A serving British police officer inappropriately seduced a gay sexual assault survivor – and his identity was obscured by officials to protect him from “harm”.
Gareth (not his real name) told PinkNews that he was seduced by a member of the Sussex Police’s Sexual Offences Investigation Team on Grindr in 2019, who encouraged him to send explicit photographs before, he claims, agreeing to meet him for sex.
When the officer first started talking to Gareth, his profile picture was blank. But he soon realised he’d met the man before – he’d been interviewed by him months before after he reported being sexually assaulted to the police.
In November 2018, Gareth was raped in a Manchester hotel room.
When he went to Manchester police, he says, he encountered a force that had little understanding of queer sex or of how to support gay sexual abuse survivors.
The day after he returned home to Sussex, local police asked him to come in for a video interview in the town of Crawley. It’s there that he was introduced to officer Patrick (who cannot be identified for legal reasons).
“He did a caring, empathetic interview with me,” Gareth said, “so empathetic that I opened up to him about my childhood abuse.”
Patrick would often telephone Gareth to check up on him, “and it was all very intimate”.
“In the weeks that followed, he was just amazing,” Gareth said. “He got me.”
Police officer ‘fantasised about having sex’ with gay sexual assault survivor
In January 2019, the police officer, Patrick, asked Gareth for his mobile phone as part of the investigation. He visited Gareth’s home to pick it up for the forensic team but returned the next morning to say it hadn’t worked and another pick-up would be arranged. It was one of many informal visits, Gareth said.
That week, Gareth logged onto Grindr.
“Living in a rural area, Grindr is a window into the gay world – to connect with other gay people, not just to have sex. I wanted that connection,” he said.
He encountered a blank profile with the username “BiCurious39”. The pair began exchanging flirtatious messages.
“Then he said he knew me professionally,” Gareth said. Eventually, Gareth asked if the user was Patrick. He said yes, and asked if it was a problem.
“Now if I was to have this interaction, it would say it was,” Gareth continued. “But in the space I was in, I was vulnerable.
Stock photo of a police officer. (Getty)
According to Gareth, Patrick began telling him that every time he’d been to his house, “he’d fantasised about having sex with me”. He encouraged him to send explicit photographs, and Gareth says the two agreed to meet for sex the following morning.
He claims Patrick told him the sex would help him heal and regain his sex drive. He felt obliged to agree, given that Patrick was the investigating officer in his rape case.
Eventually, the conversation ended after Patrick realised their exchanges might be picked up if other officers scanned his phone. Gareth says that he suggested Patrick block him to erase the messages.
“As soon as the chat finished my head kind of exploded,” Gareth said.
Gareth texted Patrick to ask that he did not attend their meeting, and sexual abuse support groups and friends urged Gareth to report him. He was hesitant, wary of outing the officer.
“I realised that we couldn’t go back to being PC Patrick and Gareth working on the case, because this conversation happened and he sent me pictures of his c**k.”
‘I’m not even allowed to take ownership of my own experience’
Gareth reported Patrick for misconduct to the Sussex Police Professional Standards Department that same day. His grievance was turned over to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Gareth became consumed by guilt and worry. He suffered panic attacks and feared the officer would “take revenge” against him. “I just lived in this place of terror,” he said.
Patrick was arrested and interviewed on suspicion of misconduct in public office as well as improper use of police powers and privileges.
Forensic analysis of the officer’s mobile phone found Grindr had been installed. Patrick later admitted to contacting Gareth and sending him graphic pictures and sexual messages.
According to the IOPC report, while he accepted his conduct was inappropriate, he denied intending to meet Gareth for sex.
A gross misconduct hearing sanctioned the officer with instant dismissal in August 2019.
But as he had already resigned over another, unrelated, case, no further action was taken. He was blacklisted and can no longer work for the police service.
The Crown Prosecution Service found there to be insufficient evidence to charge the officer with misconduct in public office and improper use of police powers and privileges.
During hearings, Gareth noticed that neither Sussex Police officials nor the IOPC had not mentioned his gender in their reports.
He claims an IOPC official “emotionally blackmailed him”, saying that including Gareth’s gender in the report would “harm [Patrick’s] children”.
It was as if, Gareth said, “children finding out their father’s gay will harm them as if being gay is a terrible affliction”.
He has been fighting since September 2019 for the IOPC to publish his gender. Its failure to do so makes him feel “that gay men [don’t] matter”.
It’s something Gareth says “continues to affect” him. He successfully took his case to civil court, represented by Bolt Burdon Kemp, and then sought independently to launch a judicial review against the IOPC.
He alleged that the nation’s law enforcement is “institutionally homophobic“. Though he dropped his efforts because of the high costs involved.
“I felt as if I’d been erased from my own story; worse, that I’d been shoved back into the closet.”
In a statement to PinkNews, an IOPC spokesperson said: “We issue summaries on most cases for the purpose of openness and transparency.
“When it comes to deciding which identifying details to include in case summaries, we apply the harm test and treat each case on its merits.
“We cannot comment on this particular decision which is subject to challenge.”
For Gareth, all he has now is his voice. “The only power I have over what happened to me is to tell the truth, to tell my story – but it’s as if I’m not even allowed to take ownership of my own experience,” he said.
“But I won’t be silenced. I am intent that the public knows that a man was raped and then inappropriately groomed by a police officer, that this happens to men too.”
Nearly half of gay and bisexual men in Britain have been sexually assaulted, according to a survey by Survivors UK. Many said they felt they couldn’t speak to anyone about the incident, fearful of judgment or disbelief.
“So many gay men I’ve met in the community have suffered incidences of sexual abuse,” Gareth said, “while bottoms are routinely and misogynistically degraded.
“This has to stop.”