The family of an autistic man who was in an incident with police have reacted with anger after two men were cleared of assault yesterday.
The two policemen hugged each other with relief in court as they were cleared of misconduct and assault charges concerning 33-year-old Faruk Ali.
The officers had gone after Mr Ali at his Luton home when they saw him out early in the morning on the street.
They thought he was acting suspiciously, but what they didn’t know was that Mr Ali had the mental age of a five-year-old and was following his weekly routine of putting out the wheelie bins for his family and his neighbours.
On seeing the police car, he had run off and the officers, PC Christopher Pitts and PC Christopher Thomas, were anxious to question him.
What happened next led to the two Bedfordshire policemen finding themselves facing criminal charges.
As PC Thomas got out of the car to detain Mr Ali, there was a struggle and wheelie bins went flying outside his home in Whitby Road, Luton.
Mr Ali ended up in his hallway, being pursued by the officer, but it was the policemen who then found themselves being investigated by their colleagues.
The prosecution’s case was that the officer had punched Mr Ali in the face, but PC Thomas said he had grabbed Mr Ali’s coat to slow him down.
He denied punching Mr Ali.
The struggle continued inside the hallway of the family home, with Mr Ali shouting “Uma Uma!” - Bengali for “Mum Mum!”
PC Thomas denied punching Mr Ali inside the house.
PC Thomas, 33, from Welwyn Garden City and PC Pitts, 40, from Bedford, who between them have 24 years of police service, pleaded not guilty to misconduct in a public office by chasing after Mr Ali.
PC Thomas denied racially aggravated assault on him and a lesser alternative charge of common assault.
During the trial, the pair were cleared on the direction of Judge Francis Sheridan of doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice by making false and misleading statements to senior officers.
Hugh Davies QC, for Thomas, said when his client saw Mr Ali running, he didn’t know he was going home or that he had a mental age of five.
Referring to the officers laughing, he said they were not on trial for finding things funny.
He said Mr Ali’s injuries were consistent with falling into the bins and he said PC Thomas had a duty to bring him under control.
The barrister said PC Thomas might have engaged in “industrial humour” but he did not use racist words and had said “F------ cracking.”
Barrister Ben Summers, for PC Pitts, said he had gone after Mr Ali because he was concerned about his demeanour and the fact that he was running away.
He added: “You only have to look at Faruk Ali to know that something is not right.
“He ran away.
“The police have a duty to safeguard the vulnerable and investigate suspicious circumstances.”
As the jury announced their not guilty verdicts, the officers hugged each other with relief.
Judge Sheridan thanked the jury for their work and told them: “This was a proper case for a jury to consider,
“I have no doubt about that.”
Both policemen left the court refusing to make any comment.
But Faruk’s family said in a statement: “The family is bitterly disappointed with the verdict, it has come as a complete shock in view of the overwhelming evidence presented.
“On this occasion we do not feel justice has been done and we have instructed solicitors to look at civil proceedings.
“We are in a state of shock as we did not expect it to come out like this.
“We appreciate the support everyone has shown and we will continue our fight for justice.”
After the verdicts, Chief Constable Colette Paul said: “We note the decision of the court and will be reviewing all of the evidence put forward during the trial.
“The force acted swiftly after receiving the allegations against these individuals and has supported Leicestershire Police’s investigation throughout.
“I regret any distress caused to Mr Ali, the officers involved and their respective families. However, it was right that this matter was referred to an independent investigation and that a due legal process was followed.
“Both remain suspended pending the outcome of a misconduct investigation which is being carried out by Leicestershire Police and supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.”