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September 2019
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Custody Sergeant Dismissed from Force

The following statement is issued on behalf of Assistant Chief Constable Pat Geenty

On 13th July 2010 at Oxford Magistrates Court Sergeant Mark Andrews was found guilty of causing Actual Bodily Harm to Pamela Somerville whilst she had been a prisoner in police cells at Melksham Police station on 4th July 2008.

Following an appeal his conviction was quashed by Lord Justice Bean at Oxford Crown Court on 18th November, 2010.

At the appeal Lord Justice Beane concluded that the injury to Pamela Somerville was not intentional and was not as a result of criminal action by Sergeant Andrews. Whilst respecting that decision our concern was such that it was felt appropriate to independently examine whether any Police conduct breaches had occurred hence the conduct hearing that has now concluded.

The conduct hearing made up of senior officers from outside of Wiltshire have carefully listened to witnesses and considered all relevant evidence in this case. It has reached a decision that Sergeant Andrews should be dismissed from the force and this will take place with immediate effect.

We have always accepted that Pamela Somerville was injured whilst in our care and I want to apologise again to her for the way she was treated whilst in our care.

We acknowledge that there has been substantial media coverage and public interest in this case and that the images on the custody CCTV will have had an impact on the force and those who work within it.

The criminal appeal hearing concluded that Pamela Somerville had been lawfully arrested, was intoxicated, very uncooperative, verbally abusive, and disruptive to the processes which the law required the Police to carry out nevertheless this conduct hearing has concluded that Sergeant Andrews actions whilst not criminal fell well below the standards expected.

I hope that this decision will be of comfort to Pamela Somerville who was injured whilst in our care and I want to emphasise that she had not committed any crime. The public can be reassured that their safety remains our top priority and we will learn any lessons that need to be learnt to reduce the chance of any such future incident.

The public can also be reassured by the fact that this incident was first reported by another Police Officer. She acted in accordance with the highest traditions of what the public expect of a police officer in bringing her concerns to notice and our view of and support for her actions are not changed.

Police Officers and Police Staff have a duty to report concerns to supervisors and will always be supported in doing so for the benefit of us all.

There can be no greater responsibility than the care of people in our custody regardless of the reason for that custody and considerable effort and importance is placed on ensuring that processes, systems, training, and staff attitude is directed towards facing up to that responsibility

The Police have the power to arrest people in charge of a motor vehicle who they have reason to believe are suffering from the effects of alcohol and who then fail or refuse to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test. Both trial Judges accepted that Pamela Somerville was lawfully arrested and taken to the custody centre and that it was justified to return her to her cell.

Lord Justice Bean concluded in his summing up following the appeal that it was evident that Pamela Somerville was intoxicated, very uncooperative, verbally abusive and disruptive to the processes which the law required staff to carry out. None of this justified the way in which she was treated.

Pamela Somerville was not prosecuted for any offence and the original charge of failing to provide a breath test was withdrawn by the Crown Prosecution Service

No matter how good our systems, processes and training, it is impossible to give a 100% assurance that guidelines will not on occasions be broken. Whilst that is unpalatable it is a reality of the complexity of Policing.

This incident occurred well over two years ago and in that time in excess of 30,000 people have been dealt with in custody centres in Wiltshire. During that period there were no other serious assaults of this nature and although there were a small number of complaints of assault (less than 20), none were substantiated following thorough investigation.

Wiltshire police and its managers will not shirk from our responsibility to continue to reduce the chance of a re-occurrence of such incidents.

As part of a wider national inspection programme the force has undergone four independent inspections, two by the National Police Improvement Agency, one in respect of mentally disordered offenders and one by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and the Prisons Inspectorate. The latter inspection involved a total of 13 Inspectors arriving unannounced and spending four days with the Force. They carried out a thorough inspection in respect of ‘Dignity and Respect’ and produced a favourable report highlighting national best practice and concluding that interaction with detainees was ‘Respectful’.

Independent visitors are able to enter any part of any custody centre unannounced. They regularly do so and have unrestricted access. No issues have been raised concerning the treatment of detained people. Wiltshire Police has CCTV throughout its custody centres and this is being upgraded now to comply with new national standards.

We are not complacent and we welcome the fact that the Wiltshire Police Authority has commenced its own independent review of our custody practices. We will not shirk from our responsibility to continue to ensure that we provide a professional service to the public.

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