A City of London Police Officer who was accused of leaving a protester with a brain injury after allegedly hitting him across the head with a baton has been cleared of misconduct.
DC Alston (who was a PC at the time of the alleged incident) has always denied striking Alfie Meadows during a violent demonstration against government plans to triple tuition fees back in 2010.
Mr Meadows, who was 20-years-old at the time, needed emergency surgery shortly after being struck on the head.
A disciplinary panel made up of three members, concluded that Mr Meadows had been hit in the head with a police baton, but that is was not DC Alston who had struck him.
Panel chair, Nev Kemp (temporary deputy chief constable of Surrey Police), said that the panel had relied on video footage of the incident given the “subjective” witness evidence almost ten years after the event.
“A police baton struck Mr Meadows to the head but that that strike was performed by [an] unidentified Metropolitan Police officer, and not DC Alston,” he concluded.
“It is not for us to consider whether that officer was justified in his actions, and we say nothing more about it.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) took several years to identify DC Alston as being a ‘suspect’
Mike Reed, Chair of the City of London Police Federation called the IOPC “incompetent” over its handling of the case.
He said: “We must also pay credit to our colleague DC Alston for maintaining his professionalism and dignity throughout the extremely stressful process.”
The six-day misconduct hearing was told that violent protesters had been attacking police officers, pelting them with missiles, including bricks and hitting them with metal fences.
DC Alston said that he had been “trying to do my best to defend myself and my colleagues” at the protest, adding: “I was in a situation where I believed my life was at risk and that of other officers.”
DC Alston told the hearing that he went into the crowd with his colleagues to rescue a group of officers after the commanding officer of the serial said there was a “risk of serious injury or death” to the officers.
He told how he drew his baton as missiles were “raining” down and feared he could be injured by metal barriers being pushed towards him and his colleagues by hundreds of protesters.
Video footage played in the hearing showed DC Alston with his baton raised in the air before bringing it down onto the crowd that Mr Meadows was in.
DC Alston told the hearing that;
“To the best of my recollection, I didn’t hit anything.
“As far as I can remember, it went downwards, and I didn’t strike anyone at that point.”
A spokesperson for the IOPC said:
“Alfie Meadows received serious injuries during a demonstration in December 2010. The IOPC investigation determined that PC Mark Alston had a case to answer for causing Mr Meadow’s injury. A number of linked criminal and civil court proceedings being competed meant a City of London Police disciplinary panel met today to consider action.
“Today the panel agreed that there were two officers wielding their batons in close proximity to Mr Meadows at the time he received his injuries. However, it ruled that PC Mark Alston was not responsible for delivering the strike that caused Mr Meadows’ serious injuries. The panel determined that a Metropolitan Police officer who has never been identified, despite strenuous and exhaustive enquiries on our part, was responsible.
“Despite a legal challenge against our decision that PC Mark Alston had a case to answer for causing Mr Meadow’s injury, the courts agreed with us that he should face a police disciplinary panel. We found that he had a case to answer just over a year after he was identified as one of the officers in the footage.
“The public has the right to expect police officers to be accountable when they use force, particularly if it leads to a death or serious injury and we directed that this hearing should be held in public.
“This has undoubtedly been a difficult journey for all involved.”
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