A police officer has been sacked for sending sexual Snapchat messages to a 14-year-old girl he met in a children’s home.
Ian Bell, 46, admitted sending “inappropriate and unprofessional” texts to the vulnerable teenager, including one that read: “You like sex?”
The West Yorkshire police officer had been investigating reports that a young person had gone missing from a children’s home when he met the girl on 19 July 2017.
A disciplinary panel heard that Bell spoke to the girl, who was living at the children’s home, then later tracked her down on Facebook and Snapchat. He sent her a number of suggestive messages in the early hours of the following morning, a misconduct hearing was told.
In one message, Bell told the girl he had seen her wrapped in a towel while he was at the home. He asked her why she was not in bed “in your PJs” and she replied that if she was tired the next day she would not go to school.
He asked her whether she took drugs such as cocaine. He told her not to let anyone take advantage of her, and she said: “I don’t care if they do, TBH.”
He replied by calling her “cheeky”, then asked if she liked sex. He later asked her to delete all the messages.
Claire Watson, the legal representative of the force’s directorate of professional standards, told the hearing that Bell’s messages had “no legitimate policing purpose”.
She said: “He knew, or ought to have known, that his actions were an abuse of his position as a serving police officer and was likely to cause distress and anxiety to the young person to whom he was sending these messages.”
The girl told carers she did not know who was sending the messages and thought she had a “Snapchat stalker”, the hearing was told. Staff at the children’s home were “totally shocked” when they discovered it was a police officer.
The girl, who cannot be named, told police that the references to sex “made her feel sick”.
Bell, who had been an officer for 23 years, claimed that he was drunk when he sent the messages and they were a misguided attempt to steer her away from crime. The officer said he got the girl’s Snapchat details from her Facebook profile and wanted to thank her for her help in the missing persons inquiry.
He said he ended the conversation and deleted Snapchat because he was “panicked” at how the messages could be perceived. “I was off-duty, intoxicated, talking to a 14-year-old person. I let the force down and I let myself down,” he told the hearing.
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