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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 15:57 GMT
Pc 'killed herself over bullying'
A police officer killed herself because of bullying within Merseyside Police's firearms unit, an inquest has heard.

Pc Paula Tomlinson, 35, was found hanged at her home in Birkdale near Southport, Merseyside, in January 2004.

Her family are trying to use European human rights laws to get allegations of a "culture of bullying" in the unit heard at the inquest into her death.

Sefton Coroner Christopher Sumner will on Tuesday reveal whether they have been successful in their application.

On Monday, North Sefton Coroner's Court was told the alleged bullying began after Ms Tomlinson complained about officers watching an adult film during a training session.

Jeremy Baker QC, for the family, said the officer also claimed she was deliberately distracted while taking "critical" shots during an attempt to re-qualify for her firearms licence.

'No wrongdoing'

Ms Tomlinson failed the exam and was removed from the firearms unit. Soon afterwards she took sick leave suffering from stress and depression.

The court heard a statement from Acting Inspector John Armstrong, of Merseyside Police, who described Ms Tomlinson as a "very unhappy" person who had been "crushed" by her failure.

Mr Baker claimed the force should have known there was "a real and immediate risk" of Ms Tomlinson taking her own life.

But Samantha Leeke, representing Merseyside Police, argued the force had no way of knowing as she had made no official complaint.

Two inquiries - carried out by West Mercia Police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission - failed to find any wrongdoing.

Under normal inquest rules, a coroner would simply determine the cause of death, but lawyers have asked for investigations into the bullying claims under Article II of the Human Rights Act.

Bullying 'significant'

Mr Baker said: "A review of the evidence taken on the face of the papers discloses a case, firstly, of a long-standing culture of discriminatory bullying in the firearms department of Merseyside Police.

"Secondly, of a systematic failure of management to deal adequately with that, which led to the victimisation of not just the deceased but a large number of decent and hard-working members of Merseyside Police."

Mr Baker argued the alleged bullying had been a significant - or even sole - cause of Ms Tomlinson's death.

If the coroner allows the inquest to proceed under Article II of the Human Rights Act, a number of witnesses are expected to be called to give evidence about the alleged culture of bullying.

If the lawyers are denied the right to use the laws a traditional inquest will take place which will simply determine the immediate cause of death.

Bullying probe after officer died
27 Aug 04 |  Merseyside
Force probe over officer's death
01 May 04 |  Merseyside

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