George Panayi, 48, will instead be demoted.
11 February 2022
A Metropolitan Police sergeant who kissed the cheek of a female officer has avoided the sack, after a misconduct panel ruled he should instead face a reduction in rank.
Sergeant George Panayi, 48, part of the East Area Command Unit, was accused of kissing and pinching the cheek of the female officer – without her consent – while on duty.
He was also accused of opening the door to a lavatory knowing the female officer was inside.
Chairwoman of the police misconduct panel Eileen Herlihy said: “We find that all three allegations are proven as misconduct.”
She described his actions as “offensive” and pointed out that he was “superior in rank”.
Regarding the kiss on the cheek, Ms Herlihy said: “We find the officer’s behaviour is entirely unprofessional.”
Delivering his sanction, she said: “The most appropriate and proportionate outcome is reduction in rank.”
The rationale for the police misconduct panel’s decision was not given and is expected at a later date.
Earlier, Julian Walters, counsel for the Appropriate Authority, had said “the only real option is dismissal without notice”.
On Monday, the female officer told the hearing she was sitting in the driver’s seat of a police van on December 21 2019 when Sgt Panayi approached and asked to see the log book.
She said he showed her photographs of women on his phone and told her: “I’m dating them because you are not available.”
After that, she said he grabbed her face “in a headlock” with both hands and kissed her on the cheek.
She said he grabbed her in such a way that she “couldn’t move”.
The officer was asked by Mr Walters: “Had you consented to this?”
She replied: “Absolutely not.”
The woman said the incident was “offensive, demeaning, horrifying”, adding: “I was shocked. I did not know how to react.”
She said she was “like a fish out of water” and was not sure what to do, adding: “It was unwanted. It was offensive.”
Mr Walters said if the incident unfolded as the female officer had described, it was a “slam-dunk case for harassment”.
Sgt Panayi told the hearing this week that it was not uncommon for him to kiss colleagues on the cheek when congratulating them on a promotion, greeting them after a long absence or when having “a bit of fun” with them.
He said: “There’s a cultural side to it, me being from a Mediterranean Greek origin.
“I am quite a touchy person when it comes to showing some kind of feeling or emotion.”
But he admitted “on reflection, I was stupid”.
He added: “I regret my actions and I admit that I’ve been a little bit naive in my behaviour.
“I am aware of how the culture has moved since 2019 and I have changed considerably.”
The woman told the hearing that on February 3 2020, Sgt Panayi also pinched her cheek when she was in the middle of restraining a mental health patient trying to self-harm.
She said it was “completely unprofessional”, adding: “He didn’t do it to my other colleague. He did it to me.”
The woman told the hearing about the third allegation, said to have taken place on February 9 2020, in which she says Sgt Panayi opened the female lavatory door after she had gone in and before she had the chance to lock it.
“He just laughed at me and walked off,” she said.
The officer said she reported the incidents as they had not been one-offs.
“This was becoming a pattern. My fear was that other things were going to happen,” she said.
The officer said there had been “stigma” after she made the allegations, adding some colleagues were supportive while others were not.
It was alleged that Sgt Panayi breached the standards of professional behaviour in respect of authority, respect and courtesy.
The panel did not believe there was any sexual motivation behind Sgt Panayi’s behaviour.