Festival Season and the dangers of ‘Wild West’ Policing

I have often used this blog to highlight occasions when Police officers, for a variety of reasons, overstep their powers. However, the imminent approach of this Summer’s Festival Season puts me in mind of risks posed by aggressive or improperly trained security industry personnel/ bouncers overstepping their own powers (such as they are) and acting like a quasi- Police force within the territory of the Festival, behaving in fact like a ‘Wild West’ posse making up the law to suit themselves.

Unfortunately, experience tells me that when members of the official Police Force encounter disputes between members of the public and security staff, they tend for reasons of bias or convenience, to side with the security agents  and penalise the (often innocent) victim of their heavy- handed treatment, leaving such victims to have to come to solicitors such as myself to seek redress via the civil justice system.

One such gentleman was my client Jack Cooper (whose name has been changed for the purposes of this blog), who had an unfortunate run in with security personnel at the Isle of Wight Cowes Festival in August 2016.

Mr Cooper, a successful business man based on the South Coast, was visiting the Cowes Regatta with his friend Andrew. After spending a few hours in the festival site, enjoying the events and with nothing untoward occurring, Jack and Andrew made their way towards the exit. En route Jack was ‘caught short’ and needed the toilet; unfortunately the portaloos were all occupied, so Jack urinated behind them (into the waters of the quay), out of sight of members of the public.

He was however spotted by a private security guard who approached and instructed him to leave the site immediately; Jack confirmed that he would do so – and that, indeed, it was already his intention to leave.

Jack tried to continue towards the exit gate, where his friend Andrew was now waiting for him. Spotting Andrew sitting at a table near the gate, Jack attempted to walk towards him (so they could leave together) whereupon he was without any warning physically assaulted by the security guard. The security guard grabbed hold of Jack’s arm and attempted to force it behind Jack’s back (as if he were a Police Officer effecting the arrest of a violent criminal). In shock, Jack tried to pull away from the security guard, but then not wishing to escalate the situation let the man re-take hold of his arm. Jack explained that all he wanted to do was get his friend, and then it was absolutely his intention to leave the festival site.

Despite Jack’s reasonable behaviour, he was then set upon by approximately six of the security guard’s colleagues, who forced both of Jack’s arms behind his back and pushed him face down onto the ground. Jack could not believe what was happening to him.

Jack was then pulled to his feet by the security guards and marched, with his head bent down, through the gates and outside the festival grounds. Once outside the gates, however, the security personnel did not let Jack go but instead forced him face-down to the ground for a second time, and now applied handcuffs to tie his hands together, which was a painful and humiliating experience for my client. Jack felt significant pain building up in his left wrist and appealed to the security guards to loosen the cuffs, but to no avail. He was being held down on the concrete surface of the ground, close to the quay wall.

Despite offering no physical resistance or threat to the guards, Jack was held down and restrained in this position for about five minutes, during which the pain in his wrist increased and the security guards continued to ignore his request to loosen the cuffs. All of this was taking place in full view of numerous members of the public.

Police officers then arrived, whereupon Jack’s handcuffs were removed, though not before he had lost feeling in his left hand.

Jack was then issued with a Dispersal Notice by the Police officers, under Section 34 of the Antisocial, Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, requiring him to leave the area and not return for a period of six hours, something which he had fully intended to do before being set upon by the gang of security guards.

The Dispersal Notice was not issued because of anything the Police themselves had witnessed, but evidently on the basis of whatever they were told by the security staff.

Jack then proceeded back to the marina, where his own boat was docked, but owing to the injury to his hand he was unable to operate the vessel, which had to be sailed back home by Andrew.

Very shortly after these events, Jack instructed me to pursue a claim for compensation against the security personnel, who were all employed by a firm called Blueline Security, purportedly “specialists in event management and security services.”

After considering Jack’s account of these events I quickly identified that he had strong claims against the Security Company for assault and battery and also false imprisonment.

Security guards employed by private companies may often behave as if they are the Police Force of a Wild West town, but the reality is that they are not warranted constables and have no greater powers than you or I do to effect a ‘citizen’s arrest’ or to deploy force in the prevention of crime. Notwithstanding Jack having ‘a wee’ behind the toilets, nothing he did could have justified the overwhelming force used against him, and/or the decision to detain (and in particular handcuff him) when he was already voluntarily making his way from the site of the Regatta.

Indeed, it was subsequently established that the totally excessive application of handcuffs to Jack’s wrists had caused nerve damage, which continued to plague him for months afterwards with numbness/ pins and needles in his left hand and which necessitated hospital investigations.

I wrote a letter of claim on Jack’s behalf, which Blueline Security disputed, hiding behind the fact that the Police had issued Jack with a Dispersal Notice (although of course this had only occurred as a result of the one-sided story told to them by the security staff, and the issuing of a Dispersal Notice is not tantamount to a criminal conviction or even a caution). Blueline argued that our client had been aggressive and that their use of force upon him, including handcuffs, was legitimate “self-defence”. It was quite clear however, that the only person who had been injured in this incident was my client and I knew he would come across as a strong and honest witness, and so had no hesitation in acting upon his instructions to pursue this matter to Court.

