March detective denies sex assault charges

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

Det Sgt Matt Swash, 40, of Crown Close, March, is on trial at St Albans Crown Court and 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.

The woman detective told the court on Friday that DS Swash 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 allege that Cambridgeshire officer Det Sgt 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.

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.

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 United 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 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.”

Opening 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.”

In the car after a visit to Durham Prison 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 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. As she went to a table to pick up her belongings he followed her and kissed her on the mouth. “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. He touched her hair and stroked the back of her neck saying: “I just can’t help myself.”

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

In his opening of the case on Wednesday, Mr Shaw alleged Swash exploited his position as a police officer to commit sexual offences against women officers.

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

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.

“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.

n The case continues