27 May 2011

Police handling of wheelchair-using protester: ‘lawful’

Police officers were justified in pulling a protester from his wheelchair and “inadvertently” hitting him with a baton at the student fees demonstrations, an inquiry has found.

A student demonstrates against university fees as an independent commission finds police action against a protestor in a wheelchair was lawful

The actions of officers surrounding Jody McIntyre at the student fees demonstration on 9 December were “justifiable and lawful given the volatile and dangerous situation”, Scotland Yard’s Directorate of Professional Standards said.

The incident happened on the day the government won a vital Commons vote on allowing universities to charge higher fees for courses.

A statement from the force said: “The investigation, supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), did not find evidence to substantiate any of the complaints made by Jody McIntyre regarding two separate incidents at the demonstrations.”

Mr McIntyre, 21, said he was the victim of unprovoked action by police after video footage of the incident came to light. He complained that an officer tipped him out of his wheelchair to the ground, then dragged him across the road to the pavement.

Mr McIntyre also said the treatment amounted to discrimination on the basis of his disability.

‘Justifiable and lawful’

But an inquiry said officers acted lawfully amid the violent disorder on the day. The inquiry found: “Whilst there is evidence that Jody McIntyre was inadvertently struck with a police baton, the investigation found that the actions of officers were justifiable and lawful given the volatile and dangerous situation occurring at the location and his removal from his wheelchair was also justifiable given the officers’ perceived risk to Jody McIntyre.”

Investigators took advice from the force’s independent disability advisory group, which recommended that guidance should be developed around the most appropriate way to move a wheelchair user should it become necessary.

Acting Commander Carl Bussey, head of the Directorate of Professional Standards, said: “The allegations made by Jody McIntyre were extremely concerning and we have carried out a very thorough investigation under the supervision of the IPCC to establish the facts.

“The investigation did not find evidence to substantiate any of the complaints and, given how damaging these allegations were to the reputation of the MPS and relationship with both protesters and London’s disabled community, it is only right that we report back and therefore publicly account on what occurred.”

Mr McIntyre’s solicitor has been informed.