A married police officer had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl despite officers investigating her disappearance as a missing person, a misconduct panel has found.
Former Police Constable Andrew Brooks, 30, who resigned from the Met last year, met the then 16-year-old in July 2018 and took her to his home in Maidstone, Kent, while his wife had left town for the weekend.
After learning police had visited her house, as part of their investigation into her going missing, Mr Brooks pressured the teen into keeping their contact and sexual encounter secret, the hearing was told.
Mr Brooks was today found to have breached police standards through discreditable conduct and lack of integrity and would have been sacked if he still served with the Met Police, the three-person panel ruled.
Mr Brooks had faced the misconduct panel yesterday accused of pursuing a relationship with the teen, despite her vulnerability as a missing person.
The girl, who was referred to as Ms X through the misconduct hearing, cannot be identified for legal reasons.
The hearing, held at the Met Police’s offices in Hammersmith and Fulham this week, was told by John Goss, counsel - who made the case against the ex-police officer - that Brooks attempted to pressure her into not telling police he had been involved, after she returned home and officers spoke to her about going missing.
Brooks admitted he had gone back to his home in Maidstone with the girl in July 2018, believing she was ‘19 or 20’, but denied he pressured her to cover his tracks.
He told the hearing he had initially no reason to suspect she was a vulnerable teenager and had hoped to keep in touch so they could talk.
While a 16-year-old girl is of the age of consent, it was argued by Mr Goss that Brooks should have realised she was a vulnerable child who needed his help as a police officer.
The hearing was told yesterday that Ms X was reported missing from her parent’s home on July 14, 2018. Her parents considered her a vulnerable person.
Brooks, who worked in the Met’s Transformation Directorate, had been spending the weekend in Maidstone on his own, not on police duty, and his wife had left town for the weekend.
They were having difficulties in their marriage and Brooks, who was 28 at the time, said he was struggling with his mental health and ‘things had become difficult at home’.
Brooks, who became a regular officer in 2013 and had been a PCSO since 2008, had made previous attempts to take his own life, as recently as December 2017, and had completed mental health treatment by April that year.
He had become miserable since moving to Maidstone in 2017, away from friends and without what he described as a “support network”, the panel were told. Previously, he policed in Ealing, west London.
After going to a football match on July 14, he went to a pub in the town centre before leaving at about 2am.
When heading to the taxi rank, he came across Ms X sat on a bench. He believed the then-16-year-old, who did not appear at the hearing, was 19 or 20.
The two got talking before they got into a taxi and went back to Brooks’ and his wife’s large semi-detached house three miles from central Maidstone.
“I believed she liked my company... so she wanted to come back to where I was going,” he said.
“You speak to a young lady on a night out, there is that part of me that thinks “we’ll see how this goes”, as happens up and down the country every Friday and Saturday night,” he added.
The panel found they had sexual activity but not sex the next morning.
Concerned his wife would be returning soon, he decided the two should go to Mote Park, in Maidstone.
They went to a secluded spot and Brooks told the hearing they kissed and he put his hand on her leg.
At one point during their contact, the teen told Brooks she was 17 and in college.
In fact, Ms X was 16 - her birthday was weeks away. While they were together in the park, she took a call from someone who asked where she was.
The hearing was told it was a family member who was trying to find her, but Brooks told the hearing he did not think there was “anything untoward” about the call.
Mr Goss told the hearing: “We say at that point he had all of the information he needed to reach the conclusion that she was missing, that she was vulnerable.”
Brooks said he did not “at the time” but today the panel ruled, with his training as a police officer, his failure to make further enquiries at this point was an error of judgement.
They then parted ways before midday, and Ms X went home to her family. She had been missing for almost 18 hours.
Mr Goss said the parents would have needed information about what happened when she went missing, but instead of coming forward, Brooks was more focused on protecting himself than “safeguarding this child”.
Brooks pointed to his mental health struggles at the time and said he had felt “there was nothing wrong”.
Brooks sent a message to a group chat of some police officers he knew from his time working for the Met in Ealing, and told them: “Met a bird who was all over me yesterday.
