A male who doused eight police officers with petrol has been sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.
28-year-old Justin Jackson, from Ward Close, Basildon, was sentenced earlier this week after the horrific incident on Sunday 5th May 2019.
Officers had responded to reports that a motorbike was being driven dangerously. After an 8-mile pursuit, the rider of the motorbike was cornered by officers as he tried to flee in Ward Close, Basildon.
The rider tried to fight with the officers who were forced to deploy their tasers in a bid to overpower the suspect. But as officers grappled with the suspect, a hostile crowd of between 20-30 people started to taunt and hurl abuse at the officers.
One woman threatened the officers with a hammer before Jackson ran towards them carrying a watering can full of petrol. As the officers were struggling with the rider of the bike, Jackson doused them with petrol before running away.
As the officers battled against the effects of having petrol thrown in their eyes and mouths, members of the crowd started to shout: ‘light them up’.
Two officers were hospitalised as a result of their injuries as the officers on the scene requested urgent assistance. In total, around 90 officers swarmed the area to prevent further serious harm to their colleagues.
PC Andrew Bird, PC Matthew Cutts and Chief Inspector Jonathan Baldwin were all at the scene and have spoken openly about the events that unfolded that day.
In a BBC documentary, Critical Incident, which aired on Monday, September 28, the officers looked back on what happened.
PC Bird said he is used to people “shouting and swearing and telling us that we’re idiots”, but nothing could prepare him for the events that took place on Sunday, May 5.
He said: “Out the corner of my eye I saw a gentleman appear from down one of the alleyways. He was just sprinting full speed towards where we were.”
PC Bird ran towards the man to try and intercept him, but they collided and fell to the floor.
“I was pretty much at the bottom of the pile,” PC Bird said. “You’ve got officers trying to get him off of me; he had his arms wrapped around my legs trying to keep hold of me.
“It was as I was trying to control this gentleman who had run out of the middle of nowhere that this other chap has appeared with a watering can,” PC Bird added.
PC Matthew Cutts then stepped in to fend off the new attacker.
PC Cutts didn’t know what was in the watering can, but his initial thoughts were that it could have been acid.
He said: “I could smell petrol, so I sort of fumbled around to get my baton out, but once I’ve got it I’ve put it behind my head and just struck him in line with my training.
“It’s not a random act of violence, it’s a controlled measure that we are taught to use to get people away from us.”
PC Cutts then started to feel his skin stinging and tingling down the front of his body where he had been covered in petrol.
Residents offered assistance by way of water to rinse the petrol off their skin until the fire service arrived and hosed them down.
After being covered in petrol, officers at the scene were acutely aware that any spark could result in them going up in flames.
Chief Inspector Baldwin said:
“One match, one lighter, one spark could result in us going up in flames and being disfigured for life or possibly even dead.”
Officers at the scene could reportedly hear the crowd saying “who’s got matches, who’s got a lighter, let’s set them on fire”.
The team began to panic as people in the area were smoking, and officers were armed with tasers which could have sparked and caused severe damage.
Chief Inspector Baldwin added:
“I was hearing them shout ‘light them up’.
“I don’t know how we didn’t just cut and run, but then that’s not the way we’re wired – we all stuck together.
“There’s something running in the core of us that says you don’t run away from the danger, you run towards it.”
Backup arrived, and several people were arrested.
A team of detectives, including DC Natalie Backhouse, immediately set to work building a case which saw three people brought before the courts in November last year.
28-year-old Justin Jackson, from Ward Close, who threw the petrol over the officers was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.
A 17-year-old from Basildon was disqualified from driving for 12 months and fined at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on August 16 for driving a motor vehicle dangerously.
Janine Justin, 47, of Ward Close, Basildon, was found guilty of possession of an offensive weapon at Basildon Crown Court. She was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months, fined £140 and was ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work.
Shannon Jackson, 20, of Ward Close, Basildon, was charged with obstructing a constable in the execution of their duty. The case against Shannon Jackson was later dismissed.
A 30-year-old from Basildon was released without charge for assault by beating of an emergency worker. A 17-year-old girl from Corringham was also released without charge for assisting an offender.
Reflecting on the incident, PC Cutts said: “It’s an awful situation to be in but you’ve just got to put on a brave face and stay calm.”
PC Bird added: “It’s pretty much impossible to drive past it without thinking back to that day and remembering what happened.
“You get flashbacks and just remember the things that people were saying and what could have quite easily happened.”
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Baldwin said:
“On that day we had to learn what it was to be a victim and that experience has made us all the stronger when it now comes to identifying with other victims.”
He added: “If it ever crosses anyone’s mind to throw petrol over police officers or emergency workers in the future all I can say is pack your toothbrush when you go to court, because you’ll be going to prison.”
All eight officers were commended for their bravery by Her Honour Judge Samantha Cohen at Basildon Court.