Officer jailed for police cell assault on woman
Tuesday 07 September 2010
A police sergeant who injured a woman when he assaulted her in a cell was jailed for six months today.
Sgt Mark Andrews was caught on CCTV dragging Pamela Somerville, 59, across the floor of Melksham police station in Wiltshire before shoving her into the cell.
Ms Somerville was arrested in July 2008 after being found asleep in her car. She was detained for failing to provide a sample for a breath test.
The CCTV footage shows her lying on the floor for a minute before struggling to get up with blood pouring from a head wound.
Former soldier Andrews was convicted of assault causing actual bodily harm after a trial at Oxford Magistrates' Court in July.
The 37-year-old, who was suspended on full pay after his conviction, was sentenced today at the same court.
Ms Somerville was taken to Royal United Hospital in Bath and needed stitches in a gash above her eye.
Passing sentence, Deputy District Judge Peter Greenfield said Andrews had abused his position of trust and only a custodial sentence was appropriate.
He said: "In my view, you presided over an atmosphere of bullying and intimidation upon Ms Somerville which culminated in the cell later that morning."
The judge continued: "I regard that a gross breach of trust placed upon you by Ms Somerville.
"I consider that right thinking members of the public will be appalled and totally saddened by your actions as a police officer."
Balding Andrews, wearing a dark suit, was led from the court in handcuffs by two dock officers.
Jeremy Barton, defending Andrews, immediately submitted papers for an appeal.
The court heard that Andrews, who is married with children aged four and two, joined Wiltshire Police around eight years ago and was promoted to sergeant in 2005.
Prior to joining the police, he had spent around nine years in the Army, reaching the rank of sergeant.
Mr Barton, in mitigation, said Andrews was truly sorry for what happened to Ms Somerville.
"Right from the very outset, he's expressed sorrow for the injuries that she received while in his custody," Mr Barton told the court.
Mr Barton said Ms Somerville had been drinking and had sworn at police officers while in the police station, even telling one to "f*** off".
"This was someone in police custody, drunk and abusive, and it was for these reasons that control was required of her to place her in her cell, unlawfully as the court has found," he said.
He said alcohol must play some part in this.
The district judge accepted that Ms Somerville, who was described in court as slightly built, had been abusive but said she was "not lashing out or making threats".
Mr Barton said Andrews had already received death threats and the stress from the court case has put his family under great strain.
"He has received death online threats as to what would happen to him if he was to be imprisoned," he said.
"He has also received phone calls. To say he has been to the mill and back would be an understatement."
Ms Somerville, in an interview with Sky News, criticised the length of the sentence.
"What I found the most distressing was when I heard he was sentenced to six months in jail and he could be out in three months," she said.
"I don't know how sentencing works but I get the feeling that if he had been a member of the public that had assaulted me in that way, I think he would have got a greater sentence."
She described Andrews as "extremely aggressive" and said he had repeatedly told her to "shut up".
"All he seemed to say was 'shut up, shut up, shut up', with other adjectives in front of shut up," she said.
"I was terrified on the way to the police station and when I got into the custody suite, I thought it would be sorted out."
She added: "I thought they must have mistaken me for somebody who had done some terrible crime. Whatever crime you have done or haven't done, is this what happens in police cells?"
She said the incident was like an "horrific nightmare".
"I thought perhaps they would never let me out," she said. "I couldn't understand why they would treat anybody in that way. It was like a horrific nightmare."
But she said she wanted to move on from the incident.
She said: "I want it all over, I want to forget it."
Asked if she had a message for Sgt Andrews, she said: "I would like him to say he is sorry."
Passing sentence, Judge Greenfield condemned the actions of two police officers who had given evidence on the Andrews's behalf.
He said the written judgment he made when convicting Andrews - where he criticised those two unnamed officers - be brought to the attention of the Wiltshire Chief Constable.
"As part of your case you called two officers whose evidence I didn't accept, which said she was violent and aggressive," the judge told Andrews.
"I was so concerned about the evidence these officers gave me, I asked my comments to be brought to the attention of the chief officer of Wiltshire."
However, the judge praised the conduct of another officer, Pc Rachel Webb, who had seen Andrews' actions in the police station and reported him.
"Pc Rachel Webb was placed in an incredibly difficult position, having the courage to report a senior officer," he told Andrews.
"She was completely shaken by events in that custody suite. I consider that she is an officer who acted with integrity and courage."
Speaking outside court after Andrews was jailed, Assistant Chief Constable Pat Geenty, of Wiltshire Police, labelled him a "disgrace".
"I wish to begin by apologising to Ms Somerville for what the judge has called a 'gross breach of trust'," Mr Geenty said.
"This was a disgraceful incident and breached the high standards of care that every police officer gives to the public.
"There is no place in Wiltshire Police for an officer like this. I fully support the comments of the judge and the sentence handed down today.
"The officer let the public down, he let his colleagues down and he has let himself down.
"He was a disgrace and I am proud of the officer that came forward and reported him to his superviser.
"That officer upholds the standards of the service that we all expect."
Mr Geenty added: "We respect the decision of the court today in sentencing Sgt Andrews to six months imprisonment and we will carefully consider the comments of the trial judge so as to determine any further action that is necessary.
"The unlawful use of excessive force by any member of Wiltshire Police will not be tolerated and immediately following the guilty finding of the court on July 13 2010, Sgt Andrews was suspended from duty with immediate effect.
"In compliance with Police Conduct Regulations, an internal conduct hearing will now take place in October 2010.
"This incident should not have happened and I am very sorry that we let this lady down. Although she had been lawfully arrested, she was not charged with any offence.
"I hope that she is able to accept that Wiltshire Police puts safety and respect at the top of its priorities and I also want to reassure the general public that this case shows that the police will always take positive action against any of its own members who act outside of the law."
Ms Somerville praised the intervention of Pc Webb.
"I think she has been absolutely courageous and because of her and because of the police standards officers' investigation, it does give you a little more faith in the police," she told Sky News.
"I think she was very brave to stand up and be counted and I admire her wholeheartedly. She is an absolute credit to the police force."
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