A married police officer dubbed Mr Tickle by his colleagues because of his drunken groping has been found guilty of sexually assaulting two women.
Austin Barrett’s career was in ruins last night after a sheriff ruled there was a clear sexual element to the series of attacks during police social events.
Perth Sheriff Court heard Barrett was a “predator” who repeatedly touched female police officers and his details were added to the Sex Offenders Register.
Sheriff Jamie 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.”
Police Constable Barrett, 43 , who is an elected representative for the Scottish Police Federation and has served as a police officer in Fife since 2001, was found guilty of three charges of sexually assaulting two women in separate incidents during 2018.
One Police Scotland officer told the court how Barrett assaulted her during a Christmas night out, a few months after groping her colleague.
One of his victims told the court that 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.”
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.
“I was aware he was behind me. It was like a nip over my dress. I tried to sort of ignore it. I looked over and he just looked drunk,” she said.
“It shouldn’t have happened. It just wasn’t very nice. I wouldn’t say it was 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.”
The second complainer, a 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 poker table at their superior officer’s home during a barbecue and then touched her up again a month later.
The officer said she was at a second barbecue with other Police Scotland colleagues when Barrett sexually assaulted her again.
She said: “He was quite drunk. His speech was quite slurred. He put his hand around me at one point and grabbed my leg.
“He had his hand at the bottom of my dress, between my legs. I told him to stop it, cut it out, words to that effect. It was above my knee. My inner thigh.
“I think my memory of what took place is accurate. I don’t think I have either distorted or changed it in some way.”
Barrett, whose address was given as c/o professional standards, French Street, Glasgow, was convicted of sexually assaulting one of the women by repeatedly touching her on the bottom at the hotel between 12 and 13 December 2018.
He was also found guilty of sexually assaulting the other woman at an address in Cardenden by repeatedly touching her leg without consent between 3 and 26 June 2018.
The officer was also found guilty of assaulting the same woman in Kinglassie during July 2018 by placing his hand inside her dress.
Sentence was deferred for the preparation of social work reports and the sheriff confirmed Barrett’s details would be added to the register. He was granted bail.
Barrett now faces an internal investigation by senior management and faces being booted out of Police Scotland in the wake of his conviction.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received information in April 2019 regarding sexual assaults involving a 41-year-old man and a full investigation was carried out.
“We are aware of the outcome of the case and a report will be made to the Assistant Chief Constable for Professionalism and Assurance for consideration of conduct proceedings.”