Notwithstanding my long standing belief in societal progress in terms of equality and transparency, it remains the case that the Police disciplinary system is inherently biased in favour of the Police; in fact I would go as far as to say that the unwritten mission statement of most Professional Standards Departments is not to root out, but rather to protect corrupt Officers and to make excuses for Police misbehaviour. Certainly this seems to be the practical result of most Police Complaint investigations that I have witnessed. So it was the case for my client, Richard Roberts who recently settled his case against Dyfd-Powys Police.
Richard brought claims against the police for assault, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office following an incident that occurred on 21 January 2016. The police have just agreed to a settlement of £40,000 in damages, plus legal costs. Read press coverage about it here.
On the afternoon of 21 January 2016, Richard returned home in his vehicle with his partner and two step children and parked up outside. As he alighted, he noticed his neighbour’s wife Tracey, who was driving her car, reverse and hit a wheelie bin that he had left out earlier that day, causing it to fall over. Richard picked up the bin and wheeled it back towards his home. As he did so, Tracey was verbally abusive towards him.
In light of Tracey’s behaviour, Richard and his partner then attended Milford Haven Police Station to report matters. At the police station, he was advised that the police were aware of the incident, to return home and that an officer would call in later to discuss matters.
Richard and his partner duly returned home. Upon their return, Tony (Tracey’s husband) was standing on his door step shouting abuse at Richard, which he ignored. Tony then proceeded at pace towards Richard and pushed him in the chest using both outstretched hands, causing Richard to fall backwards. He managed to get back up and turn away.
Tony then shouted at Richard, “Come on”, inviting him to fight. Richard moved towards his front door ushering his partner and step-daughter inside. Tony then punched Richard several times and finally pushed Richard with both outstretched hands on his back causing him to fall onto his partner and step-daughter.
Richard managed to stand and turn around. Tony again shouted, “Fight back, come on”. Richard shut and locked his front door and helped his step-daughter to her feet and into the lounge. At this stage, she was heavily pregnant and was complaining of abdominal pains.
In the circumstances, Richard called 999 to request that both the Police and Ambulance attend.
From an internal CCTV monitor in his house, Richard then saw Tony pick up a plant pot and throw it at the windscreen of Richard’s car. Tony then picked up a large pebble off the lawn. Tracy then grabbed Tony and shouted “Get inside, he’s not worth it”.
By this time, neighbours had congregated and were watching events.
Tony and Tracey’s daughter Morgana then approached Richard’s front garden and kicked over another garden pot. Tracey also then shouted to Morgana to get inside.
At this time, emergency sirens could be heard. Tony shouted towards the premises, “Call your bodyguards then?” and “You won’t be there for long”. Tony then returned inside his own house as did Tracey and Morgana.
Realising the police were to attend shortly, Richard immediately saved the relevant CCTV footage on to a pen drive so as to pass this to the police.
Just after 16.00, a marked police vehicle pulled up outside Richard’s house and two officers, now known to be PC Norman and PC Goy alighted.
Richard came out of his house and walked over to his car to inspect the damage.
Tony also came out of his house and, in effect admitting what he had done, said “You’d better put me in the back of your car”. He was arrested by PC Goy.
Richard remarked to the officer, “Yeah, you’d better” and “I want him arrested for assault, I’ve got it on camera”.
Tracey then emerged and shouted to Richard, “You tried to abuse my daughter”. He replied, “Did I? Let’s see what the CCTV says because it has audio”.
PC Goy remained with Tony. PC Norman approached Morgana as did Richard. Morgana then sought to attack Richard, threatening to ‘kill’ him, but was held back by PC Norman.
Richard returned to his house whilst Tony was escorted to the police vehicle.
After a short while, Richard returned outside to have a cigarette on his front doorstep.
PC Norman told Richard to return inside, to which he replied that he was having a cigarette outside because he didn’t smoke in the house.
PC Norman then went into Tony’s house and after a short period of time, re-emerged.
