Listening to Pamela Somerville
, a dreadful mistake led to her wrongful arrest. On arrival in custody she was then shouted at and abused, for absolutely no reason, before being horrifically assaulted causing possible sight problems in one eye.
As a police sergeant in this country, I found the story unsettling and the CCTV unpleasant. (and incomplete) There won't be an officer in the country who does not suspect there was more to this than has been reported. More unpalatable yet were the words of Assistant Chief Constable Patrick Geenty who was quick to brand Sgt Andrews "a disgrace" and then spent a few minutes
lauding how "proud" he was of the officer who reported the incident - I'm sure she was grateful for his public support. Will he stand by his words if Sgt Andrews wins his appeal
I will no doubt get roundly abused for suggesting that I support Mark Andrews in this case. But if you believe the Daily Mail, you have to believe that Ms Somerville was arrested for no reason, without being told why, was told to "shut up" when she wasn't saying anything, was taken forcibly to her cell for no reason, pushed back in when she perfectly reasonably tried to leave, and was left lying on the floor in an act of malice.
Perhaps Ms Somerville was paralytic in a vehicle, unable to provide a breath sample, would not cooperate with booking-in procedures or breathalyser, and refused to go to her cell. Perhaps the sergeant was unaware of the injury until spotted on CCTV, or a gaoler checked the prisoner's welfare shortly afterwards. In custody, it is acceptable to use a certain amount of force simply to keep the suite running safely and efficiently. Sometimes that means using force on people who are not themselves being violent, just uncooperative.
What is not acceptable is:
- For the sergeant to have to come around the desk to take hold of someone, because the arresting officers are not controlling their prisoner.
- For the sergeant to be left taking a prisoner to a cell on his own, while everyone else looks on.
- For not one gaoler or officer to assist the sergeant in restraining the person properly to shut them into the cell.
Sergeant Andrews went about it all wrong. He should have persisted in dealing with Ms Somerville no matter how uncooperative, because any breach in booking-in or breathalyser procedure will result in losing the case. He should have removed Ms Somerville before he got to the point of having to shout over her. He should have asked officers to restrain the prisoner and take her to the cell. He should have overseen a proper cell exit, if she was indeed trying to walk back out of the cell. By no means was it acceptable to drag her in the manner shown down the corridor and push her into the cell without supporting her. By no means was it acceptable for an officer to watch this happen without stepping in to help carry out the procedure in a proper manner, to prevent the injury that occurred.
Of course this incident needed investigating, and at the very least disciplinary proceedings needed to come out of it because force was not used in the proper way. But perhaps the conclusion is that Sgt Andrews was not confident enough in the role of custody sergeant, to deal with an incident like this in the correct way. He felt in the position of having to deal with it alone, with catastrophic consequences. Perhaps he is not a criminal, or a thug, but a flawed supervisor, who reacted badly when circumstances conspired.
Does that make him "a disgrace", or should that word rightly be directed elsewhere?
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.