A police constable accused in a disciplinary hearing of breaking the Covid rules used the Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings in his defence today.
PC Mark Lee, 43, denied that he was guilty of gross misconduct when he took a walk in Snowdonia with his fianceé Emma – now his wife – and her little son who has health issues.
It happened on December 29, 2020, when Wales was in lockdown and the constable, who had mental health problems, was on sick leave.
After a hearing which lasted four hours at North Wales Police Headquarters in Colwyn Bay, Chief Constable Carl Foulkes announced that the PC would not be sacked but would receive a final written warning.
The constable’s Police Federation representative Nicholas Hawe, who had mentioned the big names, told Mr Foulkes that an online appeal by Emma had produced nearly 5,000 signatures in two days.
There was also backing for the constable from local Tory MP David Jones, a former Welsh Secretary.
PC Lee, of Colwyn Bay, who once featured in Channel 5’s Police Code Zero – Officer under Attack after being hit by a car at a filling station, had pleaded guilty at Llandudno court in October to breaching Covid regulations by travelling to the mountains.
PC Mark Lee, 43, travelled 20 miles during Tier 4 restrictions in December 2020
PC Lee, of Colwyn Bay, was once featured in Channel 5’s Police Code Zero – Officer under Attack after being hit by a car at a filling station
He had been fined £600 with £760 costs but his representative told today’s hearing that after legal costs the bill was more than £10,000.
He had been under mental stress and admitted the charge despite legal advice not to do so.
He had wanted to get it over with rather than enduring the stress of a two-day trial.
Det Con Hawe suggested the constable had been treated differently from others, being ‘backed into a corner’ by North Wales Police and not offered a ticket nor warning,
A leading microbiologist had stated that a walk in Snowdonia was one of the lowest activities possible to spread Covid.
PC Lee had 29 years of service and received commendations including one for bravery.
PC Lee traveled 20 miles with his partner and her son from their home in Colwyn Bay to Cwm Idal in December 2020, when Wales was in Tier 4 restrictions
Chief Inspector Sion Williams of the Professional Standards Department said the guilty plea in court established gross misconduct.
‘Police officers not only exercise significant powers but are expected to uphold standards of behaviour,’ he pointed out.
He added he should have had heightened awareness in what was a serious diversion from national guidelines.
After considering the case for two and a half hours the Chief Constable announced that gross misconduct had been established in what was an unusual case.
‘We are in an unique position with our powers’ he added.
‘The message was so clear – stay local, and he should have and would have known that.’
Mr Foulkes recognised the health challenges PC Lee and his family faced at the time and appreciated his apology, honesty and the length of time that had elapsed.
The Chief Constable said it happened at a time of one of the biggest health crisis but had been a single act.
‘Colleagues and communities expect us to do the right thing and we must live and breathe these values and ethics,’ declared the Chief Constable.