Policeman accused of rape 'had chance to avoid jail'

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The Independent Online

A rogue police officer accused of raping vulnerable women was offered a "get out of jail free card" and told his own force would stop investigating him if he quit, a trial heard.

Pc Stephen Mitchell was told Northumbria Police detectives would "stop digging" if he stepped down, a jury at Newcastle Crown Court was told.

The 43-year-old, who is said to have attacked a string of women he met while on duty in and around Newcastle, was told he risked going to jail and going on the sex offenders register if he refused, the court heard.

The offer meant Mitchell should "resign and this will go away," his barrister said.

Mitchell, formerly of Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, secretly taped a conversation with senior investigating officer DCI Chris Sharman in which the offer was made, Toby Hedworth QC told the trial yesterday.

DCI Sharman is said to have told Mitchell that if he was charged, he would "probably be front page of the national newspapers and they are horrible".

By not taking up the offer and fighting the claims, Mitchell had shown he was innocent, Mr Hedworth told the jury.

Mr Hedworth said: "What it means is: 'Resign and this will go away'.

"DCI Sharman said: 'The ball's entirely in your court, we are digging and if you want us to stop digging there are options available to you'.

"The alternative was spelled out.

"Arrest, charge and front page of the national papers, jail and the sex offender register.

"If you are guilty and are given the alternative of a Monopoly style get out of jail free card, you would jump at the chance and have the matter brought quietly to a close and resign.

"If you are innocent, what else can you do but fight it?

"Fight for your life."

The recording was made by Mitchell during a meeting with DCI Sharman in March last year, Mr Hedworth alleged in his closing speech.

Prosecutors denied the recording was an offer to have the investigation dropped.

Mitchell has flatly denied all the allegations against him.

The Northumbria Police officer, from Glasgow, told the trial there was "no truth whatsoever" he had coerced women he'd arrested into sex.

The court heard Mitchell would promise to "do favours" for the women in custody and would then demand sexual favours in return.

He was arrested after one of 16 women he is alleged to have assaulted went to the police.

He denies five counts of rape, six indecent assaults and 15 counts of misconduct in a public office.

The trial, which has lasted four weeks, continues.