Counsel from No5 Barristers’ Chambers have successfully represented a Custody Sergeant and a Police Constable who were alleged to have mistreated a vulnerable woman during her detention in a custody suite on the 15th of December 2017.

“EF” had been arrested for assault occasioning ABH on another and a subsequent assault on a police officer. She was brought before the Custody Sergeant and was drunk, aggressive and violent. She went on to assault two further police officers whilst she was detained.

PC B was alleged to have committed breaches of the Standards of Professional Behaviour in relation to the following behaviour:

(a) Using unnecessary force when detaining EF in the cell in the custody area while her clothing was removed, in that he knelt on her right leg rather than simply holding it down.

(b) Not affording EF appropriate Authority, Respect and Courtesy in respect of comments said about her. It was alleged that PC B referred to EF in the following way: ‘I was just going to help the damsel in distress Sarg.’ and, whilst EF was naked in her cell, PC B stated ‘Merry Christmas everybody there is your turkey’.

The latter allegation was said to relate to her appearance in the cell, where she was naked and lying in a “foetal position”.

PS B was alleged to have allowed or directed the removal of EF’s clothing by male officers, in breach of the Standards of Duties and Responsibilities and Authority, Respect and Courtesy.

Argument was heard by the panel about the relevance of significant unused material, which those representing the officers wished to adduce in evidence, The Appropriate Authority maintained the position where it refused to accept that the accounts of the other officers present were ‘relevant’ to the issues in the case. After reference was made to the content of the documentation and the test in O’Brien v Chief Constable of South Wales Police [2005] UKHL 26, the panel deemed it relevant and accepted it in evidence.

A similar argument was necessary in order to adduce the evidence of character on the officers’ behalf. Further legal argument, with reference to Wisson v Health Professions Council [2013] EWHC 1036 (Admin) and Arunkalaivanan v GMC [2014] EWHC 873 (Admin), followed before the panel ruled that it should be admitted. This was considered as part of the panel’s decision on the good character of the officers (Donkin v Law Society [2007] EWHC 414 (Admin)).

The allegation of Use of Force also brought into consideration the recent case of R (on the app of Officer W80) v DG of the IOPC [2019] EWHC 2215 (Admin).

PC B accepted that the language he used was inappropriate and capable of being misinterpreted. Howeverm it was argued that it should be judged in the circumstances made and not with the ‘benefit of hindsight’ (R (Wheeler) v AC House of the MPS [2008] EWHC 439 (Admin)).

The panel concluded that PC B’s comments were not offensive or derogatory. The “damsel in distress” comment was “spontaneous” and the “turkey” comment was not about EF’s looks. The panel found that the use of force was justified in all the circumstances.

The panel further decided that PS B did not  allow or direct the removal of EF’s clothing by male officers.

The case lasted for three days, after which all breaches were found not proven.

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