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Former officer sentenced for misconduct in a public office

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There is 1 related update to this story

A former police officer has been jailed after pleading guilty to three counts of misconduct in a public office.

Lewis Wood admitted to sharing images and videos with family and friends relating to a number of incidents he attended while a serving officer for Avon and Somerset Police.

Assistant Chief Constable Joanne Hall said Wood’s actions were ‘horrific’ and reiterated a public apology to those involved for the distress caused.

Wood’s employment with Avon and Somerset Police ended in 2021. He has no role in policing anymore.

The 43-year-old former PC sent WhatsApp messages to family and friends about incidents he attended between December 2018 and August 2020.

The images he shared included those showing the body of 39-year-old Paul Wells, who was killed in a homicide incident in Highbridge in 2020, Exeter Crown Court was told today (Friday 19 April).

For evidential purposes, Wood lawfully and in accordance with force procedure recorded body-worn video footage and took still images on his work mobile phone at that particular crime scene in June 2020. However, in August 2020, he used his personal phone to illegally share some of the legitimate material he had captured with family and friends.

ACC Hall said: “Lewis Wood’s horrific actions will rightly shock and disgust members of the public, who place their trust with the police, as well as his former colleagues.

“It has meant the devastated family of Paul Wells have had to endure further pain.

“We are truly sorry for what has happened. We appreciate no words we can offer can make up for the distress this will have unquestionably caused them.

“From the moment these offences were discovered we have taken them extremely seriously and have sought to bring Wood to account believing his actions were not just misconduct, but indeed criminal and warranted the most robust action possible.

“There is absolutely no place for such criminal misconduct in policing, and we are determined to relentless root out anyone who wilfully disregards that.

“Failure to tackle poor conduct or drive positive cultural change would be to let down the public, plus the overwhelming majority of people serving in Avon and Somerset who are dedicated professionals who work every day to make their communities safer.”

In mitigation, the court was told Wood’s motivation for sharing them was to demonstrate to people he knew and trusted what he was having to regularly face, while struggling with his own wellbeing.

It was also said he was remorseful and sorry for his actions.

Wood, from Bridgwater, received a 28-month prison sentence.

Judge James Adkin said the number of incidents showed this was a habit of Wood and ‘not a one-off’ and recognised the significant impact this had had on the victims. He said while there may have been occasions Wood was seeking support in sharing details of incidents with family and friends, at others he was just seeking personal validation.

He said Wood’s actions in relation to sharing images of Mr Wells were ‘abhorrent’, the impact of which was ‘grossly distressing’ and added to the family’s ‘anguish’.

Wood’s conviction came following a full police investigation, working with the Crown Prosecution Service. A referral was made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct who decided this was suitable for investigation through the Counter Corruption Unit of our Professional Standards Department.

ACC Hall continued: “Every day, frontline officers especially, can be faced with unspeakably difficult and traumatic situations, dealing with incidents that thankfully few people ever would otherwise encounter.

“It is important we provide support to our employees, because policing is not a job where you can always go home at the end of the day and easily forget about what you have witnessed.

“These offences were committed several years ago and we have recognised as an organisation that being trauma-informed is one of our priorities and we have taken steps to improve access to support services that any officer may need.

“This in no way though should detract from what Lewis Wood did.

“The way he chose to handle this was it was illegal, wholly unprofessional and has caused immense pain, and he has rightly now been sentenced for his crimes.”

Alyson Harris, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS South West, said: “All police officers must act in a manner that is trustworthy, responsible and upstanding. Wood fell woefully short of these expectations.

“The sharing of classified information in itself is a crime, but the fact this material included images of a victim added to the seriousness of his misconduct and has been immensely distressing for the family. Our thoughts must remain with them at this time.

“After collaborative work from the CPS and Avon and Somerset Police, Wood was left with no option but to plead guilty and now faces the consequences of his actions.”