PC called in sick to watch Quiet Reflection win at Royal Ascot
A policeman who missed work to go to Royal Ascot when he was supposedly too sick to work only to be caught celebrating on Channel 4 Racing claimed on Monday it was his way of coping with his "awful" job.
PC Jonathan Adams, 32, – who also went to two meetings at Nottingham under similar circumstances – said working at Barton Street Police Station in Gloucester was "absolute hell" and his method of dealing with the stresses and strains was to call in sick and go racing.
"I can only describe Barton Street police station as absolute hell. It was awful," he told a Gloucestershire Police misconduct hearing.
The officer, who lives in Ross-on-Wye, is alleged to have committed gross misconduct by 'throwing sickies' on three occasions in 2015 and 2016 and going to the race meetings.
He was shown on Channel 4 Racing celebrating the Commonwealth Cup win of Quiet Reflection at Royal Ascot last year with fellow members of his ownership syndicate, although he himself was not a shareholder in the winner.
Adams denies misconduct and told the hearing at Gloucestershire Police HQ that his posting to the Barton Street police station had led to his suffering migraines and irritable bowel syndrome.
"I just dreaded going into the station, dreaded it," he said. "Everywhere was so busy, so noisy. I was frustrated I was not getting the help or support for what I was trying to do. I could also hear myself being belittled by colleagues.
"I didn't want to go back into that environment. It was toxic, absolutely toxic."
The PC said he did not want to go on long-term sick leave and let his colleagues down, so on three occasions when he felt really low and unwell he went to the races because it was so therapeutic for him.
"Being around horses, I am just relaxed, perfectly," he said, "I'm just not anxious when I'm there. I'm going to a place where I feel safe and happy.
"I'm talking to like-minded people who are there, and there would not be any mention of the things I was going through. It's just one day to be happy and then get back to work."
Adams was subsequently transferred to Bearlands police station in Gloucester and said it was "fantastic" because he was doing the community-based work he wanted to do. The effect on his health was instantaneous and he felt much better. Since that move he had not felt it necessary to take time off work and go to the races.
Insisting his three trips to the races on sick days had been "a way of getting myself better", he added: "I didn't think I was doing anything dishonest. I didn't see the problem in trying to get myself a bit better."
The tribunal heard that PC Adams was a member of the Ontoawinner syndicate and was part-owner of a horse called Little Lady Katie who ran at Nottingham on the first two days he called in sick.
He said he drove to the first Nottingham meeting and then drove home again despite feeling unwell. He took the train to Nottingham from Hereford on the second occasion because his headache was so bad, he said.
For the Royal Ascot trip he also drove and met up there with a group of friends, including his then girlfriend, with whom he stayed that night in Windsor, he told the tribunal.
Police lawyer Stephen Morley told him: "If you were well enough to get in your car, drive for a couple of hours to a race meeting, and then drive back again later with a cold and a headache and stomach pains, weren't you well enough to go to work?"
PC Adams replied: "I just wanted to be in an environment where I could be happy. I needed to deal with my overriding anxiousness and be in a better place. I had just had enough."
Mr Morley said: "On these days you got a normal day's wages, sick pay. So you were paid by the public to go horseracing, effectively?"
PC Adams said: "I didn't see that. It was not my intention. I'm not like that."
Earlier, Mr Morley had said PC Adams had applied to his manager for a holiday during Royal Ascot but was refused because the station was short-staffed. Mr Morley said the panel would have to decide whether PC Adams was actually unfit for duty and whether his behaviour was a breach of the standards of professional behaviour.
"We don't accept he was sick at all," he said. "This was throwing a sickie to go horseracing."
Problems could be related to work
However, he said that the force did not dispute the officer was suffering generally from health problems at that time, as there were medical reports showing he had abdominal symptoms that could be related to work or family stress.
Mr Morley said an investigation into the officer's behaviour began when PC Adams applied for permission to work in his spare time as customer services manager for the Ontoawinner syndicate. He admitted he was already doing the job and wanted retrospective permission to carry on.
Mr Morley said: "He explained his particular interest in horseracing and said he was an owner as well as a manager. He said there were approximately 50 horses in the syndicate and it was something he would only do in his spare time.
"He said it was not for financial reasons, it was a hobby, although he would get paid expenses for travel and so on. He said he got 2.5 per cent for any money won by either of the two horses he had an interest in. The application was in fact rejected."
The hearing continues.