A POLICEMAN was found not guilty yesterday of molesting a young woman in a police van.

But the jurors who cleared PC Andrew Shearer of indecent assault were not told of disciplinary convictions for a string of offences against shop girls while patrolling in east Cleveland.

Those offences were never pursued further because the victims were said to be too traumatised to give evidence in an open court.

They did attend an internal police disciplinary hearing against PC Shearer in May last year. He denied 11 charges of discreditable conduct, ranging from inappropriate language to indecent assault, but was found guilty of each one by Chief Constable Barry Shaw.

The hearing heard how female staff in Bells, Uptons, Etam, Boots and other shops in Redcar were victims.

In one store, management ordered that he should not be left alone with female staff. In another, the manager told him to leave after his crude language shocked a young assistant.

Other shop girls complained he had used crude language, groped them, and repeatedly asked for sex.

One said he had handcuffed and assaulted her mother, in a complaint which mirrored the allegation for which he stood trial.

Mr Shaw did not sack PC Shearer, but instead fined him £600, forced him to take a cut in pay, and moved him to the nearby Middlesbrough district.

Just ten weeks later, in August last year, PC Shearer was arrested after a Middlesbrough woman claimed he had molested her in a police van, while carrying out inquiries into a burglary.

The 20-year-old woman told Leeds Crown Court this week that, as she leant back in the police van, she felt his hand stroking her thigh, and he touched her between the legs.

Divorcee PC Shearer, 33, pleaded not guilty to indecent assault, saying that any contact was accidental.

After being cleared, he left court with his girlfriend and refused to comment. The couple live in Stockton, and have two young children.

Chief Constable Mr Shaw declined to comment yesterday regarding criticism he had received for not sacking PC Shearer at the disciplinary hearing.

A spokesman for Cleveland Police said: "The continued supervision of PC Shearer and any disciplinary matter arising out of this case will now be considered."