“DECK AND DOMINATE!”
Strategy Used by the Police Officers Who Assaulted Babar Ahmad During Arrest
Babar Ahmad (claimant) v. Metropolitan Police (defendant):
A Summary of Day 1
Monday 16th March 2009
Day one of Babar Ahmad’s claim against the Metropolitan police (MP) began promptly at 10.30am on Monday 16th March. Mr Ahmad’s counsel, Miss Phillippa Kaufmann, began the opening submissions on his behalf. (Click here to download the complete opening submissions.)
Mr Ahmad will be giving evidence in person on Wednesday 18th March 2009.
Mr Ahmad is claiming for assault during his arrest at his home in Tooting, South London, by members of the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Army Support Group (TSG) in December 2003.
Key officers in the case are:
PS Davis, leader of the officers involved and present during some of the assault;
PC Roderick James-Bowen, PC Nigel Cowley, PC John Donohue and an officer who is referred to as “X”, all of whom are based at 1TSG at Paddington Green anti-terrorism police station.
Mr Ahmad was subjected to a “prolonged and violent series” of gratuitous attacks at the hands of these four officers. His assault comprised of: punching, kneeing, stamping on his feet, deliberate manipulation of metal handcuffs to cause pain and twice being placed in an “extremely dangerous and terrifying neck hold” causing him to “fear for his life”.
Account of Events
On the morning of the assault, Mr Ahmad was awoken by the arrival of a large number of police officers wearing helmets. He took a passive position with his hands raised. The officers charged in shouting, “Get Down! F***ing Get Down!”. He was pushed head first into the window and the officers forced their knees into his thighs. The swearing continued intermittently and at one point an officer said, “So this one is the tough nut, is it?”
Mr Ahmad’s arms were held back by restraining officers whilst metal handcuffs were applied in an “extremely aggressive and forceful manner”. The officers used these handcuffs to pull Mr Ahmad to his feet, causing him “intense and extreme pain”. Each time they would manoeuvre him they would wrench at the handcuffs, repeatedly bringing on this acute pain.
Throughout this assault, Mr Ahmad did not offer any resistance despite the fact that the officers continued to strike him on his head and back. They stamped on his bare feet repeatedly and took him downstairs. He was then forced into the praying position of prostration and one of the officers mockingly asked him, “Where is your God now? Pray to Him!”
Once in the police van, he was forced to lie down on his front and was repeatedly punched in his left kidney area. At one point his ankles were crossed over and an officer pressed down with his boots. He was asked, “Where were you born?” to which Mr Ahmad replied, “London”. The officer struck him and asked him, “Which hospital, you f***ing bastard?”. “St Heliers,” was his reply.
The assault in the back of the van continued throughout the 15-20 minute journey to Charing Cross police station. Mr Ahmad was then placed in a strong neck hold by one of the officers, believed to be Officer X. When this was released, he was gasping and panting for breath. He was then placed in a neck hold for a second time during which he “felt his eyes rolling back” and felt as though he was going “pass out”. When this neck hold was released and Mr Ahmad gasped frantically for breath, the officer said to him, “You are going to remember this day for the rest of your f***ing life, do you understand me, you f***ing bastard?”.
“Deck and Dominate”
Sergeant PS Davies and Acting Sergeant PC Denham were briefed by DCS Boutcher before the operation, in the presence of a Muslim officer, to give a briefing on the need to respect certain issues regarding the Muslim faith. Both sergeants then went to brief their own officers and this briefing “appears to have been done with some haste” as they were keen to carry out the arrest before Mr Ahmad awoke for dawn prayers. Both PS Davies and PC Denham will not be giving evidence because “they say they are too scared”, despite the fact that their own colleagues do not see there being any basis for them to feel like this.
Other TSG officers gave accounts of their briefing. They were led to believe that Mr Ahmad was “potentially a very dangerous man” and they were instructed to “deck and dominate” the occupants of the house. Because of this they were instructed to wear “full protective clothing including NATO helmets”.
The officers deny punching, kneeing, stamping on the feet, manoeuvring by wrenching handcuffs and the neck holds. They simply feel that they used a “reasonable amount of force” and “none of these things happened at all”. They stated that the injuries to his head were caused by Mr Ahmad hitting his head against the metal seat brackets on the inside of the van.
Miss Kaufmann went on to highlight, however, that the officers engaged in “extreme, sadistic and dangerous acts of violence against an individual who was completely restrained and vulnerable”. This was in fact an “extreme abuse of power which was in no sense justified nor was it excusable”, and one that could not be simply blamed on the “heat of an arrest for terrorism” or due to the briefing the officers had received.
