Policeman cleared of cell attack is sacked

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The Independent Online

A police officer who was jailed and then cleared on appeal after being accused of throwing a woman head-first on the concrete floor of a cell was sacked by his force 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 a cell.



The former soldier, who remained suspended on full pay, was sacked by Wiltshire Police following an internal conduct hearing, which was held in private.



The officer was jailed for six months in September by a district judge at Oxford Magistrates' Court, who condemned him for abusing a position of trust.



Sgt Andrews spent six days behind bars before he was released on bail pending an appeal.



Last month at Oxford Crown Court, a judge quashed his conviction and sentence for assault causing actual bodily harm.



Mr Justice Bean said after the four-day hearing that he was satisfied Sgt Andrews did not intend to throw Ms Somerville into the cell and that injuries she suffered were probably caused by her falling to the floor after letting go of the door frame.



Ms Somerville needed stitches to a gash above her eye following the incident in July 2008.



She had been detained for failing to provide a sample for a breath test after being found asleep in her car.



She but denied any wrongdoing and charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence.



Sgt Andrews told the appeal hearing that Ms Somerville was the most unpredictable prisoner he had ever come across and she had been abusive to both him and his colleagues.



The court was shown CCTV footage in which he was seen apparently throwing her onto the cell floor. A minute later she staggered to her feet with injuries to her face and eye.



Sgt Andrews told the court: "I don't think I did anything wrong.



"She had been holding on to the cell door frame when she suddenly let go. It was like pulling a cork out of a bottle."



Sgt Andrews, who is married with children aged four and two, joined Wiltshire Police around eight years ago and was promoted to sergeant in 2005.



Before joining the police, he spent around nine years in the Army, reaching the rank of sergeant.



Pat Geenty, Assistant Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, said that while Sgt Andrews's conduct was not criminal it "fell well below the standards expected".



In a statement, he said: "On July 13, 2010 at Oxford Magistrates' Court, Sergeant Mark Andrews was found guilty of causing actual bodily harm to Pamela Somerville whilst she had been a prisoner in police cells at Melksham police station on July 4, 2008.



"Following an appeal his conviction was quashed by Mr Justice Bean at Oxford Crown Court on November 18 2010.



"At the appeal Mr Justice Bean concluded that the injury to Pamela Somerville was not intentional and was not as a result of criminal action by Sgt Andrews.



"Whilst respecting that decision our concern was such that it was felt appropriate to independently examine whether any police conduct breaches had occurred, hence the conduct hearing that has now concluded.



"The conduct hearing made up of senior officers from outside of Wiltshire have carefully listened to witnesses and considered all relevant evidence in this case.



"It has reached a decision that Sgt Andrews should be dismissed from the force and this will take place with immediate effect.



"We have always accepted that Pamela Somerville was injured whilst in our care and I want to apologise again to her for the way she was treated whilst in our care.



"We acknowledge that there has been substantial media coverage and public interest in this case and that the images on the custody CCTV will have had an impact on the force and those who work within it.



"The criminal appeal hearing concluded that Pamela Somerville had been lawfully arrested, was intoxicated, very uncooperative, verbally abusive, and disruptive to the processes which the law required the police to carry out, nevertheless this conduct hearing has concluded that Sgt Andrews actions, whilst not criminal, fell well below the standards expected.



"I hope that this decision will be of comfort to Pamela Somerville who was injured whilst in our care and I want to emphasise that she had not committed any crime.



"The public can be reassured that their safety remains our top priority and we will learn any lessons that need to be learnt to reduce the chance of any such future incident."