Humberside Police has paid damages to a man who was punched and kicked on the floor by officers after handcuffing and arresting him for being drunk and disorderly.
Victim David Prosser suffered a head injury in the arrest, which was captured on CCTV and led to a police sergeant begging to keep his job.
The sergeant and another police officer were both found guilty of gross misconduct and using ‘excessive force’ at an internal Humberside Police disciplinary. Both were allowed to remain in their jobs however, and were given final written warnings.
Today, having won damages from the force after taking legal action through Hudgell Solicitors, Mr Prosser, 27, said the incident, and subsequent battle for justice, has destroyed his trust in the police.
Officers’ actions were caught on CCTV and led to final written warnings
During the arrest, Mr Prosser was handcuffed before being pinned against the back of a police van.
CCTV footage – which has been circulated by the media today – shows him going to the ground whilst handcuffed, before clearly being kicked by the sergeant when on the floor. Mr Prosser hit his head in his fall, causing extensive bleeding and concussion.
As part of legal action led by civil liberties specialist Andrew Petherbridge, papers lodged at the Court and served upon the Chief Constable by Hudgell Solicitors criticised the officers for trying to ‘conceal their actions’, highlighting how the sergeant had approached his colleague afterwards saying CCTV had ‘captured me booting him on the floor’ and that they ‘needed to compare notes’.
When the footage was played back to the officers, the police sergeant offered a full apology, admitting he had ‘overstepped the mark’. He begged to be allowed to keep his job.
Lawyer Mr Petherbridge says the force’s representatives made a ‘derisory amount’ to settle following initial legal representations.
Subsequent investigations and medical assessments revealed Mr Prosser to be suffering from post-concussion syndrome – a mild form of traumatic brain injury – persistent headaches and long-term psychological injuries,
The force denies the officers’ actions had caused long-term injuries, however they still offered a substantial increase in damages, and a five-figure settlement.
‘They attacked me. They are not fit to wear the police uniform’
Mr Prosser, now 27, admits to have been drunk on the night, but says the approach of officers, and the impact it has had on his life, has left him distrusting of police officers.
He was left with his arm in a cast for six weeks after the night, cuts and scarring to his face, a bloodshot eye and blurred vision. Longer term, he still suffers from daily headaches, black spots in his vision, persistent tinnitus and poor memory and concentration and says he is still reluctant to go out with his friends.
He initially found himself charged with assaulting one of the two officers in the execution of his duty, as well as a public order offence, but when he made an official complaint an investigation into the officers’ conduct was launched and CCTV footage was reviewed.
A Personal Safety Trainer at South Yorkshire Police, who reviewed the footage, was of the opinion that when Mr Prosser was grabbed in a headlock, already handcuffed, he was placed in a position which ‘may have made it difficult to breathe.’
Both charges against Mr Prosser were subsequently dismissed at Hull Magistrates Court as no evidence was offered to support them, but he admitted resisting arrest.
He said: “These police officers are meant to be honest and are meant to serve and protect people, yet they attacked me and punched and kicked me on the ground. Then, when they were back at the station, the first thing the sergeant was doing was looking to cover his back.
“He denied doing any wrong until the video footage was shown to them, and was only apologetic when he saw the CCTV and started thinking about saving his job.
“I was also the one initially charged with an offence, and had the CCTV not caught what happened, I wouldn’t have been able to prove what happened to me. I’d have been found guilty of assaulting them.
“I am so glad they got caught on the CCTV. The first time I saw the footage was when the officers were having their disciplinary hearings and it was hard for me to watch myself being manhandled like that. I don’t think they are fit to wear the uniform and I didn’t think they should have kept their jobs.”
Mr Prosser had been in Hull city centre drinking with work colleagues on Saturday, October 26, 2013 when arrested. He says such has been the impact of what happened that night, he now rarely ventures into the city on a night.
“Much of that night is a blur to me now. I have a vague recollection of struggling and then hitting my head. The next thing I remember was being in hospital. The rest is just flashes on the night,” he said.
“It has had a big impact on me. I used to like a night out but now I rarely go into town, and if I do it is only with a few friends or family. I feel anxious when I am out and can’t really relax and enjoy myself.
“I still get headaches nearly every day also, my vision often goes blurred and I see these black dots. I’ve been told my post-concussion syndrome will last for some considerable time.
“Yes, I was drunk, and of course I didn’t want to be arrested, but the police are meant to be there to handle situations like that calmly and help people who’ve had a bit too much drink to go home safely. They shouldn’t be causing them to need hospital treatment because they’ve cuffed them, thrown them to the ground and punched and kicked them.”
Damages settlement reflects impact of the officers’ actions on victim
Reflecting on the legal case, Mr Petherbridge said: “It has taken a long time to bring this case to a successful conclusion for Mr Prosser, and for Humberside Police to offer settlement which reflects the impact of the actions of the officers on that night.
“The indisputable facts in this matter are that unreasonable force was used. It was completely unacceptable for officers to be punching and kicking Mr Prosser, particularly when he was on the floor and already handcuffed.
“It is also shocking, and does nothing for public trust in our police officers, to have learned of the sergeant talking about comparing notes.
“This sort of behaviour should not be tolerated in any police force, and members of the public should not be subjected to this kind of treatment.”