Treatment of Polegate police officer suspended for two years after nightclub brawl 'unacceptable'

The investigation into a police officer following a brawl at an Eastbourne nightclub was 'unacceptable', it is claimed.

Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 11:31 am
PC Paul Bridger (right) had been suspended from duty for more than two years following the incident at Maxims in Eastbourne. Picture: Google Streetview

PC Paul Bridger had been suspended for more than two years following the 2017 incident at Maxims but was finally cleared yesterday.

This delay came despite him being found not guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm at a Crown Court nearly a year ago.

Following the hearing PC Bridger's lawyer said that the officer was 'relieved' that the long process was over.

PC Bridger - who used to be based at Lewes - will now await a decision from senior police chiefs about if and when he can return to work.

'Substantial impact on PC Bridger's life, health and career'

Mark Cullern, health, safety and welfare lead at the Sussex Police Federation, criticised the investigation into PC Bridger.

He said: "PC Bridger has been subjected to a lengthy investigation which has had a substantial impact on his life, health and career. A managed return to work process will now need to be implemented with his welfare being the number one priority.

"The current misconduct procedures are clearly not fit for purpose and are being abused up and down the country.

"There are far too many officers appearing in Gross Misconduct Hearings which should be dealt with by other means, including performance management.

"Having the risk of dismissal from your employment hanging over you for two and a half years is completely unacceptable in any industry.

"Even if a police officer is not dismissed at a hearing, the mental trauma can cause permanent damage which can lead to the removal of another constable from the streets.

"We look forward to receiving the complete findings from the panel and assisting PC Bridger with his return to full duties."

Acquitted in May 2018, suspended for nearly 12 months afterwards

PC Bridger was acquitted at Crown Court in May last year. He had been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

His friend and colleague PC Rob Rangeley was convicted of assault and received a suspended sentence.

However PC Bridger remained suspended from duty for nearly a year after the event.

Police awaiting a full explanation from the panel

Superintendent Steve Boniface, head of Professional Standards Department at Sussex Police, said: “We await the full rational of the panel, which we will fully consider along with the officer’s reinstatement from suspension.”