Monday 23 October 2017

Female police chief admits drunken abuse of colleague over 'boob job'

Rebekah Sutcliffe, Assistant Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police Credit: Chris Oldham/GMP/PA Wire.
Rebekah Sutcliffe, Assistant Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police Credit: Chris Oldham/GMP/PA Wire.

Kim Pilling

A top female officer discredited the police service with a drunken tirade of abuse to another high-ranking colleague about the size of her breasts, a disciplinary panel has been told.

Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe made "wholly inappropriate and hurtful" remarks to Temporary Superintendent Sarah Jackson at last May's annual Senior Women In Policing Conference in Manchester.

A misconduct hearing was told the pair were in the Mezzanine Bar area of the city's Hilton Hotel when Ms Sutcliffe brought up the subject of Ms Jackson's recent breast enhancement surgery and said she "used to respect her but no longer did since she had the 'boob job'".

Ms Sutcliffe went on to say that Ms Jackson was "a laughing stock" among Greater Manchester Police's chief officer team and was now judged "on the size of her tits", the panel sitting at force HQ heard.

Fiona Barton QC, opening the case for Greater Manchester Police, said Ms Sutcliffe also called the officer "silly, vain and frivolous" and that her promotion prospects were "unlikely" because her "credibility was zero and nobody took her seriously".

In the hour-long exchange, Ms Sutcliffe went on to say: "Sarah, it does not matter how hard you work now because you will always just be known as the girl who had the tit job."

Miss Barton said: "It was at this point that ACC Sutcliffe took hold of the front of her dress, pulled it down and exposed her left breast saying 'Look at these, look at these, these are the breasts of someone who has had three children. They are ugly but I don't feel the need to pump myself full of silicone to get self-esteem."

Ms Sutcliffe made repeated attempts to apologise to Ms Jackson the following day and during the course of the subsequent investigation into her conduct told her colleague: "I deeply regret what happened and in particular the upset I caused to someone I hold in very high regard ... I am determined to learn from my mistakes. I am committed to serving the public as a police officer and I hope I may be able to return to duty as soon as possible."

Ms Sutcliffe was unable to recall how exactly how much she had to drink but later recalled she "probably" drank three or four glasses of wine at dinner and more later when delegates retired to the hotel bar.

In interview she accepted "what I do know is that I drank enough to be very drunk".

Ms Sutcliffe also accepted Ms Jackson to be a truthful person and had no reason to doubt her account.

Ms Barton said: "In interview she explained that at the time of the incident she was 'frazzled' due to both professional and personal issues. The stress led to her drinking too much which in turn led to her unacceptable behaviour."

Ms Sutcliffe, who is currently suspended, admits misconduct but denies gross misconduct, which could lead to dismissal.

She faces two alleged breaches of standards of professional behaviour in that her conduct was discreditable and she failed to treat Ms Jackson with respect or courtesy and abused her position and authority.

Ms Jackson, who is now a Superintendent with Cumbria Constabulary, was said to have previously had a "positive, professional relationship" with Ms Sutcliffe, who had in fact interviewed and appointed her in 2014 to a temporary secondment for Manchester City Council's children's services.

The panel heard that Ms Jackson was involved in the planning and organisation of the national conference - "an event of national significance for women in the police service".

Ms Barton said that, "somewhat ironically in light of the events that followed in the early hours of May 6", it had the theme of "Profile and Perception".

Ms Sutcliffe - the highest-ranking female GMP officer at the time - had opened the conference on May 4 and attended the gala dinner the following evening where she delivered the address on behalf of GMP to the attendees.

Ms Barton said: "Thus her profile at the conference could hardly have been higher and the need to act as exemplary leader and role model was obvious. Whilst it was an off-duty event, it was an event inextricably linked with her role as a senior officer."

The Mezzanine Bar area was intended for the use of delegates but was accessible to hotel staff and members of the public, the panel consisting of chair Rachel Crasnow QC, Sir Tom Winsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, and independent member Alastair Cannon heard.

The hearing was told that Ms Jackson had been drinking at the event but was not drunk and she could recall the events in detail.

She was said to be "shocked, mortified, embarrassed and ashamed" at the comments made by her superior.

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