“It is no coincidence that all of the officers he assaulted were junior to him in rank” trial of March detective told

Det Sgt Matt Swash arriving at Crown Court

Det Sgt Matt Swash arriving at Crown Court - Credit: SOUTH BEDS NEWS AGENCY 01582 572

A woman detective constable told a jury that she was “touched up” by a sergeant after their Christmas party.

Det Sgt Matt Swash arriving at Crown Court

Det Sgt Matt Swash arriving at Crown Court - Credit: SOUTH BEDS NEWS AGENCY 01582 572

A woman detective constable told a jury that she was “touched up” by a sergeant after their Christmas party.

She said Detective Sergeant Matt Swash, 40, put his hand on her bare thigh as they sat in a van after leaving the CID function at a club in Peterborough.

Then, while her husband concentrated as he drove them both home in heavy snow, she said Swash leant forward from the back seat, stroked her neck and played with her hair.

The prosecution at St Albans crown court allege that Cambridgeshire officer DS Swash exploited his rank by kissing, touching and stroking junior women officers and pushing his body against them.

He also allegedly ‘checked out’ female crime victims, leading to one woman falling prey to his sexual advances.

Swash, who began working for Cambridgeshire police in 1996, was made a Detective Sergeant in 2001. The officer, from Crown Close, March, Cambs, denies 12 charges of sexual assault against five women and two of misconduct in a judicial or public office alleged to have been committed between December 2009 and September last year.

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Giving evidence on Friday the 29-year-old officer was asked by prosecutor Peter Shaw what her first impressions of DS Swash were. She replied: “I liked him - he was confident, he was intelligent, decisive and approachable.”

She had been dropped off in Peterborough for the 2009 CID Christmas party by her husband and was wearing a green thigh-length party dress. At one stage she asked where the toilets were. “I recall Matt taking me by the hand and walking me off to the toilets - I don’t know why. I remember a lot of colleagues joking, saying things like: ‘Put her down.’ I felt embarrassed.”

The woman said she was drinking vodka and was tipsy but not drunk. When they went outside they sat in a van to get out of the cold. She and DS Swash were comforting a woman colleague, who had lost her iPhone which had sentimental photographs on it. “I was trying to console her, as was he. During this period Matt put his hand on my leg. He put his hand on my thigh. On my bare leg. I pushed his hand away.

“I gave him a look to stop. He could very clearly see me. I thought it was very rude. One of our colleagues was very upset and he was trying to touch me up,” she said.

Her husband picked her and Swash up from near Peterborough football ground. She was in the front seat and DS Swash was in the back seat. “During the journey I could feel his hands were on the back of my neck. It was underneath my hair on my skin. He was moving his hand up and down my neck. I turned round and looked at him and gave him the same look as I did in the van,” she said.

She said she moved forward to get away from him saying it was an “uncomfortable” journey home.

Asked by Mr Shaw why she did not tell her husband what Mr Swash was doing from the back of the car, she replied “I know my husband would not have acted kindly to Swash and he would have ended up walking home.”

In his opening of the case Mr Shaw said the same woman officer received flirty texts from Swash in January 2010. She allegedly said to him: ‘I just want you to be my sergeant. Will you just treat me as one of your officers please?’ He is said to have responded: ‘But I just don’t want to be your sergeant.’

DS Swash is accused of linking arms with her when she was negotiating a cobbled street during a prison visit to Durham. When the pavement levelled she tried to pull away, but he is said to have held on tightly. She said: “You can let go now.” He replied: “But I like it.”

The prosecutor said he also put his arm tight around her. She said: “What are you doing? I’m not your girlfriend.” He replied: “I am trying to keep you warm and don’t worry, no one knows us here.”

As he drove the car away he is alleged to have said: “I want to kiss you” on numerous occasions. He said nobody would know, but she made it clear it would not be a good idea. “She recalls he was relentless and sulked,” said Mr Shaw.

When they approached Wisbech station he is said to have braked hard and pulled over.” He then leaned across and put his hand round the back of her neck. He pulled her face towards his and kissed her on the mouth. He kissed her again and she pushed him away. She felt bad that she had not been more assertive and that momentarily she had gone with it. But crucially, she had not consented to it and nothing in her prior behaviour could have made him believe that she did not consent, “ said the prosecutor.

Mr Shaw said about a month later she was in a gym in Wisbech when Swash arrived in a suit. As she went to a table to pick up her belongings he followed her and kissed her on the mouth as she turned round. “He pushed his entire body against hers. She leant back to prevent it and turned her head away,” he said.

The jury was told he asked her to attend a meeting in March. It was just the two of them and he pulled his chair closer so his leg was in contact with her. He touched her hair and stroked the back of her neck saying: “I just can’t help myself.” He told her he fancied her and started to touch her left with his hand. He started to move it further up his thigh.

She said: “Your wife could be walking past and looking in, don’t you care?” He said “No, do you?” She said “Yes”.

When he tried to kiss her she leaned away and said: “That’s enough.”

In his opening of the case, Mr Shaw said: “He exploited his position as a police officer to commit sexual offences against women officers.

“It is no coincidence that all of the officers he assaulted were junior to him in rank. This was not a cast-iron method of ensuring complete impunity, of course, but it meant that those officers were much less likely to rock the boat by accusing a more senior and popular officer of such things.

“They were women with their own ambitions, their need to be accepted at work and ultimately their own need to earn a salary and pay the mortgage.”

He told the jury of seven men and five women that DS Swash also targeted female civilians who were victims of crimes.

Mr Shaw went on: “It was, it seems likely, in order to satisfy his curiosity as to whether he might be interested in them as potential targets of his uninvited sexual advance. “Essentially he was ‘checking them out’, to adopt the modern phrase. Some civilians were unluckier still: one such civilian fell prey to his sexual advances.”

He said Swash had a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character and was addicted to sexual and romantic intrigue. He said four of his fellow police officers were alleged victims and the other was a civilian who had sought the advice of the police in relation to her foster daughter.

“The assaults in the main consisted of him kissing the victims, sometimes very forcefully and sometimes pushing his body against theirs where it was apparent he had an erection.

“None of these were harmless or trivial acts. They invariably left the recipients feeling upset and perplexed as to how they were to deal with the situation of a senior officer acting in such as way.”

He said the other counts of misconduct in public office related to him accessing police systems in relation to victims, visiting them and sending them inappropriate text messages.

“However, even those offences took place to satisfy a romantic or sexual curiosity and the fact they were victims of crime was no effective deterrent to him,” he said.

The case continues.