Bristol

Police Tasered Bristol man with mental age of seven

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Media captionMax, now 28, has a mental age of seven and also has autism

A disabled man was Tasered by police and charged with assaulting an officer in a case that collapsed when his mother discovered CCTV of the incident.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the footage showed "rather different" events to those claimed by Avon and Somerset Police.

The police watchdog said failure to gather the CCTV "fell below standard" but there was no wrongdoing.

Avon and Somerset Police has issued a partial apology over the case.

But the police force said the incident had been subject to a "detailed and robust investigation" by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) and there was no case to answer for misconduct.

Image copyright Laurels CCTV
Image caption Police statements said Max stepped "towards them and pushed" a PC

Officers were called to The Laurels, a supported housing unit for vulnerable adults in Bristol, in August 2015 after reports of a cracked window.

Max, who has the mental age of a seven-year-old and whose name has been changed, had been drinking.

The audio recording of the radio call between the control room and the officers revealed they were told Max had "smashed a window at the location causing a bit of a disturbance, apparently he's intoxicated".

A transcript of a 999 call to police at the time, released on Wednesday, said "we don't feel safe, some of the clients don't feel safe and are vulnerable here, so it's best probably take him off the premises as soon as possible".

'Bare-chested'

The IOPC report references a radio call where the operator advises officers that there was a marker for violence on Max's record.

However, statements from officers reveal they were unable to hear this information before he was Tasered as Max was talking to them "in close proximity".

The 28-year-old was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer after police said he pushed them.

Police statements said a bare-chested Max, who also has autism, stepped towards them and pushed a PC "double-handed in the chest with open palms" and the officer "stumbled back two foot" before the Taser was used.

The officers said they were in danger and did not know if he was carrying a weapon.

Staff later said the "damage was caused accidentally" and those at the housing said they did not want to press charges.

Timeline of events

  • 12 August 2015: Police are called to a disturbance at The Laurels in St Pauls. They arrest and use a Taser on Max, then aged 24
  • November 2015: Trial at Bristol Magistrates' Court collapses after defence lawyers provide CCTV of the alleged assault to prosecutors
  • Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes to Avon and Somerset's Police and Crime Commissioner who orders an investigation into the case
  • Superintendent Pete Warren reports back
  • Max's mother takes case to IOPC, then called the IPCC
  • 6 October 2017: IOPC finds no evidence of misconduct

The case at Bristol Magistrates' Court collapsed in November 2015 when Max's mother, Margaret secured CCTV footage and handed it to the defence.

The CPS prosecutor that day, Kevin Withey, said the footage "shows an incident rather different to that described in the statements of the PCs".

The case was investigated after calls by MP Kerry McCarthy and Avon and Somerset's Police and Crime Commissioner but the force backed its officers, saying one had been kicked and they were unaware of Max's learning difficulties.

A further investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, now the IOPC, found "inaccuracies" in the officers' accounts but did not find evidence of any misconduct.

It recommended further disability awareness training for officers.

Image caption Max's mother Margaret feared her son would go to prison

Margaret is now urging the force to review its use of Tasers.

"If Max had been found guilty on the basis of their evidence, he would have been sent to prison," she said.

The IOPC said that although the actions of the officer who failed to gather the CCTV evidence "fell below the standard expected", they did not amount to misconduct.

Supt Richard Corrigan, from the force, said the decision to arrest Max "was necessary" and the IOPC report stated the arrest and use of Taser were reasonable.

'Inaccurate information'

"I am very happy to acknowledge the failures and to extend an apology to the family over two elements," he said.

"This is the failure in relation to the letter that was submitted to the police and crime commissioner which contained information that wasn't accurate.

"The second element was our absolute responsibility to secure the CCTV, which wasn't secured."

He added: "The IOPC identified a performance issue relating to a separate officer in relation to securing and preserving of CCTV evidence in connection with this case and a management plan was put in place to address this issue.

"Unfortunately, inaccurate information about the assault on an officer was initially given to the police and crime commissioner. The IOPC concluded this mistake had no influence on the way we dealt with this case, but we'd like to apologise for the error."

The force now has a "dedicated lead for autism" and all new officers and civilian investigators undergo training covering "autism spectrum conditions and other non-visible disabilities".

The force is under investigation for the use of a Taser against race relations group founder Judah Adunbi and over the repeated punching of a man who was detained under the Mental Health Act in Yeovil.

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