But PC Claire Boddie faces disciplinary action
Photo: Mark Simmons
Police Constable Claire Boddie of Avon and Somerset Police has been found not guilty of assaulting former local police race relations adviser Judah Adunbi. Deputy Chief Magistrate, Tanweer Ikram said that the prosecution had failed to persuade him that she had not acted in self defence.
Boddie Tasered Abundi in the face in a case of mistaken identity in January 2017. Controversially the trial moved around the country over the last 18 months, and was heard today (18 May) at Salisbury Law Courts.
The court saw footage of the incident from body cameras of both police officers – Boddie and PC Dareen Weston present at the incident and a video recorded on the mobile phone of Adunbi’s neighbour, Tom Cherry.
During questioning, Boddie admitted that she had met Royston McCalla – the man they mistook Adunbi for – once before, but that she couldn’t be sure that Adunbi wasn’t him. At one point during the trial, Boddie’s defence lawyer, Richard Shepherd mistakenly called Adunbi ‘Mr McCalla’.
Boddie said that McCalla had police ‘warning markers’ on him suggesting he might be violent, and claimed the fact that Adunbi had keys in his hand (he was outside his house) and had taken up what she called a ‘fighting stance’ as well as “being very aggressive” made her perceive him as a threat that justified the use of the Taser.
“PC Weston was unable to get control of him. He assaulted PC Weston, he punched him, and I knew he had keys,” she told the judge.
“I’m faced with a man who’s very angry, both myself and PC Weston are trying to calm him down. His hands were very animated,” she added.
Prosecuting lawyer, Richard Prosser asked Boddie why she had continued to ask him to confirm his identity when it was clearly not de-escalating the situation. She said she was “trying to give him the opportunity” to tell them who he was.
“I hope that the police will finally realise that not all black people look or act the same”
Adunbi told the court that he had refused to tell the officers his identity because he had done nothing wrong.
“I was frustrated, upset, I was alarmed and I was a little distressed,” he told the court, adding that when the Taser barb hit his face, “I felt like my head was frying”. In the video Adunbi is seen dropping immediately to the floor.
Delivering his verdict, Magistrate Ikram said, “The law asks me to look through her eyes at what she saw and what she perceived at the time, because a person who acts reasonably in self defence of himself or herself or to effect an arrest commits no offence.
“He or she may use what force was reasonable in the circumstances as she or he perceived them to be”.
Adunbi said in a statement after the verdict: “This is the second time I have been set upon by police officers from Avon and Somerset Constabulary and caused serious injury on the basis of mistaken identity.
“I hope the fact that this prosecution was brought will mean that other Black people in Bristol will not be Tasered in the face when out walking their dog; and that the police will finally realise that not all Black people look or act the same”.
Justice for Judah campaign leader Desmond Brown said that the judge had been “very fair in his summing up” but that something needed to change with the justice system.
“It was an opportunity today for UK justice to be a shining beacon in the world, as we’re always told it is, and obviously we saw today that it’s not for us – for people of colour in Bristol and across the country – justice doesn’t work for us,” he told the Bristol Cable.
“I understand that the criminal justice system in this country has a disturbing pattern of letting us down,” he added, noting the disparity in stop and search, sentencing, convictions and incarcerations that people of colour face.
The case has been beset with controversy. Boddie’s defence lawyer tried to bar Adunbi from giving evidence at a preliminary hearing earlier this week, which the judge rejected.
A spokesperson for IOPC said that neither officer had a “case to answer for misconduct in respect of allegations that they discriminated against Mr Adunbi on the basis of his race”, however Boddie will face disciplinary proceedings .
Brown, who works on the Police’s Stop and Search and Use of Force panel, said that there are “great officers trying to make a change but they’re trying to move a dinosaur”.
“The problem is institutional racism that allows this to happen without being challenged. It seems that we just accept the status quo. And it’s not just Bristol, it’s across the country.
“This is what we’re told: that it’s an isolated case. We’re always told that it’s an isolated case but it’s not. It’s organised, structured, institutional racism and something needs to be done.”
The Cable will be following any further developments.