In response to County Court proceedings, Blueline Security initially filled a Defence repeating their complete denial of liability for either assault or false imprisonment. Amongst the outrageous allegations put forwards in the Defence was a suggestion (made for the first time) that Jack had had to be restrained to prevent him attempting to injure members of the public! One would wonder why, if Jack had been behaving in the extremely violent and anti-social manner that Blueline were suggesting, the Police would have been content to simply let him walk away once they had taken his handcuffs off…

I strongly believed in the truth of my client’s account, and was able to judge this in the context of my long experience of pursuing claims against private security companies; the truth is that they often harbour individuals who behave as if they are Police officers, but without having any of the training or self-discipline of (the majority of) law-enforcement professionals.

Long before Jack’s case was listed for Trial, and notwithstanding the Defence filed, Blueline Security duly agreed to settle Jack’s claim in the sum of £9,000 damages, plus legal costs.

Enjoy this Summer’s festival season – from the cow-fields of Glastonbury to the sailboats of Cowes – but beware the dangers of security guards behaving like an undisciplined private Police Force.

On Duty and On The Pull ? Police Officers Sacked for Sexual Misconduct

I recently came across the case of PC Roscoe, a serving Greater Manchester Police Officer. Whilst on duty, he entered a woman’s house by consent,  but then,  after telling her she was ‘absolutely gorgeous’, tried to kiss her.  She immediately said ‘no, no, no, no’ and wagged her forefinger at him.  She was shocked by his behaviour ‘as he had definitely crossed the line’. In the circumstances, the woman reported him and the case was referred to the IOPC for investigation.

PC Roscoe denied that the incident happened but a misconduct hearing found that the officer had acted as the woman alleged and that such behaviour was gross misconduct.  Surprisingly, however,  PC Roscoe was not dismissed, and instead was given a final written warning.  A spokesman for the IOPC stated something that must be manifestly obvious to all but a few serving Police Officers, “Police Officers must not abuse their position to make unwarranted approaches to people for their personal gain”.

The case has striking similarities to a case that I have recently concluded for my client, Karen.

Back in May 2016,  Karen’s friend’s  13 year old son had gone missing and turned up at Karen’s home address.

In the early hours of the next morning, PC Campbell attended Karen’s home address so as to check on the child’s welfare.  Karen invited PC Campbell in.  Karen was asked for and provided her personal details including her mobile phone number.  PC Campbell did not seem too concerned about the child and instead began flirting with Karen, for example asking how she would respond if he asked her out.  Karen did not engage.

Karen then showed PC Campbell out.  As Karen opened the door, PC Campbell turned and stood with his back against the door and asked Karen ‘for a kiss’.  PC Campbell then leant towards Karen.  Karen pulled away but the hallway was very narrow and Karen felt trapped/cornered.  Karen was both intimidated and shocked and embarrassed because the child was stood behind watching.  PC Campbell then left.  Karen was very concerned that PC Campbell might seek to return.

Approximately 10 minutes later, Karen received the first of a series of withheld calls to her mobile number to which she did not pick up. Sometime later, the child looked out the window and noticed that PC Campbell was sat in a patrol car outside the house. Karen’s phone rang again and this time Karen answered.  It was PC Campbell.  PC Campbell advised that he was calling to check he had the right number.  Karen confirmed it was.  Karen subsequently noted that PC Campbell had driven off.

Sometime later, PC Campbell rang Karen again and advised that he would have to return to see her again to complete some paperwork.  Although unhappy, Karen felt she had no option but to cooperate.  Karen asked the child to stay with her until PC Campbell had returned and left again.

Approximately one hour later, PC Campbell returned to Karen’s home address.  Although Karen felt worried she felt she had no choice but to allow him in.  PC Campbell asked several questions and completed some paperwork.  Once again PC Campbell sought to flirt with Karen and said “Are you sure you won’t change your mind?”  Once again, Karen did not engage.

After a few minutes, PC Campbell got up to leave.  Karen showed him out.  On this occasion, PC Campbell stepped out but then put his foot over the threshold so as to prevent Karen from closing the door.  Again, PC Campbell leant forwards towards Karen and sought to kiss her.  Again, Karen pulled away.  PC Campbell then stepped away and Karen shut and locked the door.  Again, Karen was scared and intimidated and concerned as to what the Officer might try next.

Later that same day, and across the course of several days thereafter, Karen received a series of suggestive and flirtatious text messages from PC Campbell.

Karen found PC Campbell’s behaviour to be disturbing and inappropriate.  Approximately 2 weeks later, Karen spoke to officers in regards to an unrelated  matter.  During this encounter, Karen said in an off the cuff remark, “At least you’re not trying it on”.  Karen was encouraged to explain her remark and she explained what PC Campbell had done.   At the time, Karen was in a vulnerable state.  Furthermore, she was concerned that if she reported PC Campbell, her complaint would be dismissed and he would retaliate against her. Initially therefore, Karen refused to cooperate with the Police investigation. Notwithstanding Karen’s position, PC Campbell was then arrested  for misconduct in public office. Karen was encouraged to cooperate with the formal investigation into PC Campbell and given various assurances as regards safeguarding and being kept updated.

Karen was extremely upset and traumatised by PC Campbell’s behaviour and as a result had lost trust and confidence in the police. After significant pressure to cooperate was levied, Karen did eventually provide a witness statement.

Disciplinary proceedings were brought against PC Campbell who in September 2017 was found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed.

I subsequently brought a claim against the Merseyside Police Force.  Although liability was neither admitted nor denied, I was after negotiation able to agree a settlement of £10,000.00  in compensation for PC Campbell’s outrageous and sexually intimidating conduct towards Karen.

Do Police Officers really need their disciplinary watchdog, the IOPC, to spell out in black and white that they should not use the ‘opportunities’ presented by their job to try to pursue women into kissing them (at the very least)?  The examples of PC Roscoe and PC Campbell show that sadly they do.

