1. ITV Report

Merseyside officers dismissed after 'Taser' complaint

Two Merseyside officers have been dismissed Photo: PA Images

Merseyside Police has dismissed two officers after a man was wrongly arrested and Tasered five times in the back of a police van.

Kyle McArdle complained to the IPCC after officers detained him when they spotted him urinating in the street.

He was put in the back of a police van and hit with a Taser five times, after officers said he became violent.

CCTV footage did not corroborate the officers' version of events, and the IPCC upheld two complaints by Mr McArdle.

Mr McArdle, 26, was charged with assaulting two of the officers but was found not guilty at a magistrates’ court hearing.

He then made a number of complaints, including that multiple use of Taser in the confined space of a police van was disproportionate.

After investigating the complaints Merseyside recommended officers receive management advice about their lawful use of powers.

Unhappy that the force had not properly addressed his complaint about the extent of force used against him, Mr McArdle appealed to the IPCC. The appeal was upheld and the IPCC recommended Merseyside re-investigate, this time considering if the use of Taser would be justified had the victim been lawfully arrested.

Merseyside then asked its lead Taser instructor to examine the case. The officer concluded the force used was "necessary, proportionate, reasonable and in line with the officers’ training and Acpo Association of Chief Police Officers) guidance”.

Mr McArdle made a second complaint to the IPCC, which the also upheld, and found that the officers should have been served with notices for gross misconduct and interviewed under caution. The IPCC also said that insufficient weight was given to Mr McArdle’s version of events and the evidence that supported his account. That evidence included CCTV footage that did not support the officers’ claims that he had been violent and needed to be restrained.

The IPCC also said it was concerned that Merseyside’s lead Taser instructor was uncritical of the officers’ use of the weapon and relied solely on their version of events.

Following the second upheld appeal Merseyside police held a misconduct hearing and PCs Simon Jones and Joanne Kelly were dismissed on gross misconduct charges. A third officer, a Sergeant, had already been dismissed from the force for an unrelated matter.

IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said: "To enjoy public confidence it is important police officers only use force, including Taser, as a last resort; and then only at the minimum level necessary for the threat they actually face. The IPCC recognises that there is public concern over the considerable increase in Taser use – not only in the number of officers using it but also in circumstances where it would not have been used previously - and the significant rise in complaints that has accompanied that. Incidents such as this do nothing to alleviate that public concern.

"While we welcome the robust action eventually taken by the force in response to our appeal findings it is a concern that Merseyside’s lead Taser instructor lacked objectivity and presented as fact the officers’ version of events without challenge. It is important that when things do go wrong complaints are addressed thoroughly and responded to robustly. We hope the force will take on board learning from these events for the future.”

In a statement Merseyside Police said: "Merseyside Police notes the comments made by the Independent Police Complaints Commission's (IPCC).

Following an appeal to the IPCC, Merseyside Police fully investigated the allegations, which led to the dismissal of two police officers at a Misconduct Hearing, chaired by an Assistant Chief Constable, for gross misconduct.

All officers issued with Taser are required to complete mandatory training and annual requalification. Since this incident occurred, Merseyside Police has introduced a procedure which requires each use of Taser to be reviewed by a senior officer, prior to submitting details to the Home Office.

Merseyside Police is absolutely committed to the highest integrity and professional standards of its officers at all times."

Update: since this article was published PC Joanne Kelly and retired PC Simon Jones have appealed against the decision of the misconduct panel. Their appeal was successful before the Police Appeals Tribunal on 28 June 2014 and they were both reinstated in the Merseyside Police in the rank of constable.

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