Six months for police sergeant who hurled woman into a cell

A police sergeant who hurled a woman head-first on to a concrete cell floor, leaving her with blood pouring from a head wound, was jailed for six months today. Mark Andrews, a former soldier, was captured on CCTV dragging Pamela Somerville, 57, into a cell at Melksham police station in Wiltshire and throwing her to the floor. Police branded Andrews a “disgrace” and said there was no place for officers like him in the force.

However, the Guardian has learned that a second claim of mistreatment by police in Melksham, not involving Andrews, is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Gary Gardner, a former lorry driver, says that he was mistreated by police officers in March this year.

Wiltshire Police face further questions about the Somerville case after the sentencing judge expressed concern about evidence given by two other officers who testified that Somerville was drunk.

It has emerged that inspectors last year expressed concerns about Wiltshire’s custody suites, including how the use of force is monitored and how complaints are dealt with.

After the hearing, Somerville expressed disappointment that Andrews was likely to be freed after three months. She said she thought she was going to die during the incident and still feared she could lose the sight of her left eye.

Somerville was arrested two years ago after spending the night in her car near her Wiltshire home following a minor row with her partner. The market researcher says she was arrested, taken to Melksham police station and put in a cell without ever being told what she was suspected of.

After slipping out of her cell, she was seized by Andrews. CCTV footage shows him dragging Somerville across the lobby and hurling her into a cell. She smashes her head on the hard floor and blood is seen spattered across the cell. As she was driven to the Royal United Hospital in Bath, Somerville said blood began to spurt from her mouth and she thought she was going to die.

A colleague of Andrews, 37, reported the incident and he was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm. Somerville was not charged with any offence.

Sentencing him, deputy district judge Peter Greenfield said Andrews had abused his position of trust and only a custodial sentence was appropriate. “In my view, you presided over an atmosphere of bullying and intimidation upon Ms Somerville,” he said. “Right-thinking members of the public will be appalled and totally saddened by your actions.”

Outside court Assistant Chief Constable Patrick Geenty apologised. He called Andrews a “disgrace” and added: “There is no place in Wiltshire Police for an officer like this.” He added that custody suites were “difficult places to work” and most officers did an excellent job. He also said that national inspections had found that Wiltshire police treated detainees with “respect and dignity”.

But the Guardian has learned that a second allegation of assault involving officers at Melksham has been made and is being investigated. Gardner, 50, who has cancer, claims that he was detained in March this year after calling for an ambulance for a heart condition. He says that he was taken to Melksham police station before being transferred to a local hospital and claims he was assaulted by police officers.

The IPCC confirmed it had received a complaint from Gardner. “Wiltshire Police’s professional standards department are dealing with it,” a spokeswoman said. Wiltshire Police confirmed the investigation was continuing but declined to comment.

Andrews, who has been in the police for eight years and previously served nine in the army, is likely to be dismissed after internal disciplinary proceedings.

Jeremy Barton for the defence claimed in mitigation that Somerville was “drunk and abusive”. He told the court that Andrews, a father of two young children, had received death threats since the CCTV footage emerged earlier this week.

The local MP, Duncan Hames, said he had raised concerns with the Home Office about the “protracted nature of police disciplinary procedures” that Wiltshire Police have had to observe.


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