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Somerset force awards honour exceptional courage, dedication and skill of police and public

Extraordinary acts of bravery, exceptional investigative work and outstanding dedication to duty have been recognised at a special Somerset force awards ceremony held by Avon and Somerset Police.

Officers, police staff and members of the public were honoured at Clevedon Hall on Wednesday (November 20) in front of their friends and families, in a ceremony attended by Chief Constable Andy Marsh and The High Sheriff of Somerset Johnnie Halliday.

The awards included recognition for the officer in command of Operation Banff, which led to life imprisonment for a woman who threw sulphuric acid over her partner. Also recognised were the investigation skills and professionalism of a detective constable in a harrowing child sexual abuse case and the dedication of an officer in pursuing a strategy to prevent and disrupt Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

Members of the public receiving awards included a man who saved the life of a distressed young person, a security guard who bravely tackled an armed thief and a man who stepped in to aid a PCSO who was under attack.

Impressive leadership, community dedication and heroic handling of life-threatening situations were subjects of other awards presented.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “It is a great pleasure to attend this ceremony and recognise the often jaw-dropping incidents that our police and public have been involved in, including several where, through prompt and courageous action, lives have been saved or protected.

“Hearing the stories behind these awards reminds me how much our service has changed over the years, with huge challenges such as globalised crime and child sexual exploitation – unheard of years ago – increasingly changing the face of policing.

“As our guests modestly and humbly step up to accept what are ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ awards, I have the pleasure of seeing what they don’t – the pride in the eyes and faces of their friends, families and supporters. I thank you all for being here today to share in this ceremony.”

The High Sheriff of Somerset Johnnie Halliday said: “I have been privileged in my months in office to gain understanding from seeing our police in action – being briefed on their challenges, experiencing a ride-along in Taunton, walking the beat with PCSOs in East Somerset and watching the police in court. I have also enjoyed meeting the next generation – the Mini Police and Cadets – and hearing of their transformations from shy teenagers to young leaders.

“What stands out to me is the dedication of the brave men and women who go above and beyond their duty. This is represented here today by both officers and members of the public. As Robert Peel quoted: “Police are the public and the public are the police.”

“On behalf of The Queen and the residents of Somerset, thank you for keeping us safe.”

Award winners were as follows:

 Chief Constable’s Commendations:

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

 PCSO Sam Bushen

Whilst patrolling his area in August 2019, Taunton-based PCSO Bushen spotted an offender wanted for almost 20 theft and burglary offences. Having known this individual over many years PCSO Bushen approached him and explained that he was to be arrested and detained.

Sam kept the man talking whilst awaiting back-up support. However the offender had concealed scissors and suddenly began stabbing the officer in the arm in a bid to escape.

In the face of extreme and unexpected violence and despite having suffered one stab wound and several near misses, Sam continued to restrain the offender until his colleagues arrived. The footage caught on Sam’s Body Worn Video demonstrated the sustained energy the offender used to try to escape the officer and his disregard of the injuries he was inflicting, leading Chief Constable Andy Marsh to herald Sam as “one of the most courageous people we have in the force.”

The offender was not only a prolific offender but a danger to the public. In detaining him in the face of high risk to himself, PCSO Sam Bushen demonstrated outstanding bravery in protecting his community and for his actions received a Chief Constable’s commendation.

Stephen Hodgson

Steve leads the organisation’s procurement function at Police HQ in Portishead. His wealth of knowledge and experience, combined with his enthusiasm and innovative approach, drives the procurement team’s performance and delivers value for money purchasing solutions for the force. His particular interest in the digital/technological arena ensures Avon and Somerset are leading edge in terms of technology solutions.

Steve applies a flexible and agile approach to his work, always balancing this with the need to enforce compliance with procurement rules and recognising the importance of the reputation of the organisation in adopting ethical processes.

His strategic approach to resolving commercial issues, careful coordination with colleagues and determination to extract maximum value from supplier contracts has helped the procurement function to deliver vital savings. These savings can be reinvested into policing communities and supporting the force’s vision of achieving outstanding policing for everyone.

He epitomises the force values in his leadership style and dealings with colleagues, customers and suppliers and has ensured the force’s mission, vision and values are woven into the procurement processes. For his actions and leadership Steve received a Chief Constable’s Commendation.

PC Ed Moore

In August 2019 a bare chested man began wielding a large hunting knife in a hospital’s main reception, threatening injuries to himself and others.

PC Ed Moore, a Yeovil-based beat manager, came across the scene as he paid a routine visit to the site. His reaction was to deal with the situation with outstanding clarity and bravery.

