Des O’Connor’s daughter has accused a police misconduct panel of failing to address “predatory and abusive” actions of a detective who said she was “amazingly hot”, the High Court heard.
Kristina O’Connor, whose father is the late comedian and entertainer, was sent numerous inappropriate messages by James Mason after he responded to her report of an attempted robbery in October 2011, the panel was told.
The officer asked her out to dinner while taking her statement about the incident, in which she was assaulted by a group of men trying to steal her phone, it heard.
Mr Mason, who kept his job and went on to work alongside former Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, then sent Ms O’Connor a series of personal emails, including one telling her she was “amazingly hot”.
A police misconduct panel found in October 2021 Mr Mason “deliberately and repeatedly abused his position for a sexual purpose” and his conduct “amounted to gross misconduct”, before he was given a final written warning.
On Tuesday, Ms O’Connor’s lawyers argued at the Royal Courts of Justice in London that the Metropolitan Police and the panel chair failed to appreciate “the gravamen of her complaint” and identify “she had been the victim of direct discrimination”.
The police misconduct panel and the Metropolitan Police dispute some of her claims about how they handled the process.
In written argument, Fiona Murphy KC and Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, representing Ms O’Connor, said the panel fell into “obvious public law error” by “failing to take account of relevant factors”.
The lawyers went on: “The panel did not consider or address the seriousness of Mr Mason’s conduct. This was an obvious error in its approach.”
They accused the panel of not regarding the effect Mr Mason’s actions would have on public confidence and placing “prominent reliance” on the harm caused to the detective if he lost his job.
Ms O’Connor’s lawyers said the panel failed “to address the predatory and abusive dimensions to his actions concluding only that his motivations were sexual and that his intentions were to seek to form a personal relationship”.
They went on: “They failed to have any regard to the directly discriminatory nature of his conduct.
“It was absolutely not sufficient for the panel to leave those considering its conclusions to infer that they would have the fact that Ms O’Connor is a woman at the ‘forefront of their mind’ nor is it possible to in fact infer that they did so from the mere reference to a sexual motive.
“The direct discrimination in this matter went far beyond Mr Mason’s sexual motivation.”
They added: “They failed to have any regard to the fact that Mr Mason’s conduct was operationally dishonest and improper.”
In respect of the panel, the claim concerns its decision to impose the sanction of a final written warning, while the one against the Met focuses on the handling of allegations against Mr Mason.
Anne Studd KC, representing the Metropolitan Police, said in her written argument: “It is incorrect to state that the commissioner failed to identify or investigate a lack of integrity in an operational environment.
“The investigation took full account of the fact that Mr Mason’s conduct arose in the conduct of his police work, and that in doing so he used a position of trust to pursue an improper sexual relationship.”
She concluded that the claims against the force should be dismissed.
The force said in a statement issued after Tuesday’s hearing: “The behaviour of former DCI Mason was wholly unacceptable and the commissioner has made clear that officers who behave in this way have no place in the Met.
“On the facts of this case, we consider the claim against the commissioner about the handling of the allegations should be dismissed.
“The commissioner does not seek to justify or support the panel’s decision.”
In written argument, lawyers representing Mr Mason, who is an interested party in the hearing, said he “contests all parts of the claim”.
They further argue the panel “followed a clear, structured approach in coming to its decision”.
Mr Mason resigned from the Metropolitan Police in November 2022.
The hearing before Mr Justice Swift will continue on Wednesday, with a judgment expected at a later date.