Man cleared of charges of as­sault­ing po­lice, al­leges he was the one beaten

Malta Independent - - NEWS - ■ Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

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.

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