With more officers called and on route, Ed approached the man delivering clear and calm instructions. When the man failed to respond and his behaviour became increasingly violent, the officer deployed his Taser and threw the knife to a safe distance before handcuffing the man.

The incident concluded without serious injury to anyone, with bystanders commenting on the speed and professionalism with which the officer brought the potentially life-threatening situation under control. For his fearless actions PC Ed Moore was awarded with a Chief Constable’s commendation.

PC Louise Phipps

In December 2009 Lou, a Bridgwater-based officer, was appointed Family Liaison Officer (FLO) to the Potts family, whose son Matt had been out celebrating a new job when a speeding car hit him and failed to stop, as he crossed the road. Matt tragically died from his injuries five days later. In a period of intense grief, Lou became someone who the Potts family could turn to, trust and rely on for respect, support and kindness.

So, it was to Lou that Matt’s mother Wendy turned years later, in a bid to support the families who had lost loved ones in the Manchester Arena Attack of May 2017. Now a member of a group of mothers who had suffered child bereavement and who had busily knitted squares to make “mourning blankets”, Wendy asked if these could be given to families affected by the arena tragedy to show that each was knitted with love by a grieving mother who truly understood what they were going through.

Lou contacted Greater Manchester Police and reached Family Liaison Officer Mark Forster. After many calls and much discussion, Wendy, and another bereaved mother Heather, were ultimately able to present the group’s heartfelt gifts in person to the FLO team, bringing comfort to all involved. It is for her ongoing professionalism, empathy, compassion and willingness to going beyond the call of duty, that Lou Phipps received the Chief Constable’s Commendation.

DC Susannah Pesticcio

In May 2018, Berlinah Wallace was sentenced to life imprisonment for throwing sulphuric acid over her partner, creating a chain of events that led to his death. DC Sue Pesticcio was the officer in command of Operation Banff, a Bristol-based investigation which spanned three countries and took over two and a half years to complete.

Sue took on responsibilities for liaising with the Crown Prosecution service, preparing case papers and building the prosecution case. The case involved great complexities, from the care and dedication needed in assessing the significant quantity of material collated to the legal complexities involving retrieval of evidence and enquiries in both Belgium and Holland. It was Sue who completed enquiries in Belgium securing pivotal information in the case.

Sue assisted heavily with the victim’s family engagement throughout the long court process ensuring that they were kept updated. This was complicated by the family being based in Holland and Belgium and associated language barriers. The case also attracted large scale media attention.

In sentencing the offender to life, Trial Judge Mrs Justice Davies gave a verbal commendation to the major crime investigation team – and specifically Sue for her outstanding role in bringing a challenging case to justice. Sue received a Chief Constable’s commendation for her work.

PC Rachel Walls

PC Rachel Walls is an officer on Operation Topaz, a team which takes a partnership approach to tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE). Coming into the role with limited exposure to the subject and without an investigative background, Rachel committed to learn and develop her skillset and quickly built a reputation among colleagues for reliability, problem solving and true dedication to her work.

Her commitment and thirst to try new things to disrupt CSE activities came to the fore when she saw an article about The Metropolitan Police’s Operation Makesafe, which works to prevent offending at hotels.

Having understood the detail of Operation Makesafe, she then designed a version which fitted within the Avon and Somerset force’s communities and resources. Since then Rachel has been responsible for full operation design and delivery, from force training to helping raise public awareness and understanding of the initiative.

Operation Makesafe will now be rolled out across the force, thanks to the solid foundation work and dedication of PC Rachel Wells to preventing and disrupting CSE offending. She was awarded a Chief Constable’s Commendation.

Royal Humane Society Awards

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

Certificates of Commendation

Luke Stevens

It was a dark night and snowing heavily in January 2019, when police were alerted to a young man in danger in a rural location. Despite conditions police officers quickly arrived to find Luke, a member of the public from Ilminster, helping the man.

Luke and the two officers put their own safety in jeopardy to save the life of a distressed young person.  This was a selfless act and the enormous amount of assistance Luke gave police officers was instrumental in securing a safe outcome for the young man.

Asked what made him stop and get involved, Luke replied: “Somebody needed help”. He has since been contacted and thanked by the young man.

For his actions, Luke Stevens was awarded a Certificate of Commendation by the Royal Humane Society.

PC Benjamin Dilworth Smith

In November 2018, Exmoor Beat Manager PC Benjamin Dilworth Smith was dispatched to take details of a high risk missing person from her sister who had raised concerns.

On arrival, Ben discovered the missing woman had been found on the floor of her garage. She was surrounded by a large amount of blood, barely conscious, convulsing and extremely cold, indicating that she had probably been there for a considerable time. She was unable to talk but could respond to voices.

