A GROUP of four officers have received a Chief Constable’s Commendation for their work in successfully investigating the attack on war veteran, Jim Booth, which took place in Taunton in 2017.

With limited clues, they have been praised for their quick thinking, which saw the offender arrested within 36 hours. Their thorough investigation and support for the victim, who was 96 at the time, helped to secure a conviction, with the offender being sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Among other Avon and Somerset Police officers who were recognised during the ceremony yesterday (Thursday, October 31) at Merchants Hall, Bristol, were a group of officers for their work on a romance fraud investigation and the officer who investigated the threats made to BBC presenter, Alex Lovell.

Recipients were presented with awards in front of their friends and family, which was attended by Chief Constable Andy Marsh, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, and High Sheriff of Bristol, Charles Wyld.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “These awards recognise police, staff and members of the public for exceptional acts in the support of law and order. Some of the bravery and professionalism detailed in the award citations make your jaw drop.

“When reading through these amazing stories, I think about the reasons why people do what they do. I believe it’s because of the values that bind us together. We want to make a difference and we want to help make things better. At the heart of it all is kindness, as we wouldn’t do these things if we didn’t care. These are the kind of people that I have the privilege of working with and they inspire me, so it’s a great honour to be able to give them these awards.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “The common theme running through all these award winners is the fact they all want to make a difference. They didn’t choose to walk past thinking someone else will do it, they put themselves forward. Whether its organised crime, fraud, or physical violence, they chose to make that difference and it’s a great honour to be able to thank them in this way.”

Award winners were as follows:

Chief Constable’s Commendation

For significant personal courage or significant initiative and/or commitment in the execution of duty far and beyond what should normally be expected.

Investigation into the attack on Jim Booth - DC John Hook, DC Robert Dolan, DC Paul Beament and Tom Rossiter

Following the attack, Intelligence Officer, Tom Rossiter, identified a potential suspect after a suspicious vehicle was spotted around Taunton at the time of the attack. Tom’s excellent financial tracking, which was cross referenced to CCTV, confirmed the offender was who they thought. An immediate plan was put together and the offender was arrested within 36 hours of the offence.

DC John Hook led the articulately planned interview of the offender in such a manner that the offender couldn't account for evidence put to him, which was crucial for the criminal justice proceedings that followed. As Jim slowly recovered, DC Hook was excellent in his management of the case, ensuring the 97 year old wasn't exposed to unnecessary court process and submitted a prosecution strategy which allowed justice to be served without the need for Jim's live evidence.

Following the attack, Jim had a fractured skull and broken bones. His family were by his side in hospital and they were compassionately supported by Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) DC Rob Dolan & DC Paul Beament. The nature of the attack and the pure presence of Jim in the local community led to national media coverage. DC Dolan and DC Beament provided continued support for Jim and his family, assisting with everyday issues and importantly acting as a buffer from the media attention.

Investigation into threats made against BBC presenter, Alex Lovell - DC Patrick Prescott

Over a number of years, several cards had been sent to the victim at work, all signed with a distinctive symbol. A full DNA profile was obtained from the cards, however a search on the national database was unsuccessful. DC Prescott undertook work with the manufacturer of the cards to trace where they may have been sold, spoke to the relevant retail outlets, pursued enquiries with Post Office to try and identify where the cards had been posted. He also consulted the National Crime Agency, as well as international experts, and conducted numerous other enquiries in an ongoing attempt to trace the offender.

DC Prescott organised a public appeal, as the signature used by the suspect had distinctive characteristics. A member of the public recognised the signature, identifying the suspect who was subsequently arrested. This was an excellent, tenacious and difficult investigation by DC Prescott, which eventually secured a conviction for stalking, with the offender sentenced to 2 ½ years’ imprisonment, with an indefinite restraining order against the victim.

Investigation into romance fraud - DI Adam Bunting, DC Clare Ball, DS Helen Holt

This high-profile investigation relates to a protracted romance fraud where the victim, Carolyn Woods, was defrauded out of her life savings to a value in excess of £850,000,00 by Mark Acklom, who had then fled the country. The investigation spanned Europe, with officers eventually managing to secure sufficient evidence to obtain a European arrest warrant via the Crown Prosecution Service. Persistence from the officers with partner agencies such as Interpol, Spanish police and latterly the Swiss police, led to the offender being located in Geneva and arrested. He was eventually deported back to the UK and convicted, being sentenced to five years in prison.

DC Neil Wood

Last year, a woman and her then partner were self-confessed drug dealers in the Bath area. The woman found herself in debt to her main supplier, a high-level criminal linked to organised crime gangs in several parts of the UK. The main supplier exploited the woman regularly, using threats and violence to force her to deal increasing amounts drugs for him. Over time, the woman was unable to pay and the intimidation became more extreme, including threats of harm to the woman’s mother, and to kidnap her teenage daughter, and force her into prostitution. In desperation she contacted the police.

DC Neil Wood was part of a team of officers that started the slow process of encouraging the woman to make a statement and put a safety plan in place. This involved moving her to a hotel and putting safeguarding measures in place for other family members. Many hours were spent winning the confidence of the woman and her partner, eventually persuading them to make comprehensive victim and witness statements. This included admissions to their involvement in drug dealing and setting out the background for the threats from the main supplier.

Tireless work from the officers eventually led to them arresting the offender and gathering persuasive analytical evidence to secure a conviction, where he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Royal Humane Society Award – Hasina Ghani

A national award for acts of bravery while saving human life, or in attempt to do so

Hasina Ghani is recognised for her attempts to save a man’s life in August 2018. Officers were called to a park where Hasina, who is a student nurse, was attempting CPR on the man. She assisted the officers as they continued the CPR until paramedics arrived. They all continued chest compressions for 20 minutes whilst the paramedics worked around them. Unfortunately, the male was sadly pronounced dead at the scene by the doctor present. Nevertheless, Hasina Ghani’s heroic actions provided the male a larger chance of survival, using her initiative to use her knowledge and skills within this massively pressurised situation.

Waley Cohen Award - Stephanie Worthington

An award to members of the public who assist the police in the execution of their duty or who perform meritorious acts in the pursuit of law and order.

Earlier this year, Stephanie Worthington was at fete in Somerset where she saw two drunk people about to drive off with their two children. She told an off-duty police sergeant and ran over to the car, which was reversing slowly out of the car park. She banged on the windows shouting for the car to stop. It didn’t stop and reversed onto the road, despite the sergeant also banging on the car and identifying himself as a police officer, the car failed to stop.

With the driver drunk and seemingly oblivious to their presence, Stephanie took a huge risk by positioning herself in front of the car to prevent it from moving forward. Stephanie’s actions certainly caused the driver to hesitate and allowed the officer to open the driver door to get him out. The police were called and the driver was arrested. He was found to be more than two times over the legal limit.