A police sergeant who had sex with a pub landlady he met whilst on duty and sent to messages to an 18-year-old barmaid has been sacked.
PS Ricki Vaughan was dismissed without notice after a Hertfordshire Constabulary for gross misconduct at a hearing held on September 21, which also found that he gave his less senior constable half a day off work for providing him with her phone number.
PS Vaughan had worked in the force’s Incident Response Team and the community safety unit in Hatfield and served Hertfordshire.
The hearing also heard that PS Vaughan would regularly stand by the window of the office and pass comment on women walking by.
PS Vaughan, 39 at the time, offered his junior half a day off work if he could provide a phone number for an 18-year-old barmaid, before then sending “deplorably inappropriate messages” to the teenager.
The full decision has now been published online.
The incident happened in October 2019, after PS Vaughan and a constable, referred to PC A, visited a Welwyn pub after work.
The barmaid, referred to as Ms C, already knew PC A, and spoke to the officers as the two visited the pub she worked in.
She expressed an interest in moving careers to join the police and asked to spend time in the Force Control Room. While PS Vaughan said that the department was highly pressurized, he was about to advertise for a different position in his own department.
After leaving the pub, PS Vaughan and PC A messaged, with the sergeant saying: “Dude get my number to that bird and you can have a half day Friday (winking face emoji).”
The panel concluded he abused his authority as a result of the messages.
Another text to PC A said: “Do the right thing and say to her shall I give you his number so you can sort. I’ll do the rest (laughing tongue out emoji) Or I’ll tell your wife your texting [sic] an 18yo (Guilty face emoji).”
After being given her number, he messaged PC A: “Odds on me shagging her” and “It’s good to ‘inject’ enthusiasm. I should have done it with you to be fair”.
PS Vaughan claimed that the messages, which were first sent at 6.13pm, was a result of becoming drunk after having more to drink at home – something the panel rejected, and they noted their conclusion would not have differed regardless.
PS Vaughan claimed that an agreement for the half-day had already been made before the texts were sent, the time off was only confirmed the following day and the panel disputed the explanation.
As PS Vaughan and Ms C messaged, the sergeant also sent messages to PC A about having sex with the 18-year-old. PS Vaughan said his texts to Ms C should be seen as his true intentions, while texts to PC A were inappropriate banter.
While proposing to meet with Ms C, PS Vaughan suggested meeting for a chat and messaged her: “I can either come to you or you to me, just confirm…” which the panel said had an immediate and obvious connotation of meeting at either person’s home.
This was denied by PS Vaughan during his evidence, however the panel said it was “at best” left deliberately ambiguous to gauge Ms C’s interest to meet on a more social footing.
The decision said: “They are unambiguously sexual, crude and cynical. The language used is objectively offensive and lewd.
“The Panel also concludes on the balance of probabilities that the messages reveal what the Panel has found to be at worst a ruse to establish, or at best a plan to test the waters for, a sexual relationship with Ms C, taking advantage of her innocent interest in work experience with a view to moving into police work.
“These are deplorably inappropriate messages both for their language and content and for what they reveal about PS Vaughan’s intentions.”
The panel ruled on a separate charge that PS Vaughan attempted to form a relationship with Ms C, and his interest was sexual and he didn’t report this attempt to form the relationship to his line manager. The fact that this did not come to anything did not have a material effect on the panel’s conclusions.
They said it had breached standards in relation to Honest and Integrity; Authority, Respect and Courtesy; Orders and Instructions; and Discreditable Conduct.
The panel also heard a colleague describe PS Vaughan as “sad, lonely and desperate” following the breakdown of his long-term relationship with someone else within the police. He accused his ex-partner of sleeping with his football team in front of her colleagues, which the panel also deemed a breach of standards.
Despite the behaviour petering out, the panel noted the comments were made in front of junior members of his team, who look to him as a role model.
PS Vaughan also admitted he would regularly stand by the window and pass comment of a sexual nature about females he could see passing by, although he said this was only limited to staff members as part of ‘matchmaking’ between officers.
Evidence during the hearing suggested this was daily, with the nature of his comments ranged from “she’s nice” to “I know what I would like to do to her”.
The panel were also concerned that no one appeared to have called PS Vaughan out on this behaviour, and said that this behaviour was “wholly unacceptable” and even if it hadn’t been picked up upon, PS Vaughan should have been well aware of this himself.
The panel also heard that PS Vaughan attempted to form relationships with two other women – Ms D and Ms F – who worked at partner authorities, without reporting these to his line manager. There was also a relationship with Ms E, the manager of a Welwyn pub where PS Vaughan had licensing responsibilities.
PS Vaughan denied impropriety in these relationships, but the panel criticised a “lack of insight” into the potential conflicts of interest.
The panel also criticised PS Vaughan for mimicking PC A’s Irish accent, the Sergeant had dismissed this as banter but the panel said that it was “wholly inappropriate” behaviour as his supervisor.
In mitigation, PS Vaughan’s counsel urged the panel to consider the positive findings they found in his management of others, and some colleagues provided positive character references for the officer supporting the view of PS Vaughan has a “hard working, well-organised officer”.
However, the panel said that a final written warning would not be appropriate, and only a dismissal without notice would be reasonable.
They added while he expressed regret or acknowledgement that some of his behaviour – including the messages about Ms C – were inappropriate, “the Panel did not see any evidence of genuine reflection or humility on PS Vaughan’s part”.
The panel concluded: “This is a case where PS Vaughan has, amongst much else we have found proven, made offensive, lewd and degrading remarks about a member of the public in circumstances where she was looking to him as a potential access point for a career change into policing work.
“The maintenance of public confidence and respect relies on self-awareness and sound judgement on the part of police officers and, fundamentally, on their “doing the right thing in the right way” per the Code of Ethics.
“The public can have no confidence in an organisation that would ignore these problems and retain the services of such an officer.”