Ben began to administer first aid and located a puncture wound. He sought to update his force communications team to the developing situation – but a fault with his radio left him isolated.

Still administering life-saving first aid in applying pressure to the wounds and keeping the female conscious, Ben calmly instructed the woman’s sister to call for an ambulance whilst he used his mobile phone to contact 999, update his colleagues and mobilise support.

Ben showed the utmost professionalism and compassion in dealing with this difficult incident. In a rural location without easy access to back-up, he remained calm and clear-thinking. For his noble actions, he received a Certificate of Commendation from the Royal Humane Society.

PCSO Helen Hayes and PCSO Lora Bray

PCSOs Helen Hayes (left) and Lora Bray

In June of this year, Bridgwater-based PCSOs Lora Bray and Helen Hayes were on duty at an event, when they received a call to attend reports of a man in clear distress.

After locating the person in question, the officers attempted to reassure him whilst keeping him safe from harm. With the support of a helpful passer-by, the man was saved and detained for a mental health assessment.

PCSOs Bray and Hayes reacted to the situation quickly and with great initiative and were selfless in ensuring the man’s safety.

For their brave actions, they were awarded Certificate of Commendation from the Royal Humane Society.

Crown Court Commendation

Awarded by the crown court for significant personal courage or significant commitment in the execution of duty, above and beyond what should normally be expected.

DC Karen Mines

When in 2016, a child’s notes caused concern among relatives who brought them to police attention, an investigation began into sexual offences by the girl’s father, a known offender. In interview, DC Mines established that the child had been sexually abused by her father from a young age. A second victim was also identified.

The investigation, which led to the detection of a further suspect, was prolonged and in-depth with vast amounts of distressing and harrowing photographic and video evidence for Karen and other officers to view.

DC Karen Mines showed enormous professionalism and resilience in managing this. She believed in the victims and went ‘above and beyond’ in doing her utmost to support them through the gruelling process. Her dedicated investigation and professionalism led to the suspect being found guilty and sentenced to more than 20 years’ imprisonment.

She was awarded a Crown Court Commendation for her actions in this difficult case

DC Matthew Stevenson

In January 2019, a vicious bag snatch in a secluded alleyway led to the fall of an 88 year old lady leaving her with a broken nose, fractured wrist, a badly cut lip and severe bruising.

DC Matthew Stevenson, the Bridgwater-based officer in the case, used his personal knowledge of the scene and a wealth of information including photographs, maps and CCTV from a range of locations, to identify a suspect. Ultimately tracing the taxi that carried the suspect to the scene, Matt was able to provide a compelling case against the offender. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Matthew’s work was commended as thorough, well-judged and completed to a remarkably high standard. For his worthy actions in this case, he was awarded a Crown Court Commendation.

Waley Cohen Award

Non-financial awards 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

Trevor Morgan

In May 2019, a PCSO challenged a female suspected of smoking cannabis. A struggle began with the female assaulting the PCSO. Mr. Morgan, from Wellington, witnessing the struggle, came to the PCSO’s assistance without hesitation and in the process was assaulted, aggravating an existing injury.

Trevor selflessly went to the PCSO’s aid because: “Bystanders were filming the incident and not responding, so I did.” It could be said that many would choose not to assist in the way that Trevor did, and his actions are highly commendable.

He was presented with a Waley Cohen Award.

Yavuz Polat

In September 2018, a man entered Tesco in central Somerset. Unknowingly being observed by Yavuz, a security guard from Taunton, he selected a kitchen knife and some alcohol and attempted to leave the store without paying. Yavuz challenged the man, who threatened him with the knife then ran from the store with the stolen goods

With an onlooker tripping the offender causing him to fall to the ground, Yavuz attempted to detain him and in the process was stabbed in the stomach.

Onlookers were then able to detain the offender until police arrived and the male was arrested. Yavuz was taken to hospital, returning to work after a recovery period of many months. He said: “I felt it was my responsibility. He could have injured someone else.” Yavuz received a Waley Cohen award.

High Sheriff Community award

The High Sheriff awards provide an opportunity for the selfless dedication of volunteers to be acknowledged and celebrated.

PC Sam Donati

Sam is an exceptionally dedicated individual recognised for his passionate commitment to protecting the community of Minehead: not only in policing but also through his volunteer work as a boat crew member with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in his spare time.

Sam is one of a small number of officers with a force-official Facebook profile and engages with a large following who regularly provide intelligence, allowing prompt action to be taken against those causing harm to the community.

His tenacity and professionalism has also led to the reduction of illegal vehicles being used within the community and prosecutions of individuals for a wide range of offences.

Sam has been recognised with a High Sheriff Community award.