September 14, 2022
CPS Agrees to Drop Serious Violence Prosecutions for Two Clients
Our client, JK, was charged with obstructing or resisting a police officer in the execution of his duty. He pleaded not guilty, arguing that the officer acted unlawfully when exercising his stop and search powers. Kevin Hill represented JK at his trial before a District Judge at Poole Magistrates’ Court. Following Kevin’s expert presentation of the case and skilful cross-examination of the police officer in question, the District Judge found JK not guilty and acquitted him of the charge.
Our client, JK, was charged with obstructing or resisting a police officer in the execution of his duty contrary to section 89(2) of the Police Act 1996. He pleaded not guilty, arguing that the officer acted unlawfully when exercising his stop and search powers. Kevin Hill represented JK at his trial before a District Judge at Poole Magistrates’ Court. Following Kevin’s expert presentation of the case and skilful cross-examination of the police officer in question, the District Judge found JK not guilty and acquitted him of the charge.
The incident happened in Bournemouth Town Centre on a busy Saturday night in the early hours of the morning. The police had been called following an incident at a nightclub where the door staff reported that two males had been threatening towards them. The police stopped our client whilst he was walking along Old Christchurch Road with his partner during a night out in town, saying that he matched the description of one of the males involved in the trouble. Our client explained to the six officers on the scene that they had got the wrong man. The police spoke to him for a few minutes, during which he agreed to give his details and showed them identification. Those police officers later confirmed in their statements that JK had been calm and cooperative with them.
Very suddenly another officer came on the scene and charged towards our client, grabbed hold of him by the arm and pushed him up against a metal door shutter whilst shouting that he was detaining him for the purpose of a search. The incident escalated suddenly as many police officers joined in. They sprayed our client with PAVA incapacitant spray, pulled him to the ground and then officers piled on top of him on the pavement. He was handcuffed, searched, then arrested for resisting police and detained at the police station for interview and charge.
Our client later attended A&E following the incident with the police and an x-ray revealed that he had sustained a cracked rib.
JK asked for Hill Twine Solicitors to represent him at the police station. Given the fact that the police were investigating an alleged offence against one of their number, it was crucial for our client to be represented properly at that early stage following the arrest.
The police accepted that JK had not been involved in any incident at the nightclub involving door staff. Accordingly, he was not charged with any offence relating to that. He was, however, charged with an offence of obstructing or resisting a police officer in the execution of his duty.
The police officer later claimed that whilst other officers were speaking with JK on Old Christchurch Road he had heard information on the radio (that the other officers on the scene had not heard) that a member of the public had reported that the man involved in the night club incident may have had a knife. That was his justification for the stop and search. No knife, or indeed anything else illegal, was found on our client.
JK was represented by Kevin Hill at the first hearing at the magistrates’ court and pleaded not guilty to the charge of obstructing or resisting the police officer in the execution of his duty. The police failed to comply with court directions to serve disclosure including CCTV and the police Body Worn Video. We had to put pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service to provide all the videos and other disclosure. Kevin did a Defence Statement (something which is not mandatory in the magistrates’ court) and we had the case listed back before a judge when we made submissions on the failures of the Crown Prosecution Service. This pro-active defence approach led to important material being provided which assisted our client’s defence.
Kevin Hill argued at trial that the police officer was not acting in the execution of his duty. This was because the officer had acted unlawfully in carrying out the stop and search.
Kevin skilfully cross-examined the police officer on the use of his stop and search powers. The officer tried to justify not complying with the law because of the risk posed by the man possibly having a knife and having been threatening earlier on. This was in the face of the evidence, including on the body worn video, showing JK being completely calm and complying with the officers. One officer had even stated in the video that nothing disorderly had happened until the officer in question grabbed hold of JK to detain him!
It became clear in cross-examination that the police officer had used force as a first resort, not a last resort. He rushed in and grabbed hold of our client, pushing his face up against a metal shutter and trying to force his arm up behind his back. He had no power to do this.
The judge agreed with Kevin’s presentation of the case and was persuaded by the cross-examination of the police officer that he has acted unlawfully when detaining JK for the purpose of a search. He found JK not guilty.
This successful outcome was dependent on the client being represented by an expert criminal defence lawyer who:
The charge of obstructing or resisting a police officer requires the relevant police officer to be acting lawfully in the execution of their duty. In JK’s case, in accordance with the evidence, Kevin Hill submitted that this officer was not acting lawfully and was therefore acting outside the exercise of his duty. The judge found that he could not be sure (the legal test) that the officer was acting in the exercise of his duty, following the cross-examination by Kevin Hill.
There were serious failings in the way the police had dealt with this supposed stop and search.
The police stop and search powers derive from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) sections 1 and 2. Section 2 sets out the procedure that a police officer must follow when conducting a stop and search. It states that if a police officer contemplates a search, it shall be his duty to take reasonable steps to bring to the attention of the person:
There are Codes of Practice (COP) supporting PACE and they set out the police’s powers and obligations.
COP A 3.1 states: All stops and searches must be carried out with courtesy, consideration and respect for the person concerned.
COP A 3.2 states: The co-operation of the person to be searched must be sought in every case, even if a person initially rejects to the search. A forcible search may be made only if it established that the person is unwilling to co-operate or resists. Reasonable force may be used as a last resort.
The law relating to stop and search is extremely important. Every person has the right not to be stopped by the police unless there is a proper justification, and even then they have the right to be treated with courtesy, consideration and respect. That is why the law is clear about the procedures to be followed. Stop and search has become a controversial area of law because it is a power too commonly abused by the police.
Hill Twine Solicitors specialise in criminal prosecutions involving the abuse of police powers and our clients benefit from our experience and expert criminal defence representation. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.
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