Slap case PC reprimanded but allowed to keep job: Assault on boy was 'momentary lapse'

CONSTABLE Steve Guscott, the community policeman fined pounds 100 for slapping a 14-year-old boy, was yesterday reprimanded by David Shattock, the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset. But after the private police disciplinary hearing, PC Guscott said he was 'very relieved' to have kept his job.

Mr Shattock had the choice of reprimanding PC Guscott, 42, asking him to resign, or dismissing him from his pounds 21,227-a-year job. After the hearing at the force headquarters at Portishead, near Bristol, the constable emerged smiling and said: 'A great shadow has been lifted from my shoulders and I am extremely grateful to the Chief Constable for his decision. I have remained honest and true to the police service for 20 years and he has given me the opportunity now to complete my service.'

He said he intended to continue with his posting to the communications centre at Taunton, Somerset, and could not foresee a return to his former duties in his home town of Minehead, Somerset.

PC Guscott said he had been overwhelmed with messages of support from throughout Britain and overseas after it emerged that he faced the disciplinary hearing. Bridgwater magistrates last month fined him pounds 100 and ordered him to pay pounds 50 compensation to the teenager after he admitted assault.

A petition of more than 16,000 signatures was sent to the Chief Constable from residents in Minehead, PC Guscott's home town and his beat for 10 years.

A trust fund set up to handle donations sent to him now totalled pounds 6,000, which would be distributed to charities, PC Guscott said. The money was likely to go to the RNLI and the victim support scheme, added PC Guscott, who is also the helmsman of Minehead's inshore lifeboat.

During the hearing, PC Guscott's divisional commander, Superintendent Mike Nelson, gave details of his 20 years' unblemished record. The hearing was then adjourned for half an hour for Mr Shattock, 58, to consider his finding.

Shortly afterwards, Chief Inspector Colin Benson read a statement saying: 'The Chief Constable expressed his gratitude for the many thousands of letters and messages from members of the public showing support and understanding for the difficulties officers face in policing our modern and complex society.

'The Chief Constable said front-line officers had a difficult and demanding job and although he could not tolerate violence - and those who had written in support of the officer had not suggested that he should - he accepted there may be momentary lapses of the extremely high standards set within this force.

'The Chief Constable accepted that this was a momentary lapse in an otherwise commendable career and that Constable Guscott had been completely honest throughout and retained his integrity.'

During the court case the boy alleged PC Guscott struck him twice - an elbow blow to his nose causing bleeding and an open slap to his cheek. The officer, who was looking for youths who had pestered a pensioner, denied the elbow blow, but admitted the slap.

The solicitor for the boy's family, St John Napier, said: 'I am not surprised by the decision. Both the family and I were expecting it.' The case had been a 'nightmare' for the family, he said. They had received death threats and feared that their business was on the verge of collapse. 'They feel that . . . reporting has been one-sided.'

(Photograph omitted)