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23 January 2015, 09:38
Two police firearms officers from Durham Constabulary who killed a deer with crowbars have been found guilty of gross misconduct.
PCs Andrew Pittilla and Brian Clewlow, who will face no criminal charges, admitted the attack and told a disciplinary hearing that they were "making sure it was dead".
The Durham Constabulary firearms officers were tasked with humanely destroying the animal after it was hit by a vehicle earlier this year, but instead of using a firearm the officers - both long-serving and highly respected -beat the animal to death with "a large blunt tool".
In June 2013 it emerged that the officers were being investigated following the incident at Tanfield Lea, County Durham.
Both have now been issued with a final warning in response to the incident which was branded "disgusting and distressing" by Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg.
They were each found guilty of gross misconduct and permanently stripped of firearms duties but will keep their jobs.
The pair told the hearing they were animal lovers who had not gained any satisfaction from the act, which they believed had been in the "best interests of the animal".
They said they initially believed the deer was already dead and "with the intention of making sure it was in fact dead and not suffering further, struck the animal several times".
However, an expert witness told the hearing that the method of dispatching the animal appeared "somewhat barbaric" and should only have been considered in the absence of all other options.
Superintendent Darren Ellis, head of the professional standards department, said that he understood members of the public may feel the officers deserved the sack for their actions.
"The [gross misconduct] process is transparent and observed by independent persons - all the issues have been aired fully, considered and an informed decision has been taken that this was not an act of cruelty.
"It was, in my opinion, a breach of accepted protocol which - through the lens of the public eye - could lead one to think that employment should be in question."
Supt Ellis also said that the officers had dealt "sympathetically" and correctly with the same animal in a separate incident.
The pair were called to attend to the injured deer - confirmed as the same animal - two days previously, when it was hit by a vehicle.
In that incident, they took advice from an animal welfare expert and carried the weakened deer - still able to stand - into nearby woodland where they left it to recover.
After the gross misconduct hearing, Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg described the following incident as stupid, unacceptable and unbecoming of police officers.
"I've been taking a close and personal interest in this case, which has naturally caused disgust and distress.
Due to one act of stupidity, [the officers] have gone from having long, clean and commended records to being on their final warning - and stripped of their firearms responsibilities.
The overwhelming majority of Durham Constabulary officers provide an excellent service to the public and it's sad when they are so badly let down by the actions of the very few."
A spokesman for Durham Constabulary added:
"We regret the actions of the officers. Our partnership with the public and its confidence in police actions is paramount to us.
We expect our officers to adhere to the Code of Ethics at all times.
Balancing the allegations proven, the single nature of the incident and the health of the officers' misconduct history, the panel feel that an outcome of a final written warning for each officer was proportionate in the circumstances.
The lessons from this incident will be considered in some depth and will be used to improve the force's response to such incidents in the future."
UPDATED 30th July 2014
Two police firearms officers from Durham Constabulary are being investigated after they allegedly used a crowbar to kill an injured deer.
The officers had been dispatched to destroy the animal, which had been injured on a road.
But it has been reported that instead of using their firearms, the two officers used a crowbar to kill the large animal.
The force confirmed the pair are now being investigated after the deer was "apparently not destroyed in the approved, humane manner'' and said they have been moved to other duties.
A Durham Constabulary spokesman said:
"It is not unusual for firearms officers to be deployed on occasions when a deer or other large animal is clearly suffering as the result of being struck by a vehicle, and the best action would be for the animal to be humanely destroyed.
We can confirm inquiries are being made to establish the circumstances surrounding the destruction of an injured deer on a road in Tanfield Lea, Durham, in early June.
It has been brought to our attention that the deer was apparently not destroyed in the approved, humane manner.
Two authorised firearms officers have been moved to other duties while the facts are being established and they are not currently involved in a firearms capacity.
Inquiries are being conducted by the force's professional standards department.''