Many of you may have read the blog I published in May 2020 which highlighted the case of a 15 year old boy whom I represent and who was the victim of a vicious and unprovoked assault from a West Midlands Police Officer.
The officer in question, PC Declan Jones, was caught in the act of assaulting my client – including kicking the boy as he lay on the floor – by a CCTV camera on a nearby house; the footage helping to expose the lies told by PC Jones to my client’s mother, when he pretended that the boy had assaulted him, rather than vice-versa.
I am pleased to confirm that at Birmingham Magistrates Court today, PC Jones was convicted of assaulting not only my client, but another individual in a separate incident which had occurred only the previous day. District Judge Qureshi when delivering the verdict expressed grave concerns that PC Jones was in the first place guilty of misusing his stop and search powers and “racially profiling” my client (who is a black youth). Matters then escalated when, with my client standing in a ‘surrender pose’, PC Jones punched him to the ground, ordered him to roll over, and then delivered what the Judge wincingly described as a “football free kick” to my client’s torso. This vicious action was perpetrated by a Police officer against a child who at the time was in a defenceless position upon the ground, and it is utterly reprehensible. To add insult to injury, PC Jones tried to claim that his act of kicking my client was a “legitimate distraction strike” because he feared for his safety in a high crime area – and called evidence in his support from a self-styled ‘use of force’ expert, Mr Mills, a retired Police officer. The Judge in fact had no hesitation in identifying bias and a lack of impartiality on behalf of the ‘expert’ and quite rightly rejected Mr Mills’ attempt to legitimise PC Jones’s criminal actions. Indeed, the Judge expressed concern that witnessing the ‘expert’ Mr Mills ‘closing his eyes to the obvious’ in order to attempt to exonerate Jones, was liable to make people lose faith in the Police, and I very much echo that sentiment.
The criminal charges in this case arose after a speedy investigation into these events by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, who passed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Whilst I of course applaud the outcome in this case (the laying of criminal charges against PC Jones) I have to highlight how rare it is, in my experience, to see the IOPC ‘showing some teeth’ rather than behaving like a ‘paper tiger’; grandiose in title and appearance, but really paper-thin when it comes to taking the side of victims of Police misconduct and highly reluctant to engage in combative disputes with the Police. All too often, it seems to me, both the IOPC and the CPS seem to see Police Officers as ‘allies’ or colleagues and approach Police misdemeanours from a place of bias in favour of and sympathy for the Officers.
It is good news that this dishonest and predatory Officer appears to have been stopped in his tracks, but where was the IOPC (and its forerunner the IPCC) in the past for so many people who deserved their robust support, but were let down by fudged conclusions or lukewarm findings of minor misconduct – as in the case of Bryan Allden, where West Midlands officer PC Knowles received the sanction of being sent on a first aid training course for crippling Bryan’s hand in a completely unprovoked assault?
All too often the Police tendency to ‘circle the wagons’ and protect their Officers from criticism and complaint – even where real scrutiny would likely identify criminal violence by the Officers – is tacitly endorsed by the IOPC and the CPS in the soft approach the former takes to holding the Police to account, and the reluctance the latter shows to lead prosecutions against its Police compatriots.
I firmly believe that we need to see more robust, independent investigations by the IOPC of officer misconduct leading to prosecutions like this to bolster public faith in and support for the Police; and to give to victims of Police violence that sense of justice that money just can’t buy.