A disgraced Derbyshire police officer has avoided jail after he left a new female colleague ‘distraught’ and crying after he harassed her in a police station.
Mark Knights, 35, harassed the officer at Matlock police station between August and October 2020, while he was being investigated for headbutting a member of the public while on duty.
In a statement read out in court by prosecutors, the victim said: ‘I was struggling to fight back the tears. I was distraught and could not control my emotions. I spent nights at home just crying. I can’t explain why.
‘It was predatory. He thought I was new in service and thought he could get away with it. I never expected that I would have to deal with this at work. I’m a strong person but I had to say something.’
Knights asked the victim to ‘come and sit on my ****’ and wrote in her A5 notepad ‘I’m going to try and not be a ****. Truce/sex/carry on as normal?’, Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court heard.
His own barrister described his behaviour as ‘immature’ and ‘stupid’.
Mark Knights harassed the officer at Matlock police station between August and October 2020, while he was being investigated for headbutting a member of the public while on duty
Prosecutors said that a police investigation into the incident, which is ongoing, involved statements from a number of officers and over 500 pages of documents.
The offence happened while Knights, of Tagg Lane, Monyash, was effectively on bail for the assault on a member of the public in Belper in November 2019, of which he was found guilty in December 2020.
That verdict saw him sacked from his role as a constable with Derbyshire Constabulary in March 2021.
Debbie Hubbard, defending, said that November 2019 was the beginning of a low period in Knights’ life after he was not selected to become a firearms officer due to fitness issues.
The subsequent assault on driver Ben Joynes took place on the morning of November 21, 2019.
Knights told his victim to ‘**** off’, called him a ‘fat ****’ then headbutted and handcuffed him following an altercation in Ambergate, near Belper.
The incident was sparked when Mr Joynes told the officer he was unable to move his car to let a police van through because he was blocked in.
Knights claimed the sales manager was being obstructive and swore at Mr Joynes then assaulted him.
His violent actions saw the officer carrying out menial tasks such as cleaning cars, which meant he spent most of his days at Matlock police station where he harassed his female colleague in one of the station’s parade rooms.
Ms Hubbard said: ‘He pleaded guilty to harassment on the basis of two inappropriate interactions.
‘He was bored, immature and behaving in a childish and stupid manner. He’s a grown man who is used to being on the frontline.
‘He misconstrued the relationship he had with this officer. He was an idiot and he was immature.
‘He is from a family of police officers. He has not taken this lightly and he has turned his life around.’
Disgraced Derbyshire police officer Knights is also under police investigation over allegations he headbutted a member of the public while on duty
The court also heard from a female colleague who spoke in defence of Knights, who said that they never saw behaving in a manner which would be classed as offensive and he often lifted the spirits of his colleagues.
But District Judge Jonathan Taaffe said that he had undermined public trust.
In his sentencing remarks, he said: ‘The fact that you were a police officer is of course relevant because the public have the right to expect police officers to uphold high standards.
‘It leads me to question what on earth was your attitude to members of the public? There is a breach of trust here to the public and to your colleagues.
‘I have no doubt that the victim will have been prevented from carrying out her duties to some extent because of your activities.
‘You have let the people of Derbyshire down and you have let your colleagues down. People have a right to expect behaviour of a professional manner.
‘You are an extremely fortunate man not to be going into immediate custody today, given the current climate regarding trust in police officers.
‘The only reason you have not gone into custody today is because this is low level harassment rather than persistent harassment causing long term distress.’
Knights had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of harassment without violence and was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He must also complete 120 hours of unpaid work, pay £150 in compensation to the victim and £300 in costs, with a £95 victim surcharge.
Chief Constable Rachel Swann praised officers and staff who rightly challenge unacceptable behaviour in the organisation
Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: ‘There is no place for harassment in Derbyshire Constabulary and we take reports such as this extremely seriously. We recognise how damaging behaviour like this can be, not only for our own staff as victims but for the trust the public places in us.
‘Our legitimacy is built on public trust and confidence but we can’t expect this from our communities if our officers and staff don’t behave with integrity and respect towards the public we serve and towards each other.’
Chief Constable Swann praised officers and staff who rightly challenge unacceptable behaviour in the organisation.
She added: ‘While it’s extremely disappointing to see this behaviour in force, I am pleased that we have officers and staff in the organisation who feel confident in reporting what they recognise as unacceptable behaviour. It was this reporting that brought Knights’ actions to light.
‘Everyone has a responsibility to call out and challenge unacceptable behaviour in society and within their own workplace. This must include sexist, racist, homophobic or disrespectful behaviour.
‘Derbyshire Constabulary is no different and we will continue to encourage our employees to challenge and report such behaviour so robust action can be taken.’