A misconduct hearing has found the case not proven against two Greater Manchester Police officers investigated concerning a series of complaints relating to police use of force.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) carried out seven investigations into complaints linked to eight incidents involving one of the officers, dog handler PC Paul Jackson.
PC Jackson and PD ‘Jerry’ worked for Greater Manchester Police‘s (GMP) tactical vehicle intercept unit.
The complaints, which GMP referred to the IOPC between May 2015 and December 2016, all related to the use of force against male suspects.
Five suspects, all of whom abandoned vehicles during pursuits and tried to flee on foot, ignored lawful instructions given by officers during the separate incidents.
After failing to stop for the police, some of the suspects suffered significant dog bite injuries.
One complainant alleged that a second officer, PC Paul Lockett, failed to challenge his colleague during one of the incidents or report it afterwards.
The IOPC made an initial referral to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in July 2017, which authorised charges of wounding against PC Jackson and misconduct in public office and aiding and abetting wounding against PC Lockett.
The Crown claimed PC Jackson deployed Jerry to “vent his contempt” for criminals, but a jury at Preston Crown Crown found him not guilty of five counts of wounding with intent.
His colleague, PC Paul Lockett, 37, a plain-clothes officer in the unit, was also found not guilty of aiding and abetting one of the alleged assaults and a second count of misconduct in a public office.
There were no charges for two other officers the IOPC investigated concerning their use of force in one of the incidents complained about.
After the trial, PC Jackson wiped away tears after he and PC Lockett were told by the judge, Mr Justice Nicklin, that they could leave the dock and sit behind their lawyers.
The five complainants who gave evidence at the trial all had previous convictions – ranging from cannabis possession and driving offences to a career burglar and a convicted murderer.
They were all accused of lying to claim that PC Jackson held them down to allow PD Jerry to continue biting them and that their injuries were in fact caused by them resisting arrest.
Speaking shortly after the not guilty verdicts in 2019, Stu Berry, chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, said:
“This whole case has been a farce from start to finish and an unnecessary waste of the public money in times of extreme austerity.
“This case has been nothing short of a witch hunt as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) proactively sought evidence and built a flimsy case around evidence provided by convicted burglars and worse, a convicted murderer.
“Questions have to be asked about the standard of the IOPC investigation and their staggering levels of incompetence. How are these people accountable for their actions?
“The time for talk and half measures is over and we are calling for a full and independent review of this case by the Policing Minister and Home Secretary.
“The IOPC is clearly not fit for purpose in its current form.
“The IOPC investigators thought nothing of visiting Her Majesty’s prisons to gather some of this so-called “evidence” against our colleagues and thought this pack of lies was enough to take two of our members to court, risking their livelihoods and their liberty.
“Police officers have no issue with being held accountable for their actions – we are the most accountable and scrutinised public service and rightly so.
“However, investigations must be fair and they must be timely and proportionate. Most of all they must be balanced.
“The lives of two highly motivated and respected police officers have been ruined with long-lasting consequences for their professional and private lives.
“Right-minded members of the public will be appalled at the amount of public money spent on such a case.
“Have we got to the point where we as a society believe the word of career criminals over honest and hardworking police officers?
“We now face a situation where dog handlers are reluctant to do their job. Instead of focusing on catching the bad guys, their first thoughts are; “we don’t want to be the next Paul Jackson”.
“If we are not careful and without the appropriate protections from these so-called investigations, we risk our dog section becoming nothing more than a dog-walking service.
“Once again, I emphasise that police action should be scrutinised. But we can’t, as a society, seek to punish and prosecute police officers for simply doing the job we ask of them. It’s perverse. That can’t be right – and ultimately the public will be the loser.
“I would like to pay credit to our colleagues PC Paul Jackson and PC Paul Lockett for maintaining their professionalism and dignity throughout the process. We wish them and their families well as they get on with their lives.
“We also thank their legal team at Slater and Gordon for their continued professionalism and hard work.”
However, the ordeal for the police officers was not over.
Having initially agreed with the IOPCs findings that all four officers under investigation had a case to answer for gross misconduct, GMP told the IOPC in April 2020 that, following the outcome of the criminal hearing, it no longer believed that the officers should face disciplinary proceedings.
However, the IOPC disagreed with GMPs decision and in December 2020, informed the force that they believed misconduct hearings should take place for both PC Jackson and PC Lockett.
Following further representations, in May 2021, the IOPC directed the force to hold the hearings.
During the misconduct hearing, which started on 10 May, the independent panel heard submissions from the officers’ representatives and on 30 May agreed to discontinue proceedings for one of the cases after a witness indicated they no longer wished to engage with proceedings.
On 10th June, the misconduct hearing found the cases not proven against either officer.
IOPC Director of Operations Amanda Rowe said:
“This has been a complex case involving some very serious allegations and some of the men involved suffered significant dog bite injuries.
“As such, it was important for the matters to be independently and thoroughly investigated.
“Our work has ensured these officers actions have been scrutinised at public hearings, which provides the transparency that is vital for public confidence in policing and in the complaints system.
“We are grateful to the panel for their consideration of the matters brought before them.”
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