Monday, July 13, 2015

Top British police doctor is accused of dozens of sex attacks on young officers during medical examinations and drunk suspects being held in cells

A scandal-hit police force is investigating shock allegations that its doctor preyed on young officers but that complaints were hushed up.

Avon & Somerset Constabulary – whose chief constable is returning to work after being found guilty of misconduct – is looking into claims that Dr Reg Bunting indecently assaulted cadets and new recruits during medical examinations. The force has been told that its in-house surgeon inappropriately ordered his victims to strip during routine physicals, fondled them and ogled their near-naked bodies.

So far, at least 11 people have given statements claiming they were indecently assaulted by Dr Bunting in the 1980s and 1990s. They believe similar complaints were made in previous decades but no action was taken.

There are also fears that Dr Bunting may have taken advantage of his position to abuse drunk suspects being held in police cells, and even rape victims during examinations.

He died two years ago so there can now be no criminal trial, but Avon & Somerset is compiling a report to the police watchdog.

The case is a further illustration of the challenge police face in dealing with a flood of historic abuse complaints.

Mark Williams-Thomas, the former detective who exposed Jimmy Savile as a paedophile in a TV documentary, told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘It is very concerning to hear the nature of the allegations against Dr Bunting, especially given that concerns were raised previously while he was alive.

‘I have spoken to a number of the alleged victims and the accounts given paint a picture of a worrying pattern of behaviour by a person in a significant position of trust.

Dr Bunting studied medicine in Bristol in the 1950s and became a GP as well as a ‘force medical officer and principal police surgeon’. He became president of the Association of Police Surgeons, contributed to academic journals on forensics and spoke at international conferences.

He died aged 80 in 2013. But it is now claimed there had long been rumours about his behaviour towards young people trying to join Avon & Somerset. One man who was examined by Dr Bunting while a teenage cadet in the 1980s has recently given a statement to the force alleging indecent assault.

He said the doctor made him take off all his clothes before groping him, then ordered him to bend over for a spurious check on the ‘curvature of his spine’. Other boys were given only brief reflex tests and eyesight checks.

The alleged victim went on to serve in the force but only recently discovered that other people had endured similar experiences to him.

He said they had discovered that the Police Federation – the ‘union’ for rank-and-file officers – had raised concerns in the early 1980s. This reportedly led to a rule that Dr Bunting should not be left alone with young people, but it was not observed.

It is also claimed that several female officers lodged complaints in about 2000, but received no answer.

The alleged male victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, said last night: ‘The people in power at the time could have stopped him – they knew this was happening but did nothing.’

A young woman who joined the force in the 1990s said Dr Bunting had made her strip to her pants, bend over and then lie on a couch while he touched her stomach. She said she was ‘always terrified of him’ whenever he appeared at her station.

Detective Superintendent Rachel Williams of Avon & Somerset said: ‘Our investigation is in its relatively early stages and it’s still not yet clear how extensive it will be.’

Last week, Avon & Somerset’s high-flying Chief Constable Nick Gargan was found guilty of eight counts of misconduct. He is set to return to work, after being suspended for a year, as a panel cleared him of gross misconduct.

Mr Gargan admitted in a statement that his conduct had ‘fallen below the standards expected of a chief constable’ but insisted he had been cleared of ‘inappropriate advances towards female colleagues’.

Original report here

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