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Court leaves force with 'difficult decision' on future of officer


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PC handed suspended prison sentence following conviction.

British Transport Police: Left with dilemma following the court decision

British Transport Police: Left with dilemma following the court decision

Date - 11th June 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
6 Comments6 Comments}

 

A force plans to review a court’s “disheartening” decision to impose a suspended jail term on an officer convicted of an assault for “carrying out his duties”. 

British Transport Police has spoken up for PC Andrew Spiby over the “difficult decision” officers face on how much force to use when responding to people fearing for their safety.

Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock promised to “consider the motivation” of the officer in the light of any subsequent appeal against his sentence at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.

PC Spiby, who had denied common assault after an incident at Derby railway station in May 2018 but was found guilty last month, was handed a 16-week suspended prison sentence, 120 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay compensation and costs totalling £1,390.

The guarded support by DCC Hanstock of the officer comes in the wake of a split decision by a court that convicted PC Spiby of assaulting a man with a Taser while clearing co-defendant PC John Severns of a similar offence despite being involved in the same incident.

The court heard last month officers were called to reports of a disturbance involving a group of people on one of the station platforms.

Two men were arrested at the scene and Derby-based PC Spiby deployed a Taser on one of the men, who also had incapacitant spray used on him twice by PC Severns.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct said the case had been referred to them after the man involved complained about the level of force used on him, and the effect of the incident on other members of his family who were present at the scene.

A report from their investigation found PC Spiby and PC Severns, from Nottingham station, had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

But DCC Hanstock argued after sentencing: “It is disheartening that a serving officer has been convicted of a criminal offence when carrying out their duties and we will of course review this court finding and the outcome of any subsequent appeal the officer makes.

“Using force during an arrest is undoubtedly a difficult decision for officers and there are numerous factors that can influence this.

“On this occasion however an officer‘s actions have been scrutinised in court and judged to have been unreasonable and the force will now have to consider the officers’ motivation and the objective implications of this.”

He added: “We will now review the findings of the court, and any potential misconduct action will be proportionate to the full circumstances the officers encountered."

IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said: "This was a serious incident which was witnessed by onlookers, including several young people.

"Police are entitled to use force but only if it is necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

"The public have to have confidence that officers will conduct themselves appropriately and in this case the court took the view that Pc Spiby did not do so."

 

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Going to be difficult to justify him keeping his job unless he appeals the courts decision. It does show that gone are the days of screwing up in public and getting away with it.

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The codes used by the force seem to heavily suggest that this decision is nonsense and they think he did nothing wrong. 

There needs to be an acknowledgement that we are not robots, we are being asked to basically fight people with 5 hours training a year and expected to do so like a master. 

The force, if they believe the officer is ok, should have the courage to stand by them. Sure I have read all about honestly and integrity in a book at work. 

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This is my worst nightmare, a case like this being heard at the magistrates court. I don’t intend any disrespect as such to Mags courts but they don’t always get it right or fully understand the law. 

I remember one experience where magistrates didn’t understand S5 of the public order act. 

Hopefully on appeal there will be some common sense here, clearly from the way the DCC has talked it would appear that the officer has not done a lot wrong.

Even if there was a guilty verdict I can’t understand the sentence at all, it doesn’t make any sense when compared with many other common assaults (assaults on police/DV etc).

The other thing, how did this even get charged in the first place. Try charging a low level common assault where the ‘IP’ has been the aggressor or been at fault. There is no way in a million years we would entertain such an allegation. The charging standards are ridiculously low when it comes to Police officers.

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Hyphen, Don't forget that qualified District Judges sit in the magistrates court so it might not have been a bench of 3 lay magistrates that heard this case. I can't find in any of the reports who adjudicated.

Having said that I find this verdict strange and the sentence even stranger.

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15 minutes ago, BILLIE said:

Hyphen, Don't forget that qualified District Judges sit in the magistrates court so it might not have been a bench of 3 lay magistrates that heard this case. I can't find in any of the reports who adjudicated.

Having said that I find this verdict strange and the sentence even stranger.

The article said it was a "split decision" so I assume it would have to be a bench of three..?

 

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16 minutes ago, BILLIE said:

Hyphen, Don't forget that qualified District Judges sit in the magistrates court so it might not have been a bench of 3 lay magistrates that heard this case. I can't find in any of the reports who adjudicated.

Having said that I find this verdict strange and the sentence even stranger.

I agree with the strange verdict, as you say. To convict for using his taser seems very strange, as the other officer was found not guilty.  Of course we do not have all the facts whereas the DCC will be fully aware of all the facts. However, his comments would leave you to believe that he did not agree with the verdict.  The officer could appeal the verdict and the sentence but that will be a huge cost and with no guarantee that another Court would a) overturn the verdict and b) could even increase the sentence or even withdraw the suspended part of it.

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Hyphen, I took the "split decision" to refer to the fact that 1 officer was convicted and 1 acquitted.

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Further to my last. Magistrates benches do not disclose split decisions in Court. The verdict is from the bench as a whole even if there was a split in the retiring room.

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49 minutes ago, BILLIE said:

Hyphen, I took the "split decision" to refer to the fact that 1 officer was convicted and 1 acquitted.

 

43 minutes ago, BILLIE said:

Further to my last. Magistrates benches do not disclose split decisions in Court. The verdict is from the bench as a whole even if there was a split in the retiring room.

Oh. My bad. Sorry

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On 12/06/2019 at 15:04, BILLIE said:

 

Having said that I find this verdict strange and the sentence even stranger.

It is entirely normal that where several are charged that some will be found guilty and others not.  

But back to the OP, this is surely not the first time the CC has had to decide about an officer found guilty at a court!

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