London - A top policewoman pulled down the front of her dress and shouted ‘Look at these!’ after criticising a female colleague for having a breast enlargement, a misconduct hearing was told on Tuesday.
In a late-night drunken row, Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe suggested that Superintendent Sarah Jackson would never be taken seriously because of her cosmetic surgery.
Sutcliffe said her subordinate would be judged solely ‘on the size of her tits’ as the pair talked after a conference on improving the perception of senior women police.
Calling Jackson ‘silly, vain and frivolous’, the senior officer said: ‘Sarah, it does not matter how hard you work now because you will always just be known as the girl who had the tit job.’
The 47-year-old, who has been married three times, then pulled down the front of her wrap dress and exposed her left breast, shouting: ‘Look at these - these are the breasts of someone who has had three children. They are ugly but I don’t feel the need to pump myself full of silicone to get self-esteem.’
Jackson insisted she never dressed provocatively around fellow officers.
The verbal attack lasted up to an hour and a half at Manchester’s Hilton hotel bar, reducing the younger officer to tears, the hearing was told.
The women ‘staggered’ to their rooms after 3.30am, according to witnesses, who described their drunkenness as ‘seven or eight’ on a scale of one to ten.
Sutcliffe tried calling Jackson to apologise the following morning, ringing her 24 times and sending an email.
But Jackson - an officer with 21 years’ experience - reported the assistant chief constable’s behaviour to senior colleagues, and Sutcliffe, who was responsible for tackling organised crime and counter-terrorism, was suspended on full pay by Greater Manchester Police.
She admits misconduct but denies it amounted to gross misconduct, which could lead to dismissal.
In a statement to investigators, Jackson - who did not attend the hearing - said that when she first briefed Sutcliffe about the Senior Women in Policing event the assistant chief constable replied that she ‘struggled to grasp the concept’ as she had reached a high level without its support.
Jackson described drinking a gin and tonic followed by a glass of prosecco and then half a bottle of wine at the dinner. She said GMP’s Chief Constable Ian Hopkins told her, ‘Don’t leave me on my own with Rebekah’ as she was drunk and ‘driving me mad’.
‘I could see [Miss Sutcliffe] was slurring her words,’ Jackson added. After most guests had left, the women sat at the deserted bar.
Jackson said Sutcliffe told her a delegate had asked, ‘who’s that woman over there with the big tits?’ and pointed towards Jackson, adding that she ‘looked ridiculous and was dressed provocatively’.
The subordinate officer, who had earlier tweeted an image of herself partying, said: ‘I was surprised as I had a dress with a high neckline.’ Sutcliffe said having a breast enhancement meant Jackson had become a ‘laughing stock’.
‘I was mortified, embarrassed and ashamed to hear that was how I was perceived,’ Jackson said. She stressed how hard she worked, but said Sutcliffe replied that ‘promotion was unlikely’ as her ‘credibility was zero’.
The senior officer then exposed her left breast. ‘She was just shouting at me with her breast out,’ Jackson said. ‘I felt like I’d been personally attacked.’
They continued the dispute in the hotel lobby, where it was overheard by two staff members. One, who was spoken to by investigators, said the senior officer accused her colleague of ‘getting your boobs done’ to ‘show off’, to which Jackson retorted that she had ‘got them done for my boyfriend’.
In her email to Jackson, Sutcliffe admitted getting ‘far too drunk’, adding: ‘I’m a fool.’
Jackson said publicity about the bust-up had been ‘humiliating’ - with online polls about the size of her breasts and the hashtag ‘titgate’ on Twitter overshadowing her work. She subsequently left to join Cumbria Police.
Sutcliffe, represented by John Beggs QC, dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as her ‘stupid’ behaviour was outlined.
The disciplinary panel heard she had little memory of the row or how much she had drunk beyond ‘three or four’ glasses of wine, but fully accepted her colleague’s account and was wholly apologetic.
She added that she had been feeling ‘frazzled’ due to her workload and had been preparing to get married in less than three weeks’ time.
Beggs said: ‘This isn’t career-threatening, this is a silly mistake.’
Sutcliffe is accused of abusing her position by failing to treat her colleague with respect or courtesy and discrediting the police.
The three-strong panel will give their decision later this week.