PC fired after ignoring call over suicidal teen to buy hot tub mat

Cornwall Police constable is fired after ignoring a call to help a suicidal teenager to go to Homebase to buy a hot tub mat

  • PC Tristan Hankins chose to ignore emergency call to help a distressed teenager
  • Instead, officer chose to continue his errand to Homebase to pick up hot tub mat
  • A disciplinary panel found his ‘deliberate’ actions amounted to gross misconduct

A police officer has been sacked after going to collect a mat for his new hot tub at Homebase instead of responding to an urgent call to assist a suicidal teenager.

When the emergency call came in, PC Tristan Hankins told dispatchers he would be free to respond ‘very, very shortly’ and chose to continue with his errand, drive off his patch and collect the mat.

It was found that the officer arrived at the scene up to 10 minutes later than he would have done, had he not ran his errand. 

Although no harm came to the young woman, a panel judged the potential for harm was ‘considerable’ and he was dismissed without notice for gross misconduct earlier this month.

A documented presented at the hearing stated that a month before the incident in 2020, PC Hankin’s wife had suffered a ‘distressing medical issue’.

The document states: ‘This put an understandable strain on the marriage. In order to help his wife in her recuperation and her general wellbeing, the officer had bought a hot tub for home use, but this had come with a missing part, the mat that went underneath it so water spilled onto the floor.’

A PC has been sacked after going to collect a mat for his new hot tub instead of responding to an urgent call to assist a suicidal teenager. Pictured: Devon and Cornwall Police HQ

The panel was told that PC Hankins – who joined Devon and Cornwall Police in 1995 – was informed that his mat would be free to collect from Homebase from Monday, June 1, 2020.

The officer was on patrol with a special constable the following day at 3pm when he made the decision to go and collect the mat. 

The report adds: ‘This was running a personal errand whilst on duty which, of course, he ought not to have been doing.

‘The seriousness of the case arises out of the act that as he was setting off in the direction of the shop, an emergency call came through from control which required his immediate attention.

‘A young female, who we assume to be a teenager, with mental health difficulties was in a highly agitated condition and was threatening suicide.

‘However, instead of abandoning his planned trip to Homebase and setting off promptly to answer the call using the emergency blue light on his car, he told the controller that he would be free to attend the emergency “very, very shortly” and proceeded to Homebase to collect his mat before answering the emergency.

A panel heard PC Hankins needed a mat for a new hot tub he had bought his wife (stock image)

‘That was plainly untrue. He, therefore, arrived at the scene of the incident somewhere between five and 10 minutes later than he would otherwise have done.’

 It has not been confirmed where PC Hankins was based.

The misconduct panel hearing reported states PC Hankins’s conduct was ‘deliberate, intentional, and planned’ in that he ordered the mat for the hot tub at home the evening before he started his shift, and it was his aim to divert from his patrol in order to run the errand. 

The allegations were admitted to by the officer and the hearing concluded he had breached the expected standards of professional behaviour.

Detective superintendent Paul Kessell, the force’s head of professional standards, said: ‘We expect our officers to uphold the standards of professional behaviour at all times and the actions of the officer fell below these standards on this occasion.

‘He did not fulfil his duties and responsibilities and his behaviour brought discredit upon the police service and could undermine public confidence.

A panel heard PC Hankins received the emergency call but told dispatchers he would be available shortly so he could continue his errand to Homebase to get his mat (stock image)

‘Such behaviour will not be tolerated within policing and the decision made by the panel was that the officer should be dismissed without notice.’

The panel added: ‘Counsel for the Officer described his client as having taken himself off duty in his mind but we find that to be an aggravating feature not a mitigating one.

‘Running an errand while on duty would, as admitted, have amounted to misconduct rather than gross misconduct but then to have continued on that course of action and told a deliberate lie to the control room in order to complete it is a different order of magnitude.

‘The dishonesty in telling the control room that he would be free to respond very shortly when in fact he was professionally available at the very moment he took the call is at the heart of this case.’

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