A UK police officer has been blasted by a judge and jury for his ‘heavy-handed’ treatment of a suspect who refused to leave the scene where a woman had suffered a medical episode. The altercation - which took place in Oxford during the early hours of June 5 last year - was caught on bodywork footage and shows PC Lewis Quarterman pepper spray the man in the face.
Daniel James was accused of filming paramedics at the scene before he was pushed and tripped by officers who used a force-issue Captor pepper spray on him. The jury at Oxford Crown Court found James guilty of common assault in relation to spitting at an officer, but cleared the 45-year-old of biting another copper’s ankle.
After delivering the verdict, jurors took the extraordinary step of raising concern about the behaviour of the arresting officers. In a note passed to the judge, they wrote: “The way Mr James was treated in the build up to these events felt very heavy-handed and appear very provocative.
“We empathise with Mr James’ sense of injustice at being sprayed and taken to the floor.”
The jury’s view was echoed by Judge Ian Pringle KC, who took what he described as an ‘exceptional’ course and imposed a two year conditional discharge when he sentenced James on Friday (August 25). After reading the jury’s statement, Judge Pringle added: “It seems that my view of this case was not isolated.”
Judge Pringle KC said he saw ‘no good reason’ for the defendant to have been sprayed in the face with Captor by PC Quarterman. “I don’t think there was any necessity for you to be treated in the way that you were in the initial part of this episode,” he said.
In the footage, an officer, known as PC North was one of the first to arrive and went straight to James and told him to move on. Initially, James protested and said he did not have a camera and was not filming but PC North then tried to push the defendant backwards.
James tells the officer to ‘suck your mum’, which was when PC Quarterman ran up to him and sprayed him in the face without warning. The same officer then, in the words of the judge, ‘tripped’ the defendant up to get him to the ground.
They detained James while members of the public filmed and asked the PCs to get the man water. Two officers, PCs Henry Lapworth and David Griffiths, took the suspect to the back of a police van to search him. The back doors were open, as was the door to the ‘cage’ inside the vehicle.
On the footage, the wet pepper spray was still apparently visible on his face, and he is heard telling officers: “I didn’t do nothing. Why the f*** you treat me like this. You spray me and all of that, blud.”
PC Lapworth told him: “Don’t look in my face. You’re covered in Captor, buddy.”
James, who is black, accused the officers of being ‘f***ing racist’, with PC Lapworth replying: “I don’t think we are.”
The suspect was taken to the floor and pinned by around four or five officers. One of them, PC Griffiths, claimed to have been bitten in the lower leg by James, telling jurors he had looked down to see James’ teeth around his boot and the lip of his sock.
Photographs taken later that evening showed no marks to the boot or ankle, and the jury found James not guilty of assaulting the constable. Thames Valley Police initially refused to release the footage shown in open court to the press but it was released after a formal application was made to the judge by the Oxford Mail.
A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said after the hearing: “The matter has been referred to our Professional Standards Department. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”