Jon Hooper was dismissed from Avon and Somerset Police last year for gross misconduct. Between March and December 2019, he had sent texts — described by Chief Constable Sarah Crew as “sexual and obscene” following his dismissal in March 2022 — to victims of sexual assault, drafted an unsent email to another victim of crime and typed two unsaved entries on the police computer system.
Now a judge at an employment tribunal has ruled he was suffering from a mental disorder when he wrote the messages. Judge Barton found that Mr Hooper had an adjustment disorder, although he did not accept that he was also suffering vicarious trauma.
Mr Hooper brought a disability discrimination claim to employment tribunal, claiming the decision to hold an accelerated disciplinary hearing was unfair and unreasonable due to his mental health. Judge Barton’s judgement said that Mr Hooper accepted wrongdoing, but claimed he had acted that way because of his poor mental health.
He submitted evidence from a therapist, counsellors, and mental health professionals about his conditions, which also included a gambling addiction and, since 2015, “extreme night visions.” One specialist counsellor said: ““Mr Hooper’s mental health and wellbeing has been severely and catastrophically compromised by work related burn out.”
A therapist wrote in her notes: “Texting and online gambling were not usual behaviours for a man so dedicated and up to this point professional and very able but were the result of feeling mentally crushed, feeling broken, trapped, very alone and finding escapes from his life/work whilst mentally not feeling his normal sense of self at the time.”
In his own submission, Mr Hooper said: “The behaviour demonstrated in the “typing” misconduct that resulted in my dismissal was an obvious example of “intrusive thoughts” and further “compulsive behaviour” using language I have never used in my lifetime and again highlighting a substantial impact on my mental health.
“The level of stress and trauma simply worsened my condition, developing over years in dealing with serious sexual offences, child abuse and death between 2005 and 2020.”
Mr Hooper’s position was that Avon and Somerset Police had not looked at his mental health and the cases he had been dealing with when they made the decision to dismiss him. But the police said they did look at his health and that he was not disabled, or they could not have known he was.
Issuing a judgement just on whether Mr Hooper was within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, Judge Barton found that Mr Hooper had one mental impairment — an adjustment disorder — which had a “substantial effect” on Mr Hooper’s work and home life, including at the time he sent the text and wrote the unsent messages, and during the investigation and accelerated disciplinary hearing.