An Essex Police officer cleared of assaulting a man on duty has told how he hasn’t slept properly during a “year of hell and uncertainty” after being accused of a crime he did not commit.
On Thursday 17 March, PC Chris Wentworth was found not guilty of ‘punching’ a suspect after the court heard the officer was using reasonable force to deliver a strike to protect himself and colleagues after he had been bitten by a man he was arresting.
After a two-day trial at Westminster Magistrates Court, Judge Nina Tempia said PC Wentworth “was a man of good character”, ruled he was not guilty and “was entitled to use reasonable force in these circumstances”.
PC Wentworth said he was relieved by the verdict – but that the investigation had taken its toll on him, saying: “I’ve pretty much not slept properly for a year. I thought I would be needing to get another job, I’ve felt very down.”
Discussing the merits of this case going to court, PC Wentworth added:
“After 16 years in the police, this has been a massive thing for me, and my colleagues couldn’t believe it was happening to me.
“I’ve had a year on restricted duties and being under investigation, so now I’m looking forward to getting back to my duties and back to normal.”
Essex Police Federation Chair Laura Heggie said:
“PC Wentworth has maintained since day one that he acted within the law.
“He has been through a year of hell and uncertainty while under investigation and through the court process – this doesn’t just take a toll on the officer, but their family as well.
“A whole year before the correct outcome of not guilty and also he faces no accusation of misconduct, which means that he did nothing wrong.
“PC Wentworth was a victim in this incident; he suffered a bite injury inflicted to his hand, while doing his job.
“I speak to some newer officers who say they sometimes wait to be assaulted rather than take decisive action, through fear they will find themselves in trouble and investigated.
“That is wrong and should never feature in their thought process.
“Officers receive training in the use of force and the law in relation to that use, and that law should protect the officers.
“A police officer should not expect to be assaulted while carrying out their duty and, what’s more, they should not accept being assaulted.
“The Criminal Justice System should support all emergency workers.”
It was back in March 2021 when PC Wentworth helped colleagues arrest a man in Westcliff-on-Sea who they suspected of drink-driving.
The male had been involved in a collision with another car when the police were called to the scene.
The man resisted arrest and was shouting at the officers.
A partial video clip of the incident, filmed by a bystander and uploaded to social media, was used by the CPS in the case against the officer.
At one point, the male attempted to try and headbutt one of the officers who was trying to detain him.
As the male was being taken to the gound, PC Wentworth suddenly felt a sharp pain in his hand and could see it bleeding, so he believed the man had bitten him.
The officer later went to Southend Hospital where he was treated for the wound to his hand and prescribed antibiotics. Medical staff who treated the officer described the injury as being consistent with a bite wound.
The drink-drive suspect was charged with assault on an emergency worker, but the charge was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Meanwhile, PC Wentworth was charged with assault by beating.
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