Ms Richardson said: 'The Alison Halford case has called into question police recruitment and promotion practices.' The facts and figures she had been given by the Home Office showed that concern was more than justified: 'The police are sexist.'
She said: 'Women are very under-represented in the police force generally. They average 15 per cent of all constables. If fair promotion practices were operating, we could expect to see that 15 per cent reflected in other grades, but not a force in the country approaches that figure.'
The Home Office figures showed that in the 43 forces of England and Wales, there were no women chief constables, or deputies; only three assistant chief constables; 11 chief superintendents; and 29 superintendents.
Ms Richardson, who is expected to lose her place on Labour's Shadow Cabinet team in next week's frontbench elections, also pointed out that 14 forces had no women above the rank of inspector. They were Bedfordshire, Cumbria, Dyfed Powys, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Gwent, Hertfordshire, Hampshire, Norfolk, North Wales, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, West Mercia, and Wiltshire. Dyfed Powys and Gloucestershire had no women above the rank of sergeant.
Ms Richardson said: 'Our current equal pay and sex discrimination laws clearly fail to give women the equal opportunities in employment they deserve.'