A man has been jailed after impersonating a police officer and attempting to “arrest” a woman.
Wearing a blue lanyard with “police” written on the strap, Gary Shepherd, 44, approached the woman in a car park in Barrow at around 6.30pm on Tuesday and told her he was arresting her for drug dealing, Cumbria Police said.
But a member of the public responded to her request for help, and Shepherd left the scene when they both challenged him, according to police.
Shepherd, of Abbey Road in Barrow, pleaded guilty to impersonating a police officer and common assault at Barrow Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
He had initially denied being in the area of Greengate car park, but in his second police interview claimed his actions had been a “joke”, police said.
He was jailed for 22 weeks, fined £85 and ordered to pay costs of £128, the force said, adding that magistrates had activated a previously suspended four-week prison sentence.
It comes less than a week after a whole-life sentence was handed to Wayne Couzens, the Metropolitan Police officer who was revealed to have used the guise of Covid laws to falsely detain 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who he went on to rape and murder before burning her body in an area of woodland he owned near Ashford, Kent.
Superintendent for South Cumbria, Matt Pearman, said on Thursday: “To be approached in this way by someone falsely claiming to be a police officer must have been extremely frightening for the victim, particularly coming so soon after the sentencing of Wayne Couzens last week.
“Our officers recognised the seriousness of this incident swiftly and were able to quickly arrest Shepherd, who, less than 48 hours after the initial incident, is now starting a significant prison sentence.”
Everard’s disappearance on 3 March as she walked home in Clapham, south London, sparked a national conversation about women’s safety in their everyday lives, and how male violence, harassment and sexual offences are policed and punished in the UK.
Amid some calls for the resignation of Scotland Yard Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, the home secretary Priti Patel said the killing had “exposed unimaginable failures in policing”, and announced an inquiry into the failures that allowed Couzens to remain a police officer, and “wider issues across policing”.
Meanwhile, as pressure mounted on the Met to explain how they will regain women’s trust, the London police force issued extraordinary new advice for women who fear a male police officer might not be genuine, suggesting they call 999 or “shout out to a passer-by, run into a house or wave a bus down” for help.
North of the border, Police Scotland announced a new process for members of the public to confirm the identities of lone officers, which Cumbria Police also said it would be adopting on Thursday, as Shepherd was sentenced.
Officers will provide their collar number to anyone who asks and will contact the control room on the police radio to confirm their identity, location, that they are on duty and the reason they are speaking to someone, the force announced on Thursday.
Chief Constable Michelle Skeer said: “The facts of how Sarah Everard died have shocked and appalled us all. It is truly horrifying that a police officer could abuse their position and their powers to carry out such abhorrent crimes.
“We fully understand that this has impacted confidence in policing and may also cause concerns for others when they encounter a lone police officer.
“All of our police officers carry a Cumbria Constabulary identification card. However, we absolutely recognise our responsibility to introduce an additional means of verification to provide further reassurance to anyone, including women who may feel vulnerable.
“This new verification process will hopefully reassure people that when they encounter one of our officers, they are speaking to an officer who is carrying out a legitimate and professional policing response.”
Additional reporting by PA