News Walthamstow

Walthamstow woman loses Met Police court challenge over sexual misconduct complaint

Kristina O’Connor had argued that the Met had insufficently dealt with an officer who sexually harrassed her

Kristina O’ Connor, Credit: Hodge Jones & Allen

A Walthamstow woman has failed in her bid to challenge the Metropolitan Police’s handling of her complaint about the conduct of a former top cop who sexually harrassed her.

In a ruling this month (17th November), the High Court dismissed Kristina O’Connor’s claim that the Met Police’s investigation into her complaints was insufficient.

The case stems from 2011, when Kristina reported an assault by a group of young men at Kentish Town Police Station.

James Mason, then a detective sergeant, made sexually inappropriate advances to Kristina both in person and over email and suggested that rejecting him would be “frowned upon”.

In October 2020, Kristina made a formal complaint to the Met Police about James’ conduct and in 2021, a police misconduct panel found him guilty of eight breaches of behaviour standards, amounting to gross misconduct. James received a written warning, but was allowed to remain in post and keep his rank as detective chief inspector. He resigned in October 2022.

A further hearing on 20th October was triggered after a complaint by a colleague of James about his behaviour was brought to Kristina’s attention. It emerged during the hearing that this complaint, and a further allegation about his conduct was already known to the Metropolitan Police but was not disclosed in prior judicial review proceedings.

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Kristina issued her claim against the Met Police’s handling of her complaint in January 2022, and the judicial review was heard over two days at the High Court in May 2023. Kristina had argued that the investigation into James’ conduct was unlawful as it, among other alleged failings, did not unearth evidence showing he had behaved in a predatory manner. She also challenged the decision not to dismiss James.

In his decision, Mr Justice Swift dismissed the application for judicial review. He found the steps taken in the investigation were reasonable and appropriate, and additionally ruled it did not matter whether it could have been conducted differently.

Justice Swift also concluded that a misconduct panel has discretion to impose a penalty as they see fit, providing the reasons set out are sufficient to support their decision.

Responding to the decision, Kristina said: “This has been a frustrating process and it is not the outcome I was hoping for but I want to keep fighting for justice for women. I am so grateful for the continued support of Nancy Collins, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Fiona Murphy KC.”

Nancy Collins, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, said: “It is very disappointing that the High Court has dismissed Kristina O’Connor’s challenge to the police disciplinary process. Kristina has been courageous in bringing public attention and legal scrutiny to the shocking and pervasive issue of police- perpetrated harassment of women. Without the bravery of Kristina (and the officer who came forward to support her claim) such harassment and the culture that permits it will continue unchecked.”

Kristina said she will seek permission to appeal the judgement.

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