A DEPRESSED mother who attempted suicide then called 999 for help is suing Sussex Police over claims she was cuffed and forcibly stripped naked by officers.

The woman called police when she tried to hang herself after drinking while her husband was out walking their 10-month-old daughter.

She said she was arrested, carried out in handcuffs and leg restraints and put face down in a police van.

She then claims female officers pinned her down while her clothes and jewellery were removed in a police cell in Crowhurst Road, Brighton, in 2012.

She was left naked and crying on the cell floor with a blanket to cover her before being released without charge 11 hours later.

The ordeal, captured on CCTV, triggered horrific memories of being gang-raped as a teenager, she claimed.

The force was criticised for its handling of people with mental health problems in a damning report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which said little had appeared to have changed.

The IPCC document, seen by The Sunday Times, has not yet been publicly released.

In it the watchdog rejected findings from two earlier internal investigations by the force which exonerated the officers when the woman complained within days of the incident.

It found custody sergeant Paul Budgen should have faced disciplinary charges for misconduct but had been allowed to retire during the investigation.

Claims by officers that the complainant had become volatile and uncooperative were "undermined" by the CCTV footage, the report said.

The woman, from Brighton, told the national newspaper: "Losing control and having to beg people to stop puts you in a position of absolute weakness and vulnerability.

"My motivation for speaking out is both to stand up against the ill-treatment I personally received, but also to help prevent others from experiencing similar incidents."

Michael Oswald, of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, who is representing the woman, said: "It is incomprehensible police officers forcibly stripped her naked despite her mental state and being told she was a rape victim.

"Our client battled for more than three years to have this matter investigated in the hope of preventing others suffering such appalling treatment.

"Her incredible bravery and determination stand in stark contrast to the weakness and timidity of the IPCC which, combined with the unwillingness of Sussex Police to investigate their own officers, has meant that no officer has been held to account for the way she was treated."

Sussex Police is reportedly defending the claim but a spokesman said yesterday: "The matter is the subject of an on-going civil claim against Sussex Police and we are not in a position to discuss specific details of this incident at this time."

The Police Federation, speaking on behalf of Sgt Budgen, said: "How long was Sergeant Budgen expected to remain a police officer simply to satisfy the wishes of a woman, whose detention he had authorised for her own protection."

An IPCC spokesman said a date had not yet been set to publish the findings.


THE mother told how she had been in a state of shock and panic after ringing 999.

Suffering from post-natal depression, the woman, aged 33 at the time, became suicidal after drinking alcohol while her husband was taking their 10-month-old daughter for a walk. She wrote notes to her family and tried to hang herself in the bathroom.

The suicide attempt failed, making her feel even more “worthless and ashamed” so she called 999 to report it.

The attending officers said a dispute arose when they tried to stop her using the bathroom. She was arrested and carried out of the Brighton flat just as her husband returned.

She said: “It felt like I was being kidnapped. I had called 999 for help and just could not comprehend how that had led to me finding myself handcuffed and in leg restraints face down in the back of a police van.”

Once in the police cell four female officers pinned her to the ground to take off her clothes and jewellery, CCTV footage shows. She says she repeatedly asked them to stop and was given no option to remove her own clothes The woman said: “As soon as officers began removing my jewellery it triggered an emotional memory of those events [the rape] as though I was experiencing them again.”

One officer told the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC): “I remember her saying [in the cell] ‘I’ve been raped’. I’m not sure how many times she said it. I didn’t really believe her, to be honest.

“A lot of people lie to us to get out of a situation. It’s kind of irrelevant, because we still have a job to do.”

All the officers said they had received basic training of detaining people under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 but, according to the IPCC report, most of their knowledge of was learnt on the job.


SUSSEX Police says it has led the way with a mental health project.

The force is working with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust so those with mental health problems are cared for by health professionals rather than taken to a cell by police officers.

The numbers of people detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 and taken into police custody in Sussex has fallen from 738 in 2014 to 190 last year.