Gidea Park arrest: Detective who hit teenager with metal baton not guilty of assault
PUBLISHED: 18:00 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:02 24 January 2020
A Metropolitan Police officer has been cleared of using unlawful force after striking a teenager with a baton when conducting a stop-and-search.
Det Con Kevin Rowley was found not guilty of assault by beating following a trial at Hendon Magistrates' Court.
The court heard how Mr Rowley struck the male some five times with his baton after he and a colleague tried to perform a stop-and-search on two youths in Heath Park Road.
Footage of the incident went viral on social media, which appeared to show the 18-year-old complainant shouting "You can't do this" and "I'm a child".
Arabella MacDonald, prosecuting, said it was the crown's case that the use of force on April 22 last year was "unlawful" and that Mr Rowley had been exaggerating about the teenager's behaviour.
But passing verdict, District Judge Tan Ikram said: "I don't find he was exaggerating. In fact, some of the witnesses went so far as to say he was uncontrollable."
Mr Ikram said the prosecution had not satisfied him that the force used was unreasonable.
He added: "What the prosecution have not done is satisfy me that when the officer acted at the time, that he was using force which was not reasonable.
"Therefore, for these reasons, I find the defendant not guilty."
Mr Rowley, an officer with the Met for more than 16 years, sat mostly with his head in his hands as the verdict was handed down on Thursday.
During the prosecution's closing submissions, Ms MacDonald said the footage was "so clear" that "use of force was not reasonable or necessary".
But Mr Rowley called these claims "nonsense" during his cross examination.
The court heard he and another police officer attempted to carry out a stop-and-search after spotting the teenager, who was 17 at the time, holding a "wad of cash" while walking with another youth.
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The 37-year-old said he and his colleague, who were both in plain clothes, told the youths they were going to search them for drugs, after apparently smelling cannabis.
He told the court he had put the teenager in a headlock, took him to the floor and took hold of his wrists, as the other police officer chased the other youth, who had fled.
"I'm now alone with an agitated and aggressive male who is not complying and made it clear from the start with his words of, 'you ain't searching me, I know my rights'," Mr Rowley told the court.
He said that he had told the teenager to calm down, and explained he was handcuffing him for his safety, which resulted in a struggle between them.
"At first I thought that had worked," he said, "He just lost it. He got more aggressive and got to his feet."
Rowley told the court he had delivered "two to three" knee strikes to the teenager to the thigh, adding: "I wasn't trying to hurt him. All I was trying to do was detain him.
"I had gone through handcuffs, verbal commands, knee strikes - my only option was to draw my baton."
On using his baton, he said: "It was five times on the thigh as per our officer safety training."
He added: "I said to him I did not want to use force, but I will if you do not comply."
The incident was referred to the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
It will now be determined by the IPOC whether DC Rowley has a case to answer for gross misconduct.
The court heard that teenager had been cautioned for a small amount of cannabis found on his person - five small bags - and subsequently arrested for obstruction of a drug search.
Speaking after the verdict, Met Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh said he was pleased with the result and called for better understanding of the "threats officers encounter on a daily basis".
He said: "It's very easy to make accusations over the conduct and actions of police officers from the comfort of a desk, but we would ask people to walk a day in our boots to experience the extreme challenges we face."
Mr Marsh added: "What this case has once again shown is that it's vital in 2020 that my hard-working colleagues are not judged and juried by social media - a short clip of an incident does not always tell the full policing story."