or grasp the seriousness and significance of this conduct.

The decision

Charles Bagot KC, sitting as Deputy High Court Judge, agreed with BTP. The Judge found that the Panel’s sanction was irrational. As a result, he quashed the decision and imposed the sanction of dismissal without notice.

The Judge also held that the Panel had failed to follow the structured approach when assessing which sanction to impose, as outlined within the College of Policing Guidance on outcomes in police misconduct proceedings (the Guidance).


The decision of both BTP to launch a challenge, and thereafter the decision of the Judge, are important for police misconduct proceedings.

It highlights the requirement for Panels to follow the structured approach within the Guidance. This is not the first case to highlight this requirement but serves as an important reminder.

Also of significance is the determination that the conduct of the Officer should be properly characterised as an abuse of position for a sexual purpose. Such conduct clearly has no place in policing. This is clear within the Code of Ethics but is supported by the Guidance. The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s National Strategy 2017 has also detailed that such behaviour represents a fundamental betrayal of the public and the values for which the police service stands and this is supported by the IOPC’s ‘Learning the lessons’ relating to ‘Abuse of position for a sexual purpose’ and the College of Policing’s guidance ‘Maintaining a professional boundary between police and members of the public’. All contain the key message that such behaviour has no place in policing.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary’s report ‘An inspection of vetting, misconduct and misogyny in the police service’ (published 2 November 2022) referred to approaches in the past that have inadequately dealt with abuse of position for a sexual purpose and the requirement for more consistent standards. This report followed the murder of Sarah Everard by a then serving Metropolitan Police officer.

Whilst the BTP Officer’s conduct pre-dated the report and could not be equated in seriousness, it clearly highlights how corrosive such behaviour is and how seriously such conduct should be considered. The Judge referenced that BTP were correct to observe that these proceedings capture a real and present national concern about male police officers’ conduct towards lone women. The Officer had suggested that he was a victim of the times we are now living in. However, the Judge made it clear that the case had nothing to do with scapegoating and that it was the facts of the case which made such conduct incompatible with remaining in the police service.

Bringing a judicial review of a decision of a Panel can be costly and challenging. However, it is clear that in this case it was the correct decision, in order to ensure that public confidence was maintained, that high standards were upheld and that the public was protected.

How Capsticks can help

Capsticks has significant experience in assisting police forces. We can offer police forces advice and guidance in respect of all aspects of police misconduct proceedings. We also represent police forces at police misconduct proceedings.

For further information on how we might assist, please contact Paul McFarlane, Anna Semprini, Louise Ravenscroft or Liz Briggs.