POLICE officers accused of bludgeoning a deer to death with crowbars will not face criminal charges.

In June, The Northern Echo revealed that two firearms officers were being investigated following claims they killed a deer inhumanely by beating it with crowbars at a site close to Tanfield Lea, County Durham.

The officers – both long-serving and well respected, according to police sources – had been ordered to humanely destroy the animal, which had been hit by a vehicle.

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However, it is believed the officers ignored protocol and used crowbars to kill the stricken deer – with Durham Police confirming that the animal was “apparently not destroyed in [a] humane manner”.

While rumours circulated that photographs were taken of the incident, senior officers said a thorough investigation failed to uncover any evidence of officers posing with the dead deer.

A file concerning the incident was prepared and submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service but today, Durham Constabulary confirmed that the officers will not face criminal charges.

Instead, the pair will be subject to a gross misconduct hearing, expected to be held by the end of the year.

A spokesman from the force said: “We have been informed by the CPS of their decision that the two officers will not be charged with criminal offences but should instead be dealt with under police misconduct regulations.

“Durham Constabulary is confident that the regulations provide a timeframe with which all relevant parties need to comply and will ensure a considered and fully informed resolution.”

This outcome was predicted by a whistleblower who contacted The Northern Echo earlier this year claiming that photographic evidence had been withheld from the files submitted to the CPS.

The whistleblower expressed concern that the issue would eventually be dealt with ‘in-house’ rather than through the criminal justice system.

Senior police officers stringently denied the whistleblower’s allegations though confirmed one officer involved was married to a senior member of staff.

A CPS spokesman said: “We have considered the file of evidence passed to us by Durham Police in relation to the alleged inhumane killing of a deer by two serving officers.

“However, the evidence in this case did not meet the threshold required to bring a criminal prosecution and we have asked that the officers are instead dealt with under Police Misconduct Regulations.”

The UK director of animal rights charity PETA, Mimi Bekhechi, said: “If it turns out that police officers did bludgeon a deer to death, they should be not only struck off but also locked up.

“Firearms officers are supposed to undergo a rigorous psychological evaluation – but if this incident did occur, it reveals a very worrying state of mind.

“Research into criminology and psychology shows that people who commit acts of violence against animals are likely to repeat their abusive ways and are indiscriminate about their victims, making them a danger to the entire community.

“We must treat all acts of violence with the seriousness that they deserve. Otherwise, we risk endangering the lives of both animals and humans.”