 

 

Are Probation Companies wrongly sending people to prison?

The Chief Inspector of Probation this week declared that the privatisation of Probation Services is “irredeemably flawed”.  Dame Glenys Stacey concluded in her final annual report that it would be “safer” if the supervision of offenders was back in public ownership.

Back in 2014, Probation Services in England and Wales were split between the National Probation Service for serious offenders and 14 private Community Rehabilitation Companies or CRCs for low and medium risk offenders.  By the end of September 2018, more than 150,000 offenders on probation – more than half the total across England and Wales – were being managed by these private CRCs.

Dame Glenys Stacey told BBC Radio 4 that “In practice these Companies have understandably focused on meeting contractual requirements and targets” but in reality, professional probation work was so much more than simply a series of transactions, “it is skilled, with a large amount of professional judgment”.  The Chief Inspector highlighted a number of concerns;

  • Supervising offenders by telephone only, usually after an initial meeting.
  • Housing needs are met less often (54% of private cases compared with 70% of public cases).
  • Inadequate protection for victims and their children when domestic abusers return to their community.
  • 22% of offenders released without knowing where they were going to sleep that night.
  • High workloads and performance targets leading to professional standards being compromised.

I read Dame Glenys Stacey’s report with interest, particularly given that I am often asked to represent people who consider that they have been failed by the Probation Service.  One such individual is Neil Rogers whose claim against Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company exposed the mismanagement of probation services in respect of both simple monitoring and professional judgment.

Back in 2014, Neil was living at 403 Tiene Road, Liverpool.

In June 2014, Neil was sentenced to a determinate sentence of imprisonment of three years.

In or around late October 2015, it was arranged via Shelter, the housing charity, that, upon release from Prison, Neil would live at hostel accommodation at 10 St Jerome’s Street, Liverpool (“the hostel”).

On the morning of 30 November 2015, Neil was released from Prison on licence to serve the remainder of his sentence in the community under the supervision of Merseyside CRC, with a licence expiry date in May 2017.

Upon release, Neil attended the hostel and moved in, purchased a mobile telephone and then attended the office of Merseyside CRC as required, where he met Shirley Temperance who had responsibility for his supervision at that time.

At this meeting, Neil provided the address for the hostel to Shirley, as well as his new mobile telephone number.  Additionally, Neil provided Shirley with a further two addresses at which he could be contacted via friends.

Shirley informed Neil that if there were occasions when he was not staying at the hostel overnight that he should inform Merseyside CRC as to where he would be staying instead.

Unbeknownst to Neil at that time, and despite him having provided the address for the hostel as his current address to Shirley, (and, indeed, Shirley subsequently calling out to see him at the hostel), 403 Tiene Road, Liverpool was incorrectly recorded as Neil’s current address in the Company’s records.

On a number of occasions thereafter, Neil contacted Merseyside CRC to confirm that he would be staying at an address other than the hostel overnight.

In or around May 2016, Neil left the hostel and moved in with one of his friends and informed Merseyside CRC that he had moved.

Throughout this time, Neil attended all Probation appointments required of him.

Subsequently, Neil was due to attend an appointment at the Company’s Liverpool office on 8 November 2016, with Mr Bodger, who had taken over responsibility for Neil’s supervision.

Neil was unable to attend the appointment on 8 November 2016 and contacted Merseyside CRC in advance of the appointment in order to arrange an alternative date on which to attend the office.

Neil’s appointment with Mr Bodger was accordingly rescheduled for 11 November 2016.

On 11 November 2016, Neil duly attended his appointment with Mr Bodger at the office.

At the conclusion of the appointment, Mr Bodger provided Neil with a letter confirming that his next appointment would be at the office on 10 January 2017.

By this stage, Neil had retained the same mobile telephone number since November 2015. The mobile telephone number was active throughout this time, and able to receive telephone calls and text messages.

On or around 15 December 2016, unbeknown to Neil, another Merseyside CRC employee, Mr Senior, decided to request revocation of Neil’s licence.

Mr Senior’s “Recall Report” stated, inter alia:

Mr Neil Rogers has been managed by Merseyside CRC since his release on 30th November 2015. 

The terms and conditions of licence are:

 5.

i Be of good behaviour and not undermine the purpose of the licence period.

ii Not commit further offences 

iii Keep in touch with the Supervising Officer

iv Receive visits from the supervising Officer in accordance with instructions give by the supervising Officer 

v Resident permenantly (sic) at an address approved by the Supervising Officer and obtain the prior permission of the Supervising Officer for any stay of one or more nights at a different address. 

Since release on 30th November 2015 and up to 6th September 2016, Mr Rogers attended all scheduled appointments and complied fully with his licence conditions. 

Given he was assessed as Low Risk of Harm and fully compliant, Mr Rogers was on 8 weekly (2 monthly) reporting. 

He failed to attend his next appointment scheduled for 8th November 2016 and the requisite warning letter was sent which also instructed him to attend a further appointment. 

Neil Rogers’ case manager has also attempted contact via his registered mobile phone but again to no avail. 

On 5th December 2016, the case manager visited the registered address at 403 Tiene Road. 

It was clear that this address was occupied as it could br (sic) seen that festive lights were on in the property. Despite several attempts no person(s) answered. 

A note was subsequently pushed through the letterbox instructing Neil Rogers to urgently make contact. 

