19 May 2015

Policeman found guilty of tuition fee protest assault

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

As a fluke helps convict a PC of assault during the 2010 tuition fees protest, student William Horner, who broke a tooth during the demo, tells Channel 4 News it could be “the tip of an iceberg”.

“It was just a fluke – I was vindicated by a fluke.”

The fluke student William Horner is talking about was a tiny short circuit inside a police officer’s radio recorder.

It meant the red light indicating the device was on wasn’t working, so giving the impression the battery was flat.

Read Simon Israel's blog: Policeman accused of framing student at tuition fee riot

But it was to record the damning, self-incriminating comments which were to prove the downfall of Metropolitan Police officer PC Andrew Ott on the night of the violent student anti-tuition fees demonstrations in Parliament Square four and a half years ago, back in December 2010.

Boasting and bragging

Throughout the day the officer, whose role at the protests was as an evidence gatherer, had boasted and bragged about his actions.

During the day, as he went around spotting troublemakers among the demonstrators. His radio recorded remarks like: “I wanna kill this little lot here, mate. If that fence goes, I’m going to f****** batter them.”

This was followed by: “I’ve clouted a few as well, just to get a bit of justice”. Later, at one point during the clashes, he urged his colleagues “to stamp all over a protestor’s head” and “f****** hurt him”.

I’ve clouted a few as well, just to get a bit of justice. PC Andrew Ott

After a late evening break PC Ott announced, now unaware his comments were being recorded, that he was up for it” and he was going “stick (baton) in play” to “let some people have it”.

So he chased after 20-year-old politics undergraduate William Horner, broke his tooth with his riot shield, and then declared when told the student had done nothing wrong: “He’s going have to have done something cos I’ve put his tooth out.”

So a reason was allegedly fabricated that officers had heard Mr Horner shout out that he was going to smash up a building… and the student’s long fight to clear his name began. He was never charged and doggedly pursued his claim against Ott and others.

It’s a tale that’s taken four and half years to emerge. During that times dozens of students have been convicted for the events of the day.

‘Sends a message’

Today the jury convicted PC Ott of assault but cleared him and two other officers, PC Calvin Lindsay and PC Thomas Barnes, of perverting the course of justice.

Mr Horner’s case is the first which has put police conduct at the student demos on trial.

He says PC Ott’s conviction “sends a message to other Metropolitan Police officers”.

My case may be just the tip of an iceberg and gave a snapshot of just what went on. William Horner

But he believes he was lucky because of “the tiniest of electrical faults which captured evidence it was impossible to ignore. Others haven’t had the luxury of these recordings. My case may be just the tip of an iceberg and gave a snapshot of just what went on.”

All three officers now face gross misconduct hearings at a future disciplinary hearing.