A former police officer who admitted misconduct after having sex while on duty has been jailed for 20 months.
Former constable Shaun Wheeler, aged 56, was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday after previously pleading guilty to two counts of misconduct in a public office in relation to two women he met while on duty.
In a statement confirming the details of Wheeler's offence, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said its investigation found that a woman interviewed by the constable as a suspected offender in January 2019 had started 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 launching an investigation in February 2019.
The IOPC said: “We have investigated allegations that the officer contacted a number of women who were in vulnerable situations with the intention of initiating an inappropriate relationship with them. and that he had posted sexual or offensive messages on social media which could bring the police into disrepute.
“Telephone analysis showed he had exchanged more than 3,000 messages with a woman he met after she reported being harassed by a violent ex-partner.
“They were having an intimate relationship which included sex when Pc Wheeler went to her home address while on duty to take a statement.
“Further intercourse took place when the officer returned to take a statement of vulnerability from the woman.”
Wheeler's relationship with the woman continued for several weeks, during which she revealed that she had suicidal thoughts.
The officer then sent her videos and photos 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 about it now.
“He used me for his own sexual gain when he should have a role protecting people.
“I see various news articles about police officers abusing their position and power and it makes me sick to think that I am one of those victims.
“I was a victim, I was taken advantage of, and now all I'm left with are these emotional scars.
“I just hope this research raises awareness of other people in my situation and encourages them to come forward and speak.”
Pc Wheeler was suspended following the allegations and resigned in December 2019 following a referral to the IOPC that he had sent more sexual messages to a vulnerable woman attending mental health care where he volunteered.
Commenting on the investigation, IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said: “This appalling case involved the most serious abuse of power for sexual gain by the then Pc Wheeler.
“Police policy states that staff who engage in sexual behavior towards a member of the public with whom they have come into contact through work bring the profession into disrepute, breach of trust, exploit an imbalance of power, act unprofessionally and potentially commit a criminal act.
“Another aggravating feature is that the evidence we gathered showed that this officer clearly knew what he was doing was wrong and tried to cover up his activities by suggesting that some of the women he contacted should switch to a more private exchange platform social media messages.
“There is no place in policing for such behavior and Shaun Wheeler has also now paid a high price in losing his freedom.”
Wheeler, of Coleridge Gardens, Sleaford, admitted two counts of fraud from July 2017 to March 2018 and from January 2019 to March 2019.
Lincolnshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Julia Debenham said of the officer, who is based in Boston: “Shaun Wheeler's actions go against everything the police service stands for.
“It's a shame for the uniform. His behavior 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 am pleased that the court recognized the gross abuse of power and imposed the sentence that was imposed on him.
“We are grateful to everyone who came forward to help with the research because it takes a lot of strength and courage. Without their evidence this case may not have had the outcome it did.”
The senior officer added that the force had invested heavily in prevention, intelligence gathering and training of staff about those abusing their position for sexual purposes.
He added: “We actively encourage staff to report any concerns in person, to Crimestoppers or using our existing confidential reporting system.
“Similarly, we encourage any member of the public to contact us if they believe that an officer's behavior does not meet 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 everything we do.”