Wednesday 26 July 2017

Police may face criminal charges over black student left in vegetative state after nightclub arrest

Julian Cole after the incident
Julian Cole after the incident

Adam Lusher

Five police officers face possible criminal charges over an incident outside a nightclub that left a black student in a vegetative state.

Julian Cole, 23, an athlete and sports science student, suffered brain damage and a spinal injury known to medics as a “hangman’s fracture” during the incident near Elements nightclub in Bedford on 6 May 2013.  He is now paralysed and living in a care home because he needs 24-hour nursing care.

After claiming an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation had “ground to a halt”, Mr Cole’s family began campaigning to “get to the truth”, saying they had been inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement which started in response to allegations of excessive force by racist police in the US.

The IPCC has now referred five Bedfordshire Police officers who attended the nightclub incident to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Revealing that the officers may also face internal police disciplinary proceedings, an IPCC spokesman said:“ As well as a referral to the CPS over possible criminal charges, the IPCC report finds that in the investigator’s opinion there may be case to answer for: “gross misconduct in the case of all five officers for the manner they carried out their duties and responsibilities; “gross misconduct in the case of four of the officers for honesty and integrity; and misconduct in the case of one officer for use of force.”

The IPCC stressed: “A referral to the CPS is made when the IPCC investigation indicates that a criminal offence may have been committed. It does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow. The CPS will decide whether charges should be brought, based on the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”

The watchdog added that it would be for the Bedfordshire force and the IPCC Commissioner to decide whether to start internal police disciplinary proceedings against the five officers.

IPCC Deputy Chair Sarah Green said: “This has been a complex and lengthy investigation involving examination of over 900 documents, interviews with witnesses, a number of medical expert opinions, CCTV trawls and forensic analysis.

“We are now satisfied we have gathered all the available evidence to enable the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether or not charges should follow. We have kept Mr Cole’s family and Bedfordshire police updated on our progress.”

The Cole Family Truth Campaign says that the incident occurred after Mr Cole and his friends were asked to leave the nightclub.  The family say Mr Cole returned alone to the club, seemingly intent on asking the venue to refund his entrance money.

Previous news reports have stated that Mr Cole, who is 5ft 5in tall, was unarmed.

He was initially arrested on suspicion of a public order offence.  The case, however, was dropped because of his condition.

Earlier newspaper reports have suggested that the officers have denied wrongdoing.

Mr Cole’s mother Claudia Cole, told the BBC the announcement was “welcome” but had taken too long.

“It has been the hardest three years waiting for the IPCC investigation to conclude,” she said.

“Julian is still alive, but it cannot be said that he is really living.”

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