Woman police chief 'still a role model despite boob job attack on colleague'

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A female police chief remains a "role model" to women despite humiliating another senior officer over the size of her breasts, a disciplinary panel has been told.

Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe told Superintendent Sarah Jackson that her "credibility was zero" after she had a "boob job" and berated her as a "laughing stock" who would be judged professionally "on the size of her tits".

She then went on to pull down the front of her dress to expose her left breast and say: "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, 47, who was the most senior female Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officer at the time, verbally attacked her younger subordinate following a gala dinner at the national Senior Women In Policing Conference last May.

The haranguing in the early hours of May 6 at Manchester's Hilton Hotel concluded when Ms Sutcliffe told her colleague she was no longer going to support a further promotion for her.

Ms Sutcliffe admits misconduct in failing to treat Ms Jackson with respect or courtesy and that she abused her position and authority.

She also acknowledges that her actions discredited the police service.

However she denies it amounted to gross misconduct which could lead to her dismissal.

Her counsel, John Beggs QC, told panel chair Rachel Crasnow QC, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor and independent member Alastair Cannon that the "sheer quality and quantity" of the character references before them "entitle you to come to a decision which is not career-ending".

He said many of the statements from senior and subordinate officers spoke of her as "inspirational", "visionary" and "a strong leader".

One unnamed female detective chief inspector at GMP said she is "a role model to many women in the organisation".

Sir Tom asked Mr Beggs: "Has her capacity to be a role model for many women officers not been fatally undermined by having humiliated and insulted a fellow woman officer in relation to her body and performance?"

Mr Beggs replied: "No, it has not been fatally undermined unless you take the approach that once you make a mistake you are tainted.

"In this case the humiliation and upset caused has been acknowledged, admitted and sincerely and fully apologised for.

"Assistant Chief Constable Sutcliffe remains a role model - a role model who is not perfect, who has human frailties.

"Greater humility has been brought upon her. She will emerge as an even more impressive senior leader if you permit her to."

Another female detective chief inspector testified of her anger that senior male colleagues had behaved "far more reprehensibly" than Ms Sutcliffe - who has served GMP for 23 years - and not faced sanction.

And James Purnell, the BBC's director of strategy and former Labour culture, media and sport secretary, wrote that Ms Sutcliffe "seems to me a important type of officer to retain in policing".

While not "excusing or condoning" her reported behaviour, he added: "The region's police force would be poorer without her and a force for good would be lost."

The panel is expected to make a decision later.

If Ms Sutcliffe is found to have committed gross misconduct, the panel will go on to make a recommendation on sanction, if any, and another hearing will take place at a later date before GMP Deputy Chief Constable Ian Pilling, who would make the ultimate decision.

Mr Beggs said Ms Sutcliffe's "stupid mistake" of getting too drunk did not demand dismissal and she was someone who could continue to make an "immensely positive contribution" to policing and service to the public.

He went on: "She is a woman, actually, of conspicuous personal kindness - to victims of crime, vulnerable people, subordinate colleagues. Someone who always goes the extra mile to help a colleague in personal and professional stress.

"She is a strong leader. She is an inspirational and visionary leader."

References came from male and female officers across "a diversity of rank", he said, and he noted that "many hard-nosed senior detectives clearly regard her as one of the best, some say the best leader they have worked for".

Mr Beggs said: "Both within and out of the (police) service, people who know very well what she has done and admitted nonetheless speak with confidence, and assert, that she has much left to give."

On Tuesday, the panel was told that former GMP chief constable Sir Peter Fahy had twice promoted Ms Sutcliffe and felt she had the potential to reach the highest rank.

It is believed that Ms Sutcliffe is the most senior officer to face a public disciplinary hearing since they were introduced by the Government last year.