Bedfordshire Police to pay £1.2m over nightclub arrest that left teenager Julian Cole paralysed

Undated family handout photo of Julian Cole, who now requires around-the-clock care and is in a vegetative state after a scuffle outside a nightclub in Bedford in 2013. Julian was 19 when he was taken to the floor by Bedfordshire Police officers outside Elements nightclub in Bedford, after he had been removed from the venue on May 6 2013. Issue date: Friday January 26, 2024.
Credit: Family photo/handout
Julian Cole has never recovered and remains paralysed and in a vegetative state. Credit: Family photo/handout

The family of a man left paralysed and needing 24-hour care after a nightclub scuffle has reached a £1.2m settlement over a High Court claim against a police force.

Julian Cole was 19 when he was taken to the floor by Bedfordshire Police officers outside Elements nightclub in Bedford, after he had been removed from the venue on 6 May 2013.

His relatives later took legal action against the force over the incident, which left him with a broken neck and damage to his spinal cord, which caused brain damage due to lack of oxygen.

Mr Cole, who is now 30, has never recovered and remains paralysed and in a vegetative state requiring round-the-clock care.

After Mr Cole’s family agreed a settlement out of court with Bedfordshire Police, in which the force did not accept liability, Mr Justice Martin Spencer approved the sum at a hearing in London on Friday.

He said: “On two occasions Julian was taken to the ground by the police. On the second occasion it would appear that Julian sustained severe injuries including damage to his spinal cord and subsequent hypoxic brain injury, from which he did not recover.

“There has been no admission of liability but the fact that this settlement has been reached and the circumstances in which Julian sustained his injuries leave little doubt that the actions of the police officers were responsible for his injuries and those actions were indefensible.

“The matter was compounded by a concerted attempt on behalf of the police officers involved to falsify their account of events and that led to disciplinary proceedings.”

He added: “I have no hesitation whatever in approving the settlement in the sum that has been agreed.”

Mr Cole was asked to leave the nightclub on the night of the incident and kept asking for his money back, which led to a confrontation.

The resulting injuries were only discovered after he had been arrested, carried to a police van and driven a mile to a police station, where an ambulance was called.

In 2018, Police Constables Hannah Ross, Sanjeev Kalyan and Nicholas Oates were found guilty of gross misconduct after it was found they had lied about Mr Cole’s condition when he was taken to and transported in the van.

They had claimed that Mr Cole had been able to walk into the police van, but CCTV showed he had to be carried, with his legs dragging on the ground and head hanging down.

A fourth officer, Sergeant Andrew Withey, was found guilty of misconduct for failing to carry out proper welfare checks and was given a final written warning.

The Crown Prosecution Service previously said that no criminal charges would be brought.

The judge praised Mr Cole's mother for her dedication and determination. Credit: Family photo/handout

Friday’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice was attended by Mr Cole’s mother, Claudia Cole, who wept during the hearing, and his brother, Claude.

Angus McCullough KC, representing the family, said that the settlement was “in Julian’s best interests to accept”.

He told the court that the family had hoped that Mr Cole, who is currently cared for at a medical facility, would be able to be accommodated in his own home and cared for by a team of carers.

But Mr McCullough said: “The view having now been taken in the present position [is] that this is not a realistic or viable prospect, and he is best cared for where he has been cared for for at least the last 10 years [that] will be the best place for him, but with a substantial top-up in terms of additional care, therapies and equipment that this award will allow him to access.”

Neil Block KC, representing Bedfordshire Police, said: “I understand just how difficult even this process is for the family.

“I wish them on behalf of my clients the best for the future and we hope that while money can of course never place them in the position they would ideally like to be, they will look forward to the future with the confidence that there is now a substantial fund to provide such specialist equipment and therapies that they are advised will make Julian’s life more meaningful and comfortable for the future.”

The judge said that a representative for the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police had “expressed his regret and apology” at a meeting in 2020 about the incident, which happened when Mr Cole was a first-year student at the University of Bedfordshire.

Paying tribute to Mr Cole’s family, he said: “This has been the most difficult time for Julian’s family.

“Above all, I wish to pay tribute to Mrs Cole herself for her unstinting and deep love and support for Julian through this most difficult time.

“The resolution of this litigation does not mean the resolution of the problems which she has faced and will face dealing with Julian’s disability, but it is to be hoped that these damages will go some way to helping with the care and support which Julian requires.”

Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst said: “This case is an absolute tragedy which has had a devastating effect on a young man’s life.

“While independent reviews have not been able to conclusively determine how he suffered his injuries, what is clear is that the actions of some of those attending fell well short of the standards I, and the public, expect.

“We have apologised to his family for the conduct of the three officers who were rightly dismissed in 2018 for their dishonesty regarding Mr Cole’s condition following his arrest.  

“Our thoughts remain with Mr Cole and his loved ones.”

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