A police sergeant whose force was warned that he was a ‘thug in uniform’ is to be reinstated to his former position, despite damning video evidence that shows him allegedly mistreating a prisoner.
Sgt Mark Andrews was dismissed by Wiltshire Police after being seen on CCTV in July 2008 dragging Pamela Somerville, 60, across the floor. He was dismissed in January but the decision has been overturned on appeal and he must now be reinstated.
Questions are now being asked as to whether or not there is one law for the police and one law for the rest of us. Whilst not a new question by any means, the news that Sgt Andrews is to be reinstated comes in the same week as a major corruption trial of Welsh police officers collapsed when the judge decreed that those accused would not receive a fair trial. Apparently vital documents had been “lost”.
In the case of Sgt Andrews however, the incident involving Ms Somerville was not an isolated event. It is worrying to note that Sgt Andrews had form in being what many have described as a “thug in uniform”.
Following a previous incident, civil servant Keith Turner, 52, of The Ridgeway, Warminster, came forward to say that he was punched and kicked by Andrews in 2006 in an incident that left him with injuries to the face, arm, back and thigh.
Mr Turner, who has four children, said: “I told them back then that he was a thug in uniform.
“I was taken to Melksham Police Station and when I arrived I told the custody sergeant that Andrews had assaulted me and that I wanted to make an official complaint.”
The ordeal took place outside Warminster’s Bath Arms pub on July 1, 2006. Police were called by the pub staff who claimed Mr Turner had sworn at them. He made an official complaint against Andrews and five other officers. A report into the investigation revealed Andrews admitted punching Mr Turner “as hard as he could”.
Yet again, all the officers concerned were cleared of any inappropriate behaviour.
TheOpinionSite.org invites you to take a look at the video below and draw your own conclusions but it is fairly obvious that if any member of the public were to behave in the way that Andrews appears to be behaving, they would surely be charged, convicted and probably locked up – and not for just the 6 days that Andrews spent in jail before, unbelievably, being released on bail.
In September 2010 Sgt Andrews was found guilty of causing Ms Somerville actual bodily harm and was jailed for six months. Sgt Andrews spent six days in prison, but was released on bail pending an appeal at Oxford Crown Court, which he later won in November 2010.
Wiltshire Police said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the ruling. TheOpinionSite.org believes that what is even more ‘surprising and disappointing’ is that the case was brought after a fellow officer, PC Rachel Webb, reported the incident to senior officers and gave evidence against Sgt Andrews yet her evidence seems to have been conveniently ignored or disbelieved by the judge.
Not only does the actions of PC Webb show that there are still some police officers who are not corrupt and are prepared to do the right thing in reporting power-drunk colleagues but it also shows that the evidence of a police officer is not sufficient to sway a judge whose prime consideration appears not to have been justice but more the reputation of the police in general.
At Oxford Crown Court, after conceding that Sgt Andrews ‘could have done things better’, appeal judge Mr Justice Bean quashed the conviction saying he was satisfied that Sgt Andrews had not deliberately meant to harm Ms Somerville.
He said her injuries ‘were probably caused by her falling to the floor after letting go of the door frame’. Sgt Andrews told the appeal that Ms Somerville was the most unpredictable prisoner he had ever come across and had been abusive. He added: ‘I don’t think I did anything wrong.’
Ms Somerville, who is now partially blind in her left eye and is awaiting cataract surgery, said: ‘The CCTV footage of what happens speaks for me as well as the fact there is to be an inquiry.”
This is all horribly reminiscent of Lord Denning when he dismissed the first appeal of the Birmingham Six .
In 1980, Lord Denning refused the appeal of the Birmingham Six, giving as one of his reasons: “If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous – – -. That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say, ‘It cannot be right that these actions should go any further’.”
In the case of ‘Sgt’ Andrews , as he is now referred to once again, TheOpinionSite.org – which usually has respect for judges in general – must ask whether the appeal judge on this case was blind, deaf, stupid or all three. If his Lordship is neither of these things, which one hopes would be the case, it begs the question as to whether he, like Lord Denning is nevertheless prepared to do anything to protect the police from criticism in the hope that we, the public, will accept all officers as being honest and incorruptible; something that most people in the real world are no longer prepared to do.
If one looks back over the news of the last 12 months, it will become obvious that many police officers, like many of their colleagues in the Probation Service and Prison Service, believe that they are above the Law. Over the last year, police officers have been convicted of sexual assault, handling class A drugs, violence, illegal use of the Police National Computer and many other offences.
Much of this unlawful behavior stems from the belief of those concerned that they are above the Law and cannot be touched; something that becomes easier to believe every time a policeman is cleared of an offence that to most people relies on evidence proving the guilt of the accused.
In all the cases where former police officers have been sent down, the evidence has been unarguable, clear cut and incontrovertible. Why then, faced with video evidence that most people would agree shows a police officer acting with disrespect and without a care in the world for the physical well-being of an arrested person, does a High Court judge decide that the police officer is innocent?
Would the same consideration be given to someone facing an entirely false accusation of rape or child abuse where there was no real evidence at all other than the word of the alleged victim? No, unless the politicians and judges wanted to be attacked by women’s groups, tabloids and often massive – and wealthy – child protection organizations.
There are, even by the government’s own admission, very many innocent people in the UK serving long jail sentences, many of them for ‘easy target’ convictions like child abuse or conspiracy where little real evidence is needed to convict. The excuse offered by successive governments is that ‘no system of justice is perfect’ and that ‘the appeal system works’, although ministers always shy away from the fact that the appeal system only ‘works’ often after the prisoner has already spent 20 years in custody.
TheOpinionSite.org would suggest that it is unlikely that you will find many ex-police officers among this group of innocent prisoners. Maybe, despite all the protestations to the contrary from the police and the government, there really is ‘one law for the police and one law for the rest of us’.
If that truly is the case then we had better all watch out, for when that scenario exists, none of us are safe from false accusation, false imprisonment and a Rule of Law that far from being democratic, is instead tyrannical, oppressive and typical of an embryonic police state of the kind that those in power in Britain are always so easy to criticise – except when it is in their own backyard or sitting on their doorstep.