Sunday, April 13, 2014

'A policeman can shoot a blind man in the back and get away with it?'

Fury of Taser attack victim as blundering officer who mistook his white stick for a samurai sword is let off with an order to APOLOGISE

A police officer who shot a blind man with a Taser when he mistook his white stick for a samurai sword will keep his job - and has only been asked to apologise to the man.

Colin Farmer, 64, was hit with the stun gun in Chorley, Lancashire, by PC Stuart Wright in 2012 as he walked to his local pub.

Mr Farmer, who thought he was suffering a stroke, was then handcuffed by the police constable - who was responding to reports of a man in the town centre with a sword.

Mr Farmer was not released until the arrival of another officer whom PC Wright told: 'I think I’ve got the wrong person.'

Lancashire Constabulary held a two-day disciplinary hearing following a recommendation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) the officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

The meeting concluded PC Wright was not guilty of 'gross incompetence' - but should be issued with a performance improvement notice and that he be told to apologise personally to Mr Farmer.

Mr Farmer condemned the decision today. He said: 'This officer broke a rule, he should never have shot a blind man in the back from 6ft away. There was no urgency for him to pull the trigger -I could very easily have been dead.'

'The odds have not been in my favour. Since it happened I have been diagnosed with traumatic stress disorder because if what has been going on.

'Before it happened I had only been out of hospital five months after having a brain haemorrhage and stroke, my brain hadn't even had chance to recover and then this. Let's just say I'm happy that at least he won't be getting a promotion.

'He can live with his conscience, but I did nothing wrong, I'm the innocent victim. If he can shoot a blind man and get away with it what signal is that giving out to people.

'It wasn't a mistake, he pulled that trigger on purpose, he could have waited. I have lost faith in the police, I have had no justice. If it can get to this then god help anybody.

'These trigger happy police officers are killing people, if I had a pacemaker I would be dead by now. I don't want an apology because it's an insult to me. It seems like he has treated like a naughty schoolboy when I believe it was total negligence on his part.'

An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was launched after the incident in October 2012.

It discovered the man was walking away from PC Wright at the time and posed no threat.

A report from the police watchdog found PC Wright failed to take reasonable steps to ascertain if Mr Farmer was carrying a sword before he discharged the Taser.

He had used a level of force that was 'unnecessary and disproportionate to the circumstances' and caused further distress to Mr Farmer by detaining him in handcuffs despite it being 'obvious' he had the wrong man, it added.

PC Wright also ignored instructions and radio transmissions about how to deal with the incident, and failed to comply with local and national guidelines on the use of Taser.

IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said: 'Mr Farmer was subjected to what must have been a terrifying ordeal.

'Our view was that Pc Wright could and should have listened to instructions from his force controller and taken greater steps to ascertain whether Mr Farmer was the sword-carrying man that had been reported by members of the public and when he realised his mistake should have acted quicker to put things right.

'There is public concern about use of force, and, particularly, Taser. Incidents such as this do little to ease that concern.

'I hope that the personal apology to Mr Farmer allows the officer to reassure him that he will learn lessons from these events and that the improvement plan for the officer and measures taken by the force to improve its training and communications prevent further incidents such as this.'

In a statement, Lancashire Constabulary said: 'The officer was dealt with under Stage 3 of the Police (Performance) Regulations 2008 for Gross Incompetence by a panel made up of Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques, Chief Supt Richard Goodenough-Bayly and Mr Ashley Judd, the Constabulary’s Head of Human Resources.

'The panel found that the officer failed to perform his duties to a satisfactory standard on October 12, 2012, though his actions did not amount to gross incompetence.

'The officer will be issued with a Written Improvement Notice and be required to demonstrate specific performance improvements over a set timescale.

Additionally, the officer has expressed considerable regret over this incident and arrangements will be made for him to offer a personal apology to Mr Farmer.'

Mr Jacques added: 'First and foremost I would like to sincerely apologise to Mr Farmer on behalf of the Constabulary for what happened that evening and the resulting distress and anxiety he undoubtedly suffered.

'The officer made a dreadful mistake when he discharged his Taser, but was acting on a reasonable and honestly held belief that his actions were necessary to protect the public.

The officer did not perform his duties to a satisfactory standard but we did not feel that this amounted to gross incompetence.

'In addition to the findings relating to the individual officer this investigation has raised a number of issues for the constabulary to consider including the training given to officers carrying Taser."

Last year, Mr Farmer's lawyers said they had lodged a civil claim at the High Court for damages on grounds of assault and battery, false imprisonment and suffering inhumane and degrading treatment.

Last August the Crown Prosection Service said it would not take any criminal action against the officer as there was insufficent evidence to prove he had not been mistaken.

Original report here




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