Norfolk policeman accused of unfairly issuing cautions
Ben KendallA Norfolk police constable has been suspended from duty and faces criminal charges over allegations he unfairly issued cautions and warnings to members of the public.Ben Kendall
A Norfolk police constable has been suspended from duty and faces criminal charges over allegations he unfairly issued cautions and warnings to members of the public.
Prosecutor William Carter told Norwich Crown Court that the warnings were counted in crime statistics and could be used to judge an officer's performance. He said targets were "one aspect" of the case, adding that Dominic de Souza, from Attleborough, had excellent statistics".
De Souza appeared in court yesterday where he denied 13 counts of misconduct in public office. The charges, dating between 2007 and 2008, relate to claims he incorrectly issued cannabis warnings and cautions for possession of offensive weapons to teenagers in the Wymondham area.
In many of the cases he is said to have altered dates of birth so that warnings, intended for adults, could be given to under-18s. On one occasion he is accused of encouraging a youngster to forge his father's signature on an order that should only be issued under parental supervision.
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In the past, police forces have been accused of putting pressure on officers to issue cautions or penalty notices to innocent people in a bid to meet detection rate targets.
Cannabis warnings are treated as "sanction detections" - traditionally a key part of Home Office targets.
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Mr Carter said: "The prosecution alleges he misconducted himself in a number of different ways. One of them was dealing with individuals in the street who were carrying small quantities of drugs with cannabis warnings which they were ineligible for because of their age.
"A cannabis warning counts as a cleared-up offence and is entered into statistics as such."
De Souza had denied the accusations from "first to last" and claimed that any inaccurate information entered had been provided incorrectly by the individuals involved, the prosecutor said.
Last year, chiefs in Norfolk vehemently denied accusations they were putting pressure on rank and file officers to downgrade criminal damage offences in an attempt to cut crime figures.
A Norfolk police spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case but said: "The officer has been suspended from duty since this investigation began in October 2008 and will remain suspended until the conclusion of these proceedings."
The trial will last 10 days and is expected to take place in December.