Police chief charged with sex assaults

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The Independent Online
ONE OF Britain's most senior police officers was charged yesterday with indecently assaulting two women working at his force.

Ian Beckett, 52, the Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey, was charged with four sexual assaults on civilian staff last year while at the police headquarters near Guildford.

Mr Beckett, who was bailed to appear at the City of London magistrates Court on 7 October, is believed to be the most senior police officer ever to face such charges.

He was suspended in January after accusations of sexual harassment and assault were first made by a senior civilian administrative worker at the Surrey force. Her accusations are believed to stem from alleged incidents in the weeks before Christmas.

Further allegations of sexual assault and harassment emerged during a six-month investigation by the City of London Police. The inquiry was conducted by Perry Nove, the Commissioner of the City of London Police, and was overseen by the Police Complaints Authority.

The City of London force said Mr Beckett had been charged at Wood Street police station, London, and bailed.

Mr Beckett, who is married with a family, has been a policeman for 33 years.

Colleagues have described him as a much-respected and dedicated officer. He was appointed Assistant Chief Constable of Surrey in 1991 and was promoted to his present post in 1994. He has been credited with "turning the Surrey force around" and introducing improvements that helped to produce one of the lowest crime rates in the country. He was awarded the Queen's Police Medal two years ago.

Earlier in his career, as a chief inspector in the Metropolitan Police, he commanded the raid on the home of Dorothy "Cherry" Groce, which was believed to have sparked the 1985 Brixton riots.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service, said yesterday: "We have now completed our consideration and given our advice to the police. We have concluded there is sufficient evidence to prosecute in this case."

Surrey Police Authority said yesterday that Mr Beckett would remain suspended until the proceedings were completed. "It is a matter of grave concern to the authority which must now await the outcome of those proceedings," it said in a statement. The authority said it was anxious to protect the "interests and confidentiality" of its staff.