On 14th December 2016, the case manager revisited the address and again it was clear that the house was occupied. No response was received so a hand delivered letter signed by the case manager was posted through the letter box (sic) instructing Mr Rogers to make urgent contact by 4 pm 15th December 2016. If he made no contact then recall proceedings would be initiated. No such contact has been made.

Further, the recall report stated:

All requisite formal warnings have been sent. A number of attempts to contact via his registered mobile phone number both by text and call have also met with no response.

Two personal visits by the case manager to the registered address and hand delivered letters posted directly have failed to establish any re-engagement or contact with Merseyside CRC.

The recall report gave Neil’s last recorded address as 403 Tiene Road.

The recall report stated:

Any Other Possible Addresses: N/A

The recall report recorded no mobile telephone number for Neil.

The recall report was endorsed by Mr Senior’s manager, who recorded:

Report and recommendation supported. It is concerning that Mr Rogers has fallen out of contact and this frustrates the aims of supervision. Therefore at this time there is no alternative but to request revocation of his current licence.

On the same day, in direct response to the recall report, the Secretary of State for Justice revoked Neil’s licence and recalled him to prison under section 254 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The revocation stated:

You have been recalled to prison because the Secretary of State is satisfied that you have breached the following conditions of your licence:

5iii Keep in touch with the supervising officer in accordance with instructions given by the supervising officer

Shortly after midnight on 31 December 2016, Neil was returning home when he was approached by Police officers who took his details.  To his shock he was informed that, according to the Police National Computer, he was wanted for recall to prison due to a breach of his licence conditions and accordingly he was arrested, taken to a nearby Police Station and then on to prison.

He was incarcerated for the next 28 days.

A few days prior to the date on which Neil was due to be released, he was able to speak to Mr Bodger and ask for an explanation as to why he had been recalled to prison.

Mr Bodger informed Neil that he was no longer responsible for his supervision and that the responsibility for his supervision had transferred to Mr Senior.

On 27 January 2017, Neil was released from prison.  The same day, Neil attended the office of Merseyside CRC and met with Mr Senior, who informed him that concerns had been raised about Mr Bodger’s recordkeeping and that Mr Bodger was no longer employed by the Company.

In all the circumstances, it appeared that Mr Bodger had failed to keep accurate and/or up to date records regarding Neil’s contact details or his attendance at appointments and that by reason of those failings, Neil had wrongfully spent 28 days in custody.  Specifically, Mr Bodger had failed to record Neil’s attendance at the office on 11 November 2016, leading his colleague Mr Senior to believe that Neil had breached the terms of his licence by going “AWOL”.

Although Mr Bodger was the real ‘villain’ of the piece , and it was his dereliction of duty/incompetence which lead to Neil being sent back to Prison, the situation was compounded by the failure of the other Probation staff who had dealt with Neil to record his proper address and telephone number.  This caused Mr Senior to attempt to contact Neil at an address where he had not been living for several years.  When I reviewed Neil’s probation file from Merseyside CRC I was shocked at the amount of errors and inaccuracies in it – not just mere ‘clerical errors’ but the kind of blatant mistakes which could, and did, lead to a man losing his liberty.  In my opinion, it should have been obvious to Mr Senior that the file was riddled with errors and that an out of date address was being used.

Being sent back to Prison in these circumstances was a real hammer blow to Neil’s confidence, mental health and the fragile relationship he had started to re-establish with his estranged family. Thinking that there was no smoke without fire, Neil’s family did not believe that he had been recalled to Prison through no fault of his own, and this destroyed their trust in him.  This really was a terrible injustice, as in reality Neil had done everything he could to get his life back on the ‘straight and narrow’ since coming out of Prison in 2015, including getting a job and complying with all of his Probation requirements.

Whether privatised or not, the Probation Service rarely put their hands up and admit fault and so it was no surprise that when I intimated a claim on behalf of Neil, liability was denied by Merseyside CRC.  I issued Court proceedings and the Company maintained its denial, asserting that Neil had failed to keep them informed of his changes of address.  It was not even admitted by them that Neil had indeed attended the pivotal appointment with Mr Bodger on 11 November 2016 – but fortunately Neil had the letter given to him on that occasion by Mr Bodger, to prove that he had.  Even in light of that letter, Merseyside CRC continued to try to deny and frustrate the claim.  However, I am pleased to confirm that shortly before trial, Solicitors representing the Company backed down and we agreed a five figure settlement plus costs.

More importantly than the money, I trust that the vindication brought by this Court settlement has gone a long way towards helping Neil rebuild his relationship with his family, who will now hopefully see that he was telling the truth about his recall to Prison – as well as serving as a wake-up call to Merseyside CRC and other Probation companies to invest properly in staff training, management and supervision. Though, if what I have uncovered in this case is anything to go by, it seems future Chief Inspectors of Probation are going to have their work cut out to make the service fit for purpose.

(Names and addresses changed.)

Adding Insult to Injury: How the Police Attempt to Criminalise Victims of Police Violence

Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.

This year’s derby game between Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United takes place tonight, Monday the 4 March. The decision to hold the game on a week night is said to be because of the cost to South Yorkshire Police; apparently previous derby games between the two teams held over a weekend have proved the most expensive fixture in England to police, paid for in large part by South Yorkshire Police themselves.

A main factor in this is the complex geography of Hillsborough which is a fair distance from the City Centre, and so requires a greater amount of policing for fans going to and from the ground.

One of the main routes to and from the ground is along Middlewood Road and it was along this route following the 2012 derby, that an incident occurred that added to South Yorkshire Police’s operation costs… but ultimately did far more to harm South Yorkshire Police’s reputation.

