1 May 2021

Met police officer dismissed for hitting vulnerable teenage girl over 30 times with a baton

This is one of the most appalling cases of unjustified police violence I have ever come across in more than 30 years of journalism.

And yet, up until last Friday’s dismissal of the officer PC Benjamin Kemp, there has been almost nothing made public about it.

One obvious reason are the details. Another is the vulnerability of the victim.

It happened 2 years ago in May 2019. The victim, a 17-year-old black girl, was on an escorted walk from the mental health unit in East London where she was being treated.

She became distressed and ran off and a police car was flagged down. When placed inside, she became even more distressed.

According to various official statements PC Kemp tried to handcuff her, used CS spray in her face closer than the permitted distance, and beat her with his baton some 34 times.

Other officers then arrived, and one used a Taser on her. We can only guess what impact all this had on her and still does.

Wind on to this week, following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and a three-day gross misconduct hearing took place in private, which ended with the sacking of PC Ben Kemp.

I and the Crime Editor from The Times, Fiona Hamilton, applied for access while offering to protect the anonymity of the victim, given the enormous sensitivities. But we were denied and then denied any transcript of the hearing.

It’s clear the officer put forward a defence, but I have no knowledge of what that was. I know other officers were involved, but I can’t tell you why they didn’t face a similar hearing.

The outrage on social media has been huge. I have received a deluge of tweets asking why no criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, the answer is I don’t know why there were no criminal charges, because I haven’t heard or seen the evidence.

The Metropolitan Police has issued a public apology to the family for the behaviour of PC Kemp and to what it terms the wider communities , well aware the impact such a case may have on trust and confidence. If Twitter is any measure, they are right to be concerned.

Chief Superintendent Richard Tucker said, and I quote: “PC Kemp ‘over-reacted, used excessive force in a very disproportionate manner and was unprofessional’”.

That’s probably as damning as you can get in police speak, but accepts The Met needs to work more closely with mental health trusts although we are left without any proper explanation as to how an officer beats a highly vulnerable, mental health patient more than 30 times with a baton.