Wheelclamping arrest was unlawful, police panel hears

A police officer wrongfully arrested Nicholas van Hoogstraten’s son for wheelclamping a car and then lied about it afterwards, a tribunal heard today.

Hoogstraten was acquitted of homophobic abuse for calling PC James Breeds a poofter during the same incident in August 2019, after magistrates ruled it was said too quietly to be an offence.

His son, Alexander Hamilton, complained to Sussex Police about his arrest, and today Mr Breeds faces a disciplinary panel accused of gross misconduct, which he denies.

Representing Sussex Police, James Berry said the incident started when a Lexus driver parked in Mr Hamilton’s car park in The Drive, Hove.

The car had been parked there for several days, despite notes being left on the windscreen, and eventually, it was clamped and another note left telling the driver to call or go to Mr Hamilton’s offices nearby to have it removed.

The driver then called Sussex Police, and PCSO Simon Quirk attended, followed later by more PCSOS and Mr Breeds (who is no longer a police officer), who was given the windscreen note.

Mr Breeds explained to Mr Hamilton that clamping is a criminal offence, dealt with by police, but parking on private land without permission is a civil one, which Mr Hamilton would have to pursue by himself.

He asked Mr Hamilton to removed the clamp, and said otherwise it would be cut off.

Mr Hamilton then took the windscreen note from Mr Breeds, and shortly afterwards went into his office.

Mr Berry said: “Mr Breeds asked for the note back and followed Mr Hamilton towards the property.

“Once inside, Mr Hamilton said he would not give the note back. Mr Breeds forced his way into the property. He then arrested Mr Hamilton for immobilising a vehicle.

“Mr Breeds was assisted by PCSO Higgins and another PCSO. He applied a handcuff to one of Mr Hamilton’s hands and then sprayed his face with PAVA spray [a police issued irritant spray] at close range.

“A second pair of handcuffs was required due to Mr Hamilton’s muscular build.”

The panel was shown footage from police body worn cameras and from Mr Hamilton’s mother’s mobile phone.

The police footage showed Mr Breeds explaining the situation to Mr Hamilton, who talked loudly over him.

He said he had clamped the car to stop it parking without permission, and demanded to know why he wouldn’t go and get the driver’s details for him.

He also called Mr Breeds “slow” and sarcastically referred to him as a “genius”.

Giving evidence this afternoon, Mr Hamilton denied he had been rude to Mr Breeds and said he had not been responsible for the wheel clamp being put on the car.

He said: “I’m there as a mediator, as a calm head to facilitate the agreement. [Mr Breed’s] presence did eventually begin to irritate me. He wasn’t helping – a police officer that doesn’t help isn’t much use.”

He accused Mr Breeds of smirking as he told him he would need to approach the DVLA to get the driver’s details.

He said: “I might have been frustrated with the situation but intimidation of an officer wasn’t my intention.

“He decided I don’t like the way this guy’s speaking to me, let’s try to arrest him for this piece of paper which wasn’t important a minute ago.”

PCSO Simon Quirk, who was first on the scene, told the panel that he had managed to calm down the situation, but it escalated once Mr Breeds arrived.

He said: “The situation has lowered, looking at the level of offence, and now it’s exploded into lots of different things now.”

One of the PCSOs who helped arrest Mr Hamilton, PCSO Hughes, said: “He [Mr Hamilton] really took a dislike to PC Breeds and the police in general, because aren’t happy when they’re arrested.

“He didn’t agree with the decisions and was being quite vocal. During the arrest, he was struggling.”

Mr Breeds has already been dismissed for gross misconduct after a previous panel found he had lied when responding to a complaint, and failed to notify the force about an association with someone with a criminal record – which he had also denied.

This means the panel cannot pass any further sanction on him if they find gross misconduct.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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