PC who ignored violence loses job

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A POLICE officer has been forced to resign and another has been fined pounds 1,000 for failing to help a woman who told them her husband had attacked her.

Katherine Ford, 33, an advertising executive, protested to the Police Complaints Authority that the two South Wales constables had dismissed her pleas for help when they called at her home.

After an investigation into her allegations, the two officers were brought before a police disciplinary hearing on charges of neglect of duty.

PC Paul Rolley was "required to resign" and PC Brian Bedford was fined after the case against them was proved.

Mrs Ford welcomed the decision yesterday, saying it was "a lesson to other women that they must stand up for their rights". She added: "I was crying out for help but didn't get it. Police should be there to protect victims of crime. But they just weren't interested and walked away."

Mrs Ford, who is now divorced, launched her complaint after her husband was jailed for four years in October 1996 for a series of 11 attacks on her.

Sean Ford, 34, a market trader from Cardiff, had beaten up his wife so badly that she was treated in hospital at least seven times during their two-and-a-half-year marriage.

Her injuries included a fractured skull, a broken jaw and arm, broken ribs, a stab wound and bite wounds to her leg.

At Ford's trial at Cardiff Crown Court, the jury was told she had reported the attacks to police several times but no action was taken. It was not until she was taken to hospital covered in bruises that her husband was arrested.

Yesterday, Assistant Chief Constable David Francis said: "As a result of a complaint by a member of the public two officers appeared before the Chief Constable to face a disciplinary hearing. The case was proven."

A spokesman for the Police Complaints Authority said the case was an important landmark for the rights of women who suffer domestic violence.

"This woman must have felt very defensive after her treatment by the police officers but the case shows that complaints from the public are taken very seriously by us and the police force involved. We hope this will encourage other people to come forward if they feel they have been unfairly dealt with by police officers."

Julie Bindel, of the domestic violence pressure group Justice for Women, said the hearing's decision was momentous. "As far as I am aware it is the first time this has happened," she said. "It is very hard for a police officer to lose his job because of the way he deals with a member of the public.

"One of the demands women have put forward since working with the police on domestic violence is that there should be a consistent nationwide policy which requires officers to be accountable for their actions or face disciplinary action, just as would happen in other crimes."

She said the case reflected the way police are beginning to respond to the shift in public opinion over domestic violence. "There are countless women who now talk about the exemplary way they have been treated by officers in domestic violence units. This woman has been through a terrible ordeal but her case will, without doubt, put the wind up other forces and encourage women to demand a proper service."

South Wales Police Federation said PC Rolley was likely to appeal against the action.