A hearing into alleged homophobic abuse and excessive use of force on a suspect in handcuffs has concluded, with the Lincolnshire police officer at the centre of the row cleared of all accusations.
As reported earlier, PC James Woolerton was found to have not breached the standards of professional behaviour following a historic three-day hearing at Lincolnshire Police HQ in Nettleham.
PC Woolerton had faced allegations of gross misconduct relating to his actions following the arrest of Keith Saunders after a high-speed car chase through Lincoln city centre on July 6 last year.
In presenting the outcome of the hearing, chair of the panel Assistant Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police Peter Davies dismissed the allegations one by one.
The first allegation to be dealt with was the alleged punches to the face of Saunders by PC Woolerton, which the officer had said was a single strike to the shoulder.
The panel decided that PC Woolerton had not lost his cool following the high-speed chase and accepted his evidence that he struck Saunders on the shoulder, based on his previous legitimate use of force during the incident as a whole.
Assistant Chief Constable Davies said: “Accordingly, applying the joint view of the experts, we find that the force used was reasonable and proportionate and PC Woolerton did not breach the standard of Use of Force or any other standard.”
The second allegation, relating to the alleged homophobic slur directed at the driver, rested on whether the panel believed PC John Seal’s account of the event was accurate.
PC Seal had said that he was “certain” he had heard PC Woolerton say the words “have you been sucking c**k all day?” to Saunders.
In dismissing this accusation, the chair said that “there were any number of opportunities” for PC Seal’s evidence to be corroborated and that even Saunders did not hear the comment allegedly addressed to him.
Chair Davies added: “PC Seal was not in an ideal position to hear what was said; in this regard the panel note that the comment was so indistinct that the car microphone did not pick it up. The panel also notes that there is no visible reaction from any person to the alleged comment.
“Therefore the panel have come to the conclusion that whilst PC Seal is unquestionably an honest witness, the panel conclude that on the balance of probabilities this comment was not made.”
The final allegation centred on whether the knee strike delivered by PC Woolerton while Saunders was pushed over the bonnet of the car was excessive and unnecessary.
Outlining the panel’s findings, the chair said that background circumstances had to be taken into account, such as how Saunders had driven throughout the pursuit and the level of resistance he offered as described by other officers at the hearing.
He said: “It was reasonable for PC Woolerton to fear that Mr Saunders may have intended to kick out at officers when his foot came off the ground.
“The agreed expert evidence is that a knee strike would be a proportionate use of force if PC Woolerton honestly believed that to be the case. It follows from our conclusion that we must also dismiss this allegation.”
[button url=”http://thelincolnite.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Chairs-verdict-Constable-757-James-WOOLERTON.pdf” target=”_blank” title=”Misconduct panel findings”]Read the panel’s findings in full[/button]