Police officer who assaulted autistic teen after ‘mistaken identity’ is sacked

Police car
Police car

A police officer who knelt on an autistic teenager’s head and punched him in the face “in a case of mistaken identity” has been sacked.

A misconduct hearing at Thames Valley Police headquarters in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, heard that former PC Oliver Downing was sent with other officers to deal with a reported fight near a petrol station in Slough, Berkshire.

He was found to have punched a father and son whom he wrongly believed had been involved in the incident.

In March 2022, the father and son, who was 19 at the time, were on their way home when officers incorrectly thought they had been involved in the fight near the Texaco garage in Farnham Road.

The father stopped his car by mounting the kerb after being pursued by a marked police car.

Downing drew his Taser and pointed it at the car. The 19 year-old got out and Downing and other officers took him to the floor, fearing he was armed.

Innocent and freed

The misconduct panel found Downing punched the teenager in the face and pushed down on the side of the face with his hand before replacing that with his knee so the 19 year-old could be handcuffed.

Downing also punched the father in the lower back to allow him to be handcuffed. The pair were searched but found to be innocent and freed.

A disciplinary panel found the former officer used force that was both unnecessary and disproportionate. He was sacked immediately.

Downing had previously been given a written warning for using police resources to check on his former partner for a non-policing purpose, as well as sending “unwanted and unwarranted messages”.

In a statement through their solicitors, the father and son said they hoped the case would serve as a reminder that anyone can be held accountable for their actions.

They added that they also hoped that any police interactions with people with disabilities are considered and appropriate measures are taken as a result.