Yorkshire police officer who ‘pepper sprayed’ man without justification guilty of gross misconduct

A former police officer who ‘pepper sprayed’ a man in Yorkshire at close range without justification has been found guilty of gross misconduct.

James Burke was found to have used unnecessary force when he was serving as a British Transport Police officer last year, at a misconduct hearing in York yesterday.

The police constable discharged incapacitant spray into the face of a man at Leeds Station in March 2021.

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The force said he used the spray “at close range when this was neither necessary, proportionate, or reasonable” and he “failed to provide the necessary aftercare”.

British Transport Police said James Burke's actions “cumulatively amounted to gross misconduct” and if he was still a serving officer he would “have been dismissed without notice”

He was accused of using the spray on a vulnerable woman without justification, at the same station in February last year, and the allegation was not proven but the force said "the fact the officer did not provide sufficient aftercare would have been misconduct if dealt with in isolation".

The misconduct panel found that Mr Burke failed to treat a vulnerable man with respect and courtesy, while he was experiencing a mental health crisis in April 2021, and he “engaged in unwanted conduct towards” the man.

He also made a false statement about the driving training he had received, upon joining the force in April 2020, and he lied during a reflective practice meeting later that year.

Mr Burke resigned from the force before the misconduct hearing and did not attend in person.

In a statement, the force said his “acts cumulatively amounted to gross misconduct” and if he was still a serving officer he would “have been dismissed without notice”.