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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Britain: taser gun case: man cleared

"Usage creep" in England you say? Pity!

Closer to home, speaking of police making "a mountain out of little more than a molehill," when will Robert Dziekanski be cleared of any crime?!”

November 13, 2008

A “man mountain” body builder who was shot with a taser gun said he was considering legal action against Norfolk Police after being cleared of assaulting an inspector and violent behaviour.

Andrew Clarke, 42, is 6ft 3 tall and powerfully built but was left unable to move after the electric shock device was shot at him outside Dereham Police Station.

A number of police officers told Thetford magistrates yesterday that they had been frightened by “agitated and aggressive” Clarke and he had ignored warnings to get to the ground and the taser gun was used as there was a fear he could cause a breach of the peace.

But the bench found him not guilty of assaulting Insp Peter Walsh and violent behaviour at a police station. He denied both offences.

After the case, Clarke, of Gray Drive, Swanton Morley, near Dereham: “I am happy justice has been done.”

He said he as well as being tasered, he spent two nights in custody and he had had the case hanging over him for four months.

Clarke described the effect of being shot with the device: “It seized every muscle up. It contracted my chest and stomach and I could not move or do anything. When you are being tasered it felt like it lasted half an hour.”

His solicitor Ian Fisher said: “We will consider the possibility of taking legal action against Norfolk Constabulary in respect of the amount of force used.”

He said police had “made a mountain out of little more than a molehill.”

The court was told that two specialist firearms-trained officers were called to the scene on the morning of July 28 and one of them - PC John Balderstone - fired the two so-called “barbs” into Clarke's chest to temporarily disable him after he had ignored warnings to get on the ground.

PC Balderstone said: “He was clearly agitated and in an aggressive state. I fired my taser with the aim of bringing the man and the situation under control.”

An initial firing lasted for four seconds and another pulse was fired when officers believed Clarke was trying to get up and that lasted two seconds.

No evidence was given in the case about the power of the electric shock, but Mr Fisher said in his summing up it was “50,000 volts.”

The magistrates heard that the incident occurred after Clarke went to the station to try to see his estranged wife Jane, who he thought was there, even though it emerged that she was at another address. Clarke wanted to talk to her about rumours about her which he had heard. The court was told that Clarke went into the station's public enquiry office and was kept waiting and became frustrated at the delays.

Insp Walsh said he had tried to talked calmly to Clarke, who was “angry and was making emphatic aggressive body motions.”

He said he was concerned for the safety of him, his colleagues, Clarke himself and members of the public and he tried to stop Clarke leaving.

Insp Walsh said Clarke “brushed him aside” and caused Insp Walsh's neck to jar and left him with a bit lip and sore jaw.

Clarke told the court he had just wanted to speak to his estranged wife and he decided to leave when he became frustrated.

He said he did not threaten and anyone or assault Insp Walsh and was only contact with him as the officer and PC Marcus Wall “had made contact with him.”

PC Kevin Cross, who saw Clarke in the public enquiry office, said: “He was pumped up and hyped up. He was aggressive and frightening. He had physically moved towards me in a threatening tone. He is a man mountain.”

Insp Walsh admitted the CCTV coverage from cameras at the station was “awful” and the system had been subsequently upgraded.

Clarke admitted an offence of sending an offensive text to his estranged wife. He was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £50 costs.

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