Ex-police officer who engaged in sexual acts on duty jailed for ‘appalling’ abuse of power

A former police officer who admitted misconduct charges after engaging in sexual acts while on duty has been jailed for 20 months.

Ex-police constable Shaun Wheeler (pictured), aged 56, was sentenced on Tuesday at Nottingham Crown Court, having previously pleaded guilty to two counts of misconduct in public office relating to two women he met through his duties.

In a statement confirming details of Wheeler’s offending, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said its investigation established that a woman who was interviewed by the constable on suspicion of an offence in January 2019 had begun receiving flirtatious messages from him.

The statement added that one of the woman’s friends informed police about the exchanges, which led to the IOPC starting an investigation in February 2019.

The IOPC said: “We looked at allegations that the officer communicated with a number of women who were in vulnerable situations, with a view to commencing an inappropriate relationship with them; and that he had posted sexual or offensive social media messages which could bring policing into disrepute.

“Phone analysis showed that he had exchanged more than 3,000 messages with a woman he met after she reported she was being harassed by an abusive ex-partner.

“They had an intimate relationship which included having sex when Pc Wheeler went to her home address while on duty to take a statement.

“Further sexual contact took place when the officer went back to take a vulnerability statement from the woman.”

Wheeler’s relationship with the woman continued for several weeks, during which she disclosed she was having suicidal thoughts.

The officer subsequently sent her explicit videos and pictures of himself, the IOPC said.

In a statement presented to the court about the impact of this on her life, the woman said: “I used to feel safe seeing a police officer but I never think that now.

“He used me for his own sexual gain when he should have been in a role protecting people.

“I see various news articles around police officers abusing their position and power, and it makes me sick to think I am one of those victims.

“I was a victim, I was taken advantage of and now all I am left with are these emotional scars.

“I only hope that this investigation raises awareness to other people in my situation and encourages them to come forward and speak out.”

Pc Wheeler was suspended following the allegations and he resigned in December 2019, after a referral was made to the IOPC that he had sent more sexualised messages to a vulnerable female who was attending a mental health where he volunteered.

Commenting on the inquiry, IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said: “This appalling case involved the most serious abuse of power for sexual gain by then Pc Wheeler.

“Police policy states that personnel who display sexualised behaviour towards a member of the public who they have come into contact with through work, undermine the profession, breach trust, exploit a power imbalance, act unprofessionally and potentially commit a criminal act.

“A further aggravating feature is that the evidence we gathered showed that this officer clearly knew that what he was doing was wrong and tried to cover up his activities by suggesting to some of the women he contacted, that they should switch to using a more private social media messaging platform.

“There is no place in policing for such behaviour and Shaun Wheeler has also now paid a high price by losing his liberty.”

Wheeler, of Coleridge Gardens, Sleaford, admitted two charges of wilful misconduct spanning July 2017 to March 2018 and from January 2019 to March 2019.

Lincolnshire Police’s Deputy Chief Constable, Julia Debenham, said of the officer, who was based in Boston: “Shaun Wheeler’s actions go against everything the police service stands for.

“He is a disgrace to the uniform. His behaviour undermines the great work that hundreds of colleagues do every day as they work hard to keep people safe and do so with integrity and professionalism – the exact opposite of what Shaun Wheeler has done.

“I’m pleased that the court has recognised his flagrant abuse of power and imposed the sentence it has.

“We are grateful to everyone who came forward to assist in the investigation because it takes great strength and courage. Without their evidence this case may not have had the outcome it has.”

The senior officer added that the force had invested heavily in prevention, intelligence gathering and education of staff about those who abuse their position for a sexual purpose.

She added: “We actively encourage staff to report any concerns in person, to Crimestoppers or by using our in-force confidential reporting system.

“Similarly, we encourage any members of the public to contact us if they think an officer’s behaviour isn’t up to the high standards expected of them. Our focus on victims and preventing people from becoming victims, regardless of who the perpetrator may be, remains at the heart of all we do.”

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