Judge's alarm at police treatment of lesbian officer

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The Independent Online

A judge spoke of his "alarm" yesterday at the homophobic treatment and vicious whispering campaign a lesbian police sergeant endured from her fellow officers.

A judge spoke of his "alarm" yesterday at the homophobic treatment and vicious whispering campaign a lesbian police sergeant endured from her fellow officers.

His comments followed the acquittal of Sergeant Samantha Hall, 33, who lied about a car crash to prevent her sexuality being revealed to her colleagues.

Judge Downes said the only reason she had lied was to prevent a recurrence of the "alarming" harassment she suffered from officers in her force in Norfolk, which Norwich Crown Court was told had driven her to the brink of suicide.

Sgt Hall, the race and gay liaison officer for Norfolk Constabulary, was charged with intending to pervert the course of justice when she took the blame for the accident in which her female partner was driving.

Judge Downes said in his summing-up: "It is alarming that in the year 2000 people are still prepared to give people a hard time about their sexuality. Even though I recognise there have been efforts from the force to combat this, it is still alarming."

After the jury cleared Sgt Hall by a unanimous verdict, Judge Downes added: "I take the view that this incident was entirely prompted by worries about a possible repeat of conduct and behaviour shown to her on previous occasions about her sexual orientation. I hope that will be taken into account at any inquiry.

"I am certainly personally aware that the chief constable has made extensive efforts by policy and practical methods to try and stamp out discrimination of any sort. But clearly there must have been pockets of it left and this lady has clearly suffered from it."

Sgt Hall, who is currently suspended from duty, said she was responsible for a crash involving a sponsored police car when it was being driven by her partner, Carol Jones.

She later implied to two male police sergeants that the only passenger in the car was a man. She later confessed to the fabrications during an internal inquiry.

The accident happened on the A11 at Elveden, Suffolk, in October last year when Ms Jones collided with a stationary Saab. The other car was virtually unmarked, while the Volvo suffered £1,400 damage.

Sgt Hall told the court: "All that was in my mind was that I felt morally responsible, under an obligation and I should have been driving. I had been the subject of a vicious whispering campaign within the police, vicious things."

Sgt Hall's solicitor, Simon Nicholls, said: "The trial judge recognised the inherent evil that still exists in society against people who are perceived to be different, in this case by way of sexual orientation."

After the case Kenneth Williams, the Chief Constable of Norfolk, said: "We will purge the constabulary of those who hold homophobic views and the people of Norfolk can be reassured that will happen."

He added that he hoped Sgt Hall would start work again as soon as possible.

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