BTP officer cleared of Taser assault following appeal

A British Transport Police (BTP) officer has had his conviction for assaulting a man with a Taser dismissed on appeal.

Nov 11, 2019
By Tony Thompson

Police Constable Andrew Spiby was one of two officers called to reports of a disturbance at Derby railway station in May last year.

PC Spiby deployed his Taser while arresting one man, and his colleague, PC John Severns, twice used his incapacitant spray. The man later complained about the level of force used against him and the effect of the incident on other members of his family who were present.

BTP referred the case to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in July 2018. During its investigation, the IOPC reviewed footage of the incident from the officers’ body-worn video cameras and mobile phone footage recorded by a member of the group involved.

A decision was subsequently made to charge both officers with assault. Following a two-day trial at Birmingham Crown Court in April, PC Spiby was found guilty and given a 16-week sentence, suspended for one year. He was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 compensation to the victim, £775 court costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

PC Severns was cleared of the same charge.

At the time of his conviction, BTP Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock said: “The use of force by police officers, including deploying a Taser device, can often be a difficult judgment and it is understandable that in some cases independent scrutiny is necessary. However, it is important to remember that in this particular case, both officers were responding to a challenging situation where members of rail staff feared for their safety and called officers to assist. That said, clearly on this occasion the court felt that excessive force was used and found PC Spiby guilty of common assault.”

However, last week, following a hearing at the Court of Appeal, the conviction against PC Spiby was quashed.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the BTP Federation said: “Our colleague, PC Andrew Spiby, has had his common assault conviction quashed at Birmingham Crown Court. We are pleased by this verdict, but we must question why the matter got this far.

“We hope the IOPC uses this case as guidance when considering similar circumstances in the future.

“It is extremely difficult to fully understand what goes through an officer’s mind as they assess what’s happening in front of them. There is a world of difference between an officer acting with an honestly held belief about the threat facing them or others, and an officer deliberately and recklessly intending to harm someone.

“The latter is completely unacceptable, but the former is a split-second decision made with the benefit of both training and experience.

“We are pleased this has been recognised today and that PC Spiby’s appeal has been upheld by the courts. This has been an extremely difficult and stressful time for him, and this Federation will continue to support him.”

PC Spiby may still face misconduct proceedings in connection with the incident.

The appeal hearing comes just days after an officer from West Mercia Police was charged with murder in connection with the death of a former Premier League footballer Dalian Atkinson. Forty-eight-year-old Mr Atkinson died following an incident outside his father’s house in Telford, on August 15, 2016, during which he was Tasered.

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