One of the most dangerous things about putting a man in uniform is the sense of grossly inflated self-importance or impunity that uniform can bestow upon him, putting other people at risk of harm and aggression if the Officer in uniform feels his authority and/or ego is being challenged.
My client Ben Joynes met one such uniformed aggressor in November 2019 in the following distressing circumstances.
Ben was driving home, with his teenage son in his car, when he became aware of a traffic jam ahead. Ben was able to see that a number of Police officers were present, and some individuals were being arrested.
As he waited for the scene to clear, a Police van pulled up behind Ben and an officer whom Ben now knows to be PC Mark Knights approached Ben and asked him to move his car. Unfortunately, there was insufficient space for Ben to do so; PC Knights unreasonably responded by taking pictures not only of Ben’s registration plate, but also Ben and his son. This unjustified action caused Ben to get out of his vehicle, and in turn take a photograph of the Officer. Without warning, PC Knights then attempted to slap Ben’s phone out of his hand- but missed. It is notable, in my experience, that for a cadre of people who are specifically equipped with body worn devices to film those around them whether they like it or not, Police officers seem to have a particular bee in their bonnets about being recorded themselves…
This little incident would have been an unpleasant enough display of bad Policing in itself, but it did not end there. Having returned to his vehicle, Ben was driving off as the traffic started to move forwards again, when he heard the Officer of the law calling him a “fat cunt.” Understandably upset, Ben got out of his vehicle to remonstrate with PC Knights and started to ask for his name and collar number – whereupon he was immediately head-butted by PC Knights, who then pushed him to the ground, handcuffed him and then dragged him to the back of the Police van. As Ben was dragged away he asked what he was being arrested for, to which PC Knights replied “I don’t know, yet.”
Distressingly, all of this had occurred in front of Ben’s son and Ben was left sitting in the Police van, handcuffed and bleeding profusely from his mouth as a result of the head-butt.
A few minutes later a different Officer came to the van and released Ben. Ben immediately lodged a complaint with Derbyshire Constabulary, though as the weeks went by he became increasingly concerned that no official action was being taken despite the seriousness of the complaint, and that he was being fobbed off with verbal promises that Professional Standards were “looking into it.”
Matters were then escalated when Rob Warner of Crimebodge fame, with Ben’s full permission, commenced a private prosecution against PC Knights by laying information before the Magistrates Court for Common Assault under S.39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 and Corrupt or other Improper Exercise of Police Powers and Privileges under S.26 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
This appeared to kick- start the complaint process and the rather tortuously named “Organisational Learning, Culture and Ethics Department” of Derbyshire (trying saying that with a busted lip after a Police Officer has head-butted you) confirmed in August 2020 that PC Knights was being charged with gross misconduct and would in due course appear at a misconduct hearing. The Officer fully admits to head-butting Ben, but claims it was a ‘pre-emptive’ strike in self-defence.
The misconduct proceedings, however, took back seat to the criminal proceedings which had already been instituted by Rob Warner.
That private prosecution was eventually (but quite properly) adopted by the Crown Prosecution Service and I am pleased to report that today following a 2 day trial at Derby Magistrates Court Mark Knights was found guilty of his violent assault upon my client and now inevitably faces dismissal from the force.
I have already initiated Ben’s civil claim for compensation and anticipate that Derbyshire Police will adopt a pragmatic and prompt approach to settlement. Hopefully however they will also take this episode as an opportunity to reflect upon their recruitment criteria and the characters of those upon whom they are bestowing the uniform and powers of a Police Officer.