Rights and respect Why Taser victim Judah is suing the police
❝ I watch that video of how I was and I’m not proud of it. I look at it and think ‘this is not Judah, this is not how I am’. I can see I was crying out for help. I was scared.
JUDAH Adunbi, the man Tasered in the face by police who mistook him for a wanted man, believes he has been denied justice - and is now suing the police.
Speaking for the first time since a court case and then a disciplinary hearing cleared the police officer who fired the stun gun of any wrong-doing, Mr Adunbi said he wanted to explain his own actions, and why he is undertaking a new private legal action against Avon and Somerset police.
The 64-year-old community elder admitted that when he watches the now-infamous video of him berating the police officers who were challenging him outside his home in Easton, he struggles to recognise himself.
Mr Adunbi was walking his dog early one Saturday morning in January last year, when two police officers stopped him, believing he was Royston McCalla, a man they wanted to speak to.
Mr Adunbi declined to tell them his name, and after an argument, was hit in the face with a Taser barb fired by PC Claire Boddie. He was floored by the 50,000 volts, arrested, and later charged with a public order offence and assaulting a police officer.
A neighbour filmed the argument and the incident on his mobile phone.
A few days later, the police told Mr Adunbi the charges had been dropped and instead, the two officers were under investigation.
After a lengthy legal process, which involved hearings in London, Chippenham, Taunton, Bris-
tol and finally a trial in Salisbury, PC Boddie was found not guilty of assaulting Mr Adunbi by one of the country’s most senior judges.
Last month, following an independent police disciplinary hearing, PC Boddie was cleared of charges of gross misconduct.
Mr Adunbi felt frustrated at not being able to have his say in the court and disciplinary hearings - the issue was whether PC Boddie’s use of the Taser was within police guidelines on Taser use - and for that, the only legal argument was based around her assessment of the situation.
Mr Adunbi is mindful that many people think he should have simply given his name and ID to the officers when they stoppped him.
He said: “The public may say I could’ve given my name. We’re not living in the old terrible times of slavery, we’re living in a free country, a country where there is no law to suggest a police officer can demand you give your name and you have to.
“I was defending my legal right as a citizen.
“I decided I was executing my right. If she’d approached me as a normal person, I would’ve given her the time of day,” he said.
To understanding why this normally softly-spoken, respected community elder was filmed swearing and arguing with two police officers, you have to go back nine or ten years .
“In 2008 or 2009, I was walking with a police constable’s son up Stapleton Road. Three officers in a patrol car pulled over and talked to each other, looking at me,” he said.
“One said ‘Are you Royston McCalla? I said ‘be careful, I’m going about my business here’.
“I told them who I was but they didn’t believe me. One officer held my right hand, the other had the other hand and they thrust my hands behind my back. I told them ‘you guys are humiliating me in the street’.
“I know a lot of people in Stapleton Road, and everyone stops and says ‘hello’ to me if I walk up there.
“They were struggling to put the cuffs on me.
“This third officer said ‘get his legs, get his legs’. I was on my way down to the pavement already and I felt a knee in my shoulder, and as I hit the ground, one of them stepped on my head.
“A few people came out of the shops and said ‘what are you doing to Judah?’ They took me out of the cuffs and I got out my ID and showed them,” he added.
That incident had two long-term implications, one good, one bad.
The first was that the Chief Constable at the time, Colin Port, met Judah and other community leaders and agreed an independent race relations advisory group be set up, so community leaders like Mr Adunbi could directly influence and educate police officers working in the community.
That was why, when the incident in 2017 happened, Mr Adunbi was referred to as one of the police’s ‘race relations advisers’.
The second was not so positive: Mr Adunbi suffered a life-changing shoulder injury.
“I lodged a complaint at Trinity Road about that. The chief constable at the time was Colin Port. I had a lot of respect for him. I lent him my support, I helped set up an independent race relations advisor
❝ We’re living in a country where people have rights. People do not expect to be Tasered for maintaining their rights.
panel, which I served on.
