Do Police Officers Uphold the Law, or Are They Above The Law?

I was pleased to report on Friday that PC Mark Knights, who assaulted my client Ben Joynes by head-butting and handcuffing him when Ben attempted to complain about the officer calling him a “fat cunt”, has now been dismissed from Derbyshire Police for gross misconduct and placed upon the Police Barred List.

This is a measure more of justice for Ben, after the officer had escaped a custodial sentence, being punished by Derby Magistrates Court with only a 6 month ‘curfew’ order – at a time when the country is in any event ‘locked down’ by the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions –  and a minor costs/ compensation fine.

This type of ‘slap on the wrist’ punishment for (ex) PC Knights from the criminal court, was mirrored by the equally light sentence handed out to West Midlands PC Oliver Banfield by Leicester Magistrates Court last week. CCTV footage captured the drunken Banfield calling Emma Homer a “fucking slag” as she walked home at night, then grabbing Emma by her neck and forcing her to the ground. As Banfield repeatedly shouted at Emma to “get on the ground” he also started quoting “The Police and Criminal Evidence Act” (PACE).  Emma later described the assault as seeming as if Banfield was “fulfilling a violent cop movie fantasy.”

After Banfield’s lawyer persuaded the Court not to impose a community service order on the rogue officer – because it would be difficult for Banfield to have to “work with criminals” (perhaps the word “other” should be inserted in that sentence) – he was punished with only a 3 month night-time curfew. Hardly a difficult burden to bear at this particular time, and quite shocking given the physical and verbal aggression displayed by yet another man who needs to be stripped of his warrant card as soon as possible.

These cases are perfect examples of how Police Officers, in my experience, seemed to be ‘insulated’ against custodial sentences in situations where ordinary members of the public would probably be facing jail time. The judge in sentencing PC Knights for his assault upon my client reflected on how the verdict would inevitably lead to the loss of Knights’ Police career (not that he went quietly – rather contesting the misconduct charges in an aggressively unrepentant manner) and I personally believe that such thinking weighs heavily in judicial decisions regarding criminal Police Officers i.e almost as though the loss of their job was going to be ‘punishment enough’. To my mind, this is not right, and is akin to giving Police Officers an extra video game ‘life’ – allowing them to ‘get away’ with a criminal offence that would send other people to prison.

And even that is only when the officer is actually charged with a criminal offence for their egregious actions – in this respect PC Knowles of West Midlands Police got away ‘scot free’ after crippling my client Bryan Allden’s hand in a completely unprovoked attack, whilst the justice which was achieved for Ben Joynes was with no particular thanks to either Derbyshire Police or the Crown Prosecution Service. It is salutary to recall that the prosecution of PC Knights was not, in fact, instituted by the CPS – despite the weight of evidence against the Officer – but by Rob Warner, Crimebodge’s crusader against Police abuses and corruption. The private prosecution was then adopted by the CPS and brought to a successful conclusion, but the fact is that the CPS initially refused to ‘run’ the case (the CPS have the power to assume conduct of a private prosecution and then ‘kill’ it, as many people have found out to their frustration and disappointment).

Ultimately, if we want the answer to the question which is the title of this blog to be the correct one, then we need to see both more rogue officers being prosecuted in the criminal courts (rather than dealt with behind the closed doors of the complaint investigation process) and officers receiving fit and proper sentences for their crimes and misdemeanours.

Author: iaingould

Actions against the police solicitor (lawyer) and blogger.