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The false accusation was damning: Acquitted ex-officer speaks out

There are renewed calls for a public inquiry into the treatment of a former sergeant prosecuted over an alleged incident in custody 28 years after it supposedly happened.

After retiring from police after 30 years of service, Gurpal Virdi thought he could move into politics, and was trained for office by the Labour Party.

But in the run up to his first election campaign he was arrested over accusations dating back 28 years – and which were amended months later before falling apart completely at his trial.

There are calls for a public inquiry into his treatment.

The former detective sergeant had earlier won a racial discrimination case against the Metropolitan Police after being dismissed in 2000 over accusations he sent racist hate mail to himself and others. He was completely exonerated.

Mr Virdi received a public apology and returned to the force in 2002 because he didn’t want to let himself be driven out of the job he loved by “a few bad apples”.

In 2014, some two years after he retired, another nightmare began out of the blue.

He was accused of indecent assault of a boy under 16 in custody and misconduct in a public office. The offences were alleged to have taken place in 1986.

And they were put into the public domain by the Met in a press release on the day he received a court summons.

Yet months later it emerged that the accuser was not even under 16 on the date of the claimed incident.

The charge was changed before trial, but much damage had been done.

“To be accused of indecent assault on a child under the age of 16 is very damning. I was going for local election then I’ve been called a rapist, I’ve been called a paedophile, it’s a horrible label to have, it’s not something you can counter.

“Because of the negative press I can’t even get a job now,” Mr Virdi told Police Oracle.

He was disowned by the Labour Party, in spite of which he was elected to Hounslow Council. But he is soon standing down after one term, his former political ambitions in tatters.

“As a councillor there’s a lot of work and I’ve found it very difficult as an independent to fight for my residents,” he said, and the taint of the accusations against him haven’t gone away.

His accuser, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Mr Virdi through his trousers with a retractable ASP in the back of a police van.

This was around a decade before the devices were introduced to English policing.

He also claimed to have been driven around at other times in a police car by the officer. But Gurpal Virdi did not have the requisite training to drive a vehicle.

There were a number of other inconsistencies in the accuser’s evidence and the jury returned a not guilty verdict in less than an hour.

He and supporters, including MP Sir Peter Bottomley, are calling for a public inquiry into what happened. 

Sir Peter raised the issue in parliament last week with Prime Minister Theresa May, who said she will meet him over the case.

Mr Virdi said: “There should be an inquiry. I’m not too confident it will happen but the findings would be damning for the whole of the criminal justice system.

“It was 28 years [after the alleged incident took place], 29 years by the time it came to trial, no other policeman has ever been put through what I was put through. And the paperwork showed that I wasn’t even the arresting officer,” he said.

“I feared being found guilty quite a lot,” he recalled. “It’s a scary thing with an accuser and witness against you. Thank God the jury saw through it. 

“I wasn’t confident till I heard the verdict. I had supporters waiting for me outside and we rushed over to the pub - but it was still difficult because I shouldn’t have ever been there.

“I’d been through the mill, you do suffer mentally, physically, though the adrenaline keeps you going to that point.”

The former officer has written a book about his ordeal called Behind the Blue Line. He said it is his way of putting his side of the story into the public domain.

Sir Peter Bottomley says in its foreword that the book “details the obstacles, the prejudice and the official carelessness that can get in the way of a dedicated officer’s career”.

“We can learn from it. We must learn from it. These events should never be able to happen again.

“The best way forward would be for the government and the Met to conduct an official inquiry now.”

The Met insists it was important the case was investigated. 

A force spokesman said: “Once allegations such as these were raised by the victim it was only right that we investigated them thoroughly and impartially. 

“That investigation was entirely focused on securing what evidence was available, with respect to what were undeniably very serious allegations. It would not have been proper to proceed in any other way. 

“We presented the evidence to the CPS who decided the allegations and evidence should be heard by a jury. During the progression of the case through the courts, the judge rejected an application for dismissal."