Tuesday 24 February 2009

Policeman hauled before court and suspended for 20 months for defending himself against yob who headbutted him

Sergeant Bob Woodward

Anger: Sergeant Bob Woodward was taken off front-line duty for nearly two years

A police officer told of his anger yesterday after being taken off front-line duty for a year and hauled before a court for defending himself against a suspect who he thought was about to headbutt him.

Sergeant Bob Woodward spoke out after the case against him collapsed at the start of his trial when it emerged the supposed victim would not appear - because he was on the run after skipping bail over a separate violent attack.

The officer, a married father of three with 30 years' unblemished service, retires in April but said the episode had soured his last year in the force.

Condemning the criminal justice system, he claimed his experience - the second time he has been wrongly accused of assaulting a drunken suspect - would make other officers think twice about confronting violent individuals.

Sergeant Woodward, 52, said Ashley Pearson had lashed out at him in July 2007 as they stood together in a custody suite at Cannock police station in Staffordshire, where Pearson had been taken after being arrested for an alleged breach of bail.

The 6ft 8in policeman said he blocked the blow and pushed his attacker on to a desk, chipping Pearson's front tooth.

Pearson did not make a formal complaint but Staffordshire Police launched an investigation following an anonymous tip-off. Details were passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service which decided to prosecute Sergeant Woodward.

He was taken off front line duties early last year when formally summonsed for assault and has since been doing other work or been on sick leave.

The officer has now been fully reinstated after the case against him collapsed at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday.

Sergeant Woodward had previously been acquitted over an incident in July 2002 when he tried to stop a drunken yob spitting at him by pushing his face away. On that occasion, he had to endure seven months of anxiety before he was cleared.

The sergeant, from Hednesford, Staffordshire, said yesterday: 'There is something wrong when police officers end up in the dock for doing their job while thugs are left free to laugh at the justice system. They were ludicrous prosecutions. When they told me I was being charged I could hardly believe my ears.

'I had to keep it secret from my 80-year-old mother or it would have worried her to death.'

Announcing the CPS would offer no evidence against Sergeant Woodward, Zaheer Afzal, prosecuting, told Judge Sean Morris on Monday: 'Regrettably our main witness is not here today, and we have not been able to find him.'

David Mason, defending, said he found it ' staggering' that the case had taken so long to get to court, telling the judge: 'The officer thought he was going to be headbutted and was using reasonable force to protect himself from a clearly drunk, violent and aggressive man.'

Pearson, from Cannock, Staffordshire, ended up in jail for an unrelated matter. He was released and has been on the run since February after being bailed on suspicion of being involved in a pub 'glassing' attack.


bewick said...

I shudder to think of the time-span but it is nearly 40 years ago that I was undertaking a management consultancy project on the then Leeds City Police.
Pretty well all prosecutions were run by one Inspector Gallagher.
A good part of the project was with the Bridewell (Central charge Office) and I did spend some time in there including several night shifts.
I really wouldn't want to do it today.
There WERE rowdy prisoners but at least in my time in there none were mistreated and none misbehaved anything like as much as they now do on TV documentaries.
Pace and the withdrawal of corporal punishment in schools has much to answer for.
I'm sure that Sgt Woodward was perfectly correct in his handling of an aggressive and violent prisoner but I just wonder why someone made a "tip off". Evil.
The reason I say this is because I once, just once, saw a sergeant bring in two subdued and partially dressed men from a hostel who had been fighting. The sergeant didn't know I was there but I had an interest because I needed to observe procedures in use.
One of the men was noisy,trying to relate HIS side of the story, but not threatening. However the Sergeant dealt him a hefty crack across his face making his nose bleed even more.
The duty inspector went pale because he knew I'd seen it and the sergeant knew within seconds.HE went even paler because he didn't know who I was.
I SHOULD have reported this and later wished I had - except that to do so would breach my own code of ethics of confidentiality and would likely bring the project to an early end so I didn't.
I was told though by the Bridewell officers that this sergeant "had history".
A year later I had moved north and was surprised, or maybe not, to read in the national press that the sergeant had been convicted of murdering a villain - NOT in the course of arrest. NOT accidentally. Pure murder. I have often wondered whether I could have saved the villain had I spoken out. Then again the Bridewell Police Officers kept quiet as well

Anonymous said...

Thought he was going to head butt him ah yes, the old use of I thought.

Anonymous said...

how may one apply for membership?