Public support for policeman's slap: Thousands of callers say PC was right

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HUNDREDS of members of the public rang Somerset and Avon Police yesterday to voice support for a community policeman who faces the sack for slapping a 14-year-old boy on the cheek after he and a gang of youths caused a disturbance outside the home of two old age pensioners in Minehead in March.

PC Steve Guscott, 42, was fined pounds 100 and ordered to pay pounds 50 in compensation to the teenager on Monday at Bridgewater magistrates' court after he admitted common assault.

A gang of teenagers had been banging on the pensioners' front door and kicking the cat flap. They shouted abuse and ran away when the officer approached them. Later that evening when PC Guscott came across one of the group in an unlit alleyway - the 14-year-old boy - he grabbed him and slapped him on the cheek with his open hand. The boy, according to the prosecution, suffered a nose bleed.

PC Guscott, who has 20 years' unblemished service, could now lose his job and his pension after a disciplinary hearing next month before the Avon and Somerset Chief Constable David Shattock.

Yesterday, however, more than 200 people rang Avon and Somerset Police saying they supported PC Guscott's actions. More than 40 callers offered to pay his fine. The Star, Sun and Mirror newspapers also received some 64,000 calls saying that PC Guscott was right to do what he had done and 800 saying he was in the wrong. A hotline set up by HTV West in Bristol had 4,890 calls in support of the officer and just 153 demanding his dismissal.

Sergeant Robin Hobbs, Police Federation representative for Avon and Somerset, said officers faced a moral dilemma because the courts were incapable of dealing with such unruly behaviour.

PC Guscott, helmsman of the Minehead lifeboat, has spent the past few weeks working at the communications centre in Taunton pending the disciplinary hearing.