TWO police detention officers accused of assaulting a detainee are facing misconduct procedures after being found guilty of using unnecessary force after a man had been arrested.
Durham Constabulary Sergeant Stephen Harvey, 50, and civilian detention officer Michael Mount, 61, were each found guilty of two counts of assault against David Healer, 48, at Peterlee Police Station, after a two-day trial at Teesside Magistrates’ Court.
Magistrates heard Mr Healer was “unco-operative” during questioning and Mount and Harvey were accused of assaulting him to get him to answer questions during the incident on March 5 last year.
CCTV footage shown in court showed Harvey place Mr Healer in an armlock when he failed to answer admittance procedure questions, while Mount held his other arm across the desk.
When Harvey asked: “Are you going to answer my questions?” and Mr Healer, who was screaming in agony,- said: “All right”, the officers let go.
The second charge arose from Harvey pulling Mr Healer’s arm across the counter and twisting it three times while Mount again held it down.
They had claimed they were acting accordingly in the circumstances.
Harvey said he used the initial armlock as Mr Healer was acting aggressively and that he used force in the second instance because he was concerned he was falling into unconsciousness.
But chairman of the magistrates’ bench, Oliver Johnson, finding guilty verdicts after two hours and 20 minutes of deliberation, found “unlawful force had been used”.
He said: “Mr Healer, on the CCTV footage, shows no sign of threat whilst he is unwilling or unable to stand.
“There was no aggression aimed at anybody.”
He said the suggestion that Mr Healer may have fallen to the ground in the second instance was “implausible” as two police constables were behind him.
After the case, Mr Healer, a father-of-six and grandfather of two from Seaham who runs his own DIY store, said: “I do feel justice has been done. I just want to get on with my life and put this behind me.”
Harvey, of Fenwick Close, Chester-le-Street, and Mount, of Dunelm Road, Thornley, will return to court for sentencing on April 13 after each being found guilty of two counts of assault by battery against Mr Healer.
Both were granted unconditional bail in the meantime.
Superintendent Darren Ellis, head of Durham Constabulary’s Professional Standards Department, said: “This incident took place when an arrested man was being booked into custody.
“Durham Constabulary rightly expects the highest standards of professional behaviour from all officers and staff.
“When this behaviour is suspected of falling below that level, we aim to take effective action. We co-operated fully with the IPCC independent investigation into this matter.
“The court has found the two defendants guilty and they will now both be subject to misconduct proceedings.
“Following this investigation, we have reminded all staff working in custody areas that they need to treat people fairly, with dignity and with respect at all times, and to use only such restraint as is reasonable, necessary and proportionate under the circumstances.”
Independent Police Complaints Commissioner Nicholas Long said: “A detained person is not under obligation to answer questions. It would appear Sgt Harvey and CDO Mount had forgotten this and decided it was necessary to try to gain compliance through the use of force.
“It is sad and frankly astonishing that in the 21st Century experienced members of the police service believed inflicting pain as a way of eliciting responses to questions was acceptable. I consider it completely unacceptable and it could be argued their actions amounted to a form of torture.”