Bedfordshire Police says it has been “overwhelmed” by public support following Monday night’s screening of 24 Hours in Police Custody, which featured a corrupt detective blackmailing a prostitute’s customer.
The new Channel4 series’ latest episode, Sex and Corruption, revealed how Gareth Suffling, 35, was working as a detective constable when he wrote a letter to the victim demanding £1,000 to stop his family, friends and work colleagues from being told about his activities.
The threat was packaged up with photographs of him visiting a motorhome used by the prostitute in Segwick Road, on March 16.
An investigation was launched by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit and it discovered that Suffling had used the Police National Computer to carry out a registered owner’s check on the victim’s vehicle on March 17.
Further investigations revealed Suffling had been in contact with the prostitute on March 16 to find out where she would be on that day, and CCTV put his vehicle near to the victim’s home when the demand letter was delivered. He was arrested and suspended the following day (March 25).
He pleaded guilty to blackmail and misconduct in a public office and was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court in September. Suffling was dismissed from the force without notice for gross misconduct following a Special Case Hearing in October and was jailed for 18 months.
After Monday’s episode Bedfordshire Police took to Twitter, stating: “We are overwhelmed by all your kind comments about tonight’s episode of #24HoursInPoliceCustody.
“No-one is above the law and we’re pleased justice was done. We’re committed to being open and transparent and the airing of this episode was never in doubt. Thank you all.”
And Chief Constable Jon Boutcher spoke about why the force allowed the programme to take place and why they work with Garden Productions that make the programme.
He said: “I just wanted to explain in light of the recent television programme 24 Hours in Custody which showed a police officer who committed a criminal offence and how we dealt with that matter, why we allowed that programme to take place and why we work with Garden Productions that make 24 Hours in Custody in Bedfordshire.
“In simple terms, I’m passionate about transparency and policing around the legitimacy that we need to do the job that we do, the support that we need of our communities so that we can police those communities effectively.
“24 Hours in custody, in my view is the best example of how a police force can show the communities that it polices how it does its job.
“I’ll never shy away from doing the right thing, showing the television programme how we dealt with what was a human tragedy, as to how a wonderful DC who worked really hard, was committed to his craft, became a person who would commit a criminal offence.
“Still I have got no idea why he committed the offence he did and we need to make sure we look after our staff and we support our staff so they don’t commit offences if they get financial challenges.
“But the programme marks, I think a defining moment in British policing, it shows you who we are and how we police and that is the most important thing I think that I as a Chief Constable, can achieve for the communities I am responsible for.
“We’ll continue working with Garden Productions and filming 24 Hours in Custody and the remainder of the series are all very compelling programmes, all telling a very different human story and I recommend all of them to you.”
Multiple messages of praise on the way Bedfordshire Police handled the subject were posted on Facebook and Twitter, with one person tweeting: “All credit to @bedspolice for their true commitment to transparency in letting us film this sensitive and controversial case.
“So important for people to see. #policecustody #24hoursinpolicecustody @Channel4 #police.”
TV presenter Richard Osman tweeted: “#24HoursInPoliceCustody was so good last night. Well worth watching on C4 catch-up. An incredible story, brilliantly told.”
A Facebook commenter said: “ Will give credit where it’s due and Beds Police did a good job linking this guy to this blackmail. Very impressive work.”