My client Robert and two friends had been to the match. As Robert proceeded down the road with thousands of other football fans, he suddenly felt pain to his right arm and looked down to see an Alsatian Police dog with its jaws locked onto his forearm. The dog was being handled by a female Police Officer.

Robert immediately asked the officer for her name and number because he wished to lodge a complaint.

The officer told Robert in no uncertain terms to move on.

Robert asked several more times for the officer’s details but she refused to give them.

A male uniformed officer approached Robert and also told him to move away and then physically pushed him away from the area.

Robert met up with a group of friends and told them what had happened. His friends encouraged him to return to find the female officer, to establish her details so as to lodge a complaint.

Robert decided to do so and returned to where the officer was positioned.

Once again Robert asked the officer for her details. Again she refused and simply said words to the effect of “I’m the only female dog handler working today, now go away.”

Robert began to walk away and came across an ambulance crew tending to another football supporter who had also been bitten by a police dog. Robert’s injuries were noted by the paramedics and other police officers on duty. A second ambulance was called.

Robert was then taken by ambulance to the Northern General Hospital where he received appropriate treatment.

Entrance to Hillsborough Stadium, home of Sheffield Wednesday.

On the following day, Robert attended a local police station in order to lodge a complaint.

Robert was subsequently contacted by an officer of South Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department (‘PSD’) and was advised that his complaint would be investigated.

Nearly two months later, two uniformed police officers attended out of the blue at Robert’s home address. Robert assumed that they had come so as to discuss his complaint. Instead they served him with a Fixed Penalty Notice which alleged that he had:

‘Committed a public order offence on Middlewood Road, Sheffield known as sec 5’.

His options were to either accept the Notice and pay a fine, or challenge the Notice whereupon he would be summonsed to attend Court.

The very next day, Robert received a letter from South Yorkshire Police Professional Standards Department with a response to his complaint.

The investigating officer had identified the female dog handler as PC W.

PC W responded to the complaint as follows;

I had the dog held as close to me as was possible and I was shouting verbal instructions throughout. Robert was behaving in an aggressive and disorderly manner. He appeared drunk and was verbally abusive. I do not consider the bite to be unprovoked. At the time Robert was bitten, he was in extremely close proximity to me. Robert did not leave the area until the horses forced him away.”

Robert was a man of good character and had had no previous dealings with the Police. He knew he had done no wrong; his only “crime” was to remonstrate about being bitten and to ask the officer for her details.

To all intents and purposes, it looked to me very much like South Yorkshire Police had decided to prosecute my client simply because he had had the temerity to lodge a complaint.

Robert lodged an appeal against the Fixed Penalty Notice, expecting to receive a Court Summons. As it was, South Yorkshire Police decided not to prosecute.

On Robert’s behalf, I then intimated a claim alleging among other heads of claim, assault and battery and misfeasance in public office.

In responding to the claim, South Yorkshire Police denied liability and provided disclosure including;

A Use of Force form completed by PC W which stated as follows;

“Police Dog dispersal tactics. Male in blue top committing Public Order offences. Bitten on arm by Police Dog and also had to be moved on by use of Police Horse” and “Male bitten on arm as a result of refusing to follow Police instruction”.

A dog bite report in which PC W reported the incident somewhat differently;

“As fans were leaving the ground, the trams quickly filled with supporters, namely SUFC fans travelling into city. At 1500 hours a flash point occurred whereby SWFC fans were on foot and ‘engaged’ the tram and occupants with insulting and abusive behaviour and a number of males were seen to be hammering on the doors and windows of the tram. This tram was some 20 yards in front of me and myself and PC A moved forward to conclude crowd dispersal tactics.

The serial in front of us were unprotected officers. I am aware that PC A was involved in the arrest of a male who had been banging the windows of the tram. At this point I was holding the roadway to immediately protect the tram and its occupants and as the dog was barking the crowd were being forced to use the pavement creating the desired effect of the dispersal tactic. I am aware that an elderly male stepped off the pavement into the path of Police Dog Rover and he briefly bit his left forearm and immediately released. I shouted to the male to go to the nearest Police Officer ahead of him. I was unable to immediately engage with this man directly as males were fighting immediately behind him and public disorder was continuing. Groups of males appeared heavily intoxicated offering aggression to opposing fans.

A fight ensured onto the roadway in front of me and I can recall a white male aged early 20’s wearing a blue tracksuit top, walking briefly against crowd flow towards the roadway. He was shouting at opposing fans on the trams and those behind me and his behaviour was inflammatory causing others around him to engage in similar behaviour. As I was conducting dispersal tactics the male was bitten on the arm. No officer was immediately able to come forward and arrest this male under the Public Order Act. He continued with disorderly behaviour. His eyes were glazed and he was unsteady on his feet and I did In fact believe he was drunk. His behaviour continued as such that mounted officers arrived and I can recall seeing the male having to be further dispersed by officers using mounted tactics. The male was repeatedly asked to move on and eventually only complied due to peer pressure from his friends.

I immediately reattended Shepperson Road where I saw the first male who had been bitten on the forearm. Officers were already performing first aid and I approached him to help and obtain details.

He was argumentative and whilst I explained that whilst he was not committing public order offences he had refused to follow police instruction and had stepped into the roadway that was being protected by police dogs. I advised him to make contact with Police once he had received medical attention. I am aware an ambulance was requested for the male.”

