Sex assaults file on senior police chief goes to CPS

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ONE OF the country's most senior police chiefs has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by five women from his force.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is considering whether criminal charges should be brought against Ian Beckett, the Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey, who has been suspended since January.

Four of the women have accused him of sexual misconduct during an inquiry into similar allegations made by a female colleague at the beginning of the year. Mr Beckett, 52, is thought to be the most senior police officer in Britain to be the subject of such allegations.

A file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The six- month inquiry began in January after accusations made by a senior civilian administration worker at the Surrey force. Her accusations are believed to stem from alleged incidents in the weeks before Christmas at the force's headquarters, near Guildford. The woman is reported to have said her career has suffered because of the alleged incidents. Mr Beckett was suspended after what police sources described as "extreme-ly serious" allegations.

An investigation was carried out by a team from the City of London police headed by the force's Commissioner, Perry Nove. During its inquiries, a further four women working for Surrey Police are understood to have accused Mr Beckett of harassment and sexual assault. It is not known whether they are civilian staff or police officers.

The inquiry was overseen by the independent Police Complaints Authority and was completed on 8 June, when the file was sent to the CPS.

When the first allegations were made, Mr Beckett was described by a member of his police authority as a much- respected and dedicated officer.

Mr Beckett, who has a wife and family, has been a policeman for 33 years. As a Chief Inspector in the Metropolitan Police, he commanded the raid on the home of Dorothy "Cherry" Groce, which sparked the 1985 Brixton riots. He has held his present post since 1994, and was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in 1997.

If the CPS decides that charges should be brought Mr Beckett will go to trial, but if no charges are brought he could still face a disciplinary hearing.

For senior ranks, the force's police authority is the ruling body. It can deal with the matter itself or set up a formal disciplinary hearing with a judge and two independent assessors. Surrey Police Authority can ultimately sack an officer.

A spokeswoman for Surrey Police said: "No statement will be issued until the CPS announces its decision on this matter. Mr Beckett remains suspended." A CPS spokesman said: "We would expect to reach a view shortly."

The inquiry comes at a sensitive time for Mr Beckett's boss, Ian Blair, the Chief Constable of Surrey. Mr Blair is tipped to succeed Sir Paul Condon as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the end of the year. Mr Blair has made his name as a reformer and has criticised police "canteen culture".