Tyne & Wear

Northumbria Police face Stephen Mitchell damages claims

Stephen Mitchell
Image caption Mitchell accused the women of lying

A police force which admitted failings over its recruitment of an officer who raped and assaulted vulnerable women is facing damages claims from his victims.

Lawyers representing the victims of Pc Stephen Mitchell have initiated civil claims against Northumbria Police.

Mitchell, from Glasgow, was convicted of two counts of rape, three indecent assaults and six counts of misconduct in a public office on Wednesday.

Northumbria Police said each claim for damages would be considered carefully.

But it added that Mitchell, 42, must bear responsibility for his crimes.

Mitchell's trial at Newcastle's High Court heard he targeted vulnerable women, including heroin addicts and shoplifters, by offering to help them while they were in custody at Newcastle's Pilgrim Street police station and then asking for sexual favours.

He denied all the charges and claimed the 16 women who made complaints about his behaviour were liars.

'Early stage'

He was cleared of nine counts of misconduct in public office, three of indecent assault and three of rape.

During the trial, it emerged that the force had disciplined him when it was discovered he had sex with a woman he had met as part of his duties, but he was not dismissed for the offence.

It also emerged Mitchell was accused of a serious sexual offence while he was still in the Army but this was not revealed when he applied to join Northumbria Police.

After the conclusion of the trial, Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Jim Campbell acknowledged the investigation had "highlighted some failings within Northumbria Police at both the recruitment stage and when subsequent allegations were made during Mitchell's service with the force".

Serious injury specialist Lindsey Houghton, from the North East office of law firm Irwin Mitchell, is overseeing the civil claims for damages on behalf of Mitchell's victims, who are upholding their right to anonymity.

She said: "The civil cases are at an early stage but we are making claims for damages for sexual assault, false imprisonment and breach of human rights.

'Horrendous crimes'

"Mitchell was in a position of trust and authority and he abused that position, taking advantage of vulnerable young women in the most horrific way imaginable.

"We will never be able to remove the memories and the lasting damage that he caused, but we hope to be able to provide our clients with some comfort as they try to get their lives back on track."

A Northumbria Police spokesman said each compensation case would be "dealt with in the normal way and carefully considered on its merits".

He said: "Pc Mitchell has been convicted of horrendous crimes and must bear the responsibility for his actions."

Mitchell will be sentenced on 11 January.

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