Having finished smoking his cigarette, Richard then briefly inspected the damage to his car. PC Norman then approached Richard and advised him that he was under arrest. Richard asked what for, to which PC Norman said “a Public Order offence”.
Richard knew that events had been recorded on his house CCTV system and immediately invited PC Norman to view the footage which he knew would exonerate him. In fact, PC Norman had previously attended the premises and viewed CCTV footage of another incident . On this occasion however, PC Norman refused. Richard said, “I’ve just been assaulted by that prick (i.e. Tony) and he’s done that to my car and now I’m being arrested? How pathetic”.
Richard was then handcuffed to the front and as he was escorted towards the second police vehicle his partner said that she would get a copy of the footage for the police.
Richard was then driven to Haverford West Police Station. At this time, he knew that paramedics had arrived to attend to his pregnant step-daughter but did not know of her condition or progress. She was subsequently taken to hospital.
Richard was outraged by the fact and circumstances of his arrest.
According to the custody record, Richard was arrested for a S4 Public Order Act offence and the circumstances of arrest were said to be that:
Officers had been called … in relation to a disturbance. Upon Police arrival all was quiet so the Officer spoke to the caller. The DP then came out of his house and was shouting abuse on more than one occasion. When IP spoken to it was established that the caller had knocked over a wheelie bin belonging to the DP at which point the DP came out and directed abuse at her and her family. Code G to prevent injury to others and prevent further offences against public decency as DP shouting abuse in the street…..
Richard was obliged to provide his personal details and confirm details of his health/medication. Richard’s handcuffs were removed and he was then searched. He was asked how he felt and he replied, (understandably) “Pissed off” and maintained to custody staff that he had been “wrongfully arrested”. It was noted that he had injuries following the assault by Tony and arrangements were made for him to see a Doctor. Richard was then placed into a cell.
Following Richard’s arrest, PC Norman prepared a witness statement detailing events earlier that afternoon, and justifying the decision to arrest Richard. That statement, in particular, falsely alleged that Richard was shouting, screaming, swearing and using foul language.
The video and audio on Richard’s CCTV footage indisputably exposes the following extracts from PC Norman’s statement as false. Richard firmly believes that these extracts were deliberate fabrications by the Officer:
- “Roberts was being extremely abusive, shouting and screaming loudly in the street in my direction and the direction of [Tracey, Tony & Morgana]” (He was not screaming or abusive).
- “I heard Roberts shouting a torrent of abuse, it sounded like every other word was either “Fucking Nonce”, “Fucking Arsehole”, “cunts” (Whilst Richard did make some comments, he did not swear and was not abusive).
- “I still heard Roberts shouting and swearing in our direction”. (He did not shout or swear).
- “Roberts shouted ‘I’m standing on my own fucking doorstep and having a fucking fag, I don’t smoke in the fucking house” (He did not swear).
- “I then heard Roberts before I saw him, shouting and screaming from his home address” (He did not shout or scream).
- “You’re fucking arresting me, I was the one who’s been assaulted?” (He did not swear).
- “They’re fucking arresting me for Public Order and I was the one who’s been fucking assaulted, its fucking pathetic” (He did not swear).
At 20.30h the custody record states:
Insp A Millichip has contacted Custody and states that the incident involves many parties on the estate and therefore there are many persons to be interviewed as witnesses, thereafter possible further arrests and offences to be investigated connected and involving the DP. Therefore Insp Millichip informs Custody that those enquiries will be conducted as quickly as they can but interviews not likely until tomorrow morning. DPS Solicitor has been updated and briefed accordingly. FME [Force Medical Examiner] has been informed and will conduct his assessment around the expected detention parameters. FME report awaited.
At 20.30h Richard was allowed to call home to check on his step-daughter’s welfare. Unfortunately there was no answer, which only increased his concern for her welfare in light of events earlier in the day.
Subsequently, Richard was obliged to provide his fingerprints, DNA sample and shoe print and to be photographed.
