High Court legal win for student sprayed with CS gas at protest

The following article is from http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/high-court-legal-win-student-11776474

A Midland student who was sprayed with CS gas by a police officer during a demonstration has scored a legal victory against the official police watchdog.

Lawrence Green, 26, complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following an incident in Warwick University ’s Senate House building during a protest about tuition fees in December 2014.

The watchdog investigated before deciding the West Midlands Police officer had no case to answer in respect of the complaint in October last year.

But deputy High Court judge , Robin Purchas QC, today quashed the IPCC decision, saying it was “not rationally supportable on the objective evidence.”

The judge added that the commission’s role was to determine whether there was enough evidence to bring a misconduct case against the officer, and not to decide whether his actions on that day were justified.

The IPCC will now have to review the case again.

Judge Purchas told the court police were called to the building after an alleged assault on a security officer by one of the protesters.

When officers arrived and tried to reach the person accused of the assault, there was a stand off between them and a group of students – including Mr Green – during which he was sprayed “at close range” in the eyes with CS gas, the judge continued.

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He added: “As a result, the claimant’s eyesight was affected and he was in pain, symptoms which lasted for some time afterwards.”

The incident was captured on CCTV and on other footage which was uploaded to YouTube.

The judge said the IPCC investigator who handled Mr Green’s complaint concluded the officer in question had no case to answer in relation to the alleged misconduct.

She based the decision on her findings that he “had to make a swift decision with limited means at his disposal” and chose to use CS gas which would not have lasting effects, the judge continued.

However, Judge Purchas said it appeared the investigator had accepted the officer’s actions were justified, when that was a decision for a disciplinary hearing.

He added: “In my judgment, if the investigator and the IPCC found as a fact that the officer was justified in the use of the CS spray at very close range, directly into the claimant’s eyes, that was not a finding which was properly part of the evaluation.

“It was, in effect, a finding that disposed of the complaint of misconduct in substance, and which they had no power to make.

“In so far as the investigator and the IPCC concluded that there was no evidence to support the conclusion that there was a case to answer, in my judgment, that conclusion is not rationally supportable on the objective evidence.

“I conclude that the decision of the IPCC, that there was no case to answer relating to misconduct, was unlawful and should be quashed.”

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