An on-duty police officer who dishonestly scanned a seven pence barcode for carrots to get a £9.95 box of Krispy Kreme donuts has been sacked for gross misconduct.
Pc Simon Read claimed at a disciplinary hearing that he made an honest mistake at the self-service tills at Tesco Extra in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire but a panel ruled that his explanation was “lacking in credibility”.
The Cambridgeshire Police officer was in uniform when he purchased four items from the store – the tray of 12 donuts, the carrots, a sandwich and a drink – on February 10 this year.
He scanned the carrots barcode twice and failed to scan the donuts barcode, paying around £4 for the items instead of about £14.
A manager at Tesco later alerted police to reports of a “suspicious police officer at its store” and the matter was investigated, Thursday’s hearing in Peterborough was told.
Sharmistha Michaels, the legally-qualified chair of the disciplinary panel, said: “On the balance of probabilities we are satisfied that Pc Read did intentionally scan the wrong barcode.”
Pc Read claimed he had not checked the screen of the self-service till, but CCTV showed him looking at it to select his method of payment, Ms Michaels said.
The officer had stuck the carrots barcode to the donuts box, on the same side as its barcode, she said.
She added that if he intended to pay the correct price he could have checked that he scanned the right barcode.
If it was a “genuine mistake” he had opportunities to put it right, she said, including when his contactless payment failed and he had to use chip and pin instead.
The panel concluded that Pc Read breached professional standards of honesty and integrity and that this amounted to gross misconduct.
Ms Michaels said: “The officer’s behaviour has undermined public confidence in the police.”
She said Pc Read’s actions were “incompatible with his role as a police officer” and he was dismissed without notice for gross misconduct.
Lawyer Mark Ley-Morgan, who set out the misconduct case, said it was “an officer effectively stealing while in uniform”.
“He was using his uniform as cover,” said Mr Ley-Morgan.
“Who would be suspicious of a police officer?”
Carolina Bracken, Pc Read’s lawyer, said he had an “unblemished career” before the incident and was involved in Donald Trump’s visit to Blenheim Palace and several royal weddings while serving with Thames Valley Police from 2008.
He was one of the officers involved in the case of Pc Andrew Harper, who was dragged to his death by a getaway car in Berkshire in 2019, she added.
He served in the armed forces before this and joined Cambridgeshire Police in January of this year.
Ms Bracken said that the case weighed heavily on Pc Read and he had received prank calls in the night from people offering him donuts.
Pc Read has a right to appeal against the panel’s decision.