‘Sickening’ remarks made by police officers over assault victim suffering a seizure

Police officers made “sickening” comments about a victim of an assault while watching a body-worn video of her in a seizure with her groin and chest exposed, an investigation has found.

Three Thames Valley Police officers watched and ridiculed footage of a 21-year-old woman suffering from a seizure while held in leg restraints in a police van, the BBC probe revealed.

Despite an investigation by the force’s professional standards department, there has since been no public evidence of the officers facing misconduct hearings, while the student officer who raised says he has been “shunned” by colleagues.

Detail of Police officers (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Archive)
Detail of Police officers (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Archive)

The incident happened when the victim was arrested, handcuffed and placed in a police van in Newbury, Berkshire after officers believed she had committed an assault, despite having been assaulted herself.

She was then recorded on body-worn video vomiting and losing consciousness. She suffered a seizure in the police van which resulted in her groin and chest being exposed.

The next day, a female officer reviewing CCTV watched the officers’ body-worn video of the victim’s journey inside the police van while at her desk at Newbury Police Station.

She was joined by three male colleagues who all watched the footage while making “sickening” comments about the victim’s body, according to the student officer.

One officer asked to see the woman’s groin area while another made derogatory comments about her breasts. Another discussed what they would need to be paid to sleep with her.

In a witness statement seen by the BBC, the student officer reported that the other officers referred to the woman by name while making comments, and were clearly aware of her identity.

“It makes me feel betrayed,” the victim told the BBC. “The police are supposed to be the people you go to when you need help.”

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After reporting the officers’ conduct, the student officer was “shunned” by colleagues and expected to leave. He claimed a sergeant showed him job adverts outside policing.

In August, he was told he was not physically or mentally “fitted” to be a police constable and was dismissed.

Thames Valley Police told the BBC the remarks caught in the recording were “unacceptable”. The force said it was thankful the student officer reported what he saw, and his disclosure had been treated seriously but the ending of his employment was an “entirely separate” matter.

In a statement, it said that the student officer was moved to a different station, given a new tutor and supported through his complaint.

It also said officers involved faced misconduct meetings - which were not held in public.

The case was “a horror story of misogyny and sexism” that is “massively” damaging to public confidence, said Nazir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service.

He said it had uncovered “systemic failings” in the scrutiny of police body-worn video - and the Newbury case is “very troubling”.

A previous BBC investigation in 2023 determined more than1 50 reports of misuse of body-worn cameras.

The broadcaster found several serious allegations, which included reports in seven police forces where officers shared camera footage with friends or colleagues, either in person or online via social media.