A HAMPSHIRE police officer has been jailed for 30 months after he was found guilty of two counts of misconduct in public office in connection with “inappropriate” behaviour towards two teenage girls.

PC Keith Burgess was convicted at Guildford Crown Court with regard to his “sexualised” messages and actions towards two girls, in 2014 and 2015, while working as a neighbourhood officer in Southampton, Hampshire.

The 42-year-old was sentenced for two counts of misconduct in public office.

The jury was ordered by the trial judge to find him not guilty due to insufficient evidence of sending sexually explicit messages, three counts of sexual assault, a child grooming offence and two child porn offences.

He was cleared of a further count of misconduct in public office.

A court spokeswoman said that as well as the prison sentence, Burgess was ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge and had a restraining order issued against him concerning the two girls.

He was cleared at trial of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old in the kitchen of her home while her mother sat in the next room. But he was found guilty by the jury of misconduct in relation to his behaviour towards her.

He was also found guilty of misconduct for sending “flirtatious” messages to a 17-year-old girl and asking for pictures of her in return.

Burgess had denied any sexual motive behind sending money to a third girl, aged 15, and said it had been to “help her out” financially. He was cleared of misconduct and grooming in relation to her.

The defendant told the court he had a “very crude” sense of humour and some of the messages he had sent to the girls were “immature” but he had not intended to follow through with the suggested behaviour.

Following the ruling, deputy chief constable Sara Glen, of Hampshire Constabulary, said: “We welcome the sentence today and we thank the victims and witnesses who supported this prosecution. Keith Burgess was considered by the communities he served to be a trusted and respected police officer who was held in the highest regard.

“Many of the families he met in the course of his policing duty looked to him for help and support during their times of need. They welcomed him into their homes and trusted him to help, but he betrayed that trust in the most appalling way.

“We demand the highest standards from all our police officers and staff and the public can rightly expect us to robustly investigate any abuse of their position of power. There is no place in policing for those who ignore their professional duty and moral responsibility.”