James Mason asked Kristina O’Connor out for a drink, called her “amazingly hot”, and told her she had “taken top spot as my favourite Camden victim of crime”.
The officer, then a Sergeant at Kentish Town police station, was in charge of the robbery investigation after Ms O’Connor was surrounded by four men in the street in a bid to steal her phone in October 2011.
The court heard the 24-year-old was left feeling “vulnerable, helpless, and distressed” by the mugging, and then found herself fending off the advances of a police officer around a decade her senior who was supposed to be helping her.
“She felt exploited, vulnerable, alone, and frightened”, said her barrister Fiona Murphy KC.
Ms O’Connor, the daughter of the late TV star Des O’Connor, told Mason that she worked as a croupier at the Playboy casino in Mayfair, and in response he asked her about what she wore at work, among a string of “intrusive, personal questions”.
She says Mason “used heavy sexual overtones” in conversations at the police station, and asked her out for dinner when she said she had been mugged on the walk to Sainsbury’s.
In later emails as Ms O’Connor sought to assist the police investigation, Mason invited her out for a drink, offered to take her picture, and said despite her injuries from the robbery “I am sure you still looking amazingly hot”, the court heard.
Knocked back, Mason continued: “Coming on to victims is positively encouraged, it’s all part of the friendly and accessible face of the Met Police. It’s the rejection that is frowned upon.”
When Ms O’Connor told him: “You have no shame! You could get fired for this!”, Mason replied: “You are probably right on both counts. I can assure that I am as determined in my pursuit of criminals as I am of beautiful women if that helps. You know where I am if you ever change your mind or need a friendly Police officer.”
The officer then added that she has “taken top spot as my favourite Camden victim of crime.”
Ms O’Connor reported Mason’s behaviour in October 2020, and at a misconduct hearing a year later the officer – by now a Detective Chief Inspector – was found guilty of gross misconduct and issued with a three-year written warning.
Ms O’Connor has now brought a High Court Judicial Review claim, insisting Mason should have been sacked by the disciplinary panel.
“The panel had a range of sanctions available to it, but imposed the least serious of them”, said Ms Murphy.
“Mr Mason, who was about ten years her senior, abused his position as the senior officer responsible fro Kentish Town police station.
“He assumed personal responsibility for taking Ms O’Connor’s witness statement and used that opportunity to ask her intrusive personal questions with a heavy sexual overtone, to invite her to dinner and he persisted in this predatory conduct in a series of grossly inappropriate email communications in which he stated that rejection would be frowned upon.”
The Met is accused by Ms O’Connor of failures in the investigation of her complaint against Mason and allegedly failing to put all the relevant material before a misconduct panel.
Mason’s misconduct hearing happened just days after Wayne Couzens had been jailed for life for the rape and murder of Sarah Everard and another officer, David Carrick, had been first been identified as a rapist – with Scotland Yard in the grip of a full-blown crisis.
Mason received a commendation for his handling of the response to the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in 2018, and had worked as a staff officer for former Met commissioner Cressida Dick.
He retired from the Met in 2022, and is contesting all parts of Ms O’Connor’s Judicial Review claim. Mason is also challenging the legality of the misconduct panel’s findings, arguing it got the law wrong and took into account “irrelevant factors” when reaching its final decisions.
In a statement to the claim, Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said Mason’s behaviour was “abusive and predatory”, and he believes “officers who behave in this way have no role to play in the Metropolitan Police Service”.
“In circumstances such as these, the Commissioner himself has no power to dismiss an officer summarily or otherwise and is reliant upon the regulatory system in place unless or until Parliament intervenes”, he added.
Ms O’Connor is in court alongside lawyers from Hodge, Jones, and Allen, as well as the Good Law Project, who are supporting her claim.
The hearing, which is expected to last two days, continues.