Sexual-harassment officer keeps job
July 15, 2009 – 1:00PM
A policeman accused of sexual harassment will remain with the force despite an investigation concluding that he had squeezed the bottom of another officer's partner, untied her top and made comments about a parole manager's breasts.
Raymond Sewell, who was a sergeant at Coonamble police station at the time of the misdemeanours, was found in a police investigation and later by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to have inappropriately touched, and made offensive comments to, women.
Three of the allegations involved a woman whose left buttock he squeezed while she was visiting her partner at the police station in late 2005.
He also untied the strings on her halter-neck top while celebrating the New Year at the Commercial Hotel and grabbed both her buttocks at the same pub, on a later occasion.
Sergeant Sewell was also alleged to have offended the area manager of Probation and Parole, referring to the name tag pinned to one side of her chest and asking: "If that one is named Isabel, what is the other?"
Another woman working at the parole office complained that he had suggested taking a statement from her at her home while her husband was at work.
Sergeant Sewell denied grabbing the bottom of his colleague's partner in the station, but admitted doing so in the Commercial Hotel and said he had later apologised for his drunken behaviour. He also denied undoing her top, saying he had merely tucked in her bra strap.
The woman said this was impossible as she had been wearing a strapless bra.
Sergeant Sewell told investigators that he did not remember commenting on the parole manager's breasts, but noted she had been pictured in a bikie magazine displaying them at a function held by the Rebels Outlaw Motorcycle Club.
He did remember putting his head down to smell her breasts while drinking with her and others at the Commercial Hotel, but only after she had thrust them out and volunteered in a conversation about perfume: "I put it on my tits".
The NSW Police Commissioner upheld the complaints and sacked Sergeant Sewell from the police force in July 2007, saying that his behaviour was below that expected of a non-commissioned officer.
But he successfully appealed against the decision in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, which found last year that his behaviour had occurred only over a period of two months, during which he was depressed, drinking heavily while on medication and acting out of character.
"Mr Sewell should be given a second chance," the commission ruled.
"In reaching this conclusion, it is not to be suggested that his actions over this brief period were not serious … The Codes of Police conduct, however, should not be treated as a monolith but should be viewed as blueprints with layers indicating what should be the behaviour of police officers.
"Those layers should also acknowledge a role for flexibility, compassion and fairness in dealing with the variety of human behaviour that will be called for review."
The NSW Police Commissioner then challenged that ruling in the NSW Court of Appeal over a point of law.
But the appeal was thrown out today, and Sergeant Sewell will be entitled to remain in his position.