Ex-chief inspector ‘took advantage of domestic abuse victim’, disciplinary hearing told

A former police chief inspector took advantage of a “potentially vulnerable” victim of domestic abuse by having a sexual relationship with her, a disciplinary hearing has been told.

Rob Leet (pictured) quit Sussex Police in March, a month before he was due to face allegations of gross misconduct.

He denies accusations that he developed an inappropriate relationship with a victim of crime while he was on duty as a serving officer.

Leet, a married father-of-four who joined the force in 1997, is also alleged to have had sexual encounters with a colleague, Sergeant Sarah Porter, while they were at work.

He did not attend a misconduct hearing in Lewes, East Sussex, on Monday, claiming investigations into his behaviour represented an abuse of process.

Panel chairwoman Victoria Goodfellow rejected his application for the proceedings to be stayed and the public hearing continued in his absence.

Porter was present at the hearing.

Amy Clarke, representing Sussex Police, said that in March 2017 a woman named as Miss A contacted the force after seeing national media coverage of allegations against Leet and Porter.

Miss A claimed that Leet had an inappropriate relationship with her between November 2014 and January 2016 after they met at a domestic abuse action group which he chaired as a district commander in Lewes.

Ms Clarke said what began as a friendship developed into a “sexual relationship which went on for some time”.

The pair met up while he was on duty, including at Miss A’s home, and exchanged messages of an “explicit sexual nature”, the hearing was told.

Ms Clarke said: “Miss A is firmly of the belief that she was, in effect, taken advantage of by Mr Leet.

“There is also a clear gulf in power there that it should have been abundantly clear to Mr Leet that there was a potential vulnerability there that should not have been exploited.”

Ms Clarke also rejected alleged attempts by Leet to “minimise” the significance of the contact with Miss A and her vulnerability.

The hearing was told that Leet and Porter both deny having sex on duty between August 2015 and February 2017.

Ms Clarke said the pair exchanged more than 700 messages which suggested their relationship was sexual.

They included hidden text in emails and the use of acronyms “to describe what is inferred to have been messages of a graphic sexual nature”.

The pair, who admit having had regular contact, allegedly tried to hide their meetings from colleagues and discussed using different phones.

“There is absolutely no evidence of any professional reason why such a close relationship had developed,” Miss Clarke said.

“It’s absolutely abundantly clear that there was an intimate sexual relationship happening between these two individuals.”

Ms Clarke said the allegation the pair had sex on duty was a particularly aggravating feature when they should have been “serving the community”.

“They were putting a personal sexual relationship first and they were using their time on duty to conduct something that was utterly inappropriate,” she said.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) previously investigated Leet and Porter and found they had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

The hearing was told that Leet initially answered investigators’ questions but then made no comment on the allegations.

Mr Stephen Chippeck, representing Porter, said she admitted kissing Leet but claimed this did not amount to sexual activity.

He said that at the time of the allegations she faced “a number of life difficulties” and was a “vulnerable person”.

Mr Chippeck said Porter’s relationship with Leet was a “fantasy” and he had been a “shoulder to cry on”.

Porter, who has a daughter with her former husband, another police officer, also denies failing to attend a fatal crash on July 3 2017, neglecting her duties as the senior investigating officer.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Sussex Police.