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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 February 2008, 15:38 GMT
Pcs' 'squabble' over police van
Pc Byron Emerson-Thomas
Pc Byron Emerson-Thomas has been suspended since the attack
A police officer punched a colleague in the face following a "petty squabble" over who was going to drive a force van, Newport Crown Court has heard.

Pc Byron Emerson-Thomas, 37, wanted first go in the van at the start of a night shift because it was fitted with a new radio, the trial heard.

He denies wounding Pc Aled Bartlett, who needed eight stitches after the incident at a Cardiff police station.

Pc Emerson-Thomas will claim he acted in self-defence, the jury was told.

He has been suspended since the incident last May at Fairwater police station in the city.

The court also heard that Pc Emerson-Thomas, of Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, allegedly rubbed tea-soaked paper towels into the face and arm of Pc Bartlett, also 37, after he was handed the keys to a Panda car rather than the preferred police van.

Pc Emerson-Thomas wanted first go in the van because it was fitted with a new radio, the jury was told.

Prosecutor Mark Spackman said: "The incident began in what can only be described as a petty squabble over who was driving the police van that evening.

There was a cut which may have been caused by the signet ring Emerson-Thomas was wearing
Mark Spackman, prosecuting

"The sergeant told Pc Bartlett to take the van but the defendant was a bit upset about it and he asked Pc Bartlett if he could have it.

"Pc Bartlett simply got up and picked up the keys from the board then sat down at a table to drink a cup of tea.

"He went to pick up the cup of tea and Pc Emerson-Thomas punched his arm causing it to spill over the table and himself."

The trial heard Pc Bartlett picked up a paper towel to clean up the spilled tea.

But Pc Emerson-Thomas was accused of using other towels to wipe the tea down his colleague's arm.

Mr Spackman said: "Emerson-Thomas then shoved the paper towels into Pc Bartlett's face."

Fairwater police station
The incident happened at Fairwater police station in Cardiff

The court was told that other officers had told them to stop but Pc Emerson-Thomas then lashed out at Pc Bartlett with his fist and hit his eyebrow.

"It was a hard punch and knocked the contact lens out of his eye," said Mr Spackman.

"There was a cut which may have been caused by the signet ring Emerson-Thomas was wearing."

Pc Emerson-Thomas was sent home from the station and he has been suspended since.

The court heard that the men had worked together for five months but there had never been any animosity. They had also known each other for four years.

Mr Spackman told the jury that a person is entitled to use reasonable force to defend himself or herself if they believed it was necessary to use such force.

"In those circumstances, the law allows you to use force that is reasonable to repel that attack," he said.

"That will be the primary issue for you to determine during the course of this case."

Mr Spackman told the jury to disregard the professions of the defendant and complainant, adding: "This is no less criminal conduct than if it had been between two members of the public in the street."

The trial continues.

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