A police officer lied to paramedics called to treat a student-athlete who had been arrested after an incident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and profoundly brain-damaged, a disciplinary hearing has been told.
PC Hannah Ross is one of four Bedfordshire police officers facing allegations amounting to gross misconduct over the treatment of Julian Cole, who has been in a persistent vegetative state for the past five years.
The hearing, which opened on Monday in Stevenage, heard that when paramedics were called to the police station, they were deliberately misled by Ross. Mark Ley-Morgan, representing the police force’s professional standards department, said she “gave the impression that Mr. Cole had not given any cause for concern during the journey to the station”.
Cole’s mother, Claudia, wept as footage was shown of the moment her son, then aged 19, was tackled to the ground twice by police and bouncers outside a nightclub in Bedford, before apparently being dragged to a police van.
The incident left him with a severed spinal cord, which led to a cardiac arrest that starved his brain of oxygen. He will need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life.
Sgt Andrew Withey, Ross, PC Nicholas Oates, and PC Sanjeev Kalyan are accused of failing to conduct welfare checks on Cole before he was taken to a police station; Ross, Oates, and Kalyan are accused of lying about his condition; and Ross faces a further allegation of excessive use of force after she continued to restrain him in handcuffs while he was unresponsive in a custody suite.
No case is being made against any of the officers for the injury inflicted on Cole. “There simply is no evidence to support that; it is unknown how the injury occurred and who is responsible,” Ley-Morgan said. “This case is very narrow. It concerns the failure to conduct welfare checks [and] whether the officers were open and honest.”
The hearing began with a lengthy viewing of CCTV footage from several sources of scenes outside Elements nightclub in Bedford in the early hours of 6 May 2013. Cole and several friends had been ejected for misbehavior including dancing on stage in the club, the hearing was told.
They returned to the front entrance and demanded a refund of their admission charge, which was refused, leading to a confrontation with bouncers, who called the police.
After advice from police, Cole’s friends tried to pull him away from the club. He broke free and ran back towards the entrance. In the ensuing melee, he was brought to the ground twice, first by bouncers and then by police who cuffed him behind his back and transferred him to a police van.
In his opening statement, Ley-Morgan said he would call evidence from a number of witnesses who will describe how Cole went from “running around, dodging officers, speaking clearly and confronting door staff” to becoming “incapable of standing or walking, [with] his head hanging down and his eyes … rolling”.
The officers involved have claimed Cole was conscious and capable of moving to the police van, claims Ley-Morgan alleges are lies. “He did not walk slowly, he did not hobble, he did not walk with the help of officers,” Ley-Morgan said. “Mr. Cole was carried to the van by [the officers] with his feet dragging behind him and his head hanging down.”
The officers deny all the allegations. The hearings are expected to last up to two weeks.