“The police paid for a specialist to come from Harley Street to see to my shoulder. It’s partially crippled now. I’m not able to do a thing with my shoulder now, I can’t raise my arm above my head,” he added.
And the psychological effects of that incident in Stapleton Road have a direct bearing, Mr Adunbi said, on his response when it happened again.
“People who see the video, need to understand the fear that gripped me when I heard those words from a police officer again: ‘Are you Royston McCalla?’
“I just wanted to go away from them, get to my home. And when her colleague tried to grab my shoulder, there was no way I was going to let them do an injury to the other shoulder. That’s when I said ‘you f***ers done it to me before’.
“This is something I need to say to everyone. I watch that video of how I was and I’m not proud of it. I look at it and think ‘this is not Judah, this is not how I am’. I can see I was crying out for help. I was scared.
“I must admit to myself, I don’t like to have people swearing, I hear the language I was using and I can understand why people think what they do,” he said.
“The first time they mistook me for Royston McCalla was in 2008, and he was actually in prison at the time. That’s how crazy this is.
“He’s a lot younger than me, doesn’t look like me at all. I grew up with his older brother, and it is very frustrating to be mistaken for him.
“In 2008 they accused me of being him. In January 2017 they did it again. In July 2017 I was walking across Riverside Park to St Pauls and a police officer passed me going the other way and stopped and turned round and said his name to me. I didn’t respond, I just kept on walking. What excuse have they got in July for this?
“It’s impossible for people to mistake us,” he added.
Mr Adunbi, who was initially arrested and charged after the incident, believes that when senior officers saw the video of the event they realised a mistake had been made.
“My point is that if the police officers didn’t do anything wrong, why were the charges against me dropped? And dropped so quickly?” he added.
The unanswered questions and apparent legal limbo is, in
part, what is spurring on Mr Adunbi’s drive to mount a civil case against Avon and Somerset police for what happened, the injuries and ordeal he suffered.
It was something he and his supporters wanted to do from the very start - not trusting the official proceedings to bring what they describe as justice.
”From the start, I knew the only way we’re going to get any justice is to proceed with the civil matter. However, my lawyers were contacted by the IOPC saying ‘hold fire’, saying we need to wait for their investigation.
“The trial should have been in Bristol. Once they decided to conduct the trial in Salisbury, our deepest fear was that justice would not be seen and it would not be done,” he added.
And he said the other motivation is the feeling is of not having his voice heard throughout the previous two proceedings.
“During the whole process of the criminal trial, I played a minor role. When I gave evidence, I was asked only three or four questions. What I saw or felt or thought as a victim in this court process did not matter at all.”
Mr Adunbi said during the trial the use of the Taser had been dismissed as “something not very important, not serious, not potentially dangerous”.
He said: “She Tasered me in the face and there are no tests to suggest it is not important. People have died from being Tasered. “It felt like I was frying. They could never comprehend what it is like.”
For now, Mr Adunbi said he is cautious about rebuilding community relations again - he said he feels the two hearings going in favour of PC Boddie have hampered the police’s efforts to rebuild trust between the people of St Pauls and Easton and the police.
“.People from outside Bristol and outside Britain are seeing that black people don’t get justice in this country.
“The Chief Constable made a statement about what I may have gone through, and a similar statement about what his officer has gone through, but I was the one who was Tasered.
“I’ve done a lot of work, I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen.
“It’s been a big sacrifice to put all this investment in the community and it is very, very sad that this sort of work goes to waste because it seems like police officers pay lip service to race relations,” he added.
Mr Adunbi said he believes Bristol as a city, and society as a whole, need the police.
“In order to have good policing - and we need the police - we do need policing by consent. But the fact remains I’ve got my legal rights and I am entitled to not give my name. The onus is on them to approach me in a respectful manner.
“The argument that policing by consent means we have to give up our rights is folly.
“I’m a free man, we’re living in a country where people have rights.
“People do not expect to be Tasered for maintaining their rights.”
The Taser incident captured on film by a neighbour
Judah Adunbi, left, and Claire Boddie, inset below