“Knew I was married. The works.”
Brooks’ defence, Ben Summers, told the hearing panel that if he had known at this point she was missing and vulnerable, he would not have boasted about it to fellow police officers while Mr Goss questioned why he had not mentioned her age to them.
Brooks sent Ms X messages on Monday, July 16 2018, including “I like sex” and “if we do end up having more like yesterday, then great”.
Mr Goss told the hearing the texts showed him “wanting to continue a sexual relationship between Mr Brooks and Ms X”.
Mr Goss also pointed to past child protection training he had received during his work as a police officer, but Mr Summers told the hearing Brooks was not a specialist child safeguarding officer.
Mr Brooks told the hearing he had just wanted to stay in touch with her because she was bubbly, had good conversation and he could open up to her about his problems.
By Tuesday evening, Brooks had found out that police had visited her house.
Kent Police had gone to her home to speak with her about her disappearance.
He texted her: “Can you please promise me that this won’t get back to me.
“I will lose everything.”
Ms X told him it wouldn’t. The panel said today that he should know from his police training that forcing “a child to lie could cause serious emotional harm and abuse”.
“Why are the police involved? Is it because you went missing?” he texted her at the time - which Mr Goss said demonstrated Brooks knew “police were involved and knew that there was a missing person investigation”.
The hearing also heard how he told Ms X his marriage could break down and if she revealed they had the romantic encounter, it “would probably kill” his wife. Brooks also messaged her about his suicide attempt in December.
Mr Goss described this as Brooks pressuring her to keep their encounter and continued contact a secret to protect himself.
“These are some pretty weighty matters to be putting on the shoulders of a 17-year-old girl, are they not?” he said.
“I had already explained some of the difficulties I was going through (to her),” Brooks replied. He told the hearing he was concerned his wife, who worked as civilian staff in Kent Police, might see his name attached to the case if it ever crossed her desk and realised he had been unfaithful.
He told the hearing that if Ms X had told him she was 16, he would not have sent the messages to her.
Mr Goss said as a police officer, based on her age and the phone call in the park, he “should have been thinking “safeguarding”, should have been thinking “vulnerable”.”
At the end of the week, they exchanged messages - though hers were often brief replies - and he ended up blocking her number.
“I did not want to leave things on a sour note,” he told the hearing. It also emerged he recommended she spend the summer getting “pissed and get f****d beyond belief”, for which Mr Goss criticised Brooks, as a then-police officer, for sending to a potentially vulnerable teenager. Brooks insisted both references were to alcohol.
Brooks was arrested at his home in August 2018 in relation to what had happened in Ms X’s disappearance and temporarily suspended before returning to active duty. No further action was taken in that investigation but he attended a misconduct interview in December 2018. He resigned from the Met last year.
Summing up, Mr Goss presented what happened as a police officer encountering “a child in the wee small hours of the morning” and “thinking, “why don’t I take her back to my place”.
“What on earth would the public think of that?” Mr Goss told the hearing’s panel.
Mr Summers said infidelity, and not wanting word of that infidelity to get back to an officer’s wife, is not a professional standards issue.
He said the case “turns” on the text messages and the context they are read - with Mr Goss claiming they show an attempt to avoid the professional consequences of his attempt at starting and continuing a relationship with a vulnerable person.
Brooks said they showed concern for his own mental wellbeing, his wife and that he did not want to pursue a sexual relationship with Ms X - instead hoping to be friends.
Mr Summers also argued that being 17 itself is not an indicator of vulnerability and said that only Brooks knew how Ms X presented herself to him.
Brooks remains married to his wife.
The panel concluded today that Brooks had aimed for a relationship with Ms X that went beyond keeping her as someone to speak to - including sexual activity - based on messages he sent that included “telling her that he had a thing for her and he was thinking about her”.
While Brooks did not breach police standards by kissing the girl in the park, the panel found he did pressure Ms X to conceal his identity despite her being vulnerable and in doing so had committed gross misconduct.
Related: Police Officer Arrested, Accused of Multiple Sexual Assaults While on Duty