A POLICE officer who sent a series of perverted messages to a convicted child molester can be sacked from Wiltshire Police after a High Court ruling.

Paul Woollard, who was based in Highworth, joked about rape with sex offender Robert Meade and used the police intelligence system to run checks on his friend, who was later jailed for sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl.

After his dismissal for gross misconduct in 2010, the 40-year-old appealed to the Police Appeals Tribunal in 2011 and was cleared to work.

They said PC Woollard should be reinstated with a final warning. That ruling was contested by Wiltshire Chief Constable Patrick Geenty and yesterday, the High Court ruled that the PAT’s decision was irrational and that PC Woollard should remain dismissed.

Speaking after the hearing, Temporary Chief Superintendent Paul Mills, head of local policing at Wiltshire Police, said: “Due to the serious nature of the allegations made against former PC Paul Woollard it was only right that Wiltshire Police should look at all the legal avenues available to them with regard to his employment.

“A conduct hearing concluded that former PC Woollard should be dismissed for gross misconduct.

“We welcome the decision by the High Court to overturn the ruling by the Police Appeals Tribunal that former PC Woollard should be reinstated. Wiltshire Police would like to reiterate that it expects the highest standards of professional behaviour from its police officers and staff.

“Any inappropriate behaviour, whether on or off duty, will be investigated and appropriate action taken.”

PC Woollard used his police email address to send Meade a series of explicit messages, one of them reading: “Just waitin for the women to come and open up. I might rape her as theres noone else here (sic).”

Meade, who PC Woollard knew through a shared interest in cricket and angling, admitted sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl at Swindon Crown Court in October 2009 and was jailed for a year.

John Beggs QC, for Mr Geenty at the hearing yesterday, conceded there was no evidence PC Woollard knew about Meade’s crime when he sent the rape email, but claimed that he had ‘continued to associate’ with his friend even after he was charged.

PC Woollard had also committed breaches of the Data Protection Act by accessing the ‘Niche’ police intelligence computer to look up details about Meade, the QC told the court.

PC Woollard accepted the rape email had left him ‘hanging his head in shame’, but said it was an example of the laddish banter he and Meade enjoyed and was ‘just a stupid joke, to a stupid bloke, between two stupid friends’.

Mr Geenty’s predecessor as Chief Constable, Brian Moore, had ordered PC Woollard’s dismissal but, in May last year, he was overruled by the PAT which said ending his career would be ‘unreasonably harsh’. The panel directed he be reinstated and given a final warning.

Overturning that decision, Mr Justice Wyn Williams said there was nothing unreasonable about the Chief Constable’s view that the ‘simply appalling’ rape email, combined with PC Woollard’s other misbehaviour, meant he could not remain a serving police officer.