Judge said officer acted with ‘laziness to a criminal degree’
A detective with 18 years of experience has been jailed for forging signatures on a witness statement while investigating the murder of Lucy-Anne Rushton.
Detective Constable Robert Ferrow, of Hampshire Constabulary, carried out the forgery during the investigation into the death of the mother-of-five, who was killed by her estranged husband Shaun Dyson in 2019.
The 50-year-old detective from Gosport denied a charge of forgery but was convicted and jailed for eight months following a trial at Winchester Crown Court.
Sentencing, judge Recorder James Watson QC said it was “shocking” that an experienced officer would “commit such an act of dishonesty”.
“Not only did you deliberately forge the witness’ signature, having done so you chose to conceal that fact from the witness,” he said, adding “it was laziness to a criminal degree”.
The forgery could have “damaged the credibility” of the witness’s evidence, the judge said.
In the event, a replacement statement was provided and the murder trial was not affected. But the judge said the Hampshire police force was launching a review of other cases involving Ferrow.
He ordered Ferrow to pay prosecution costs of £3,000 and a £140 victim surcharge.
Ferrow’s case concerned a statement given to him on 23 June 2019 by witness Ashley Grace-O’Neill.
When Mr Grace O’Neill asked to leave the police station and return the next day, he says that Ferrow suggested he sign some blank witness statement pages so that the officer could finish copying out a set of text message screenshots Mr Grace-O’Neill had provided.
The witness agreed, but said he told Ferrow agreed to let him return and read the statement to check it was accurate.
However, the prosecution alleged that when Mr Grace-O’Neill eventually saw the statement, some pages that had been completed had not been signed by him.
“Those not made by him had been forged,” prosecutor Robert Bryan told jurors.
Ferrow denied forgery and claimed that Mr Grace-O’Neill signed more than enough pages and that two spares were left over.
Fiona Ryan, defending Ferrow, said he “always accepted he didn’t act properly and that is a source of bitter regret.”
She said that Ferrow had resigned from the force, though the court heard he would still be subject to disciplinary proceedings.
Ms Ryan said that without his salary, he and his wife would have to sell their home and they intended to move away from the area.
She said the detective was a “man of exemplary character” and had previously served in both the Army and Royal Navy before a decorated career in the police force.
Reacting to the conviction, Independent Office for Police Conduct regional director Graham Beesley said: “The public expects the highest standards of police officers. For him to fall so short would have caused Lucy’s family distress and undermined the public’s faith in the police service.”
Additional reporting by PA