A LONG-serving Avon and Somerset police constable has been sacked after an incident in which he bullied a sales assistant in Sports Direct and then concocted a false story in an attempt to prosecute the manager.

The officer, whose identity has not been revealed for personal reasons, tried to claim 'finder's rights' after he was told a £3 basketball was not for sale as it was 'lost property', a misconduct hearing was told.

He had gone into the shop with his wife and children while off duty and was told that a scanner did not recognise one of two balls he wished to buy and had probably been dropped or mislaid by another customer.

A report of the hearing said: "In response, you indicated that what the staff were doing was illegal and that you had a right to the ball having found it ('finder's rights')."

The PC then had an exchange with the manager, who he ordered to take the ball to Wells Police Station the following day before the manager asked him to leave the shop.

The officer's behaviour was described as "bullying, intimidating and an abuse of his position as a police officer".

The manager made a complaint against the officer at the police station, at which point the latter made a "dishonest and malicious attempt to initiate criminal proceedings" against the former.

The misconduct hearing was told the police officer had served for more than 30 years, including a spell in the military police, but that he had a history of mental ill health.

The tribunal panel decided to dismiss the police officer without notice for gross misconduct during the incident on August 28 last year.

The report said: "Nothing less than this would achieve the objectives of maintaining public confidence in and the reputation of the police, upholding high standards and deterring misconduct, and protecting the public

"We accept that this will be regarded as a harsh punishment by him and his family and we are acutely aware of the suffering it will cause them

personally but we have no alternative if we are to maintain the integrity and reputation of the profession of a police officer and the values of Avon and Somerset Police as laid down by the Chief Constable."