Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Acquitted Pc was 'a decent officer'

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

Pc Mark Jones, left, and Pc Neil Brown
Pc Jones and Pc Brown: Both found not guilty at Kingston Crown Coury

On the streets, they stood together, on the thin blue line of law and order. But in court, they were enemies, fighting for their reputations.

Today, a jury has cleared Pc Mark Jones of a racially-motivated assault on a London youth - but the case against him was only brought because a fellow officer stood against him in the witness box, Pc Amechi Onwugbonu.

The two men had been members of the same Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group (TSG) unit, based at Paddington Green police station, a maximum-security facility in central London.

They had patrolled together for two years as part of the Commissioner's Reserve, the rapid deployment force available for serious situations anywhere in the capital.

At the time of the incident, the unit of seven men had not been tasked to go to any particular incident, so left Paddington Green to head into south London to support colleagues there who were dealing with general street crime.

Pc Onwugbonu was driving the van - but within minutes of leaving Paddington Green in the early evening rush hour, Jones said that he had spotted a group of suspect youths and asked for the van to be turned around.

Jones said that he believed the predominantly British-Arab youths had mouthed obscenities at the police officers's van. The station had intelligence of street robberies in the area - and the youths fitted the description.

Group apprehended

The sizeable group was soon apprehended - and that is where the stories differed.

Pc Onwugbonu told the jury that Jones assaulted teenagers Omar Mohidin and Basil Khan.

He was alleged to have used highly offensive language and racially abusive terms, accusing one of them of robbery while British soldiers died in Iraq.

Pc Amechi Onwugbonu
I do not harbour grudges... we were not best buddies
Pc Onwugbonu, on his relationship with Pc Jones

However, during the trial a different version of the story emerged that led the jury to acquit Pc Jones of the serious charges he faced.

Pc Jones and his colleagues in the dock, all of whom had been accused of turning a blind eye to events, said that the youths themselves had been highly offensive towards the officers.

They told the jury that the scene at the stop-and-search in central London had been chaotic because of the confrontational attitude of the group they were apprehending.

Pc Jones told his trial that one of the youths had approached with clenched fists and threatened to kill his colleague Sgt William Wilson.

Basil Khan, one of the two youths Pc Jones was said to have assaulted, was described as volatile and incited a small crowd to challenge the police officers.

Critically, Pc Jones denied ever telling Pc Onwugbonu that their job was to be "vigilantes" on the streets of London.

Report filed

Pc Onwugbonu filed a report to his superiors and the Metropolitan Police's internal investigations team became involved.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission launched its own investigation, leading ultimately to the month-long trial at Kingston Crown Court.

Babar Ahmad
Babar Ahmad: 60,000 damages in case involving Pc Mark Jones

But the case came down to one officer's word against another.

Earlier in the trial, another of the officers in the van, Pc Simon Prout, was formally cleared of turning a blind eye to the alleged assault and he was allowed to leave the dock.

Pc Jones' four other colleagues on the day - Sgt Wilson, Pc Neil Brown, Pc Steven White and Pc Giles Kitchener, have also been cleared of wrongdoing by the jury.

Character witnesses told the jury that they were honourable police officers.

Careers were on the line in this trial and Pc Jones took to the witness box to say that he was a decent officer who had the experience to deal with tough situations - but also the professionalism needed to deal with sensitive situations.

The jury heard that the former Royal Marine was a married man with a family and had served in a range of tense operations with the TSG.

These included protecting the Prince of Wales, raiding crack dens and, on one occasion, stopping an armed man from approaching Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood.

Extradition request

The jury were not told about a separate incident that involved Pc Mark Jones. In December 2003, TSG officers were deployed to south London to arrest Babar Ahmad, a terrorism suspect who was to eventually face extradition to the United States.

In the course of the arrest, the suspect suffered documented injuries.

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Police paid out £60,000 in damages to Mr Ahmad.

Pc Jones was one of the officers named in the court papers as involved in the assault. He was not charged with any offence in relation to the allegation.

Today, Mr Ahmad is still in prison fighting a US extradition request - but his father sat through the trial to see Pc Mark Jones give evidence.



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SEE ALSO
Officer cleared of racial abuse
03 Nov 09 |  London

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