PC W subsequently prepared a witness statement in which she elaborated yet further;

As fans were leaving the ground, the trams quickly filled with supporters, namely SUFC fans travelling into city. At 1500 hours a flash point occurred whereby SWFC fans were on foot and ‘engaged’ the tram and occupants with insulting and abusive behaviour and a number of males were seen to be hammering on the doors and windows of the tram. The majority of these fans on foot were wearing blue and white Sheffield Wednesday clothing and were chanting to those persons on the tram ‘FUCK OFF BACK TO YOUR STY YOU PIGGY CUNTS. The tram was some 20 yards in front of me and myself and PC A moved forward to conduct crowd dispersal tactics.

The serial in front of us were unprotected officers. I am aware that PC A was involved in the arrest of a male who had been banging on the windows of the tram. At this point I was holding the roadway to immediately protect the tram and its occupants and as the dog was barking the crowd were being forced to use the pavement creating the desired effect of the dispersal tactic. Rover was as close to me as I could get him as I was actually holding him by the collar, and he was rearing up onto his two back legs. I was consistently shouting, ‘GET BACK, GET BACK’ and using my arms to indicate to people to get back onto the pavement away from the dog and the tram. Rover was barking constantly.

Groups of males appeared heavily intoxicated continued offering aggression to opposing fans. A fight ensued onto the roadway in front of me and I can recall a white male aged early 20’s wearing a blue tracksuit top, walking briefly against crowd flow towards the roadway. He was slim build with very short brown hair and slim build. He was shouting at opposing fans on the trams and those behind me and his behaviour was inflammatory causing others around him to engage in similar behaviour. I can recall him making signs with his hands that I believe were simulating masturbation and he continued moving against the crowd flow towards the tram shouting, ‘GET YOUR CATTLE WAGON AND SHOW US YOU’RE REALLY MADE OF BACON’.

I was clearly identifiable as a Police Officer, dressed in full police uniform. I believe I was identifiable as a Police Dog handler in charge at that time of a Police dog. Rover was barking and looked aggressive. I was stationary, standing my ground and also using my right arm to identify to people to get back, as well as shouting, ‘GET BACK, GET BACK, KEEP MOVING’. As I was conducting dispersal tactics the male who was stood in front of me waving his arms at the tram was bitten on the arm. The dog immediately released. Due to growing numbers of fans gathering in the locality and the hostility of pedestrians towards those people on the trams, I was unable to directly deal with this male, and my priority was to gain control of pedestrian activity and further disorder. I knew from the bite capabilities of Police Dog Rover that other than the likelihood a ripped sleeve, the male would have suffered only grazing and immediate medical assistance was not necessary.

No officer was immediately able to come forward and arrest this male under the Public Order Act. He continued with disorderly behaviour. His eyes were glazed and he was unsteady on his feet and I did in fact believe he was drunk. His behaviour continued as such that mounted officers arrived and I can recall seeing the male having to be further dispersed by officers using mounted tactics.

The male was repeatedly asked to move on and eventually only complied due to peer pressure from his friends.

CCTV footage from a Police spotter however showed the following;

At 15.08.06h PC W is seen to move to stand beside a lamppost struggling with Police dog Rover, which she was now holding by its lead.

At 15.08.12h Robert is seen with his face turned towards the tram, walking but not violent.

At 15.08.14h Robert walks past PC W and is bitten and thereafter does indeed remonstrate with the officer before being pushed away. There is however no suggestion of drunkenness or disorder on his part or anyone close to him.

The available evidence therefore suggested that;

• Police Dog Rover was not under control and in the space of a few minutes, Police Dog Rover had bitten both an elderly man and Robert.

• There had indeed been flash points of disorder, but Robert was not involved in any of them; rather, he was simply proceeding away from the stadium along with thousands of others.

In the face of no admission of liability from the Police, I issued County Court proceedings on behalf of Robert.

The solicitors appointed to represent South Yorkshire Police advised that their client intended to “robustly defend” the claim and that they were confident that their client would “establish a successful Defence”.

Indeed, their defence was robust, disputing the claim in its entirety and stating that Robert, immediately before he was bitten, “was shouting. His behaviour was inflammatory. He made signs with his hands that was simulating masturbation”. Further they alleged that he waved his arms and jumped around in front of PC W and Rover in very close proximity to Rover and that after he had been bitten, he “continued with his disorderly behaviour. His eyes were glazed, he was unsteady on his feet and appeared drunk”. He was repeatedly asked to move on but “was aggressive and abusive with the officers trying to move him on”.

The claim proceeded and then, just weeks before trial, the Police caved in. They agreed to compensate Robert with a five-figure award of damages and to pay his legal costs. The final settlement was in excess of £100,000.00. If this is the way South Yorkshire Police normally conduct their Police dog operations, and how, as I suspect, they routinely respond to legitimate claims and complaints against them, it might go a long way to showing why the policing of this football fixture has become so expensive.

Sadly, and of more significance, this is yet another example to add to my long experience of seeing Police Forces “trump up” criminal charges against innocent members of the public who have suffered at their hands (or, indeed, as in this case, teeth) in order to deflect from the Police’s own wrongdoing. This kind of utterly reprehensible and in my opinion quite deliberate behaviour, has become institutionalised in many, if not all, Forces; to callously and cynically attempt to criminalise people who have had the misfortune to fall foul of Police violence. All who are involved in this kind of cover-up should hang their heads in shame.

