Met Police officer who headbutted bar worker after row over Covid rules is sacked

Met Police officer who headbutted bar worker after row over Covid rules is sacked

A Metropolitan Police officer who headbutted a City bar manager after he and his colleagues were caught breaking Covid rules has been sacked from the force.

Luke Wilson, 28, was off-duty and enjoying a night out with colleagues from the Met’s Lewisham emergency response unit when he attacked Johnny White at the Be At One cocktail bar.

Bar staff believed the group of 20-25 off-duty police officers were flouting the Covid ‘Rule of Six’, but their complaints were ignored and met with calls to “lighten up”.

Wilson, a Met officer since 2015 who had previously worked in security at the Houses of Parliament, angrily squared up to Mr White when he was admonished for moving around the venue between different tables.

The PC was convicted of assault following a trial at Westminster magistrates court, and sentenced in March to ten weeks in prison suspended for 12 months with 80 hours of community service. Wilson was also told to pay £200 in compensation to Mr White plus a £128 victim statutory surcharge and £775 in costs.

At a disciplinary hearing on Thursday, Wilson, from Gravesend, was found guilty of gross misconduct and sacked by the Met, as well as being barred from policing.

“Police officers are rightly held to a high standard where professionalism and behavioural standards are concerned. Whether on or off duty they must behave in a manner befitting public service”, said Chief superintendent Trevor Lawry.

“PC Wilson’s behaviour fell far below the standards we expect from our officers and it is right that he has faced the consequences of his actions.

“The Met is driven by the values of professionalism, integrity, courage and compassion. We only want the best and will always act when our employees fall below the exemplary standards we and the public expect.”

District Judge Briony Clarke, who oversaw Wilson’s trial, described the assault - caught on CCTV - as a “moment of madness” which “defies explanation”.

The police officers had arranged a night out at the Be At One bar in King William Street, Monument, on July 2 last year, at a time when Covid restrictions were still in force.

Bar staff allowed them to enter provided they divided the large group into tables of six.

“As much as I want people to have a good time and socialise, we had to comply with the regulations”, Mr White told the trial.

“When we found out we had a large amount of police officers, we had joked that this should be pretty easy, we won’t have to deal with chasing people around and the abuse we receive from people.

“It ended up being the worst day of my hospitality career. I was shocked and have lost trust, especially in the Metropolitan Police.”

He said Wilson was spotted moving between tables, and at one point kissed a colleague on the cheek, and he went to intervene to encourage the group to adhere to the Covid rules.

“As the night progressed, they started acting like the normal general public, switching places, switching seats to be with friends”, he said. “I was shocked by the behaviour - we spent quite a lot of the night running around the venue, asking people to return to their seats.”

The court heard the group, which included an acting inspector and at least four sergeants, told the annoyed bar staff: “Lighten up, what’s wrong with you, we are trying to have a good time.”

Matters came to a head when a bottle of Prosecco was ordered with eight glasses, and Mr White asked some police officers to move to comply with the ‘Rule of Six’.

Officers disputed they were breaking the rules, and Mr White was then confronted by Wilson, with CCTV capturing the moment of the headbutt.

“He became really confrontational”, said the bar manager. “He squared up to me, literally head to head contact. I remained calm – I have had to deal with that kind of behaviour before.

“My colleague radioed security to make them aware, and then it was a strike on my head with his head.”

Two police sergeants, Sharan Bassi and Ryan Snadden, gave evidence for Wilson during his trial, accusing bar staff of being “condescending” and “rude” and disputing that the Covid rules had been broken.

When Sergeant Snadden was shown CCTV footage with more than six people sitting together in a booth, he said: “We were fully aware of the rules at the time, and had every intention to stick to them.”

Judge Clarke criticised the police group for breaking the Covid rules and for flashing warrant cards on arrival.

A complaint about police behaviour at the bar has been lodged with the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

City of London Police opted not to take action over claims of Covid rule-breaking that night, saying it had focused its investigation on the assault.