AN Avon & Somerset police officer accused of having his former boss pulled over for suspected drink-driving at 5am because of a “personal vendetta” has been cleared of misconduct.

PC Lee Umpleby, based in Almondsbury, South Gloucestershire, wept as a tribunal panel ruled he genuinely believed Sgt Steve Knight would be over the limit on his way to work and that he was trying to do the right thing but did it the wrong way.

A two-day police misconduct hearing at force headquarters in Portishead heard PC Umpleby, a dog handler, organised the operation for the roadside stop on his ex-line manager.

The constable lay in wait near Sgt Knight’s home around dawn on May 14, 2023, and then followed his car for several miles before two traffic officers who he had arranged to assist him stopped and breathalysed the sergeant, the test proving negative, the panel heard.

PC Umpleby attended the scene while this took place, which the force’s solicitor alleged was intended as humiliation – a claim the panel rejected but agreed that it was “unwise and inappropriate” for him to have been there.

The officer told the hearing that he had previously clashed with Sgt Knight, who he used to work with at the MoD Police in Corsham, Wiltshire, and accused him of being a “bully”.

PC Umpleby, who joined Avon & Somerset Constabulary after resigning from his role in Corsham, said he and several ex-colleagues suspected that the sergeant was intoxicated during occasional weekend overtime shifts and had driven to work while under the influence of alcohol.

The constable told the hearing that he feared someone could be killed, either on the road or through Sgt Knight’s work as a firearms officer in charge of the MoD police station.

PC Umpleby was accused of breaching the standards of professional behaviour for police officers amounting to gross misconduct.

But announcing the panel’s decision on Tuesday, June 4, Legally Qualified Chair (LQC) Jenny Tallentire said they found neither gross misconduct nor misconduct, despite the officer having accepted the latter before the hearing.

She said: “The officer has stated he had long-held concerns that Sgt Knight was in the habit of driving when under the influence of alcohol.

“It is apparent from the statements that there was gossip at RAF Fairford and MoD Corsham about Sgt Knight’s consumption of alcohol.

“The panel found [PC Umpleby’s] evidence to be credible and believable, and considered him to be an honest witness.

“He genuinely believed Sgt Knight had been intoxicated at work and was likely to have driven to work while under the influence of alcohol.”

But Ms Tallentire said: “The panel has reached the conclusion that his personal involvement in this operation was unwise and inappropriate.

“The officer has accepted this with the benefit of hindsight.

“However, the officer was acting with honest intention believing he was acting openly and transparently.

“The officer was carrying out his duties as he understood them to the best of his abilities.

“His behaviour was an attempt to do the right thing but it was done in the wrong way.

“He definitely should not have involved himself personally with the stop and it was a clear error of judgement and a conflict of interests.”

She said the panel found just one of the alleged breaches of professional standards proven – failing to submit an intelligence report – which PC Umpleby admitted at an early stage, and that they did not find any involving dishonesty proven.

The LQC said: “This is a training and management issue rather than a misconduct issue.

“The panel does not find the breach amounts either to gross misconduct or even misconduct.”

It rejected allegations that the officer obtained unauthorised information, made a false statement that he had reliable and credible intelligence that Sgt Knight would be drink-driving, and failed to notify Avon & Somerset Police about their previous association.