Rights and re­spect Why Taser vic­tim Ju­dah is su­ing the po­lice

Bristol Post - - NEWS - Tris­tan CORK tris­tan.cork@reach­plc.com

❝ 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-

Ju­dah Adunbi

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

Ju­dah Adunbi

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

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