A relieved policeman today told of his ‘15 months of stress’ after being cleared of attacking a handcuffed suspect who he pepper sprayed in the face.
PC James Burns, of Waunfawr, Gwynedd, branded the time taken to investigate him ‘excessive’ and revealed he was planning to retire as soon as possible.
The 56-year-old dad-of-three pleaded not guilty to assaulting Michael Stanley, 28, in Penrhyndeudraeth on April 10, last year and also perverting the course of justice.
After a five-day trial at Caernarfon Crown Court and more than seven hours of deliberations, a jury of seven women and five men reached not guilty verdicts on all four charges.
PC Burns wiped away tears as the jury foreman delivered the majority verdicts.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “I have had to wait nearly 12 months now for this day to happen but I can hopefully retire now next week.”
He said the length of time North Wales Police professional standards department had taken to investigate the allegations against him were “excessive.”
PC Burns, who worked as a nursing assistant at Bryn y Neuadd, Llanfairfechan and the Hergest unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd before becoming a policeman, said: “I’m very relieved that the jury have returned a verdict of not guilty on four charges on allegations made against myself.
“In all honesty, I didn’t know what they were thinking. I hoped they would have believed the evidence that I gave when I took the stand when I was cross-examined.
“Hopefully my actions were found by the jury not to be excessive.
“It was all over in 30 seconds. With hindsight, you can always look back and think you can do things differently but as it unfolds as a police officer in a violent situation you just have to do your best.
“You just have to do your job.
Thanking the jury, he added: “The Police Professional Standards have a job to do but in light of the time of the investigation, it has been a very, very stressful 15 months.”
PC Burns claimed he had “acted in self-defence” when he grabbed Mr Stanley by the throat before pepper spraying him while he was handcuffed in a police car. The arrest was videoed by another policeman wearing a body camera.
Fellow PC Robin Humphreys, 27, who had also denied attempting to pervert the court of justice, walked free from court on Wednesday after the Judge Huw Rees ruled there was insufficient evidence against him and ordered the jury to find him not guilty.
PC Burns claimed grabbing Mr Stanley by his throat was a “pre-emptive strike to prevent myself from being headbutted”.
PC Burns denied he’d lied about the possibility of being headbutted to justify his actions.
Matthew Curtis, prosecuting, said Mr Stanley had made “sarcastic” comments to PC Burns, calling him the “old man with the gas who can’t do s**t” after he had failed to use a pepper spray on him in an arrest three months previously.
Mr Curtis said it was this “winding-up” which provoked PC Burns.
Mr Curtis asked: “Why did you say: ‘Just spray the f****r’?”
PC Burns replied: “Because he wasn’t complying, because he had just assaulted my colleague and I thought he was out of control.”
PC Burns said he had decided to use the pepper spray on Mr Stanley, who had been handcuffed and placed inside the enclosed rear of the police car, “to control him and subdue him”.
Earlier, when asked by his defence barrister, John Wyn Williams, if there had been any other way he could have dealt with Mr Stanley, PC Burns said: “I don’t believe so.
“I don’t think there was any other option that would have controlled his behaviour.”
“I don’t feel I went overboard at all”
Asked by Mr Williams if he had gone “overboard”, PC Burns replied: “I don’t feel I went overboard at all.
“I believe that my actions were justified because of the assaults on me and my colleague and the continuous threats towards us.”
Mr Williams asked PC Burns if, after seeing video footage of the arrest, he had attempted to change his statement to include references to alleged headbutting to “beef up his justification” for his actions, PC Burns replied: “No, not at all. I was trying to clarify what I had heard.”
In his closing speech to the jury, Mr Curtis said PC Burns had “acted as a bully” and “beyond his lawful duty in assaulting Mr Stanley”.
But Mr Williams said: “PC Burns was just trying to do his job.”
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Source : DailyPost