Bravery, skill and determination praised at awards for Brighton and Hove police

Posted On 24 Feb 2020 at 9:15 am

Courage, commitment to justice and care for the victims of crime and the vulnerable were all recognised at a police awards ceremony yesterday (Friday 21 February).

Officers from Brighton and Hove were praised for their life-saving bravery, investigations and acts of compassion.

Others were commended for going above and beyond the call of duty to serve the public, tackle crime and keep people safe.

Certificates of merit were presented to PC Magda Strycharska, PC Tara Bernard and Dickon Mitchell, from the RNLI Brighton lifeboat, for saving a woman who was drowning.

PC Bernard helped to locate the distressed woman who was found promptly after going into the sea by Banjo Groyne, just east of the Palace Pier, in January last year.

When help arrived, the woman was unresponsive and later received treated for hypothermia.

Chief Superintendent Nick May, the divisional commander of Brighton and Hove, said: “Dickon entered the water and kept her afloat but couldn’t bring her to shore … PC Strycharska entered the water and pulled them both to safety.”

Chief Superintendent May thanked Mr Mitchell for his “quick thinking and bravery”, adding: “You went into the water to assist with the rescue, ultimately saving her life.”

PC Strycharska, who has been a police officer for more than 10 years, said: “I just did not think about it. I just reacted because I could not stand there and do nothing.

“When the coastguard and RNLI thanked me for what I did, I just felt so satisfied.It’s a day I will always remember.

“Being a police officer is one of the best jobs you can do in life as you will always make a difference.”

PC Bernard, who joined over a year ago, said: “It’s great for the work of the police to be recognised and I feel very humbled to be receiving this award.”

PC Bernard, a much newer officer, was involved in another sea rescue during her probationary period, earning her a divisional commendation.

Superintendent Julia Pope said that she had built a rapport with a suicidal woman who had gone into the sea last August.

That rapport “enabled her to be safely rescued from the sea, greatly reducing the risk to both her and officers at the scene”.

PC Tara Bernard, Dickon Mitchell and PC Magda Strycharska

Superintendent Pope added: “Her actions are even more commendable for a student officer still within her probationary period and demonstrated compassion, dedication and the best of public service.”

The High Sheriff of East Sussex, Violet Hancock, presented divisional commendations to five people who helped bring a Brighton man to justice after an armed robbery in Hove.

She handed certificates to Inspector Owen Radley, Detective Constable Lee-Ann Doubell, Detective Inspector Ian Still, Detective Constable Scarlett Millar and Specialist Case Worker Kate Jayne.

They were involved in Operation Grate – the investigation of a “cash in transit” robbery in Conway Street, Hove, when more than £20,000 was stolen.

A security guard was threatened by a robber with an axe who fled on a scooter.

Detective Superintendent Mike Ashcroft praised the team for their “detailed and painstaking investigation”, tracking down Marli Casaletto, 26, of Uplands Road, Hollingdean, who was jailed for five years for the heist.

He also praised Detective Constable Ed Downes for his tenacity in bringing Mohammed Chentouf to justice for a terrifying offence of false imprisonment.

Chentouf was jailed for four years having held William Bowden at knifepoint at the SoBo hostel, in Seafield Road, Hove, claiming that he owed him a drug debt.

Detective Superintendent Ashcroft told Detective Constable Downes: “You showed professionalism and tenacity in rigorously pursuing the investigation, resulting in the offender receiving a substantial prison sentence.”

And he also praised Detective Constable Paul Heal for his work on a complex case of historic child sexual abuse which took place in the 1970s.

It took three years from the initial report to securing a conviction and Detective Constable Heal was lauded for the care and support that he gave the victims.

Detective Superintendent Ashcroft said: “The victims now at last have the justice they deserve.”

PC Alec Barrett was commended for his excellent leadership instigating and co-ordinating an investigation into a large drugs supply network which operated from Brighton and Hastings.

PC Barrett was responsible for the execution of warrants, resulting in the seizure of drugs worth £50,000, cash totalling £15,000, firearms and homemade explosive devices.

Superintendent Pope said that the offender received a custodial sentence and a vulnerable person was safeguarded.

PC Alec Barrett

Investigator Rose Horan was handed a certificate of merit for her meticulous work bringing a serial flasher to book last year.

She helped bring Edward Kent to justice after he exposed himself to 16 schoolgirls – aged 13 to 15 – over more than two years.

Kent, 28, of The Drove, Brighton, was added to the sex offenders register and banned from going into any park in Brighton and Hove for five years as part of a “sexual harm prevention order”.

