Court quashes misconduct exoneration

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High Court overturns findings and orders fresh inquiry into officers’ behaviour.

Two Merseyside Police officers will face fresh disciplinaries after a court ruled that the force breached regulations by preventing the complainant from attending part of their hearing.

PCs Claire Mannion and David Priestley were cleared of misconduct in relation to their their use of force on teenager Ross Miller, including PC Priestley deploying CS spray against him at close range.

But they will face new hearings after the High Court quashed the outcome.

Mr Justice Stewart upheld a claim brought by Mr Miller that the force should not have excluded him and his mother from part of the hearing.

The judge noted that Regulation 31 of Police Conduct Regulations highlighted that alleged victims can attend misconduct proceedings as interested parties until the point when disciplinary action is discussed if the allegations are proven.

Mr Justice Stewart said: “It follows that the claimant and his mother should have been permitted to remain until the end of proceedings. No explanation has been provided as to why the claimant and his mother were excluded prematurely. It seems to me that the regulation is an important one providing for open justice.

“Such a breach of the regulations, without any explanation, would lead a fair minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility of bias.”

In a statement, the force said: “Merseyside Police notes and will comply with the judgement of the High Court in relation to Mr Miller. As such, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Mr Justice Stewart also considered the claim that the original misconduct panels had reached an “irrational” conclusion.

He said he was wary of going into detail on this point – as he had already ordered new hearings – but said he had thought about this issue because the force had not explained why it regarded Mr Miller, and the group he was with when he was detained, as having “violent tendencies”.

Mr Miller’s arrest took place in Church Street, Liverpool in February 2011 when he was 15. He was with a group of friends, one of whom was assaulted.

This boy was placed in a police vehicle by two officers for his own safety and he kicked open its door.

PC Mannion had claimed this, plus the fact CCTV showed another male in the group had a bloody nose, showed the group was violent. But Mr Justice Stewart said he disagreed.

The judge also said the panel had not clearly considered the fact that, when Mr Miller was being restrained, PC Priestley used CS spray at a distance of about two feet from the teenager, though force training said this not be done any closer than three feet.

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