I Was Racially Profiled And Manhandled By The Police, Now They Have Charged Me With A Criminal Offence
Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, a recent CPS study concluded that black and minority ethnic individuals are significantly more likely to be charged than their white counterparts. As criminal defence lawyers, we are often witnesses to our black, mixed race and ethnic minority clients being the victims of institutional racism.
A client of mine, whom has given consent for his story to be shared, was charged with obstructing a police search after the police assumed that his roll up cigarette was cannabis. My client was tackled to the floor and at one stage, there were four officers holding him to the ground resulting in injuries which were treated by the nurse at the police station.
In order for the offence of obstructing a police search to be made out, the Prosecution must prove that someone has intentionally obstructed a person in the exercise of their powers under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It must be shown that the individual did a deliberate act which made it more difficult for the police to carry out the search, knowing that their conduct would have an obstructive effect. If there was no intention to obstruct a search or the police were acting beyond their powers, you have a defence to this crime.
When being detained for a drug search, the police must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the individual is in possession of drugs. Once those reasonable grounds cease to exist, the search must stop. As such, as soon as the officer smelt the cigarette – identifying that it was not cannabis – the search should have ceased.
Despite providing a statement of his account during the police interview and no drugs being found on his person, he was still charged. It is no surprise that my client was a male of mixed heritage.
In preparation for my client’s Court hearing, requests for full copies of Body Worn Video from each and every officer were made on numerous occasions however they were not supplied. Thankfully, my client’s girlfriend was present and able to record the incident using her camera phone.
At the first Court hearing known as the ‘first appearance’ at the Magistrates’ Court I made representations to the Prosecutor to drop the case but they refused to do so. My client entered a Not Guilty plea and I stressed the issues of police misconduct to the Court including the lack of reasonable grounds to suspect my client was in possession of drugs (given none were found on his person) and the use of unreasonable force. I highlighted that he had sustained injuries to his arms, collar bone and wrists as well as a 4cm abrasion to his hand which was still visible at Court, weeks after his arrest.
Shortly after the first appearance, whilst I was drafting what is known as a ‘letter of representations’ to the CPS requesting that the matter be discontinued, I received notification that the case had been dropped. Simply raising issues at the first Court hearing appeared to have caused the CPS lawyer to properly review the case and conclude that there was not one.
It is not unusual that cases like this exist and we are here to help in any way we can. Our expert Criminal Defence Department are committed to being anti-racist lawyers. If you feel you have been wrongly charged with an offence as a result of institutional racism, contact our team on 0808 271 9413 or get in touch online. We also have a Civil Liberties Team we work closely with and can assess whether you have an action against the police.