A former West Midlands police officer convicted of assaulting two members of the public, including a 15-year-old boy, while on duty during the first Covid lockdown has been sentenced to six months in prison.
PC Declan Jones, 30, was convicted of assaulting a 44-year-old cyclist and a 15-year-old boy on two consecutive days in Birmingham, and was sacked earlier this week for gross misconduct, having been suspended since May last year.
During the sentencing at Birmingham magistrates court on Friday, the judge, Shamim Qureshi, told Jones: “What we have here in this case is not simply an isolated incident.
“It was a difficult situation for the whole country, the first lockdown this country has ever seen. The streets were pretty well deserted and so it’s an abuse of power in a scenario which was unique in that there were not many people around to witness what was going on.”
At a trial in June, the court heard how on 20 April 2020 Jones assaulted Michael Rose, 44, by pulling him off his bicycle on a street in Aston, punching him in the back and pinning him against a patrol car. The next day he assaulted a 15-year-old boy he wrongly accused of possessing drugs by kicking him while he lay on the ground. Both incidents were captured on CCTV.
Both of the victims were black, but an investigation by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) did not find a case to answer over discrimination allegations made by the victims.
Jones was cleared of a third assault, in which a complainant was punched in the face on 23 April 2020, which the judge described as “proportionate” force by officers struggling to detain a man.
Noting the fact CCTV footage was crucial for bringing the conviction, Qureshi said: “If those videos had not been available, then we have the very complaint that members of BAME communities make, in this country and in other countries, that it’s only with video evidence that victims are believed.
“We have a situation where the lack of faith in the police force is already there, but it’s also engendered by these kinds of events.”
He also ordered Jones to pay £500 compensation to each of his victims, and £3,500 prosecution costs.
After he was dismissed by West Midlands police on Tuesday, the chief constable, Sir David Thompson, issued an apology to the victims and said: “The case concerns a significant national concern – namely excessive force by the police on black men.” He said Jones’s actions “undermined our efforts” to build trust with the public.
“This case will inevitably be seen in the context of deep concerns by the black community about the use of force by police,” he said.
Desmond Jaddoo, a community activist, organised a small rally outside Birmingham magistrates court on Friday afternoon to demand a custodial sentence for Jones.
“What this sentence clearly shows is that a uniform does not make you above the law, you’re there to administer the law,” he said. “I think it’s a sad day for policing because whatever he did, he did in front of others, and they did nothing.”
He called for an inquiry into the incident to help rebuild trust with the public.
The COVID-19 pandemic just became the worst pandemic in US history, surpassing the death toll from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.