At 22.02h Richard was advised that he was to be kept in overnight. He was furious at this and demanded to see a representative of the Force Professional Standards Department and an Inspector, adamant that he was wholly innocent and that his arrest was unlawful.
In part his frustration was caused by concern for his step-daughter. Finally at approximately 22.44h Richard was advised that she had been released from hospital and that both she and the baby were “Ok”.
At 23.46h on 21 January 2016 Richard’s detention was reviewed by Inspector Hoad who recorded that:
NOT Reminded of right to free legal advice. Continued detention is authorised as I have reasonable grounds to believe that it (sic) necessary in order to To (sic) allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question obtain evidence by questioning. The grounds are the detained person has been arrested on suspicion of Section 4 Public Order. I am satisfied that enquiries are being carried out diligently and expeditiously and the DP will be interviewed in due course. The investigating officers have a number of enquiries and statements to obtain. The detained person has Solicitors representing him. The DP is currently asleep and will not be woken for the purposes of this review. Detention continues to be lawful, necessary and proportionate. Review carried out in person by Inspector Hoad.
At 09.59h on 22 January 2016 Richard’s detention was reviewed once again. Inspector Davies recorded that “the DP states that he was assaulted by the other party in the incident, and was then arrested for something he hasn’t done…”
Nevertheless, Richard’s continued detention was authorised.
Between 12.21h and 12.31h on 22 January 2016 Richard was interviewed. His solicitor was in attendance. During the interview, Richard denied any wrongdoing and robustly asserted that “CCTV will prove it”. At the conclusion of the interview, Richard was told that he would be released shortly.
At 14.37h PC Jelley recorded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a s4A Public Order offence and that instead, Richard was to be charged with breaching s5 “in due course” and in fact, at 15.29h Richard was charged with breaching s5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and bailed to attend the local Magistrates’ Court on 9 February 2016. This, according to PC Talboys, was on the basis of CPS advice.
On 24 January 2016 Richard. was contacted by PS Dunn who came to his home to view the relevant CCTV footage. PS Dunn took a copy of the footage.
On 25 January 2016 Richard was contacted by PS Harrison of the Professional Standards Department who advised that she had viewed the relevant CCTV footage and encouraged Richard to lodge a formal complaint against PC Norman, which he did.
On 26 January 2016 Richard was visited by PC Dunn who confirmed that criminal proceedings against him were discontinued.
PC Norman was subsequently arrested for perverting the course of justice. i.e. on the basis of the contents of his witness statement about Richard.
Following investigation, Richard was advised in July 2016 that PC Norman was to be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Richard was obliged to attend trial on two separate occasions and give evidence. On 18 May 2017 PC Norman was, despite the weight of evidence, acquitted.
PC Norman subsequently faced Police misconduct proceedings. Following review, PC Norman was found guilty of misconduct but was only issued with a final written warning rather than being dismissed. Eventually, in December 2017, Richard received an investigation report confirming the outcome of his complaint against PC Norman.
This is a case in which there was clear video evidence suggesting that PC Norman lied in an attempt to frame my client for a Public Order offence.
It is highly disappointing that despite the weight of this evidence, PC Norman was ultimately acquitted of perverting the course of justice.
Although the Police professional standards investigation found him guilty of misconduct, he was, remarkably, only issued with a final written warning rather than being dismissed from the Force, which in my opinion was the sanction his misconduct merited.
I am saddened, but not surprised, that Mr Roberts’ valid complaint against PC Norman had such an unsatisfactory outcome.
I believe that the Police culture of protecting Officers from complaints, rather than carrying out properly impartial investigations, is what leads Officers such as PC Norman to behave with such apparent impunity and flagrant disregard for the very laws they are supposed to be upholding.
Ultimately, Richard Roberts was failed by both the criminal justice system and the Police complaints process – which gave the Officer a slap on the wrist, but allowed him to continue in his job. Therefore I am very satisfied to have now secured a substantial settlement for Richard through the Civil courts, which goes some way to resetting the scales of justice in this matter.