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Police officers have a difficult job to do, but society expects them to show the highest standards of behaviour. In one case, two young men were awarded thousands of pounds in damages after they were battered and verbally abused by an officer who gave vent to his anger and intimidated them.
The teenagers were part of a group which was stopped by a vanload of six police officers who believed that insults and obscene gestures had been aimed in their direction. The events which followed lasted just a few minutes but triggered a detailed investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and, ultimately, a 12-day High Court trial.
The Court found that one of the teenagers had been forced into the van by an officer who had grossly overreacted to the situation. Behind the van's tinted windows, the officer had abused and sworn at the youth in a threatening, intimidating and very aggressive manner. Part of the abuse was racist.
The other teenager had also been racially abused by the same officer and had been forced to kneel for 20 minutes, with his hands cuffed behind his back, for no other purpose than to humiliate him. The officer had grabbed him around the neck, making it difficult for him to breathe. He was also struck and abused by a police sergeant who should have taken control of the situation.
Although not seriously injured physically, both youths had been left traumatised by their experience. The first was awarded damages of £2,500 against the Metropolitan Police and the other £11,950. A third member of the group was refused compensation on the basis that any injuries which he suffered had resulted from his resistance to a lawful arrest.