March detective ‘pestered’ female colleagues and abused his position with women ‘who had their guard down’, court told
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A March detective accused of kissing and touching female police officers “went to many and varied lengths to gain access to women”, a court heard.
Matt Swash, 40, of Crown Close, March, is on trial accused of 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.
Swash has denied the charges.
This week, at St Albans Crown Court, prosecutor Peter Shaw said: “The theme that runs throughout this case, and links all of the various counts, is that this defendant went to many and varied lengths to gain access to women.
“He abused his position as a police officer by his conduct with civilians who were inevitably in a position of vulnerability and who naturally had their guard down since they were with a police officer.
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“He abused his position as a police officer in relation to fellow, but junior colleagues in the force. He pestered them and assaulted them knowing that he thereby placed them in an invidious position of wondering if they could or should complain, without damaging their cherished careers.”
Giving evidence to the jury, Mr Shaw said that after a Peterborough CID Christmas party in 2009, a married junior officer saw Swash’s hand resting on her leg, just above the knee.
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Then, as her husband drove them home, Swash, who was in the back seat, leaned forward, touched her neck from behind, played with her hair and stroked her neck.
Her husband was driving in snowy conditions and was oblivious to what the sergeant was doing, jurors were told.
The court heard that the same officer is alleged to have received flirty texts from Swash in January 2010.
Mr Shaw told the jury that the officer said to Swash: “I just want you to be my sergeant. Will you just treat me as one of your officers please?” Swash replied: “But I just don’t want to be your sergeant.”
Mr Shaw also said that, on a prison visit to Durham, Swash linked arms with the officer while negotiating a cobbled street.
When the pavement levelled she tried to pull away, but Swash held on tightly.
The court was told that the officer said: “You can let go now,” to which Swash replied: “But I like it.”
The prosecutor said that Swash 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 Swash 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.
Mr Shaw said: “She recalls he was relentless and sulked.”
The court was told that, when they approached Wisbech, Swash braked hard and pulled over.
Mr Shaw said: “He then leaned across and put his hand round the back of her neck. He pulled her face towards his and kissed her. 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.”
Mr Shaw told the jury that, about a month later, the female officer 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 as she turned round.
“He pushed his body against hers,” said Mr Shaw. “She leant back to prevent it and turned her head away.”
The jury was told that Swash asked the officer to attend a meeting in March. It was between 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.”
Mr Shaw said that Swash told the officer he fancied her and started to touch her leg.
The officer said to Swash: “Your wife could be walking past and looking in, don’t you care?” He said: “No, do you?” She said: “Yes.”
Mr Shaw said that, when Swash tried to kiss her, she leaned away and said: “That’s enough.”
The court was told that, at the Christmas Party in 2009, Swash also kissed a woman officer who was said to be upset.
Mr Shaw said: “He gave her a cuddle and told her everything was going to be all right. He was being nice and apparently comforting her.
“However, he then kissed her on the lips. His hands were on her arms and shoulders as he did it.”
Later, the woman said she was at her new home in Peterborough when Swash called and visited her.
“Without a word he then kissed her on the lips. He put his arms around her,” Mr Shaw told the jury. “Initially she froze. She did not kiss him back but was taken by surprise.”
The court also heard that, in 2012, a 20-year-old woman called police when she was involved in an abusive relationship. Her partner was arrested and bailed, but persisted in contacting her.
She told police and two officers visited her and gave her advice.
The next day another officer called at the house, saying he was Matt Swash.
Mr Shaw told the court that Swash sent her inappropriate texts messages, saying she was “brave, beautiful and pretty”.
The court heard that another woman, a foster carer, was concerned that a teenage girl was putting herself in a vulnerable position by accessing the internet.
An officer attended, but two weeks later Swash was said to have contacted the woman.
Mr Shaw said: “He visited the house and spoke to the girl. He texted the woman and on two occasions turned up at her house. She did not open the door because he was creepy.
“On a third occasion she let him in and made tea in the kitchen. As she turned to the right he kissed her on the lips and put his hands on her face. She moved away and told him he should not be doing it.”
Mr Shaw said another woman called the police after a burglary. A week after officers attended, Swash contacted her.
Mr Shaw said: “They exchange again and one said: ‘It would be a shame not to see your face again’.”
A third police officer told the court that Swash would make physical contact by touching her arm or waist. She let him know she was not interested as she did not fancy him and realised he was already married.
She moved address in 2012 and, when he visited, Swash tried to stroke her.
The same woman was on a rest day when Swash turned up to talk about a case, jurors heard, when he moved towards her and tried to kiss her on the lips, but she moved and he ended up kissing her cheek.
A fourth police officer was on a night shift, said Mr Shaw, when Swash told her he was unhappy in his marriage. Outside in a smoking area, he tried to kiss her.
On another night shift it is alleged that Swash made inappropriate remarks.
The jury was told Swash has pleaded guilty to a count of unauthorised access to a computer, which the prosecution said he carried out to discover if one of the women had made a complaint.
Mr Shaw said that on December 19, 2011, Swash was subject to a disciplinary proceedings. He breached standards of professional behaviour by sending an inappropriate text to a woman who had complained of domestic abuse.
The court also heard that in January 2013 Swash sent inappropriate texts to a female officer who herself had been a victim of crime. He had been warned that he needed to regain the trust and confidence of his colleagues.
When questioned by police, Swash denied the Christmas Party and Durham allegations. He said there had been a consensual relationship with the first woman that consisted of kissing on two separate occasions.
He said he had kissed the second woman by consent and did not sexually assault her.
He denied any physical contact with the third woman and said he only kissed the fourth on the cheek at the end of a night shift.
The case was adjourned until tomorrow (Friday).