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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
'Dyke' claim ex-sergeant cleared
John Atkinson and North Wales Police crest graphic
Mr Atkinson had always denied the charge
A retired north Wales policeman has been cleared of a public order offence by Flintshire magistrates for allegedly calling a senior officer a "dyke".

Ex-detective sergeant John Atkinson, 46, from Pontblyddyn near Mold, was speaking to serving police officers in a van when he allegedly used the word to describe the openly gay officer.

But he was arrested when a lesbian constable objected to the term "dyke".

Mr Atkinson said after the case that the court had seen "common sense".

Flintshire magistrates said the prosecution had failed to prove its case against Mr Atkinson, who always denied the section five public order offence.

An officer with the force for 22 years, he allegedly used the word "dyke" to refer to Acting Chief Supt Michelle Williams, who is openly gay.

Airgun death

Both attended a funeral of another officer in October last year, but the prosecution claimed Mr Atkinson later became angry because he felt Chief Supt Williams had snubbed him.

The court heard how he lost his 13-year-old son George in an airgun accident in 1999, and allegedly felt upset because Chief Supt Williams had not asked him how he was.

Ed Beltrami, prosecuting, said: "This defendant had a chip on his shoulder about this particular officer and North Wales Police and he took that out on a van full of police officers who didn't know him from Adam."

Mr Atkinson went into Wrexham for a curry later that night, and approached the officers at around 0100.

Referring to Chief Supt Williams - who is chairman of the race and diversity group at North Wales Police - he allegedly swore and said: "Where is your diverse super? The diverse dyke, where's Michelle?"

He was arrested after one of the officers, Pc Sarah Fellows, took offence because she is gay.

Richard Brunstrom
Chief constable Richard Brunstrom used the word "queer"

The court also heard how the force's chief constable, Richard Brunstrom, escaped prosecution recently after referring to homosexuals as "queers" during a meeting.

After he was charged, Mr Atkinson allegedly told officers: "The chief constable used the word queers and he didn't get prosecuted."

In interview, he also said: "As experienced police officers they probably hear foul language any time of the day.

"It is so trivial in my book, I thought it would be water off a duck's back."

The court heard that Mr Atkinson apologised during interview, adding: "You might have got away with that off the cuff remark three or four years ago but in this day and age you can't.

"I realise that in this politically correct wilderness of a world it wasn't politically correct."

Pc Sarah Fellows told the court on Monday: "I was extremely shocked and insulted by his comments, I find the word dyke an offensive word to describe my sexuality."

But Euros Jones, defending, said "dyke" was defined in the dictionary as "a slang word for lesbian" and was commonly used by the gay community.

He asked Pc Fellows if she was also offended by the chief constable saying "queer".

She admitted she was offended, but did not feel it was "my place" to complain about that incident.

Speaking outside court Mr Atkinson said: "All those young officers had to do that night was use a bit of common sense and discretion.

"It's a pity the case had to come to court and cost the taxpayer so much money".

"Thankfully the court has seen common sense and acquitted me."

A spokeswoman for North Wales Police said: "The case was properly brought and prosecuted. We will be reviewing the trial."




SEE ALSO:
Brunstrom's apology for gay slur
12 Mar 05 |  North West Wales


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