Police chief suspended over assault claims

ONE OF the country's most senior police officers has been suspended after accusations of "harassment and assault", it was announced yesterday.

Ian Beckett, 52, the Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey, was suspended on Thursday at the end of an emergency police authority meeting, which has set up an inquiry into the matter. The allegations were made earlier in the week by an employee. Mr Beckett is the most senior officer to be suspended in response to allegations of harassment.

The police force refused to disclose whether the claims included allegations of sexual harassment and if they had been made by a police officer or member of the civilian staff.

A statement by Surrey Police Authority said that the suspension had taken place with "immediate effect".

It added: "The Surrey Police Authority and Chief Constable of Surrey Ian Blair regard this matter as extremely serious and have responded so quickly to the allegations because, whilst not prejudicing the outcome of any investigation, they remain committed to fairness and respect in the workplace."

An investigation will be carried out by City of London Police under supervision by the independent Police Complaints Authority. The PCA said yesterday it had agreed to the suspension. A spokesman added: "We would hope to complete our investigations within 120 days but I do not know how complex this case is going to be."

Mr Beckett was said to have left Surrey Police headquarters in Guildford yesterday morning before news of his suspension was made public.

He has been in the police service for 33 years and joined Surrey from the Metropolitan Police in 1991 as the assistant chief constable, rising to the deputy's job in 1994.

As a chief inspector in the Metropolitan Police, he was the commander of the raid on the home of Dorothy Groce in which she was shot and which sparked the Brixton riots of 1985.

Mr Beckett was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in 1997. He is the latest senior police officer to be suspended and investigated after allegations of wrongdoing.

Frank Wilkinson, the Chief Constable of Gwent, has been suspended for more than a year after allegations were made surrounding the issue of a speeding ticket to a prominent councillor and the award of contracts.

The Police Complaints Authority warned in their annual report last June about the increasing number of complaints being made by women accusing police officers of sexual harassment.