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Lowestoft police officer gives evidence

PUBLISHED: 08:19 10 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:24 05 July 2010

A LOWESTOFT police officer yesterday denied assaulting a handcuffed burglar by hitting him with his baton and then trying to cover up the incident.

Sgt Andrew Jervis, of Suffolk Police, said he struck Ashley Whitwam with his baton after fearing the offender might stab him or one of his colleagues with a screwdriver he had been carrying.

A LOWESTOFT police officer yesterday denied assaulting a handcuffed burglar by hitting him with his baton and then trying to cover up the incident.

Sgt Andrew Jervis, of Suffolk Police, said he struck Ashley Whitwam with his baton after fearing the offender might stab him or one of his colleagues with a screwdriver he had been carrying.

Jervis, 41, giving evidence during his trial at Norwich Crown Court, told jurors he intervened because three constables “weren't controlling” Mr Whitwam despite him being sprayed in the face by one of the officers.

The court heard that Jervis attended Gunton Hall holiday complex after security staff reported a burglary.

Mr Whitwam, who had broken into slot machines, was detained after a chase but his accomplice escaped.

Prosecutors allege Jervis struck Whitwam twice to the head despite the offender being “compliant” and handcuffed and he is also alleged to have threatened to throw Mr Whitwam into an icy lake because he refused to name the accomplice.

Following the incident, the officer asked “inexperienced” constables who had attended the incident to “leave him out” of their statements, prosecutors claim.

Jervis denies assault and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Jervis told jurors that he arrived at the Gunton Hall complex in the early hours of March 24 last year and found Mr Whitwam and three police officers tussling close to a lake.

“There was a clear violent struggle going on,” said Jervis. “They were shouting at him to 'stop fighting, stop resisting, give us your arms'.”

He continued: “It was clear they weren't controlling him. I could see he was a big lad. I didn't want them to get stabbed - let alone me. I genuinely thought they were going to get injured.”

Seconds after arriving at the incident, Jervis used his baton and said he had acted instinctively.

“I drew it because what they were doing wasn't working,” he said. “He had a screwdriver. I thought he was going to stab them or me.”

Jervis told the court he struck Mr Whitwam twice to his “upper body” and he said that had finally made him stop struggling.

He said he had not been aware Mr Whitwam, who later admitted burglary, was handcuffed at the time.

He said that Mr Whitwam had been lying face down on the ground: “I then took hold of him and moved him and saw he was handcuffed.”

Jervis denied threatening to throw Mr Whitwam into a lake but admitted telling the offender “he was lucky” not to “end up” there.

The officers involved in the arrest returned to Lowestoft Police Station after the incident. Jervis said he had not tried to influence their account of what had happened.

“I was in the station when they were doing their statements but I didn't have input into their statements,” said Jervis.

He added: “I never told them they should 'leave me out' because I was there.”

Jervis said it was a mistake that in his pocket book he had not initially said that he had struck Mr Whitwam with his baton during his arrest but after informing his inspector, he added it as a late entry.

“It was a mistake and as soon as I knew there was a complaint I made the pocket-book entry and statement,” he said.

The trial continues.

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