Edward Henery, 33, the duty sergeant at Hammersmith police station, west London, on the night in 1990 that a man was killed in the station cells, repeatedly refused to answer questions from defence counsel about his personal life and his reasons for leaving the police service last year.
Malcolm Kennedy, a restaurateur, was charged with murdering a cellmate at the station on Christmas Eve 1990. He was convicted of the murder in 1991 and jailed for life. But in 1993, following a campaign to free him and a TV documentary on the case, the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial. That started in September last year but had to be halted.
In February the retrial began again, and earlier this month Kennedy was cleared of murder but convicted of the manslaughter of Patrick Quinn, a labourer, and jailed for nine years.
Throughout his trials, Kennedy maintained his innocence and claimed that the killer was a police officer who had kicked Mr Quinn to death. He alleged that other officers on duty that night had taken part in a cover-up.
At the retrial, Henery, who left the force facing 17 disciplinary charges, refused to say whether he had shammed illness to avoid a disciplinary hearing. Neither would he answer when Michael Mansfield, counsel for Kennedy, questioned him about allegations of sexual harassment and bullying made by fellow officers.
Despite repeated warnings from Mr Justice Swinton Thomas that he was in contempt, Henery said he would only answer questions about the night in question.
Mark Ellison, for Henery, told the court yesterday: 'He was a witness in an extremely difficult position and was under a great deal of stress. He accepted that he was somebody with a short fuse and he admits that he did, on some occasions, over-react . . . he came to the view that the best way he could deal with the allegations against the police, and especially himself, was not to entertain a detailed discussion about them.'