A police officer accused of causing actual bodily harm to a prisoner who suffered cuts to his lip and cheek when his face hit the back of a car was cleared by a jury yesterday.
PC Stephen Dalton, 53, was alleged to have “slammed” Richard Smith into the rear of a Hertfordshire Police estate car after he had arrested him on suspicion of going equipped for theft near flats in Watford.
Body-worn footage, from another officer, played at St Albans crown court showed Mr Smith, a black man of around 6 feet 5 or six tall, complaining: “Big man, I am not resisting” and “I haven’t done anything wrong, boss man.”
5 feet 8 tall PC Dalton, who handcuffed him, told him: “Stop moving about” and “Calm down.”
Prosecutor David Dainty alleged PC Dalton lost his temper and self-control and marched Mr Smith forward before slamming his face into the back of the car.
But the officer said the injuries were caused by accident and he was simply trying to get Mr Smith into a police car.
In the witness box, PC Dalton said he had been in the Territorial Army and worked as a health care assistant and a nurse before becoming a Police Community Support Officer in 2007 and a Police Constable in 2014.
Asked by his barrister Kevin McCartney what he felt about being a police officer, he said: “ I am very proud to wear the uniform of Hertfordshire Police. I was born in Watford. I feel if I can help my society be a better place I would want to do it in my home town with my local community.”
He said at five past nine at night on October 4 2019 he was called to Wilmington Close in Watford to reports of two males attempting to steal a pedal cycle.
When he arrived he saw Mr Smith standing with two other officers and overheard him saying he was going to kill himself. One of his colleagues found a hacksaw blade and pliers in the area and he arrested Mr Smith for going equipped to steal.
PC Dalton said: “I placed handcuffs on him and he became agitated. I started to move him towards the police vehicle. He said his hands hurt. He indicated the cuffs were tight. I removed the handcuffs and placed the back on looser. “
The officer said he was 5 feet 8 tall and estimated Richard Smith was either 6 feet 5 or 6.
He went on: “He (Mr Smith) kept saying he did not want to talk to me and he had not done anything wrong. He said he wanted to speak to somebody on the other side of the carriageway. He was pulling away from me. He was going through cycles of getting more and more tense, then calm, then more tense. His behaviour was highly erratic.
“My initial concern was that Mr Smith said he was going to kill himself. My concern was he would go across the road. I didn’t know if he wanted to jump in front of a car.”
The officer said he needed to be put into the back of a police vehicle, but he did not have the key for the one Mr Smith was to injure himself on. He said he decided to walk him over to his car that was parked on nearby Upton Road.
“I made a decision to take him to my car and transport him to custody. As I stepped forward I felt him tense up and moved away and I got hold of him. I felt I was losing my grip . I made the decision to pin him. The nearest structure was the rear tailgate of the estate police car.”
“ As he was moving forward I was not fully balanced. I felt we went forward a lot quicker than I anticipated because of the impetus of Mr Smith. I was trying to hold him Mr Smith felt like he bowed and moved forward.He collided with the back of the car and his head,” he said.
Mr McCartney said: “It has been suggested you lost your temper.”
He replied: “Absolutely not. I did not lose my temper at all. I wanted to get him into the back of the car to get him into custody.”
He said he called for an ambulance, checked Mr Smith’s wounds and applied bandages.
Mr Smith was treated in hospital for a deep laceration to the lip which extended into the surrounding tissue and a C-shaped laceration to the cheeks.
The jury heard from the prosecutor that no further action was taken against him for going equipped.
A jury of 9 women and three men found PC Dalton not guilty.