A POLICE officer accused of confronting a retained firefighter who had an affair with his wife and accessing confidential police records has been dismissed from North Yorkshire Police.

A disciplinary hearing declared that PC Christopher Parnell, based at Harrogate, committed gross misconduct when he accessed confidential police records without a proper reason.

It heard he did so 37 times between April 2011 and January 2017 to find information about people he knew.

It decided the policeman's behaviour towards the man who had had an affair with his wife was also misconduct.

PC Parnell stopped contesting the hearing midway through its third day.

The hearing began on Monday over allegations that he confronted and intimidated a former retained firefighter and odd jobs man, at his home in Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, after discovering the other man had had an affair with his wife.

He was also accused of unlawfully accessing the police recording system, NICHE, 37 times without an appropriate policing purpose.

The disciplinary panel at North Yorkshire Police’s headquarters in Northallerton described this as a “severe breach” of confidentiality and his most “serious transgression” in the matters he was facing.

No details of the nature of the information he was accessing on the police records were read out to the panel, as mid-way through Wednesday's proceedings PC Parnell announced he had decided to resign from the force.

His barrister, Michael Rawlinson, said he was resigning because of media coverage of the public hearing.

“In order to preserve his own dignity and the dignity of his family and the office of constable and North Yorkshire Police he doesn’t wish to prolong or elongate these proceedings if necessary," said the barrister.

“He doesn’t wish to ventilate quite personal matters either in front of the panel or the public."

As a result PC Parnell would not contest any findings from the panel or evidence or recommendations from the force's barrister Edward Pleeth.

The hearing heard PC Parnell had an undeclared business interest in a cleaning company, Clean Move Cleaning Contractors Ltd, based in Huddersfield, of which it is believed he was listed as a director and was also the named landlord of a property he rented out in Huddersfield between December 2013 and February 2017.

As well as failing to declare the businesses, he had used his police email and photocopier for the businesses.

The misconduct panel at North Yorkshire Police’s headquarters found him guilty of gross misconduct, resulting in dismissal without notice.

Chairman of the panel, Tom Mitchell, said: “PC Parnell’s most serious transgression related to the serious transgression of his repeated and unlawful access to the North Yorkshire Police NICHE computer system.

“Every citizen has the right to expect police officers will respect their privacy and not invade it except with good and sufficient cause.

“It was clear from PC Parnell’s evidence in this case that he knew his access to that system was wrong. What we find at this stage is he always knew that to be so. That fact is widely accepted and known as a declared corporate policy.

“Unless there be any confusion all officers and the public at large should know that unlawful access of confidential information will inevitably be regarded as a severe breach of the required professional standard of confidentiality.

“This is all the more true when, as here, the system was used to gain personal information about people with whom PC Parnell personally associated.

"It is however, important to note that there is no evidence that PC Parnell disclosed anything he discovered to anyone else.”

Mr Mitchell had concluded earlier in the hearing that PC Parnell’s visit to the retained firefighter's home had fallen short of expected standards of a police officer, and that given the circumstances it amounted to misconduct, not gross misconduct.

The police officer had gone to Boroughbridge after learning the other man had had an affair with his wife.

He had known the retained firefighter and odd jobs man for 12 years, but in August last year discovered he was having an affair with his wife.

The panel had been told that the firefighter lost his temper when another friend told him the wife had told other people of the affair .

The firefighter told the friend he could have the PC’s wife “buried on the moors” for making their affair public.

He also went to the policeman's family home to speak to the wife, but the couple’s daughter answered the door and he began swearing at the mother in front of the youngster.

Three days after hearing this, the police officer visited the firefighter's home and asked to see text messages sent between the two.

Panel chairman Tom Mitchell said the firefighter knew PC Parnell was a police officer.

“At all times he carried with him the authority of the law; that would embolden him," he said.

“We found PC Parnell abused the authority vested in him and failed to show him due respect and courtesy.”

Mr Mitchell concluded: “We have read material submitted on PC Parnell’s behalf by the police federation and his counsel.

“We know that for many years, and on many occasions, PC Parnell executed his duty well and prior to these matters had no convictions or disciplinary findings to his name. Nonetheless, taking all the concessions and findings in this case lead us to inevitably conclude that the only appropriate sanction available in this case is dismissal without notice.”