Halford tells of calling senior officer 'a prat'

BRITAIN'S most senior policewoman, Assistant Chief Constable Alison Halford, yesterday described how she called one of her colleagues a 'prat'.

During a lunch, she had a row with another Merseyside assistant chief, Ernest Miller, when she told him: 'Ernie, you're a prat.' David Howe, the Deputy Chief Constable, had to intervene, saying: 'Stop it, you two]'

Miss Halford, 52, was giving evidence on the twenty-ninth day of the industrial tribunal in Manchester, where she is claiming sex discrimination.

Spending her nineteenth day giving evidence, she said that after the 'prat' remark she had told Mr Miller: 'You have been sniping at me for years.' And she admitted calling him 'childish'.

She was being cross-examined by John Hand QC, representing James Sharples, the Merseyside Chief Constable.

Mr Hand asked her yesterday about the row. 'You made reference to him (Mr Miller) having written something on a telex about a body being found - and hoping it was yours.'

Miss Halford replied: 'Yes. The incident was related to me by someone else.'

She told the tribunal that she felt Mr Miller was not suitable for the job of assistant chief. But he could be 'exceedingly amusing'.

The tribunal was told that after she had called Mr Miller a 'prat' he had said to her: 'Alison, you are a disgrace to the service.'

Miss Halford claims sex discrimination by Mr Sharples, the Regional Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Philip Myers, the Home Secretary and Northamptonshire Police Authority. She claims that she was denied nine promotions to the rank of deputy chief constable because of sex discrimination.

Miss Halford, who was the first woman in the country to reach her rank, is suspended from her pounds 45,000-a-year job over separate disciplinary allegations.

The tribunal was told how Miss Halford and Mr Miller had another row, over the death of a man in a shooting during an attempted robbery at Belle Vale, Liverpool, in 1989.

She made the controversial decision to appoint an investigating officer, as the man had died during a police chase.

Mr Miller - at that time ACC (Crime) - came to her office. 'I will be totally flippant and say that his milk bottle tops were rattling,' she told the tribunal. 'He was belligerent and picking a fight.'

Mr Miller told her it was not a death in custody and there was no need to appoint an investigating officer. Later, Mr Miller left and Miss Halford unsuccessfully applied for his job.

She said she had held every portfolio except Crime. 'Not being given Crime was another plank in the growing evidence. I was trying to make that right, but was refused. I call that discrimination.'

Miss Halford would have been in overall charge of the CID if she had been appointed. She had wanted to be an innovator and give 'proper attention' to child abuse, domestic violence and rape, she told the tribunal. But an experienced detective, Clive Atkinson, got the job.

The tribunal continues today.