5Live Investigates Police Sexploitation

I recently contributed to another investigation led by the BBC Radio 5 Live team about police abuse of powers for sexual gain. Click here for details of their last investigation on this issue. Yesterday I was interviewed on the show to discuss the issue. Listen to my comments on the BBC 5Live programme (from 12 minutes onward) by clicking below.

The focus of the latest 5 Live investigation was the selection process of police officers and the ‘vetting’ methodology, an issue highlighted recently in the Ian Naude case, which you can read about here: Are the Police failing to stop sexual predators joining their ranks?

In particular, 5Live has established that thousands of serving police officers and civilian staff, taken on before 2006, have never undergone the stricter criminal record and background checks that were introduced that year. A Freedom of Information Request from the BBC established that, of the 36 police forces who replied, 16 had not performed retrospective background checks on their staff/ officers.

I welcome any media investigation that puts a spotlight on police officers abusing their position for sexual gain and helps bring perpetrators to account, but I suspect that the vetting process, no matter how rigorous and thorough, will not stop the majority of police ‘sexploitation’ cases. I say this because, in my experience, the majority of officers abusing their position are not dangerous paedophiles like Ian Naude, but rather, men who are tempted to take advantage of a situation for their own sexual benefit, and who probably have no visible history of this prior to joining the Police.

Here are some examples:

  • My client Yvonne who was a long-term victim of domestic violence and was groomed by a police officer assigned to her case and then encouraged to enter into a sexual relationship with him; hear her talking about her story on the BBC 5Live programme above at approximately 35 minutes in, or read about it here.
  • My client Josey, another domestic violence victim, received multiple texts of a sexual nature from the officer investigating her case, asking for intimate photographs (Read her story here).
  • My client Lisa, yet another domestic violence victim, who also received multiple texts of a sexual nature from her investigating officer, asking for naked photographs of herself (Read her story here).
  • My client Kate, a sex worker who reported her pimp to the police and who was then phoned and harassed by multiple, personal text messages from the investigating officer in her case, at all times of the day and night, when the officer was both on and off duty (see here)
  • My client Andrea, who called the police for help with a friend’s teenage son who had run away from home, and was visited by a police officer who flirted with her, tried to kiss her and then called and texted her multiple times.
  • My client Claire, yet another domestic violence victim who was groomed by the investigating police officer, and then encouraged to enter into a sexual relationship with him. (Read more here.)
  • My client Brian, whose personal information on the Police National Computer was accessed and then misused by a jealous police officer who had been seeing Brian‘s previous boyfriend and who then made an anonymous call to Brian’s employer making false accusations about him.
  • My client Collette, who was assigned a family liaison officer after her husband had tragically committed suicide; this married officer then bombarded Collette with personal visits, calls and texts (with a clearly sexual intention) and stalked her by obtaining data on her car from the Police’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition System (ANPR) including following her and using his emergency lights to pull her over on the motorway so he could take her for coffee.

The list goes on… And the fact is that I genuinely believe that the officers involved in all of these cases would have passed the police national vetting standard test, either on admission or subsequently. They are not dangerous paedophiles with a pre-existing history of criminality or suspicious behaviour, but rather sad men in a uniform who have abused their privileged position for their own sexual gain.

The IOPC, the HMIC, the National Police Chief’s Council and the College of Policing all recognise that the exploitation of victims of crime by officers overstepping professional boundaries and abusing their positions of authority, trust and access to those vulnerable victim’s often fragile and chaotic private lives is a long-standing problem, and one that only some police officers seem to recognise and respect.

In my opinion, although robust vetting standards are of course imperative, what is really required is a thorough and ongoing campaign throughout all Police forces to raise awareness of this problem (both so that officers who think that forming sexual relationships with victims of crime is okay are disabused of this notion, and so that all officers can be on the lookout for signs of such abuse amongst their colleagues) and above all uniformity in sanction to send the clearest and most robust of messages to those tempted to offend; imprisonment and immediate dismissal if misconduct in public office is proven.

Only then will we begin to see a change in what I suspect is a long-standing culture amongst certain types of Police Officers, one which is now coming ever more to light in an age when victims are more aware of their rights, police authorities are more willing to listen to them, and abusing officers often leave blatant evidence of their behaviour, like guilty fingerprints, all over electronic media.

Let’s Talk About Police Misconduct Investigations

I read in the news this week that the Police Federation has called for legislation to restrict the length of time which misconduct investigations are allowed to continue for.

Police Federation Conduct Lead Phill Matthews described the current regime in which investigations can drag on for years as “inhumane” and rather naively suggested that in no other profession can misconduct investigations drag on for so long.

He also described the current regime as “draconian” in its harshness towards Police Officers. Whilst I fully appreciate that Mr Matthews is doing his best to represent his members, I have to beg to differ with that characterisation. From my point of view, as a Solicitor who represents the victims of Police misconduct I have to say that my clients and I often find the complaint investigation process, led by each constabulary’s Professional Standards Department, to be almost laughably biased towards the Police officers, almost always favouring their version of events over that of members of the public, and tending towards awarding only the lowest level of sanction “Management Advice” even when misconduct is proven.

“Management advice” is a very minor reprimand; really only a slap on the wrist. Sometimes, in fact, I suspect it is really a slap on the back administered over a cup of coffee…or alternatively, not even given at all, as I established at a trial against West Midlands Police a few years ago.

So Mr Matthews and I approach the Police complaint/ disciplinary system from two very different vantage points; but one thing I certainly do agree with him about is that the whole process should be dramatically speeded up.

