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Taser officer faces 'double jeopardy'

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 05, 2014

PC Lee Birch was cleared by a jury of using excessive force when he fired a Taser at a naked man in a custody suite. He now faces being investigated over the same incident by the Independent Police Complaints Commission

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The police officer who fired a Taser gun at a naked man in a police cell is being treated 'unfairly' because he is facing a 'double jeopardy' of two investigations.

PC Lee Birch was cleared by a jury of assaulting a drunken man who had flicked his underpants into his face, but will now face a separate investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The Police Federation backed the officer, and issued a statement urging people who saw the video of CCTV footage of the incident not to judge PC Birch.

Mike White, the chairman of the Wiltshire branch of the Police Federation, said there had been "many" messages of support from PC Birch's colleagues.

"Not a day goes by where an officer, somewhere in Wiltshire, is not subjected to violence or threats of violence," he said.

"Lee is a an experienced, honest, hardworking and professional police officer who, on recognising an increasing threat of violence responded in a way which the jury deemed to be proportionate, lawful and appropriate," he added.

A jury cleared the officer of all charges after hearing that the man tasered had been arrested at a Trowbridge nightclub and had been violent towards officers when he was arrested and back at the Melksham custody suite.

"Many people have seen a CCTV video clip of the incident and will have formed a view of the incident from that short clip," said Mr White.

"Whilet I acknowledge the impact this video clip may have on public opinion I ask that you consider that it is a single piece of evidence and, viewed in isolation, risks representing an unbalanced view of the case.

"In total, five days of evidence, which included CCTV of the custody booking in procedure in addition to the incident in the cell, was presented in court. The jury then made an informed decision on all of the evidence that was presented to them," he added.

The Police Federation said it would be taking up the "double jeopardy" issue with PC Birch's MP, after rank and file officers questioned whether the officer should be subject to a fresh investigation by the IPCC when he had been cleared in a court of law.

"As well as the messages of support from officers many have voiced their concerns over the 'double jeopardy' that police officers face in such circumstances," said Mr White.

"Immediately following the not guilty verdict the Independent Police Complaints Commission announced that an investigation, managed by it, will consider whether the actions of Lee Birch breached standards of professional behaviour.

"Police officers are not, and never should be, immune to being held accountable for their use of force however in this case Lee Birch's actions have already been scrutinised, in public, in a court of law. I question whether it is genuinely in the public interest to pursue misconduct proceedings against officers in such cases.

"Government guidelines advise that, following an acquittal, consideration should be given as to whether an officer should then face misconduct proceedings. The tone and speed of the IPCC's press release raises questions as to whether government guidelines and the basic principles of fairness are being applied to Lee Birch in this case. I will shortly be writing to Lee's local MP to ask him to look into this matter," he added.

"The final issue raised by our officers is the fact that a drunken, violent individual has never been held to account for the assaults he perpetrated on two Wiltshire police officers in the events leading up to the Taser incident. Wiltshire Police officers deserve the protection of the courts from violent individuals."

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  • bugleboy1  |  May 06 2014, 8:10PM

    Birch is the out of control violent individual and the public need to be protected from him and his ilk!!!!! Really hope the ipcc recommend termination of this officer!

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  • StanStill  |  May 06 2014, 8:49AM

    Lets hope this doesn't develop into another Sgt Mark Andrews case, where Geenty wasted £300,000 of tax payers money trying to get rid of Andrews after the PAT ordered him to re-instate him.

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