A police officer dubbed Mr Tickle by his shift colleagues because of his drunken antics has resigned from the force after being found guilty of sex attacks on two female officers.
Married Austin Barrett was placed under social work supervision and on the sex offenders register for a year yesterday as his 19-year police career ended in disgrace.
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard the elected Scottish Police Federation representative had quit Police Scotland after being found guilty of sexual assaults.
Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist said: “For the punitive element, I have to bear in mind the consequences on your career that will follow upon your conviction.
“Your requirement to comply with the Sexual Offences Act is, in itself, a punishment for someone in your position.”
Jekyll and Hyde character
Solicitor advocate Kris Gilmartin said Barrett was a Jekyll and Hyde character who had enjoyed an exemplary career as an officer for nearly two decades in Fife.
He said: “There is a clear distinction between Austin Barrett the police officer on duty, and Austin Barrett when he is under the influence of alcohol.
“Efforts are being made to assist him with his alcohol problem. That is clearly ongoing. He held his post as a police officer for 19 years and was the federation rep.
“He is described as a knowledgeable and helpful colleague. He is somebody who received commendations for bravery, both on and off duty, and attended a number of traumatic incidents in the course of his employment.
“There is a clear indication they have contributed to his abuse of alcohol. He has resigned from his post as an officer.”
He said Barrett planned to return to his pre-police job as a gas engineer or train as an HGV driver.
“It cannot be underestimated the effect this whole episode has had on him and his family. He is shocked at his actions but desperate to make amends.”
Barrett, whose address was given as c/o professional standards, French Street, Glasgow, had served as a police officer in Fife since 2001.
Sheriff Gilchrist told him: “I am satisfied the events described by the Crown witnesses took place, were deliberate, unwanted and amounted to assault.
“Both Crown witnesses were convincing and I saw nothing obvious that would tend to undermine their credibility or reliability.”
Fiscal depute Lisa Marshall said: “Austin Barrett’s behaviour, without exception, appears to be predatory, opportunistic and unacceptable and needs to be called out for what it is.
“It is not a joke. It’s sexual assault.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received information in April 2019 regarding sexual assaults involving a 42-year-old man and a full investigation was carried out.
“We acknowledge the outcome of court proceedings.”
Trial told ‘Mr Tickle’ repeatedly assaulted women colleagues
The trial was previously held at Perth Sheriff Court, where Barrett was described as a “predator” who repeatedly groped female police officers.
One Police Scotland officer described how Barrett assaulted her during a Christmas night out, a few months after groping her colleague.
Barrett, 43, who was a constable, was found guilty of three charges of sexually assaulting two women in separate incidents during 2018.
A 32-year-old officer told the court Barrett was notorious for drunken groping and said: “It was expected that he would be like that on most nights out.
“It was like a work joke how Austin acted on nights out. (His nickname) was different versions of Mr Tickle and things like that. That’s the one I remember.”
She said Barrett had groped her colleague under a table during at the end of a barbecue hosted by a senior officer for members of the force.
The officer said she had to be persuaded to go to a police Christmas night out at Crieff Hydro because she felt so uneasy about Barrett’s drunken behaviour.
During the evening she said she was dancing with other colleagues when Barrett appeared behind her and pinched her bottom twice.
“It shouldn’t have happened. It just wasn’t very nice. I wouldn’t say it was done to hurt me, it was just more annoying. I could see him smirking at me.
“I wanted people to watch out for me. It wasn’t the only thing Austin did that night and people were saying we needed to look out for each other because of how drunk he was.”
Barrett was convicted of sexually assaulting the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, by repeatedly touching her on the bottom at the hotel between December 12 and 13 2018.
He was also found guilty of sexually assaulting a 33-year-old woman at an address in Cardenden by repeatedly touching her leg without consent between June 3 and 26 2018.
The officer was also found guilty of assaulting the woman in Kinglassie in July 2018 by placing his hand inside her dress.
The second complainer, the 33-year-old constable, said she was also aware that Barrett was known within his team as Mr Tickle.
She described how he groped her under the table during a barbecue and then touched her again a month later.
The officer said she was at a second barbecue with other Police Scotland colleagues when Barrett sexually assaulted her again.