Miss Kaufmann then pointed out how this case has attracted “substantial media interest from the outset” and the “great concern” in the Muslim community about the manner in which the “arms of the state” had tackled the terrorist threat since September 11th 2001. This assault also raised concerns that the “members of the police now considered themselves free to take the law into their own hands and mete out whatever physical punishment they thought appropriate whenever suspicions arose of a terrorist connection”.
Mr Ahmad took “every step in his power” to bring this matter to scrutiny by the judicial process. He immediately complained to the police, whilst still in custody and the matter was looked into by the IPCC and CPS. The IPCC concluded there was only sufficient evidence to bring disciplinary proceedings against one officer, PC James Bowen, for his one act of an “initial charge” at Mr Ahmad. The disciplinary proceedings were very restrictive and did not allow the events of that morning to “properly be opened up to public scrutiny”. The CPS concluded the assault was “not provable to criminal standard”.
With the failure of all other avenues to investigate the matter properly, Mr Ahmad has launched this private law claim “to ensure that there can be a full, public and judicial inquiry into the police brutality to which he was subjected that night”.
Mr Ahmad will be present in court to give evidence on Wednesday 18th March. Evidence will also be heard from three of the officers involved in the following days. This will be followed by examination of the medical evidence, including live testimony from Professor Peter Vanezis, consultant forensic pathologist. He will be commenting on the likely causes of the various injuries and some of the photographic evidence.
Other evidence which will also be looked at in the following days includes photographs of the injuries and CCTV footage of Mr Ahmad arriving at Charing Cross Police Station, where at one point he is seen to almost collapse in a drained state with both his arms holding on to the reception desk at the police station.
During the afternoon session, it was stated by Miss Kaufmann that all of the officers’ Incident Report Books (IRB’s) have “gone missing” by the defendant. IRB’s are very detailed notebooks carried by all officers, in which details of any incidences are reported. It is the policy of the defendant to keep IRB’s for 6 years, highlighting how important they are. An explanation was not given as to how all IRB’s for the officers who were involved in the arrest of Mr Ahmad had just “gone missing”. In fact, when Mr Ahmad had lodged the complaint surrounding his arrest, all the officers involved were instructed to hand in their IRB’s for examination. To date, none of the key officers’ IRB’s have been found.
Other material that has also “gone missing” includes a very lengthy interview by PC Davis, in which he provides a detailed account of events. This interview was conducted as part of the IPCC’s complaints investigation. None of the 8 tapes have been found to date.
Disclosure of Further Material
The issue of further disclosures of relevant unsubstantiated evidence not being given by the defendant was then discussed.
The defendant failed to comply with a court order by 6th March 2009. On 13th March 2009, the defendant did however hand over some documents and Mr Ahmad’s solicitors were promised there were more to come. However, they were then told that “several large mail sacks” containing further documents complying with the court order had now “gone missing” as well. The judge was not impressed with this latest development and instructed the defendant to carry out a thorough search/investigation to find out where the missing documents had gone. He also commented that he did not see the difficulty in transporting such large mail sacks, particularly as they were only travelling a short distance within London. The defendant has now been left to update the court with its findings.
Miss Kaufmann made the point that it was only by complete chance that Mr Ahmad’s solicitors had come across another incident involving Officer X. Therefore any other relevant material was vital regarding other incidences concerning any of the officers involved in the civil case. One such example given by Miss Kaufmann dated back to 17th March 2007. Officer X was involved in detaining a man during a drugs search. There were 6 relevant allegations against Officer X including the detainee being pushed, made to get down on his knees and being held around his neck. A can of CS gas was then discharged whilst the detainee was held around the throat. Therefore, Miss Kaufmann made the point that so far Mr Ahmad’s solicitors had received very little material and there may well be more relevant material out there, as highlighted by the above incident.
There was then a discussion involving Miss Kaufmann, the defendant and the judge about how to proceed with the trial in light of the disappearance of the mail sacks. The judge, through the course of the hearing will give a ruling as to whether the trial should continue as it is; if it should continue with written submissions relating to further relevant evidence being allowed to be submitted after closing speeches, or if an adjournment for the trial should take place. Miss Kaufmann made the point that an adjournment was not desirable (due to the pending decision from the ECtHR [The European Court of Human Rights] regarding Mr Ahmad’s extradition) and that being able to submit written submissions later was a reasonable request considering the defendant’s non-compliance with the previous court order.
This session then ended and a follow-on closed session relating to similar factual evidence concerning Officer X was then examined.
The trial continues.