Lowestoft sergeant cleared of assault

PUBLISHED: 12:22 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:28 05 July 2010

A LOWESTOFT police officer was yesterday found not guilty of assaulting a handcuffed burglar - nearly seven years after being accused of punching a teenage prisoner in the face.

A LOWESTOFT police officer was yesterday found not guilty of assaulting a handcuffed burglar - nearly seven years after being accused of punching a teenage prisoner in the face.

Sgt Andrew Jervis, of Suffolk police, was cleared of assault causing actual bodily harm and perverting the course of justice by a jury at Norwich Crown Court on Thursday after it was alleged he hit handcuffed suspect Ashley Whitwam twice across the head with his baton.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Jervis hit Mr Whitwam - who had broken into slot machines at the Gunton Hall holiday park in Lowestoft - even though he was handcuffed and was “compliant” after being restrained by three other officers.

The court heard that the 41-year-old also threatened to throw Mr Whitwam into an icy lake if he refused to name his accomplice.

Jervis, giving evidence on Monday, told the court he struck 22-year-old Mr Whitwam because he feared the offender might stab him or one of his colleagues with a screwdriver he had been carrying and said he did know that Mr Whitwam was handcuffed at the time.

It was also alleged in court that after the incident on March 24 last year, Jervis told other three officers who had been with him at the arrest to leave him out of their accounts of the evening's events.

The officer, who joined Suffolk police in 1990 and moved to Lowestoft CID in 1996, yesterday clasped his hands together and said “thanks” to the jury as the verdicts were read out after nearly five-and-a -half hours of deliberations.

Recorder Guy Ayers said the verdicts should not be seen as suggesting that the constables, who gave evidence in court, had lied about the incident.

He said: “I hope that those three officers do not lose their jobs and their careers on the back of this particular verdict.”

In May 2002, Jervis was acquitted of assault following allegations that he punched 17-year-old prisoner Barrie Hart in the face while he was being held at Lowestoft police station in March 2001.

The jury at Norwich Crown Court heard at the time that Jervis lashed out at Hart, causing swelling to his face, after the teenager began banging a grille in the cell where he was being held.

Speaking after yesterday's hearing, Det Chief Insp Louisa Pepper said: “We are committed to providing a quality policing service to the people of Suffolk.

“We expect our employees to maintain the highest standards of discipline and integrity at all times and the public has a right to expect that our officers and staff will adhere to these standards.

“Suffolk Constabulary takes complaints and instances of misconduct extremely seriously; any allegation will be investigated thoroughly and swiftly.

“As internal disciplinary proceedings are being considered at this stage, no further comment can be made.”

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