There was a lot of media attention last week on the case of my client Bryan Allden who was cruelly cost his career as a highly skilled automotive engineer as a result of Police brutality.
Bryan’s hand was fractured when he was subjected to an over-head baton strike by West Midlands PC Paul Knowles in September 2015. You can read the full details of Bryan’s case in my previous blog here.
I am proud to have won significant compensation for Bryan, commensurate with the severity of his injury and the financial impact which it had upon him, but Bryan would be the first to tell you that there is a lot more to the phrase ‘doing justice’ than a monetary settlement. The unreserved apology from West Midlands Police for PC Knowles’ unprovoked attack upon Bryan gave him further comfort and satisfaction. But both he and I were left to reflect in disappointment at the failure of WMP, in conjunction with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC – now the IOPC), to properly discipline the officer.
PC Knowles was unable to offer any legitimate justification for his vicious attack on Bryan. The officer stated that he was ‘blinded’ by light from Bryan’s mobile phone (with which Bryan was filming a football crowd). We can treat such a suggestion with scepticism, but even were it true, the officer’s response – lashing out with his baton when on his own evidence he couldn’t see what he was hitting – was utterly reckless.
Despite the IPCC report finding that PC Knowles had a case to answer for misconduct, and observing that the officer’s overhead downward baton strike could easily have caused fatal injuries had it connected with Bryan’s head, the officer ultimately received only the half-hearted sanction of ‘management action’ in the form of being sent on a ‘first aid’ refresher course: this scenario would be almost laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
At the end of my previous blog I reflected on the fact that the man who deserved to lose his career after this incident was not Bryan, but PC Knowles: indeed, if Bryan had attacked the officer in a similar manner and broken his hand, Bryan would have been facing not just the loss of his job but also his liberty.
Now, indirect justice has been delivered to Bryan, as PC Knowles – subsequently Detective Constable Knowles – has this month been found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed from the Force, after committing a data breach which could have jeopardised a murder trial.
The fact is, however, that this is a classic example of how too many police officers get too many second chances, as a result of a habitually toothless complaints and misconduct regime.
As Bryan said to the BBC this week in regards to Knowles “He didn’t give two hoots when he hit me, his colleagues didn’t give two hoots when he hit me.”
Bryan’s complaint was effectively brushed under the carpet, the officer was allowed to continue serving in the privileged role of Detective Constable and as a result almost inflicted further damage to other innocent people’s lives; yet another gross breach of trust.
The systems are in place to deal with rogue officers like PC Knowles, but all too often the willingness to do so is lacking. Decisionmakers need to become more robust and resistant to the centrifugal pull of pro-Police bias in misconduct investigations, and cases like this are a salutary reminder of exactly why. Let’s really put the Independence in the IOPC and let them set the tone.
Click below to hear my interview with BBC West Midlands regarding this case, and my thoughts on the need for Police reform: