Police payout review 'unfair on sex pest doctor's victims'

Image caption, An investigation into Dr Reginald Bunting found he conducting unacceptable examinations

A police force tried to reduce payouts to injured officers who had been examined during recruitment by a sex pest doctor, in an attempt to save money, the BBC has learned.

An investigation into Dr Reginald Bunting, a chief medical officer at Avon and Somerset Police, found he conducted unacceptable examinations.

Victims say they were unfairly targeted when the force reviewed payouts.

The force said the claims were "without merit".

A review into payouts to officers who had been forced to retire through injury while on duty was launched in 2013.

'Criminal suspect'

Dr Bunting, who died in 2013, worked for Avon and Somerset Police for several decades and was its chief medical officer between 1990 and 1997.

Following a number of allegations against him, including claims of groping and fondling, an independent investigation was commissioned by the force.

It found he conducted "woefully or grossly" unacceptable medical examinations, and the force said, had he still been alive, there was enough evidence to interview him under caution as a criminal suspect.

During the payout review several alleged victims of Dr Bunting came forward, saying they had been examined by him when they were junior officers, and this led to the inquiry into his conduct.

The force was taken to an employment tribunal by nine claimants, after they were told their payouts could be reduced.

Image caption, Mark Rawlings said the "anonymity of the whistle blowing officers should have been protected"

Among their claims they said they had been targeted because they were victims of Dr Bunting, and the force should not have used a confidential list of complainants against him as part of the payouts review.

They claimed the force looked into reducing payouts, because the force believed some of the awards may have been excessive due to them having been authorised by Dr Bunting in an attempt to cover up his actions.

One former officer, Mark Rawlings, who worked for the force from 1989 to 2010, said the "anonymity of the whistle blowing officers should have been protected".

"[The force] decided... to share all their details among financial officers, doctors... in the hope the force doctor could review their files, to see if Dr Bunting had granted them injury awards as a pay-off," he said.

In documents related to the tribunal, seen by the BBC, a judge raised concerns over the conduct of the force.

However, the claimants said they withdrew their claims but could not comment further for legal reasons.

A spokesman said the force believed the claims were "without merit" and the force "would have contested the matter in the tribunal had it proceeded any further", but proceedings were halted by both parties.

The force stopped its review into the injury awards last year.

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