A police officer who used unlawful force after he detained a suspected burglar has been found guilty of common assault by beating.
PC Richard Smith now faces being sacked from Gloucestershire Police following the guilty verdict passed by a District Judge today, Monday, October 4.
The 49-year-old was given a suspended prison sentence, and has been suspended from Gloucestershire Police ahead of a disciplinary hearing.
The case related to a single action carried out by PC Smith after he and a colleague had detained a man in the early hours of the morning while investigating reports of suspicious activity around a house in Dursley.
A local resident called police after spotting someone going in and out of his back garden on his CCTV, and PC Smith and a colleague arrived and detained a man in his 40s in connection with the incident.
The man was handcuffed and later placed face down on the ground by the two officers. The court heard that, up until that point, what the officers had done was legal and showed reasonable use of force to restrain the man. But it was what PC Smith did then, that meant he was charged with common assault and ultimately convicted. Bodyworn video shown to the court revealed that PC Smith then took hold of the victim’s arm and the handcuffs and pushed his arms up towards his shoulder blades.
“Up until the use of this restraint the officer’s actions were justified, however the court determined that at the point this technique was used the man was not offering any threat and therefore the use of force used by PC Smith was neither reasonable or justified,” said a spokesperson for Gloucestershire Police. “It was therefore considered unlawful.”
“PC Smith’s account was that the victim’s behaviour had escalated and that he was not responding to or complying with instructions. The officer deemed that the level of force applied was both reasonable and necessary for his and his colleague’s safety, and in order for the detained man to be compliant and be searched,” he added.
The incident happened at 5.48am on Sunday, November 22 last year, and eventually, PC Smith, who worked in the Stroud local policing team, was charged with common assault by beating and put on trial in front of a District Judge 60 miles away at Kidderminster Magistrates Court.
The detained man who was assaulted by PC Smith was later arrested, but released from police custody and faced no further action.
After today’s hearing, Assistant Chief Constable Rhiannon Kirk said: “This incident will understandably be concerning for anyone to hear. Use of force must be justified and reasonable and it has been established in court today that on this occasion the officer’s actions were deemed unlawful.
“PC Smith had been on restricted duties following the charge and has now been suspended pending misconduct proceedings,” she added.
“Due to the pending misconduct hearing we cannot comment on this case any further at this time.
“More broadly, we can reassure people that officers are given regular training so that they understand only to use force when it is necessary and how to use the approved techniques. Cases involving the use of force are regularly reviewed and a scrutiny panel, made up of members of the public, feeds back findings on individual incidents.
“Where concerns are raised this can lead to further action or learning for the officers. The minutes of the panel meetings are published regularly on our website, along with statistics around how often we use force, why we have used it and who we have used it on,” she added.