Hertfordshire police officer who had more than 500 indecent images of children is jailed

He also dismissed sexualised texts about young girls as 'banter'

By Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 12:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 12:32 pm
Ben Pitelen
Ben Pitelen

A Hertfordshire police officer who possessed more than 500 indecent images of children and dismissed sexualised texts about young girls as ‘banter’ has been jailed.

PC Ben Pitelen was sentenced to 25 months’ imprisonment on February 4 after pleading guilty to corruption and making indecent images of children.

Following his conviction, Hertfordshire Constabulary has published the details of a misconduct hearing held last September outlining his offences.

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In the report, Chief Constable Charlie Hall said “this is a most serious of cases” and has “significant potential to undermine confidence in policing”.

PC Pitelen had possession of nine of the most serious Category A images on his digital devices, six Category B images and 511 category C images, with forensic investigators noting the images were found on a number of devices spanning a number of years.

At the time of the misconduct hearing, PC Pitelen, who worked in the road policing unit, refused to admit any culpability or offer any explanation in regards to the offences, and did not attend the proceedings.

The forensic investigator also presented evidence of internet searches being made on these devices and other devices under his control that are likely to bring back websites containing indecent images of children.

The officer was also found to have engaged in sexualised WhatsApp conversations about young girls, which he dismissed as ‘banter’ and said the conversation was instigated by the other male and was purely innocent.

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However, the Chief Constable dismissed this claim, writing: “I disagree. There is clear evidence presented that these chats go far beyond banter and are sexualised conversations about young girls. PC Pitelen is equally involved in sustaining these sexualised conversations.”

The report added: “I consider both PC Pitelen and the other male to be equally engaged in these conversations and these conversations go far beyond banter. They are wholly inappropriate and display a clear sexual interest in children from the other male, with that sexual interest being clearly facilitated by PC Pitelen.

“The sexual interest in children and teenage girls is clearly apparent and would be obvious to any reasonable person, and most especially a police officer.

“A police officer would then be expected to take reasonable steps to safeguard children in the circumstances from this male, reporting their behaviour. PC Pitelen completely failed to do this, doing exactly the opposite by facilitating it further.”

PC Pitelen was also found to have engaged in sexualised or inappropriate conduct by posing with a member of the public who was engaging in a sex act while on duty and in uniform.

The misconduct report said: “The behaviour falls so far short of what is expected of a police officer. He has not treated the member of public with respect or courtesy by taking a pornographic picture whilst on duty, irrespective of her consent.

“These actions also clearly breach the conduct standard for it is clearly an act which would bring great discredit on the police service. I find both standards breached and again so serious to amount to gross misconduct.”

It was determined that PC Pitelen had breached the standards of professional behaviour for conduct and authority, respect and courtesy, and amounted to gross misconduct.

The Chief Constable added whilst there may be no evidence of direct harm caused to known individuals, by possessing the images PC Pitelen had continued to allow children to be exposed to harm by encouraging the other man he was texting, rather than addressing the risk.

The report concludes: “The actions of PC Pitelen have been far removed from those expected of a professional police officer. His actions undermine confidence in policing and its reputation, he has fallen very short of acceptable standards and failed to protect the public.

“Considering the purpose of these misconduct proceedings there is no other reasonable or acceptable outcome that I can reach in this case other than to sanction PC Pitelen with dismissal without notice. Nothing else would be an acceptable outcome in such a serious case for either the public or the police service itself.”