A drink-driving police officer has been sacked from her force after she attended a house party during lockdown where she ‘learned of sex abuse claims against a relative’ and then crashed her car.
Pc Tasia Stephens, 24, was also placed on the barred list preventing her from working elsewhere in the profession after her actions were said to have the potential to undermine confidence in the police.
On Tuesday, a misconduct panel in Pencoed, Bridgend, told the South Wales Police officer she had chosen to ignore lockdown restrictions in place at a time when adhering to them was ‘nationally important’ and while she was still serving her probation period.
South Wales Police officer Tasia Stephens, 24, (pictured) crashed her car into a building after leaving a lockdown-breaching party at her aunt’s house in April last year
Pc Stephens’ representative had argued she had been ‘distressed’ after recently dealing with her first sudden death while on duty.
They said she visited her aunt’s home on the evening of Saturday April 25 last year to seek help processing it.
While she was there she was told of historic sexual allegations against a family member.
But misconduct panel chair Susan Ridge said: ‘We are satisfied the impact of these issues was not a factor on the night.
‘More likely than not you wanted company, took a bottle of wine to a relative’s house, drank alcohol there, then chose to drive.’
The hearing was told Pc Stephens walked home from the four-person party in Conway Road, Treorchy, South Wales, at around midnight to her own home nearby where she then got in her car despite drinking earlier.
She was even stopped by two of her police colleagues, who were said to not have noticed she was over the limit, and carried on with her car journey despite being reminded by one of the stay-at-home restrictions in place, the hearing heard.
PC Tasia Stephens, 24, was off-duty when she crashed her car into a house after attending the family party, which took place on a Saturday night in April during the first lockdown
Pc Stephens drove for just under two miles before crashing into the wall of a shop on Gelli Road, Pentre, which the hearing was told led to its owner suffering a financial loss.
Ms Ridge said: ‘You took the decision to get in your car and drive nearly two miles before you crashed into a shop wall.
‘Although you were visiting a relative, you did choose to ignore lockdown restrictions at a time when adhering to them was nationally important.’
Ms Ridge said the officer’s conviction for the incident at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court in July last year had undermined confidence in policing.
She added that her decision to drive showed she gave ‘no other thought to others while driving when unfit due to alcohol’.
Despite acknowledging Pc Stephens had shown ‘genuine remorse’, Ms Ridge added: ‘We’ve concluded that your conduct, taken as a whole, is so serious that nothing less than dismissal is needed to maintain public confidence.’
At the time of the incident, the entire UK was under strict stay-at-home rules, with people in Wales banned from meeting either indoors or outdoors with people they did not live with.
Case presenter Barney Branston had told the hearing on Monday that Pc Stephens attended the house party contrary to coronavirus restrictions and despite her having an ‘expectation to enforce the law and take action against members of the public who break them’.
Mr Branston also said Pc Stephens ‘took the extraordinary decision to drive after she knew she’d been drinking’ and gave ‘no thought to other road users’.
Members of the public who heard the sound of the crash alerted police who found Pc Stephens ‘extremely upset, saying she wanted to kill herself’ and made reference to the crime said to have been committed by a family member.
The misconduct hearing heard yesterday that PC Stephens had just learned about sexual abuse claims against a relative before she left the party
Pc Stephens failed a roadside breath test, and was taken to a police station where she was found to have 90 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, with the legal limit to drive being 35mg of alcohol.
On July 10 last year she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and banned from driving for 15 months.
Pc Stephens told the misconduct hearing she accepted attending the house party, driving when unfit, and being convicted in court.
She also accepted each of the allegations amounts to discreditable conduct, and also amounted to gross misconduct, with the panel later reaching the same conclusion.
Pc Stephens was also placed on the police barred list, which will prevent her from joining a police force again, but has the right to appeal.