Man cleared of charges of assaulting police, alleges he was the one beaten
A British man who was charged with violently resisting arrest and assault, disobeying police orders and threatening police officers was found not guilty of all charges, while he claims he was forcibly dragged, grabbed at the throat and punched by the policemen.
Matthew Stephen Douglas-Fryer, the accused who was cleared by the courts, is a 35-yearold man born in the UK and residing in St Julian’s.
He was also cleared of charges of disturbing the peace and being drunk in a public place.
In her judgement, Magistrate Audrey Demicoli said the Court has no reason to doubt the accused’s version of events, as corroborated by the accused’s girlfriend and brother, and believes that the issue at the incident escalated and was mishandled by the police due to their lack of knowledge of the English language.
The Court heard that on January 1, 2015, the accused was celebrating the new year at Cork’s Pub in Paceville, accompanied by his girlfriend and his 16-year-old brother. The three left the party in the early hours of the morning in his girlfriend’s car, with the accused sitting in the front passenger seat.
While on their way home, but still in St Julian’s, three men surrounded the car. One man slammed the car top, while another smashed the passenger-side window with a bottle. His girlfriend raised her hand instinctively and was hit in the arm.
The accused exited the vehicle and sought the intervention of the police who were in the area. He was hit in the face by one of the three assailants in front of the police officers. After police calmed the situation down, the accused and his girlfriend went to the police station to file a report.
Upon entering, they briefly explained what had happened and that they wanted to file a report. The accused was asked to wait outside by the officer at the front desk as the station was very busy.
The Court heard, from the accused’s version of events, that Mr Douglas-Fryer wanted to remain with his girlfriend as she was upset. After he kept insisting, the police sergeant pushed him out and slammed the door, crushing the accused’s finger in the process.
The accused then re-entered the station and an incident ensued between him and three police officers. The officers later claimed he attacked them, while the accused claimed the officers leapt on him and that he was forcibly dragged to the area at the bottom of the stairs near the lockers, grabbed at the throat and punched three times by one of the police. The accused was then handcuffed and arrested.
The police involved (including Police Sergeant Lawrence Gabriel, Police Constable Braydon Borg and Police Constable Christopher Attard) testified that the accused was impatient and agitated when he entered the station to file the report, and that he did not want to wait.
They maintained that he threatened them, saying he was going to hit them with a bottle and insulted them, later saying he would kill them. Thus he was arrested.
They also argued that the accused resisted arrest, became violent and began banging his head on the wall as well as on an iron bench beneath the stairs. They also maintained that the injuries suffered by the accused, on his lip and finger, were sustained in the argument he had with third parties.
The accused, however, said that when he was asked to leave the station and refused, one of the officers came within an inch of his face and said: “I make the f ***** g rules” spitting in his face while talking, pushing him out of the room. The accused said that he replied: “Sir, if this was your wife who had been attacked with a bottle, wouldn’t you want to stay with her to make a report?”
The Court noted that the accused’s version of events remained consistent, both when he released the statement, and when giving evidence during a sitting on October 2, 2015. It was also corroborated by his girlfriend and brother when they gave evidence.
The Court said, that prior to analysing the charges brought against the accused, it wanted “to point out that after having heard the evidence of all the parties concerned and after having read all the acts of these proceedings, it deems that there is no reason not to believe the accused’s version of events.
“The Court is of the opinion that the whole incident was mishandled by the police officers involved because of an improper or perhaps lack of profound knowledge of the English language.
“Thus when the accused insisted that he wanted to remain with his girlfriend in the station while she was filing her report, and asked the officer whether he would not want to stay with his wife if she had just been hit with a bottle, the police officer in question misunderstood and interpreted this question as being a threat and proceeded to push the accused out of the station while slamming the door, crushing the accused’s finger in the process.”
The Court noted the difficulty for the police officers in question when giving evidence in the English language during the proceedings, which were held in English, “and it is therefore plausible to conclude that the said Police Officer misunderstood or misinterpreted the accused’s question, who was probably agitated because of what had just happened to the himself and his girlfriend”.
The Court also noted that the medical expert’s report further corroborated the accused’s version of events - it is certified that he sustained injuries in his left small finger, which injuries were caused by a crushing injury. “This injury could not have been sustained during the incident with third parties, because in this case the accused said that he was punched in the face by one of the men who caused damage to his girlfriend’s car”.
The Court noted an inconsistency between statements given by a police sergeant and a police constable.
On the first charge, relating to the accused violently resisting arrest and assault, the Court noted that although the officers involved stated they were threatened by the accused, none of them actually indicated that any physical force had been used against them, or explained how they sustained their slight injuries.
“The officers in fact say that the accused tried to hurt himself by banging his head against the wall and other surfaces”.
The magistrate mentioned that one officer claimed that the accused kicked and punched them, yet none of the others mentioned this. “Moreover, another of the officers said that the minor injury he sustained was when he put his hand between the accused’s leg and the bench, when the accused tried to hit his head against the wall”.
The Court held that injuries sustained by the officers were not a result of intentional or wilful violence by the accused. The accused suffered injuries to the head, face neck and finger.
On the second charge, where it was claimed that the accused threatened or caused bodily harm to an officer while in the act of discharging his duty, the Court noted discrepancies in the testimonies of the said police officers, and thus the prosecution couldn’t prove this charge beyond any reasonable doubt.
The Court acquitted the accused of all charges.