Why hasn’t convicted police officer been dismissed yet, ask women’s rights advocates
Women’s rights advocates have condemned the police for failing to dismiss an officer who pleaded guilty to a crime against a woman colleague.
Sean Simons admitted to a charge of intruding on a woman’s privacy when he appeared in Magistrates’ Court last week. A more serious charge of sexual assault was withdrawn by prosecutors after Simons agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge.
But the officer remains on the Bermuda Police Service payroll while his status is “reviewed” by senior officers. Simons has been suspended on full pay since being arrested and charged in October 2021.
Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons confirmed Simons was still employed by the Bermuda Police Service.
He added: “There is a process that has to be followed before a determination can be made on whether the officer is dismissed.”
Last night Sheelagh Cooper, a criminologist and founder of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, described the failure to have Simons dismissed as “baffling”.
Ms Cooper said: “The recent criminal conviction of the police officer for an offence against one of his female colleagues is disturbing enough, but the statement by the commissioner that his retention on the force is still under review is baffling to say the least.
“This officer has been on full salary for the past 14 months awaiting trial, and the possibility that he may return to service is extremely hard to fathom.
“I shudder to think how the victim, who still serves on the police force, feels about that. What is there to review?”
According to the Bermuda Police Service website, a man who intrudes upon the privacy of a woman or girl in such a way as to be likely to alarm, insult or offend the woman or girl whose privacy he intrudes upon, is guilty of an offence under Bermuda law.
Specifically the Criminal Code defines the offence as follows:
• he accosts or follows her, or
• he utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, or commits any indecent act, intending the word or sound to be heard by her or the gesture or object or the indecent act to be seen by her.
Even though Bermuda now has a Stalking Act, the offence of intruding upon the privacy of a female remains on the statute books and is still used by the police.
A spokesman for the Women’s Resource Centre supported that view, saying that the failure to take disciplinary action against Simons showed an “apparent denial” of offences against women.
The spokesman said: “We say ‘apparent denial’ because response data reflects a consistent lack of value placed on the consequences and penalties, even after being found guilty of offences.”
During last week’s hearing, the court heard how Simons repeatedly grabbed his victim and kissed her as she attempted to pass his table in a restaurant one afternoon in June 2021.
The victim suffered from bruising as a result of Simon’s actions, which made her feel “embarrassed, humiliated and offended”.
The WRC spokesman added that more needed to be done to educate the community about “unacceptable behaviour” based on gender.
The spokesman said: “It is hoped that with the implementation of a gender bureau and the work of organisations such as the Women’s Resource Centre and others that work to disempower sexism, there will be more focus on educating our community regarding this unacceptable behaviour that absolutely needs to change.”