Burnley policeman accused of groping five female colleagues
A “touchy feely” Burnley police officer allegedly sexually molested five female colleagues, a court has heard.
But PC Anthony Ford firmly denies the offences and claims his behaviour only involved jokey and flirtatious banter.
The 32-year-old officer is on trial at Liverpool Crown Court where he denies 13 offences of sexual assault in 2018 and 2019.
Prosecutor Fiona McNeill told the jury today (Wed) that the offences involved “unsophisticated and serial groping. He had no regard for appropriate boundaries.”
She told the jury the Crown claim “his sole driving force was momentary gratification…..A damn fine officer he may be but that does not place him above the law.”
During his trial it has been claimed that his behaviour included putting his hand down the back of victims’ trousers, undoing the clasps of the bras of two women and walking down the street cupping the breasts of one of them.
The first incident allegedly took place while both he and the complainant, PCSO, were on duty and on two subsequent occasions while she was on duty but he was off. The incidents with the other women allegedly occurred while he was away from work drinking and socialising with colleagues, sometimes when his fiancee, also a police officer, was present.
On the first occasion Ford allegedly put his hands down the back of the top of the PCSO, who had never previously met him, while they were attending a police incident. He allegedly said, “I knew PCSOs were useful for something” and when asked what he was doing he said he was just warming his hands.
Seven months later Ford, who was taking part in the Pendle pub walk in Barrowford, asked if she could give him and others a lift and after he got in the car he allegedly reached round and felt her bottom saying, ‘Oh I just had to feel your bum.”
Later the same evening while on patrol she and a colleague again gave him a lift and while sitting behind her he put his hand down her pants and touched her bottom, claimed Miss McNeill.
In November 2019 while Ford, who was based at Burnley, was visiting the police station at Nelson she decided for the sake of her women colleagues she should tell her bosses about the the incidents.
The following month another serving officer told police how while at a colleague’s wedding that summer Ford started hugging her and acted in a flirtatious manner. While sitting at a table he put his hand on her leg, tried to lift her trouser leg up and then tried to laugh it off when she objected.
He allegedly tried to put his hand down her trousers but they were too tight but later while on the dance floor he tried again and his finger went down between the cheeks of her bottom. When she told him to stop he again tried to laugh it off.
But later on the dance floor he “pinged” her bra causing it to become unclipped and she stormed off. But undeterred later in the evening he came and sat on her knee and ignored her request to get off while laughing and chatting to other people. The jury heard that he admits pinging her bra strap and he does not face a charge in relation to that act.
The next alleged victim told how Ford was “touchy feely” on a group night out in Leeds and tried to put his hand down the back of her trousers and when she complained he said he was joking.
However he went on to put his hand between her legs and was nipping them leaving her bruised. The group moved on to another bar and en route Ford cupped her breasts from behind, she claimed, and at the next bar he put his hand down the back of her trousers and between her legs.
The following month on another group night, this time in Burnley, he allegedly grabbed the bottom of a married woman colleague on three separate occasions and she later commented to another colleague that it was “odd behaviour” in front of his partner.
Later the same month on a night to with colleagues in Manchester he is alleged to have put his hand down the back of another married colleague’s trousers and undid her bra. She told him to pack it in but put it down to “Tony being Tony”.
Ford has disputed the women’s evidence and denied that any of his actions were sexually motivated.
He admitted to the jury that he put his hands down the back of the PCSO’s top to warm his hands and said his comments were part of an on-going joke between police officers and PCSOs. He denied obtaining some sort of thrill and said she had laughed.
He said she later touched him on the bum with a folder and he touched her bum saying, “Now I’ve got you back” as a joke but denied putting his hand under her bottom in the car.
Questioned by Miss McNeill he agreed he was a proactive officer but denied being arrogant. “I am confident but I would not describe myself as arrogant,” he said.
He said he had been surprised at the complaints “particularly having 10 years unblemished career and then five people come forward within a few weeks.”
Ford said, “I never touched a bum except for a laugh or someone had done it to me.”.
He described it as “a laugh and a joke between people I deemed on a similar wave length to him or had done it to me first.”
He pointed out he touched the bottoms of men he played football with if a goal was scored and described it as a sign of affection.
But he said, “I have not put my hand down women’s trousers.”
Further questioned he said that unclipping bras was “a bit of a childish joke”, though could not recall one of the alleged incidents, and said such behaviour happened “on many police do’s”. He also claimed that officers touched each others bottoms in the police station “quite regularly”.
He denied it was behaviour he could not control and described two of the alleged victims as “flirtatious”.
He denied cupping the breasts of one woman and said that he only touched them later to check they were real but that was with her consent.
“Do you feel you have done anything wrong in relation to these women?” asked Miss McNeill. “No,” he replied.
He went on to say, “If I misread the situation or done something misguided I would apologise and explain I did not mean any ill harm.”
But he said he had not felt he had done anything wrong or misguided.
Richard Orme, defending, said today (Wed) that Ford was “being made an example of by the politically correct brigade of the police and they have sought to find anything and everything to throw at him.”
He went on to describe the case as “absurd and ridiculous and blown out of all common sense in the brave new world in which we live now.”
Mr Orme said that Ford is “an extrovert and a live wire, particularly in drink and with friends. He has a child-like exuberance”
He said that a witness had described the defendant as “like a five-year-old on speed who would never run out of energy.”
He had demonstrated tactile behaviour with both men and women and has “a cheeky sense of humour - or used to before this sorry saga.
“Do not hold those personality traits against him, they don’t make him a sex offender. He could be over-familiar, over-tactile but that is a million miles away from making him a sex offender.”
The case continues