Chief Superintendent May said: “This was a prolonged and diligent investigation spanning 26 months.”

He praised “Rose’s victim care, dedication and attention to detail” and added: “He wasn’t known to police beforehand and her work has no doubt safeguarded several other potential victims of distressing indecent exposures against young teenagers.”

Detective Constable Jenny Dunn was also awarded a certificate of merit for “tirelessly investigating a stalking offence” involving three victims who were subject to “extensive abuse” from the same man.

She gathered the evidence that helped to convict Paul Kerr – the brother of Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr.

Paul Kerr, 56, from Brighton, was jailed for six years last month after Detective Constable Dunn sifted through thousands of items of digital data, demonstrating “a dedicated approach” during a time-consuming investigation.

Paul Kerr, right, arrives at Lewes Crown Court – Picture by David McHugh / Brighton Pictures

Detective Constable Caroline Gridley and Detective Constable Victoria Lofts were also given certificates of merit for their work on Operation Kinloss.

They “conducted an exceptional investigation” to trace a dangerous suspect in a case where women were attacked by a man believed to be intent on rape.

Probation officer Jenny Fowler was awarded a divisional commendation for her work in the Integrated Offender Management Team.

Chief Inspector Rachel Swinney said that the team deals with “the prolific and priority offenders and those that cause the most harm in Brighton and Hove and are therefore unpredictable and difficult to manage”.

She said: “Jenny has taken on others’ workloads and still managed to remain calm and organised under pressure.

“She seems to thrive where others would definitely crumble under the stress and pressure.

“Jenny maintains a constant calm exterior and her drive and determination and invaluable experience makes her head and shoulders above her designated role.”

Rachel Swinney

Chief Inspector Swinney also sang the praises of bank staff who saved a pensioner from being conned out of thousands of pounds.

Staff at Lloyds Bank’s Preston Circus branch called police when they spotted that an 89-year-old customer had withdrawn thousands of pounds over a few weeks.

Lisa Hollings, 37, turned out to have had stolen more than £10,000 from the recently widowed man and she was later jailed for two years for fraud.

The Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Alex Phillips, presented Citizenship Awards to Jacqueline Redknap, Liz Curer and Jonathan Perrin, from Lloyds, and to Brighton and Hove City Council housing officer Kenna Kendall.

The mayor also presented an award to the council’s head of safer communities Jo Player after Chief Superintendent May commended her many years of dedication in working with the police and other local organisations.

He said: “She is widely respected – and she always puts the interests of our communities first.”

Chief Superintendent Nick May

Chief Superintendent May also said: “I am honoured and extremely proud to celebrate the courage and bravery of our officers, staff, volunteers, and members of the public.

“Each of our award winners has demonstrated their commitment to keeping our communities safe, going above and beyond for the communities of Brighton and Hove.”

The mayor said that she was in awe of the “incredible stories” about people going above and beyond the call of duty in service of the community.

Councillor Phillips added: “Each of those stories that goes with each award shows that each of those people make a huge difference to our society, our communities and our everyday life.

“I’m really in awe of every person who collected a commendation or a certificate of merit.

“You as individuals and teams have made such a difference to life here in Brighton and Hove. Thank you very much.”

Julia Chapman

Assistant Chief Constable Julia Chapman said: “The sheer variety of the citations demonstrates the wide range of requirements our officers, police staff and volunteers deal with in Brighton and Hove.

“I want to congratulate you all for your commitment to keeping the people of Brighton and Hove safe. It makes me incredible proud and humble to hear about your achievements.

“We have heard examples of the arrest of violent offenders, the investigation of serious offences where you have brought the offenders to justice, the protection of vulnerable victims and saved the life of members of the public, despite having to face and overcome personal risk and adversity.

“I was also delighted to hear of awards for staff who support victims and witnesses every day and for colleagues who have worked with us from partner agencies and businesses to reduce offending and protect the public. Thank you for your support.

“I am pleased that your friends and family can be here with you today to hear about the courageous and dedicated work you do when you leave home for work every day.

“It may help explain at times why you have been late for meals, cancelled planned events and rest days and miss out on precious family time. I am sure you often don’t and can’t explain what you have been doing in detail.

“I want to thank you, friends and families for the support you give to our officers and staff. There are some difficult shifts where they will need the love and support you provide when they come home.

“I want to reassure you that we also will look after your loved ones, Sussex Police is a family and, while we have to ask our staff to deal with difficult and at times dangerous situations, we will look after their physical and mental wellbeing.”

In all, dozens of officers and others were given awards at the ceremony which took place at the County Ground, Hove, on Friday (21 February).

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