Police chief testifies against deputy in sex assault case

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The Independent Online

The former chief constable of Surrey told a court yesterday how one of his female civilian workers accused his deputy of "inappropriate physical and verbal behaviour".

The former chief constable of Surrey told a court yesterday how one of his female civilian workers accused his deputy of "inappropriate physical and verbal behaviour".

Ian Blair, who has since been appointed the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that because of the married woman's "very serious complaint," he assured her she could call him at home at any time.

She did not go into detail about her claim, he said, but Southwark Crown Court in London has been told that three days later, on Christmas Eve 1998, his deputy, Ian Beckett, indecently assaulted her by thrusting his hand into her knickers and fondling her.

The alleged victim - known as Miss X because she cannot be identified for legal reasons - said that she was assaulted twice when Mr Blair was away from the office.

Mr Beckett, 54, of Chertsey, Surrey, denies four charges of incident assault against the woman and a second civilian worker at Surrey Police's headquarters in Guildford during the same period.

Mr Blair, in what is thought to be the first time a chief constable has testified against his deputy, told the jury the conversation with Mr Beckett's first alleged victim began when she asked him if it would be all right to telephone him at home over the festive period.

"I said something like, 'Of course, but why are you asking me that?' At that point she said Mr Beckett had behaved inappropriately towards her," he told the court.

Sallie Bennett-Jenkins, for the prosecution, then asked him: "Did she indicate when that had happened?"

Mr Blair replied: "Yes, she said that happened in my absence, when I was away from the office, and only during periods of my absence."

Miss X then went on to tell him that "the inappropriate behaviour was both physical and verbal", he said.

The woman gave no further details, but she would have known that an investigation would now have to take place, he said.

Miss X spoke to the force's director of corporate development on 5 January about the alleged attacks and Mr Blair ordered an officer to take a statement from the woman the following day.

In the month before the alleged attack on Christmas Eve, the deputy chief constable had locked her in his office and hugged her, Miss X testified earlier in the case. The second complainant, Miss Y, has accused Mr Beckett of feeling her bottom and a breast and of kissing her on the lips. The case continues.

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