Cops 'used unnecessary force on vulnerable woman and laughed at her suffering'

Two police officers allegedly used "unnecessary force" on a woman in distress who they arrested for trying to jump off Clifton Suspension Bridge, a police misconduct panel heard. One of the constables used Pava artificial pepper spray on the female in the back of the police car after her colleague stood on the victim's arm and grabbed her hair and throat during the arrest, the hearing was told.

The pair "laughed at her suffering", made fun of her and were sarcastic, condescending or antagonistic, it was alleged. Both officers, who have since resigned from Avon & Somerset Police, deny gross misconduct, although they admit misconduct.

Barrister Alan Jenkins, representing the force, told the opening day of the hearing on Monday, June 17: "The two officers were called out to a young lady in distress. Their treatment of this woman was appalling. They dealt with her in a way that was brutal.

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"They breached a whole raft of standards for professional behaviour and their actions amount to gross misconduct." He said the two female constables, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were called to the bridge after 1am on December 4, 2021, after the woman, Miss A, who had been drinking and was intoxicated, attempted to climb over the wall and jump and was stopped by bridge attendants.

Mr Jenkins said she was well known to police and had mental health issues, including previous arrests involving violence. He said there was a 'force tactical plan' in place for officers who had dealings with her to follow, such as contacting her mother and considering using emergency police powers to take her to a safe place, but neither officer did this.

Mr Jenkins said the officers handcuffed her hands behind her back and PC A stood on her arm. He said the constable grabbed the woman's hair and then her throat as they took her into the police car.

The barrister said Miss A slid down the side of the car and into the gutter where she intentionally banged her head on the ground three times but they failed to check or ask whether she was hurt. PC B put a 'spit hood' over the victim's head in the back of the vehicle and then removed it briefly and used Pava spray on her, Mr Jenkins said.

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He said they got the woman out of the car and she landed heavily on the ground, before placing her back in the vehicle, pinning her legs by pulling back the front passenger seat and then taking her to Patchway police station where she was placed into custody. Mr Jenkins said the constables were "rude and dismissive" and "sarcastic, condescending or antagonistic, laughing at her or making fun of her".

He said: "They failed to have any compassion and failed to have any regard whatsoever to her mental health issues." Mr Jenkins said the officers used more force than was necessary by handcuffing her when it was not necessary, standing on her arm, pulling Miss A out of the car and pulling her arms when they were handcuffed.

He said the two PCs failed to act with self-control or tolerance or treat the woman with respect or courtesy. "They discriminated against Miss A by failing to make any adjustments for her mental health problems, laughing at her suffering and making fun of her," he said.

The officers' body-worn video footage was played to the panel which Mr Jenkins said showed one of the officers telling a colleague: "I told you I would Pava someone." The barrister said: "That would be grossly improper for an officer to say 'I was planning to Pava somebody today' as if she set herself a target. That is a rather chilling reference to PC B's approach to policing."

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

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