Whilst Mr Matthews lambasts the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) for the duration of its investigations, I can absolutely echo that criticism and direct it at the Professional Standards Departments which are staffed by his federation membership.

No doubt, Police officers accused of serious misconduct experience a lot of mental pressure and anxiety whilst awaiting the outcome of a complaint investigation, but then so do the victims of Police misconduct themselves, who often find insult added to injury as month after month the enquiry into their complaint drags on and on without resolution – and very often with what I consider to be a very unjust final outcome.

I have blogged previously about the high profile case of my client Paul Ponting – unlawfully arrested, assaulted, strip- searched and subjected to a wrongful prosecution – who after several years of litigation won £35,000 from Lancashire Constabulary.

Paul and his wife instituted a complaint about what had been done to him on the very night that he was arrested (19 June 2014). In February 2015 a report was sent which purported to conclude ‘no wrongdoing’ on the part of the Police, but in regards to which I lodged an appeal on Paul’s behalf as the investigation had not bothered to actually take a statement from Paul himself or the three members of his family who witnessed the events. In June 2015 Lancashire’s PSD indicated that the complaint was being “reviewed” and subsequently (July 2015) “errors” were admitted in regards to the handling of the complaint. Notwithstanding this, in September 2015, Lancashire PSD purported to dismiss the complaint for a second time!

Following further representations from myself on behalf of the Pontings, in June 2016 (2 years after the initial complaint was filed) Lancashire stated that the complaint would be handed over to an independent Force, namely Cumbria Constabulary, for re-investigation. But when in November of that year other complaints brought by Mr Ponting were indeed passed to Cumbria for review – this complaint relating to the events of June 2014 was not one of them.

At the present time, almost four and a half years later, the Pontings have still received no satisfactory resolution to their complaint, although thankfully their civil compensation claim has been successfully completed, as part of which the Chief Constable wrote a personal letter of apology to Mr Ponting. None of the Police officers involved in Paul’s arrest, assault and strip- search have faced any disciplinary action whatsoever.

This type of situation is far from unique. My client Mr E T  whose claim for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution against the Metropolitan Police I settled for £46,000 also brought a complaint against the officers involved, which took over 3 years to come to a disciplinary hearing, at which all allegations of misconduct against the officers were dismissed.

My client Zahi instituted a complaint, also against the Met Police, after he was subjected to an unlawful arrest (which we believe heavily influenced by the colour of his skin) and an aggressive assault involving the attacking officer choking him, and a subsequent humiliating strip- search. Whilst his claim for damages is presently ongoing, and likely to result in a substantial pay-out, the complaint that he brought took over 5 years to reach a resolution when, despite the IPCC (as then was) finding that the officer who had assaulted Zahi had a case to answer for misconduct, the chairperson conducting the misconduct meeting dismissed all allegations against him, finding in favour of the officer on every count.

A ‘draconian’, obtuse, frustrating and often glacially-paced process the current misconduct regime might be; but in my opinion, it is the public, not the Police who suffer most at its hands.

In the News

So, a new year is upon us, and can I take this opportunity to send my best wishes to all readers of this blog.

I was pleased over the Christmas period to have the opportunity to discuss my work and some recent cases with the Liverpool Echo, and you can read their article here.

Also in the news over Christmas, was a report highlighting the deplorable prevalence of sexual harassment in the Police. You can read the Guardian article here. The Guardian’s request for data under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that a total of 450 complaints of sexual harassment had been made across 28 Police Forces over the last 6 years; the other 15 British forces (including the largest Force, the Metropolitan) failed to provide data, meaning that the true number of complaints is likely to be considerably higher than 450. Disappointingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, only a fraction of the reported complaints resulted in an officer who perpetrated harassment being dismissed.

I have blogged before about this subject (here, here, and here) and have recently contributed to a TV documentary which will be aired in the coming months highlighting the plight of many unfortunate women who have been taken advantage of by predatory male Police officers, some of whom sadly seem to see their access to vulnerable female victims of crime, who can then be manipulated into sexual relationships with the officers who are supposed to be protecting and helping them, as a ‘perk of the job’.

It is clear that the culture of male-dominated Police forces needs to change, with more being done to root out predatory officers and to ensure that it is understood that victims of crime are not ‘fair game’ for seduction, harassment and other forms of sexual abuse.

Another issue which is garnering a lot of media attention at the moment, is the high level of reported assaults upon officers of the British Transport Police, especially in light of the stabbing of an officer, who has fortunately now been released from hospital, at Manchester Victoria station on New Year’s Eve.

Recently released statistics show that between October 2015 – October 2018 there were 1,939 reported assaults upon BTP officers, although only 230 resulted in injury. The word ‘assault’ covers a very broad category of incidents, and thankfully stabbings such as that which occurred in Manchester are at the rare end of the spectrum; simple scuffles involving pushing and shoving will also account for some of these figures.

Sadly, I am also well aware that some of these  ‘assaults’ upon officers will be false reports, put forward as a ‘smokescreen’ for acts of violence which Officers have wrongfully committed against members of the public. These are incidents such as I have discussed in previous blogs and case report which involved serious injuries being inflicted by the Police on my clients. It is far from uncommon for incidents in which officers have gone ‘over the top’ and assaulted an innocent person to then be reported as assaults upon the officers, by way of an attempted retrospective justification by the officer of the violence he has inflicted on a member of the public.

Whilst not in any way diminishing the bravery of officers who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public and bring offenders to justice, I do have to question how many of those almost 2000 assaults were in fact incidents in which the aggressor was the Police officer, not the other way around.