Man lost three fingertips in Colchester police cell, misconduct hearing told
PUBLISHED: 18:25 07 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:43 07 May 2019
A mentally ill man lost three fingertips when five police officers wrenched him from a cell toilet which he had grabbed hold of, a misconduct hearing has been told.
The incident happened on at around 2am on May 1 at Colchester Police Station when a sergeant saw on CCTV that the man, referred to as Mr S during the hearing, had put one of his feet into the cell toilet.
The 33-year-old Romanian national, had been arrested on the evening of April 30, 2015 after he allegedly expose himself on a bus and was booked into the station in Essex with the help of an interpreter on the phone.
Officers entered his cell and after his foot was removed, he returned and grabbed hold of the toilet before group of officers tried to remove him, using batons to assist, damaging three of his fingers on his left hand.
The disciplinary hearing heard how one of the officers joked months later about what happened using jelly sweets in the shape of fingers and Halloween rubber finger toys, a disciplinary panel was told.
Stephen Morley, for the appropriate authority, told a hearing at Chelmsford Civic Centre: "There was no sensible reason to use this force to remove him from the toilet.
"Once they started to use force they seemed to be on an escalator going to the next level to the next to the next.
"No-one seemed to step back and say simply, 'what are we doing?"'
Mr Morley said Mr S was not harming himself or damaging the cell but had returned to the toilet and started "talking to the metal vent".
"For reasons perhaps we will never know he wanted to be near to or on the toilet," said Mr Morley.
"Once his foot was removed from the toilet it's the authority's case there was no need to use further force."
CCTV footage played to the hearing shows Inspector Christopher Tyler rap Mr S on the hand with an Asp baton and push pressure points on his neck and ear.
One officer said "this isn't necessary", adding "the sergeant only wanted us to get his feet out of the toilet", Mr Morley told the hearing.
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Mr S was heard on bodycam footage shouting "ow, my nail" before Mr Tyler says: "I'm going to hit you, are you going to let go?"
Other officers are heard to remark "he's oblivious to pain" and "just rap his knuckles, he'll f****** get off then".
Once Mr S was pulled loose an officer said: "He's actually lost the end of his fingers. They're in the toilet. They're gone."
Mr Tyler is heard on CCTV after the incident saying: "I haven't realised as I'm pulling that they're still trapped as it's the wrong angle."
Mr S was taken to hospital but the severed parts of his fingers from his left hand could not be reattached.
He has since returned to his home country and was not at the hearing.
He told the custody sergeant, through an interpreter: "I'm feeling like a fish in a bed," and was later observed shouting and banging on the wall of his cell.
Mr Morley said an officer described Mr Tyler using "some jelly sweets in the shape of severed fingers" and "toy rubber Halloween-type fingers" to make a joke about the incident in October 2015.
"He remembers him (Mr Tyler) having four severed finger (toys), rolling them around on the table and saying he found them in his toilet," Mr Morley said.
"It very much looks like Inspector Tyler was making a joke at Mr S's expense."
Mr Tyler, Temporary Sergeant Marcus Buckley, Constable Joseph Hawthorne, Constable Nicholas Pulham and Constable Richard Philipsen all deny gross misconduct.
They claim they were trying to remove Mr S to stop him from hurting himself and to stop him from putting his head in the toilet.
Another sergeant has admitted misconduct over the case and received a written warning while another received management action.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided in August that no criminal charges would be brought in the case.
The hearing continues. It is listed to last almost four weeks.