A police officer who has been convicted of assault after using PAVA spray on a suspect – who was later convicted of 11 counts of robbery, two counts of criminal damage and two counts of racially aggravated public order – now faces misconduct proceedings.
PC Luke Wenham, attached to the Central South Basic Command Unit, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, 21 June, where was found guilty following a one-day trial of two counts of common assault.
On Wednesday, 17 August, PC Wenham was one of a team of officers who attended an address in Albert Barnes House SE1 to conduct an arrest inquiry for a violent male who was suspected of robbery.
Entry was forced to the man’s flat, but he climbed out of a window and began to scale down a drainpipe which ran the length of the block of flats.
As he did so, PC Wenham leant out of an open window and discharged PAVA spray at the man – who continued to climb down the pipe.
With other officers, PC Wenham attempted to locate the man, finding him on the balcony of another flat.
When officers found him, the man continued his attempts to escape, climbing down the outside of the building as before. Again, PC Wenham deployed PAVA on him.
When the robbery suspect was brought to safety, he was arrested and later convicted of 11 counts of robbery, two counts of criminal damage and two counts of racially aggravated public order.
Met policy dictates that any time an officer uses PAVA spray, the circumstances will be subject to review.
After reviewing PC Wenham’s actions, the matter was referred to the IOPC, which carried out an independent investigation.
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On 9 February, PC Wenham was charged with two counts of common assault.
He has been on restricted duties since the investigation started. Now that criminal matters have concluded, misconduct proceedings will commence.
IOPC director Steve Noonan said:
“Officers are instructed that any force they use must be necessary, reasonable and proportionate. At the time he was sprayed, the man was not posing an immediate risk to the officers or anyone else.
“The national guidance on PAVA spray lists some of the most common reactions on being exposed to it include the individual moving their hands to their face, their legs becoming weak and temporary blindness.
“It is clear that in spraying the man twice at considerable heights, PC Wenham exposed him to the genuine risk he could have lost his grip on the pipe and fallen, which would have likely had fatal consequences.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Seb Adjei-Addoh, local policing commander in Southwark and Lambeth, said:
“Officers know that their actions will be held to account and where any use of force is deployed, must always consider whether it was necessary and proportionate to the circumstances.
“It is clear in this case that not only was PC Wenham’s response completely disproportionate to the situation he faced but also, by doing what he did, he put a member of public at risk of harm.
“PC Wenham has let down not only himself but many hardworking police colleagues who strive to improve trust and confidence with our communities.”
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