A Merseyside police officer “violently and excessively” bent an innocent man’s arm up his back until it snapped with a “loud pop”.
Officers had been called to the Walton home of John Kennedy for a welfare check due to fears over his mental health, but he was left in excruciating pain as his interaction with the police went disastrously wrong.
After the officer broke his arm, Merseyside Police then prosecuted Mr Kennedy for assaulting the police officer’s colleague by “shoulder barging” him – a charge he was found not guilty of after a trial at Sefton Magistrates’ Court. At the end of that trial, a district judge noted that neither officer had activated their body-worn cameras and that their explanation for not doing so was “not credible”.
Mr Kennedy, who had no criminal record, required surgery after the incident back on June 6, 2017, and has had an agonising and slow route to recovery. Merseyside Police continues to deny the two officers, PC Richard Hughes and PC Gavin Price, did anything wrong and have not taken disciplinary action against them.
However, after clearing his name in the criminal courts this year, Mr Kennedy was vindicated once again in the civil courts when he won a contested lawsuit against Merseyside Police, involving a full jury trial. After the case was decided in Mr Kennedy’s favour at Liverpool County Court, Merseyside Police agreed to pay £50,000 in damages for false imprisonment, assault, and malicious prosecution as well as potentially tens of thousands more in legal fees.
Speaking to the ECHO, Mr Kennedy said:
“It’s been a gruelling challenge to cope with. It’s been a five-year journey. You don’t just shake things like that off straight away. It’s been a long healing process as well.”
In the civil case, the jury was asked to answer several questions, including: “Has Mr Kennedy proved so that it is more likely than not that PC Hughes forcefully, violently and excessively extended and rotated Mr Kennedy’s arm so that it fractured?” – to which it answered “yes”.
The jury also concluded that the police had failed to prove on the balance of probabilities that Mr Kennedy shoulder-barged PC Price.
The problems began when Mr Kennedy, who has a diagnosis of cyclothymia, a condition similar to bipolar disorder, posted a Facebook status suggesting he planned to take an overdose on the evening before the incident. Concerned friends called the police, and two officers attended several hours later, at around 6.30 am the next morning (June 6, 2017) and “tried to force the door open“.
Mr Kennedy answered the door and told them to leave, and according to police logs, the officers felt he did not appear to be in danger and left the scene. However, two different uniformed officers, PC Hughes and PC Price, were again dispatched at 12.50 pm that day.
Mr Kennedy said he saw the officers from his bedroom window and went to answer the door, but found it was jammed, possibly due to the previous two officers damaging the Yale lock as they attempted to force it. Mr Kennedy claimed the new officers then kicked the door open and entered, although Merseyside Police claimed they were invited inside.
The jury was told the officers followed Mr Kennedy into his living room and asked him about the Facebook post, and he confirmed he had written it. Mr Kennedy told the officers he wanted them to leave and was “shouted at” to sit down.
The court heard Mr Kennedy say he wanted to go to the toilet but was pushed onto a couch by PC Hughes. PC Price then went to search the house, and PC Hughes allowed Mr Kennedy to go to the kitchen to get a drink of water.
Mr Kennedy said he also got some medication he was taking for anxiety and took some tablets in front of the officers, prompting a reaction from PC Hughes. He told the officers to “get out, I don’t want you to be here” at which point PC Hughes “tripped him up” and “forcefully” threw him towards the couch, where he fell with his face pressed between two cushions and his knees on the floor.
In court, PC Hughes claimed he placed Mr Kennedy in an “entangled arm lock” after the then 26-year-old became aggressive and “charged” at PC Price, and that he accidentally broke his arm when Mr Kennedy fell onto the couch.
However Mr Kennedy said in his statement:
“I could feel the weight being pressed down into my back. I couldn’t see what it was, but from what I felt, I believe it was PC Hughes’ knee, pressing his body weight down onto me, and I felt my left arm being twisted behind my back and pulled upwards away from my body…
“I then heard and felt my left arm ‘pop’, causing me to experience the worst pain that I had ever experienced in my entire life: it was excruciating. The pain was coming from between my shoulder and my elbow. I tried my best to tell the Officer to get off me but I struggled to do this, because I couldn’t breathe properly.
“My right arm was free and I began tapping it strenuously on the couch as a sign for him to get off me. I was trying to say ‘you’ve broke my arm, let me go’. I was terrified.”
When PC Hughes eventually released Mr Kennedy, who was “screaming in agony”, the court heard he said: “I’ve not hurt you that much.”
An ambulance was called for Mr Kennedy, which took him to the Royal Liverpool Hospital for treatment. He remained in the hospital until around 7 pm, when he stepped out of the building in a cast with surgery arranged for June 20 that year.
The court heard as stepped out of the building with his mum and brother, he was approached by two different police officers. He said: “To my shock and horror, I was told that I was under arrest for assaulting a Police Officer; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…
“I was frightened and gobsmacked at the prospect of being arrested and spending time at the Police Station on a false charge.”
Mr Kennedy said he required physio and was left in considerable pain after his surgery, which involved metal plates being inserted into his arm. He said he still feels stiffness and pain in his arm, particularly in cold weather, and has suffered a painful infection related to the break.
Mr Kennedy’s solicitor, Iain Gould, a solicitor at DPP law specialising in claims against the police, told the ECHO:
“The officers who visited John’s house on the night of this incident were there to ensure his welfare only; he is a man of very good character, who had never been accused of any criminal offence.
“Yet the officers behaved towards him with aggression and contempt, culminating in them not only suffocating him against his own couch and breaking his arm but then [bringing a false charge] of assaulting them.
“John had to face the terrible stress of not only incarceration in a Police cell and an interview under criminal caution, for an offence for which he could have been sent to prison were the charges true, but also two trials at which Merseyside Police marshalled the sworn testimony of multiple officers and the expert advocacy of lawyers in an attempt first to falsely convict John (at the Magistrates Court) and then to strenuously deny his legitimate claim for compensation (at the County Court).”
However, Merseyside Police defended the actions of its officers. Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley said:
“We acknowledge the judgment of the court.
“Officers were called to reports of concern for the welfare of a male and were acting in the best interests of the individual.
“We received a subsequent complaint about the conduct of the officers which was investigated and not upheld. No further action rightly has been taken, and I thank and commend the officers for their actions in saving someone’s life. This shows the incredible selfless work of our staff every day.”
Content retrieved from: https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/police-officer-bent-innocent-mans-25715729.