Partner of police officer is jailed for plotting to make a false witness statement – after he was cleared of shoplifting

The partner of a GMP officer who was cleared of shoplifting has been jailed for plotting to make a false witness statement.
Decorated police sergeant, Richard Pendlebury, 42, was acquitted in June of stealing women’s clothes from Asda in Pilsworth, Bury.
But his partner and mother-of-four, Zoe Wilkinson, 30, has been jailed for a year and her friend given a suspended sentence after they admitted hatching a plot to make a false witness statement in relation to the incident.
Sgt Pendelbury was cleared after a trial at Preston Crown Court of allegations that he assaulted a security guard and stole £24 worth of children’s clothing while shopping with Wilkinson.
The jury accepted it was simply a misunderstanding between the security officer and Wilkinson, when she was taken ill during their shopping trip, and he was cleared of all charges.
© Provided by Manchester Evening News But following the incident on September 19 2014, Wilkinson told her hairdresser Natalie Leicester she and her partner were under investigation and the hairdresser agreed to provide a witness statement – despite having been nowhere near the store at the time.
During the trial at Preston Crown Court Leicester, 32, said she felt sorry for the pair and said: “I just wanted to help my friends.”
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She told the court she went to the couple’s house where a typed prepared statement was waiting on the kitchen table for her to sign and deliver to Rochdale Police Station.
© Provided by Manchester Evening News It stated she had been shopping at the Pilsworth Road store when she heard ‘screaming’ and saw the security guard ‘grabbing’ at Wilkinson’s arm as she held her baby and shouted for him to get off her.
The statement claimed she had not known Mr Pendlebury’s name but that he had put his hands up as if gesturing at the security guard to stop.
The statement added that Wilkinson was crying and ‘ran off in front of some oncoming cars with the security guard chasing her’.
Leicester said she believed that by giving the false statement ‘it would all just go away and that would be it’.
A text message read to the court from Wilkinson to Leicester read ‘let the games begin’.
When it emerged her statement was false, she and Wilkinson were arrested and charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Wilkinson admitted she had conspired with Leicester because her partner’s job was on the line.
Both women pleaded guilty to the charge and appeared side by side in the dock at Preston Crown Court to be sentenced.
The Honorary Recorder of Preston Judge Mark Brown sentenced Wilkinson to 12 months immediate custody.
He handed Leicester a 12 month sentence suspended for two years with two years supervision and 150 hours of unpaid work.
© Provided by Manchester Evening News Highly decorated police officer is cleared of shoplifting and perverting the course of justice
After Sgt Pendlebury was cleared in June his family released a statement which was highly critical of GMP.
The force had set up an incident room with a team of four detectives to investigate the officer for 18 months under ‘Operation Ratio’.
In their statement the family said: “We cannot express enough our very serious concerns with regards to the tactics and ‘evidence’ gathering by Rochdale police officers who have spent two years of public money focusing entirely on this case.”
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More than 30 allegations have been made against the force including that Sgt Pendebury was assaulted in front of his partner and children during a 7am police raid at their home.
In 2005 Sgt Pendlebury was honoured with a commendation for extreme courage and bravery after he was stabbed and sprayed with CS gas as he chased a suspect.

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