Sussex Police officers convicted of assaulting teenage girl in Eastbourne

Two Sussex Police officers have been convicted of assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Eastbourne while she was detained in handcuffs inside a police vehicle after her arrest.

Following a two-day trial at Folkestone Magistrates Court a district judge today (Monday, December 20) found PC Deborah Sands, aged 46, guilty of assault for use of PAVA spray, which is an incapacitant, and PC Kris Green, 35, guilty of assault for a knee strike to the head.

Both officers are said to have been based in East Sussex.

Sentencing was adjourned until January 26. Both officers had denied the charges.

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It follows an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) of the officers’ use of force against the girl, who was detained during an incident in Eastbourne May 19 last year.

The court was told that the officers used excessive force against the girl, who had been reported as a missing person at the time.

When she was handcuffed inside a police vehicle and had a seatbelt secured, PC Sands sprayed her in the face with PAVA and PC Green issued a knee strike to her head, kicks to a leg and applied a spit guard.

Body Worn Video (BWV) footage presented to the court in evidence showed the force the officers used and that they engaged in verbal altercations with the girl during her arrest.

Delivering his verdicts District Judge Justin Barron said that, in the context of 35 years’ court experience, he had been ‘genuinely shocked’ when he first saw the body worn footage, adding: “I am sure that the degree of force was wholly disproportionate to the circumstances they (the officers) found themselves in.”

IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley, said: “While there are occasions when the use of force is required, police officers are entrusted with the power to do so only if it is necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

“Our investigation raised serious concerns about the actions of both officers and the Crown Prosecution Service made the decision to bring charges after we referred a file to them.

“The court has clearly taken the view that both officers, whose role involves ensuring the welfare of detainees, went beyond what was necessary to ensure control of the girl in a custody environment.”

The IOPC said the five-month investigation followed a referral from Sussex Police in July 2020, and on its conclusion the IOPC said it found that both officers had a case to answer for gross misconduct for their use of force and other alleged breaches of the policing standards of professional behaviour.

Detective Superintendent Rachel Carr, head of the Professional Standards Department, said: “While police need to use force at times during the course of their work, this is highly regulated, and excessive use of force is unacceptable and any incidents will be fully investigated.

“As soon as we became aware of this case we made a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the officers were placed on restricted duties while they were under investigation.

“We then suspended them after an IOPC investigation led to them being charged with the offence. We will be resuming disciplinary action against the officers now that the criminal investigation has concluded.”