Up to 31 women sue UK police force over rapist officer

Friday, November 26, 2010

File photo of a Northumbria Police van. Up to 31 people are suing the force over abuse they claim to have received from a Police Constable.
Image: Qst.

Up to 31 women are suing Northumbria Police—which covers northeast England—over abuse they claim to have received from Police Constable Stephen Mitchell. Mitchell was this week convicted of two rapes, three indecent assaults, and six counts of misconduct in a public office against seven separate victims. They were among sixteen, all female, who testified at his five-week trial, which also saw acquittals over three rapes, three indecent assaults, and nine misconduct charges.

One woman, whose complaint against Mitchell triggered the three-year probe that convicted him, says she has decided to sue because he was cleared of raping her. She alleges rape, sexual assault, false imprisonment, and a breach of human rights, claiming the policeman raped her at Pigrim Street's police station in 2006, the culmination of four years using her as a sex slave. Now a mother-of-four and a PhD student, she "do[es] not accept the not guilty verdict. I want justice and I will prove his guilt." It is alleged he tracked her on the police database.

Mitchell claimed at trial the alleged victims were all liars, involved in a joint conspiracy to frame him and driven by a single woman. He described her motivation as "self-preservation" but refused to elaborate on this in open court.

It has since emerged that Mitchell was considered emotionless by other officers during the probe, earning the nickname 'PC Cucumber'. "We are making claims for damages for sexual assault, false imprisonment and breach of human rights," said Lindsey Houghton of lawyers Irwin Mitchell. "Mitchell was in a position of trust and authority. He abused that position, taking advantage of vulnerable young women in the most horrific way... we hope to be able to provide our clients with some comfort as they try to get their lives back." As well as the sixteen in court, fourteen more were willing to give evidence against him.

It does not get any worse than being a police officer with a rape conviction in prison, but he never flinched.

—Police colleague

Inquiry leader Detective Chief Inspector Chris Sharman said he had "never seen anything like it in interviews. He showed no emotion whatsoever." Sharman was accused at trial by Mitchell's defence lawyer of offering the rapist a chance to resign in exchange for dropping the case, citing a secret recording between the two. The prosecution disputed this assessment of their conversation. An unnamed colleague who knew Mitchell said "It does not get any worse than being a police officer with a rape conviction in prison, but he never flinched."

Glasgow-born Mitchell's convictions cover 1999 through 2004. He previously served in the Army, as which time he appeared before court in Scotland over sex charges, but was cleared in 1997 before Edinburgh High Court; he lied about this on his police application.

The Mirror reports the total claimed to be in the region of millions of pounds.

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