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UPDATED: Police officer to do community work over 'drunken prank' knife threat
4:31pm Thursday 20th February 2014 in News
A POLICE officer has been ordered to do community work after arming himself with a knife and confronting a friend and putting the weapon to his throat on a drunken night out in Dorchester.
Peter Lawrence, who had previously been working as a detective constable with Dorset Police involved in undercover operations, will now face disciplinary proceedings at work over the late-night incident when he was off duty.
The judge in the case, who said he was prepared to treat it as a ‘drunken prank which went wrong’, said he would be very surprised if Lawrence is allowed to remain a policeman in view of his behaviour that night. He described Lawrence’s behaviour as ‘grossly irresponsible.’
Married father-of-two Lawrence, 42, who has been in Dorset Police for 17 years, has been suspended on full pay since the time of his arrest last March.
He was convicted of common assault following a trial at Gloucester Crown Court last month and was back there today to be sentenced. The jury had cleared him of assaulting Simon Slade causing actual bodily harm but found him guilty of the less serious offence.
Lawrence was given a community order with a requirement to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. He was ordered to pay Mr Slade £1,000 compensation, pay £1,000 court costs and a £60 surcharge.
During the trial, the court heard that Lawrence had gone out drinking with Mr Slade and other friends.
Mr Slade got ‘very drunk’ and when they returned to a flat belonging to Stuart Hole in Dorchester, he was making racist and anti-Semitic comments, it was alleged.
When he was leaving, Lawrence followed him out, grabbed him and pinned him against the wall with a knife to his throat.
He told him: ‘Talk to me like that again and I will put this knife through your neck.’ Frightened Mr Slade tried to fend him off and cut his hand in the process. He also suffered a slight facial injury.
Passing sentence, Judge Jamie Tabor QC told Lawrence: “Hideously drunk as you were you thought it would be funny to pull the leg of your victim by pushing him up against the wall and holding a knife to his throat and pretending to be very cross.
“It backfired spectacularly because he undoubtedly genuinely believed you were going to cut his throat and that’s how he cut his hand.
“This was grossly irresponsible behaviour. I can only ascribe it to alcohol.”
He added: "It is difficult to imagine how your career in the police force is going to continue. Fortunately you are talented and you have other skills you can use elsewhere.
"I suspect you are going to be punished far more severely than I can do."
'Well respected' officer
DEFENDING barrister in the case, Peter Onslow, gave the judge a sheaf of references for Lawrence.
The judge said they portrayed Lawrence as a courteous, polite and sensitive officer who was well respected in the force and by the public.
Mr Onslow said: “As far as his work is concerned nothing has been done yet. I have been told it is likely it will go to a gross misconduct hearing within the next three months.
“He is almost bound to lose his job in the current atmosphere where Dorset Police are seeking to cut their numbers so that any officer who commits an offence is most likely to lose their job.”
After the case, a Dorset Police spokesman said: “Now criminal proceedings have been completed he will now be subject to internal disciplinary procedures.”