I was troubled to see the recent footage of Metropolitan police officers attacking a car in June 2008 to effect an arrest.
The footage (which can be viewed on the Guardian website) shows a mini being set upon by six police officers, one of whom smashed the windscreen with a ‘non-issue’ baseball bat, before arresting the driver. The police officers were told by the Independent Police Complaints Commission that they brought the police into disrepute and acted unreasonably. Amazingly, although they have been suspended, the officers in this case have not been dismissed from the force, despite their ‘overly aggressive approach’ according to the misconduct tribunal.
This seems to me to vindicate the police’s aggressive approach, and has worrying echoes with a case I am presently conducting for four clients.
My clients, two couples in their late 20’s of exemplary character, were driving home at about 9.15pm in April 2010 after visiting friends. They were forced to stop by a police car which swerved in front of them with its lights flashing and siren blaring. More police cars followed and blocked them from behind.
Armed police officers and dog handlers surrounded the car. One smashed in the driver’s side window with the butt of his gun. Conflicting instructions were shouted at the terrified occupants. The driver was dragged from the car, forced to the glass-covered ground, and threatened with a taser. His girlfriend thought he was about to be shot. When she tried to leave the car a machine gun was pointed at her head. Her boyfriend, the driver, was handcuffed and led away out of sight.
The remaining passengers were separated. Although they were told that the police suspected firearms were in the car, it was not searched.
Instead, about 20 minutes later they were re-united and the senior officer explained that their vehicle had been incorrectly identified. They were then allowed to go home.
I was approached by the four friends to pursue an actions against the police claim following an internet search. Following a formal complaint which was upheld, the police denied liability saying they had reasonable grounds to act.
My clients were understandably terrified during and after the ordeal and have sustained psychiatric and physical injuries. I consider that they have good claims for false imprisonment, assault etc. and have issued proceedings. Their case continues.
It is important to my clients, and the wider community, that the police are held to account for their actions that night. Before the police’s attack on them, my clients had confidence in the police and their role in the community. This has been destroyed. The police need to review their procedures immediately to avoid this happening again.