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Action Against Public Authorities Solicitors

Police Officer Sacked for Assault on Asian Father and his Autistic Son after Case Brought by Duncan Lewis (13 March 2024)

Date: 13/03/2024
Duncan Lewis, Action Against Public Authorities Solicitors, Police Officer Sacked for Assault on Asian Father and his Autistic Son after Case Brought by Duncan Lewis

A police officer has been sacked for an assault on an innocent Asian father and his autistic son after a case was brought by Duncan Lewis Solicitors on behalf of the family.

 

PC Oliver Downing, of Thames Valley Police punched our client in the face and knelt on his head before punching his father in the lower back, on the March 8, 2022. He and other officers had been responding to an incident at the nearby Texaco garage where two white males and one black male had been seen fighting.

 

The family were left deeply distressed by the incident and uncertain what their options before turning to Duncan Lewis’ Actions Against Public Authorities team, which managed to build a successful case thanks to their bravery in speaking out.

 

The family said: “We are pleased with the outcome of the misconduct hearing nobody should have to go through what we have. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly, equally, with respect, even people that have fallen foul of the law. Public safety must and has to come first everytime. We hope this will serve as a reminder that anyone can be held accountable for their actions and hope that any police interactions with people with disabilities are considered and appropriate measures are taken. We hope this will help us to find some closure. We would like to thank our legal representatives, IOPC and Thames Valley Police for the thorough investigation and their transparency.”

 

After a 5-day misconduct hearing, the force used was found to be unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable. PC Downing’s swearing at our client also led to a finding of disreputable conduct. The officer was found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour and thereafter culpable of gross misconduct. He was sanctioned to dismissal without notice and his name placed onto the police barred list. This means that he can no longer work as a police officer for any force in England and Wales.

 

Our client and his father were travelling home from school on March 8, 2022 along Long Readings Lane in Slough when PC Downing and two other officers began following them in a marked police vehicle. No sirens or blue lights were activated during the encounter. The father pulled his car over to the kerbside, as the police vehicle had been “almost bumper to bumper” with his car.

 

PC Downing and the other officers approached the nearside rear passenger seat of the vehicle.  Our client had been sitting in that position. PC Downing used a TASER to ‘red dot’ our client before commanding him to “get out of the car now” and “show your hands”. Our client was in a state of shock and slowly opened the door. As he managed to compose himself, he managed to show both of his hands. 

 

PC Downing punched our client twice to his head and then took him quickly and roughly to the gravelled ground. The officers placed their weight on our client and continued to demand that he showed his hands; at this point, his hands had been trapped beneath his body by the weight of the officers who were now detaining him. Our client attempted to comply nonetheless, but this was interpreted by the police as resisting their detention of him. PC Downing placed his knee on our client’s head. PC Downing then delivered punches to our client’s body.

 

The concerned father approached officers to ask them to stop hurting his son but was pushed back by PC Downing who also then extended his baton. The officer punched the father in his back and placed handcuffs on him, accusing him of obstructing the officers.

 

PC Downing had effectively mistaken an Asian father and autistic son as part of the earlier group. 

 

Following this, the client was left on the ground sitting upright in handcuffs whilst the officers discussed their next steps of action. The evidence shows that PC Downing suggested to charge the father for obstructing the police.

 

The evidence further shows that there were three suspects. Two males were described as white and the other was described as a black male with an afro hairstyle or dreadlocks. All males were described to be wearing dark clothing and not wearing or bringing a coat/jacket. The client was wearing a coat and a pair of bright coloured trousers. Our client and his father are Asians.

 

The Appropriate Authority submitted that PC Downing lost self-control and professionalism “at the heat of the moment” which was further evident by his swearing. The client was not given ample time to comply with his instructions. The client was compliant and non-resistant considering the shock he was experiencing as he was apprehended. PC Downing’s punches to the father’s back was unreasonable as there was no realistic belief he had a weapon in his possession and he was not offering any meaningful resistance to the officers.

 

On 23 February 2024, the Legally Qualified Chair found that PC Downing’s actions and behaviours amount to a gross misconduct and a breach of Standards of Professional Behaviour relating to Use of Force and Discreditable Conduct. PC Downing was dismissed without notice and barred from police service. 

 

Duncan Lewis’ Christine Dela Cruz said on behalf of our Actions Against Public Authorities team:

 

“We are delighted to that some measure of justice has been service for our clients in the case as this was clearly a brutal, unnecessary assault, which was deeply distressing for them at the time.”

 

“The public rightly expects officers to conduct themselves with integrity and respect, tasked as they are with our protection and service. Unfortunately, in this instance, the officer not only failed to meet these expectations but also tarnished the reputation of the force and diminished public trust. His dismissal was a necessary consequence of his actions. Unfortunately, this sort of incident goes under the radar far too, with many families feeling powerless or intimidated by the prospect of challenging public authorities. It is our hope that the resolution of this case, achieved through the courage of the family in bringing these actions to light, will inspire others to seek justice.”

 

“We extend our thanks to Professional Standards Department and Thames Valley Police for their transparency and the inclusivity of the misconduct hearing, allowing for the participation of the family, Graeme, and myself, which was conducted with commendable clarity and openness."

 

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PC Downing has initially served in Metropolitan Police from 2015 and transferred to Thames Valley Police in 2018.

 

Christine Dela Cruz has been instructed by the family to represent them in this police complaint, with Duncan Lewis’ legal director Graeme Rothwell supervising on this case.

 

Christine handles a range of cases including false imprisonment, assault and battery and misfeasance. She also assists in bringing claims for breaches of human rights legislation and the Equality Act against the state and the police. She also represents bereaved family members in inquest proceedings.

 

Graeme has assisted a wide variety of clients, many of whom are vulnerable, following negative experiences at the hands of the state. He regularly represents bereaved family members throughout inquest proceedings, assists in making complaints, and brings civil actions against the police, the prison service, and other government departments. He can also advise in relation to the mishandling of personal information, discrimination and breaches of legislation designed to protect basic human rights.

 

For advice in relation to claims against the police, please contact Christine via email at ChristineD@duncanlewis.com


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