Wednesday, February 17, 2016

At last! Police officer and PCSO jailed over death of disabled man whose calls they ignored

A policeman and a community support officer have been jailed for failing to prevent the murder of a disabled man who was beaten to death by his neighbours after calling for help 12 times in a day.

PC Kevin Duffy and PCSO Andrew Passmore were found guilty of misconduct in a public office in connection with the death of Bijan Ebrahimi in Bristol three years ago.

The 44-year-old murder victim was killed and set alight by neighbours who wrongly thought he was a paedophile, after police ignored his complaints that he was being threatened.

Duffy, 52, was today sentenced to 10 months in prison at Bristol Crown Court while Passmore, 56, was jailed for four months.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Duffy saw Mr Ebrahimi, an Iranian refugee, as a liar and a nuisance, disregarding his repeated calls in the days leading up to the murder in July 2013.

Passmore was found to have lied by telling murder detectives he had patrolled outside Mr Ebrahimi's home for an hour when it had actually been a few minutes.

The two men were convicted by a jury in December, and were both dismissed by Avon and Somerset Police last month.

Mr Ebrahimi's death is currently being investigated by the police watchdog, while more than a dozen officers and staff face disciplinary proceedings.

Judge Neil Ford QC told the pair that he was jailing them 'with a heavy heart' and suggested that Mr Ebrahimi's death could partly be attributed to 'wider failings in the police'.

He said: 'I cannot go behind the jury's verdicts and it is with a heavy heart that in each of your cases I take the view that only a custodial sentence is appropriate. 'It doesn't seem to me a proper consequence of your wrongdoing that the sentences need be long. 'You have already suffered greatly. You have already lost your careers and in each of your cases there is genuine justification for mercy.

'You must not bear the responsibilities for the wider failings in the police which were beyond your control.'

He accepted that the murder victim was 'not an easy man to deal with', but told Duffy: 'You regarded Mr Ebrahimi as a nuisance and someone who could not be wholly trusted.'

The judge added that Passmore had 'no need' to lie about his patrol and said that it was not just 'an innocent mistake'.

Members of Duffy's and Passmore's families gasped and exclaimed 'Jesus Christ' as the sentences were passed.

Ian Stern QC, representing Duffy, told the court his client's action had 'no consequences' in Mr Ebrahimi's death, adding: 'He has lost his good character, his employment and a significant financial sum for him and his family.

'He is a broken man and he will not work obviously in the areas in which he has hitherto worked and the public will be all the more poorer for that.'

Michael Borrelli QC, for Passmore - a former soldier - said his client was the carer for his elderly mother and stepfather and suffered from low IQ and memory problems.

During their seven-week trial, jurors heard how Mr Ebrahimi dialled 999 to report that Lee James had come into his flat and headbutted him.

James wrongly believed that Mr Ebrahimi had filmed his young children, when he had actually been gathering evidence of anti-social behaviour.

When police arrived at the scene they found a mob outside the refugee's home, while James shouted: 'Paedo! I'm going to f****** kill you.'

Instead of dealing with the vigilantes, police arrested Mr Ebrahimi for breaching the peace and held him in the cells overnight.

After he was released, he made 12 calls to the non-emergency number 101 and was told that Duffy would visit him but refused to speak to him on the phone.

Mr Ebrahimi told one officer: 'My life is in danger. Right now a few of my neighbours are outside and shouting and calling me a paedophile. I need to see PC Duffy.'

Duffy told a supervisor: 'He should be told in no uncertain terms that I will speak to him at my convenience. It's Mr Bijan Ebrahimi. He's well known to me and I won't be taking any calls from him.'

He asked Passmore to conduct a 'bit of a foot patrol' around Mr Ebrahimi's home at about 8.40pm.

Passmore later told murder detectives that he had spent 40 minutes on foot patrol on the estate and a further 20 minutes on the adjoining streets.

The jury convicted him of lying about this, accepting the prosecution's allegation that he simply drove up and down in his police car for just two to three minutes.

Mr Ebrahimi was murdered three days after his arrest, and just an hour after his final call to police.

PCs Leanne Winter, 38, and Helen Harris, 40, were acquitted of misconduct in a public office during the same trial as Duffy and Passmore.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is expected to publish its investigation findings into Mr Ebrahimi's death at the conclusion of all disciplinary proceedings.

In a statement today, Avon and Somerset Police said: 'Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that at the heart of this case is Bijan Ebrahimi's family who have had to endure protracted legal and procedural processes. They have done this with the utmost dignity and composure.

'Our sole aim is to fully understand the circumstances around Mr Ebrahimi's treatment by our police officers and staff in the days leading up to his murder.

'We are at the beginning of a series of misconduct hearings and meetings involving 15 members of staff and officers.

'It's crucial that these disciplinary proceedings are allowed to progress to their final conclusion without prejudice now that the criminal case has come to an end.

'As a consequence, we're unable to comment any further to avoid any prejudice to the disciplinary matters.

'The gross misconduct hearings involving police officers will be held in public at Police HQ in Portishead in line with national guidance, and further details will be published five working days before they are due to begin.'

Original report here

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