This weekend my client Kristina O’Connor appeared in news reports including:
I represent Kristina in a civil action against the Metropolitan Police. Throughout the case we have carefully preserved her anonymity. She recently changed her mind and waived her right to privacy. The decision to go public was not easy. This is why she did it.
Who is Kristina O’Connor?
Kristina O’Connor is a London-based musician. She is also a daughter of entertainer Des O’Connor, CBE. Sadly, her father passed away in November 2020, aged 88.
In October 2011, Kristina was the victim of an attempted street robbery in London. She reported the assault to the Metropolitan Police and gave a statement to Detective Sergeant (now Detective Chief Inspector) James Mason at Kentish Town Police Station.
During the interview Mason asked suggestive and overtly sexual questions. These included:
- if she had a boyfriend
- what clothes she wore at work (Kristina was a croupier at Playboy casino)
- if he could take her out for dinner.
After the interview, Mason emailed her using his Metropolitan Police work account. He:
- invited her for “a drink”
- offered to take photographs of her
- she was “amazingly hot”
- “coming onto victims is positively encouraged by the Metropolitan Police”
- that rejecting officers’ advances is “frowned upon”
- described himself as “determined” when pursuing “beautiful women”.
Mason’s misconduct further traumatised Kristina, a vulnerable victim of crime. She rebuffed his advances, but he continued his campaign of harassment anyway. Eventually, he stopped, but not before suggesting she keep his details for later use and saying that Kristina was his “favourite” crime victim.
Ms O’Connor lost all faith in the police and chose not to report violent domestic abuse for fear of police harassment. Kristina knew she could not rely on them and made her own self-defence spray for protection instead.
Later, Ms O’Connor filed a formal police complaint, which led to a misconduct investigation by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards.
The Directorate issued a formal Notice for Hearing, alleging that DCI Mason’s “conduct amounts to a breach of Standards of professional Behaviour”. The hearing took place over two days on 4-5 October 2021.
Ms O’Connor gave live evidence and the Panel found all eight charges of gross misconduct proven. Despite this, DCI Mason only received a final written warning which will remain on his record for three years. There were no other professional consequences and Mason still serves in the Metropolitan Police.
Why Did Ms O’Connor Remain Anonymous During DCI Mason’s Misconduct Hearing?
At first, Kristina O’Connor did not want to reveal her details publicly. She:
- feared potential repercussions from the police and their supporters
- knew that her story would be publicised given her family and background
- was reluctant to re-live her experience through the media.
Kristina gave a witness statement to the Met’s Professional Standards investigator, along with written evidence, including social media posts containing DCI Mason’s emails. The misconduct Panel could have accepted that alone. Instead, it insisted that Ms O’Connor give live evidence at the Hearing.
I have over 20 years’ experience in dealing with civil actions against the police, including helping people deal with Police Misconduct Hearings. I understand how traumatising it can be for witnesses to give evidence against police officers. Kristina was determined to pursue matters, knowing that DCI Mason was in the wrong, so I insisted that “special measures” be put in place. These included that:
- the Panel use the pseudonym “Maria” instead of my client’s real name
- Kristina was shielded from DCI Mason (but the Panel and lawyers could still see her).
The Panel was impressed by her evidence and found Kristina to be a “credible witness”. But the Hearing was a stressful and emotional experience, at which she felt “completely exhausted and disregarded.”
And the Panel’s decision to give DCI Mason a time-limited written warning, instead of dismissing him, merely made things worse. Kristina was shocked and frustrated that he got off so lightly. As she later said:
I do not feel like justice has been served for what happened to me and I certainly don’t feel that I can have confidence or faith in the police. I still feel (as do many women) like I am just as likely to be harmed by the police officer who responds to my call as I am by a stranger on the street.
She wanted to bring the public’s attention to how the Metropolitan Police handled things, but still feared for her own physical and mental health. We agreed that I would write about Ms O’Connor’s experience while preserving her anonymity. You can read all three blog posts here:
- Why DCI James Mason Was Found Guilty of Gross Misconduct
- How Metropolitan Police Disciplinary Misconduct Panels Work
- Why Institutional Misogyny Thrives in the Metropolitan Police.
Kristina also gave an anonymous interview to BBC Radio 4, which you can listen to below. (The whole piece is worth your time, but Kristina’s interview is at 0:34 – 1:42):
Less than a week after DCI Mason’s hearing Kristina was disturbed by reporting in Channel 4s’ Dispatches programme “Cops on Trial”. It revealed that almost 2,000 police workers have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past four years. Despite this, only 8% of misconduct claims led to a dismissal, mirroring her own experience.
And since DCI Mason’s acts of proven gross misconduct my client has been disgusted by many reports about the Met, including:
- (Met Commissioner) Dame Cressida Dicks’ claim that there is merely the occasional “bad ‘un” in the Metropolitan Police. She said this on the same day (then PC) Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and rape of Sarah Everard
- the Met’s stubborn refusal to accept that it fosters a culture of misogyny
- the Force’s heavy-handed treatment of women, including those at the Sarah Everard vigil.
Her decision to go public was prompted by:
- frustration with the Met’s mistreatment of herself and others
- the bravery of women who reported their experiences at the hands of Metropolitan Police officers, including Dr Koshka Duff
- a desire to bring about meaningful change.
As she told The Good Law Project:
By speaking out now I want to encourage more women to come forward about their negative experiences with the police. It’s difficult and takes courage, I know, but if enough women speak out, the Met won’t be able to dismiss them as ‘one-offs’. If enough women speak out, the issue must be acknowledged as an institutional one. If enough women speak out, we can effect real change.
Civil Claim and Judicial Review
Ms O’Connor was profoundly disappointed with the way her complaint and investigation were handled by the Metropolitan Police. She is now seeking a Judicial Review on the basis that the Met’s Professional Standards Department investigators “failed to properly investigate” her case under gender discrimination laws. I wish her every success with that.
In the meantime, I continue to help Kristina with her efforts to hold the police to account with a civil against the Met, and support her as she handles the brave decision to go public.
Kevin Donoghue, is the Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, a law firm which specialises in civil actions against the police.