'Harassment rife' in police

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A policewoman wept yesterday as she told a tribunal of a "culture of sexual harassment" in the force where she works.

Sgt Jane McGill, who has been in the West Yorkshire force for 26 years, described a catalogue of alleged incidents against female officers and said most women suffered in silence.

Sgt McGill, the force training officer and women's representative for the Police Federation, said she had been subjected to four indecent assaults since joining the force.

She had suffered frequent sexist language and seen her promotion prospects blighted.

She was giving evidence at an industrial tribunal in an action brought by PC Karen Wade, 27, against West Yorkshire police and three male colleagues from the Holbeck division in Leeds.

PC Wade claims she had to endure months of sexual harassment from PC Dean Mountain, 30, Sgt Paul Fountain, 30, and Sgt Ian Devey, 32.

Sgt McGill said up to 30 women officers, in the last six years, had spoken to her in confidence about alleged sexual harassment. But none had ever made a formal complaint. Only one brought an allegation of sexual harassment to a grievance committee but had asked the panel to take the matter no further.

The force initiated its special grievance procedure in August 1991 to combat sexual harassment, but Sgt McGill, 43, the force's first contact officer, who deals with welfare matters, said most women suffered in silence.

She said: "I have been subjected to four indecent assaults ... and discrimination in terms of gender in respect to applications to other posts in the service. I have been declined promotion on one occasion because of my sex and on another because of my marital status. I personally experienced inappropriate and sexist language with such frequency it would be difficult to put a number to it."

"I have acquiesced and, gone along with and turned a blind eye to behaviour directed at me personally. At times I have blamed myself but I have survived and had a good career."

She said there was an understanding among the force's 600 women not to complain "because until relatively recently there was no one to complain to".

The hearing continues.