A detective groped a woman's breasts after becoming "hopelessly drunk" on free drinks during the inaugural sailing of a ferry service, a court heard.

Brent Beckett, 40, a detective constable with Sussex Police, denies indecently assaulting the 33-year-old woman.

Christine Laing, prosecuting, told how Beckett was representing the force on the first sailing of the new SeaCat II service from Newhaven to Dieppe on April 22 last year.

He was among 200 people invited on board the ferry which sailed to Dieppe before returning to the UK.

Guests were offered a champagne breakfast and drinks from a free bar throughout the voyage, Lewes Crown Court heard.

It is alleged Beckett became loud and abusive, making comments containing sexual innuendo, to women on the ferry.

He placed his hands on a woman's breasts before pushing one hand between her legs, it was alleged.

Miss Laing said: "The woman was shocked and upset. It is the prosecution's case that the bar, which ran free on the ship, was the downfall of this defendant and it is clear from the evidence that, as the day progressed, he became hopelessly drunk."

Beckett, wearing a dark suit and shirt and tie, sat motionless as Miss Laing told the court how guests set sail from Newhaven at around 10am.

They were offered a champagne breakfast and buffet on board the fast service to France, as well as the free bar. The jury was told how he was on board as a serving police officer, who was stationed at Newhaven.

As the day went on, guests noticed his behaviour deteriorate, until a female member of the group he was in said he started to make "a nuisance of himself".

The woman said he was becoming increasingly drunk before he invited her for a private drink with him.

Another member of the group asked Beckett's alleged victim to join them, to offer "female support".

The court heard how a button came undone on the complainant's blouse. She was alerted by another member of the group. Miss Laing said the blouse may have "accelerated" Beckett's behaviour.

The woman pushed him off when he touched her arms, but he pinched her bottom, the court heard.

Miss Laing said as the woman tried to push away from him, he placed his hands on her breasts, before letting one hand slip down to her groin.

She told him "leave me alone, you have no right to touch me". He is alleged to have said: "You know it's what you want."

She said Beckett was later interviewed under caution and accepted he was drunk but blamed a medical condition and did not recall the incidents.

The case continues.