Wiltshire Police Federation concerned at treatment of cleared PC in Tasering case (From Wiltshire Times)
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Wiltshire Police Federation concerned at treatment of cleared PC in Tasering case
Updated 4:01pm Tuesday 6th May 2014 in News
Concerns over the treatment of PC Lee Birch - cleared of any wrongdoing regarding the Tasering of Trowbridge man Daniel Dove - have been voiced by Wiltshire Police Federation.
PC Birch, who was cleared after a five day trial at Bristol Crown Court last week, still faces an Independent Police Complaints Commission into the incident.
Mike White, chairman of the federation, said in a statement: “The Police Federation’s role is to ensure the views of ordinary police officers are fairly represented. I have received many messages from police officers across Wiltshire welcoming the not guilty verdict and expressing their support for Lee.
"Because all police officers join as constables they understand the pressures that are faced when dealing with aggressive, violent and drunken individuals.
"Not a day goes by where an officer, somewhere in Wiltshire is not subjected to violence or threats of violence.
"Through experience police officers learn to recognise the signs of escalating violence often having to make a split second decision on the most appropriate response.
"Lee is a an experienced, honest, hardworking and professional police officer who, on recognising an increasing threat of violence responded in a way which the jury deemed to be proportionate, lawful and appropriate.
"Every police officer is aware that they are individually accountable for any decision to use force. As in this case such decisions can be subject to intense scrutiny.
"Many people have seen a CCTV video clip of the incident and will have formed a view of the incident from that short clip.
"Whilst I acknowledge the impact this video clip may have on public opinion I ask that you consider that it is a single piece of evidence and, viewed in isolation, risks representing an unbalanced view of the case.
"In total, five days of evidence, which included CCTV of the custody booking in procedure in addition to the incident in the cell, was presented in court.
"The jury then made an informed decision on all of the evidence that was presented to them.
"As well as the messages of support from officers many have voiced their concerns over the ‘double jeopardy’ that police officers face in such circumstances.
"Immediately following the not guilty verdict the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced that an investigation, managed by them, will consider whether the actions of Lee Birch breached standards of professional behaviour.
"Police officers are not, and never should be, immune to being held accountable for their use of force however in this case Lee Birch’s actions have already been scrutinised, in public, in a court of law.
"I question whether it is genuinely in the public interest to pursue misconduct proceedings against officers in such cases.
"Government guidelines advise that, following an acquittal, consideration should be given as to whether an officer should then face misconduct proceedings.
"The tone and speed of the IPCC’s press release raises questions as to whether government guidelines and the basic principles of fairness are being applied to Lee Birch in this case. I will shortly be writing to Lee’s local MP to ask him to look into this matter.
"The final issue raised by our officers is the fact that a drunken, violent individual has never been held to account for the assaults he perpetrated on two Wiltshire police officers in the events leading up to the Taser incident.
"Wiltshire Police officers deserve the protection of the courts from violent individuals and the federation will be seeking a review into the decision to discontinue the charges of assault on police.”