Bristol police doctor ‘inappropriately’ touched more than 50 recruits and officers

Ex-police doctor 'made officers jump up and down while naked'

Police doctors touched up staff and recruits during routine medical examinations, an investigation has found.

And despite various complaints by the officers to Avon and Somerset police, nothing was being done.

Dr Reginald Bunting was the force’s Medical Officer (MO) between 1990 and 1997, and worked for the force until 2004.

The Bristol doctor died in 2013, aged 80.

It has now been revealed in an independent investigation by Merseyside Police – commissioned by Avon and Somerset – had Bunting had touched his colleagues inappropriately more than 50 times.

The investigation

The independent investigation started in August 2015, although discrete investigation had been ongoing since April that year.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has also launched their own investigation.

Undertaken by Merseyside Police, more than 835 people were spoken to, of which 212 witnesses provided statements.

What happened?

A total of 112 people raised issues with the investigators during the course of the inquiry.

They included 100 police officers, 10 police staff, and two other patients.

Those who were examined by Bunting included 59 potential police recruits, three then-serving officers, and three more support staff.

At least 80 per cent of those were police recruits hoping to be taken on by Avon and Somerset.

Another two incidents took place outside of the force. One was at his GP, when she was touched while hoping to get a prescription for a contraceptive pill at 19.

Another said he had conducted an internal examination without gloves.

Issues raised

Penetrative assault – 2

No chaperone – 71

Nakedness – 20

Touching testicles – 25

Removing bra – 17

Touching breasts – 8

Touching bottom – 3

Palpation of spine – 43

Palpation of groin/abdomen – 26

No expressed concerns – 32

Complaints were made about the penetrative assaults, and the rest of the examinations, including requiring some to be totally naked.

Independent medical experts said this was “unnecessary”, even based on the standards for such examinations at that time.

A number of women complained about having their breasts touched, the circumstances of which other experts said was “inappropriate”.

In one incident, his patient said he had reached from under her arm, from behind, and fondled her breast.

This was never – not at any stage – an appropriate examination technique.

A number of men said he patted their butt while naked, and they were forced to urinate without using a screen.

Were other healthcare workers involved?

Of the 112 reviewed, two were members of the public.

Of the 110 police staff and officers, 64 were carried out by Bunting.

It was not possible to identify the examining physician for 19 other people because of a lack of records, or police were not allowed to access records.

Another 21 people were carried out by other physicians, other than Bunting.

There are five other doctors identified, of which one is also deceased.

None of the four doctors who are alive have been charged with any criminal offence and, at this stage, there is no intention to do so, the force said.

What did the report find?

Of the 112 cases:

44 fell below common and acceptable medical practice at that time

10 fell woefully or grossly below common and acceptable medical practice at that time

58 were acceptable

Was there a cover up?

A number of women had raised concerns about the conduct of their medical examinations, and were told by assistant chief constable Hugo Pike in February 1991 that “new arrangements” were underway.

There is little or no evidence of this.

In 1995, more women reported concerns to Detective Superintendent Doreen Bryant, who passed it on to Assistant Chief Constable Terence Grange.

It was then passed on (again!) to David Smith, a senior civilian member of staff. After conversations with Mr Smith and chief constable David Shattock, she assumed the matter would be pursued.

It wasn’t.

In 1996, Paul Hazel, a senior member of the support staff was told by members of the Police Federation about the medical examinations.

He confronted Dr Bunting, who dismissed him.

Mr Hazel said he should have informed the assistant Chief Constables at that time.

There were other incidents when junior member of staff had raised concerns with supervisors.

One woman was told it was “how things were” and another said she didn’t want to “make a fuss”.


Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan said: “We apologise unreservedly to all the people affected, whether they raised concerns during the investigation or not, for failing to ensure acceptable medical conduct during their examinations.

“We fully recognise and are grateful to the individuals who came forward to raise their concerns back in April last year, and for all those who subsequently shared their account. They absolutely did the right thing.

“Anyone requiring a police medical examination held on police premises by a police doctor should have had an expectation of being safe. It is clear that the conduct of some of these medical examinations fell well below this standard.

“Because Dr Bunting died in 2013, two years before this investigation was launched, he did not have the opportunity to give an account to this investigation.

“For this reason, we are not going to hypothesise about whether or not we would have referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration of prosecution.

“Had Dr Bunting been alive, there would have been sufficient evidence to interview him under caution as a criminal suspect.

“These concerns represent an unresolved and unhealthy legacy for the Force but we hope this independent investigation represents our commitment to investigate allegations of failings, face up to them and put measures in place to make sure they don’t happen again.

“We accept all the recommendations made in the report and have already implemented a number of changes to our policies and procedures to make these changes.

“We hope that Mr Keelan’s report can offer some closure to the people who have been affected, and reaffirms to the public that we will investigate concerns about our own staff in the same robust way we would if they were made about people outside the organisation.”

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