Well respected professionals, Alex Bryce and Ian Feis, represented by Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct Department at leading civil rights law firm Bindmans LLP, have received an out of court settlement and an apology from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for an assault that took place upon them as they left a function at the House of Commons in June 2011. The men were arrested by police officers, had force used against them and then were subjected to a criminal prosecution that resulted in a trial. It was only on the first day of trial that footage was disclosed that vindicated the men and showed the police were lying.
The couple and a group of their friends had brief ‘words’ with a London cabbie outside Parliament, who would not go ‘South of the River’. It was something of nothing, so Mr Bryce was surprised when a police officer on duty at Carriage Gates confronted him with attitude, having overheard something of the conversation with the taxi-driver. Wishing to avoid a situation with the police and knowing that he had done nothing wrong Mr Bryce walked away from his group, believing they could meet up at the nearby tube station. However, after a while it became clear that the group were separated and so Mr Bryce went back to find his partner.
As he re-traced his steps, he heard shouts of anguish and to his horror realised that Mr Feis was being forcibly held on the ground, face down, with two large, male officers lying across him. He later found out that Mr Feis came looking for him and for no reason at all, a police officer threw him into a wall and then took him to the ground with force as is clear from the footage captured by CCTV around Parliament Square. Fearing for Mr Feis’s safety, Mr Bryce shouted at the officers and then found himself taken forcibly to the ground and assaulted. The treatment the men received is shown in full on the CCTV footage and it was only when this was revealed that the false evidence of the police came to light.
Appalled by the treatment they had received, both Mr Bryce and Mr Feis instructed Chez Cotton to commence civil proceedings against the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, who is vicariously liable for his officers. Damages, legal costs and an apology have been given.
Alex Bryce said:
“If it wasn’t for the CCTV footage our whole lives could have been ruined by the lies of these two officers. The irony is that while I was immediately suspended from Parliament after working there for six years and having done nothing wrong, these officers have kept their jobs ‘guarding’ the House of Commons; this is despite the fact that they physically attacked us and repeatedly lied, including on oath in court, in a determined attempt to secure a false prosecution against us. I can’t think of another profession that would tolerate such spectacular levels of misconduct. It is shocking that the Metropolitan Police Service’s standards are so low that these two men are still considered as fit to serve as police officers.”
Ian Feis said:
“Every aspect of the system failed us. First the police, then Parliament, and then the Crown Prosecution Service. My spousal visa was also affected by Charring Cross Police Station who despite numerous requests failed to confirm the charges as was needed, which almost had catastrophic consequences for me staying in the UK. Alex and I are lucky to have had a dedicated legal team who took the case on a Conditional Fee Arrangement and the support of friends and family and the mental capacity to fight these false allegations. So many people would not have been so fortunate in taking on the police; it really makes one wonder how often people are wrongfully arrested and successfully prosecuted because they don’t have the resources to fight.”
Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct Department at leading civil rights law firm Bindmans LLP, who represented Mr Bryce and Mr Feis said:
“The police had no legal power to stop or use force against either of my clients. That these police officers did so and then proceeded to carry out unlawful arrests and instigated a criminal prosecution that went all the way to a trial to justify their wrong doing is shameful. Had it not been for the filmed footage disclosed on the first day of trial that entirely undermined the police account, then my clients may well have been found guilty based on the false evidence of these officers. My clients have found the entire experience shocking and stressful. It is of grave concern to my clients that the cost caused by the actions of these officers, including both the criminal trial and the civil proceedings taken to successfully hold the police to the account is borne by the tax payer. So far as my clients are aware no officer has faced any disciplinary or other misconduct proceedings as a result of this incident and all remain in post.”
Full details of the incident (ADDITIONAL NOTE – THERE IS CCTV FOOTAGE OF THE INCIDENT AVAILABLE)
Background to incident
The incident took place on 28 June 2011. At the time Mr Bryce was employed by Tom Blenkinsop MP as a Parliamentary Officer and had earlier in the year won ‘Parliamentary Researcher of the Year’. With his now civil partner Ian Feis, an American citizen, then in London on a scholarship, Mr Byce had been taking friends from abroad to see the sights of London; starting the evening by attending a function at his place of work.
Attempting to then get to a restaurant in South London, ‘words’ were had with a taxi driver who would not go south of the river. The group shrugged off the incident and were taken by surprise when Police Officer Jonathan Bennett on duty at Carriage Gates began to berate Mr Bryce for his language, refusing to accept that there was no basis for his becoming involved. Wishing to avoid the situation escalating Mr Bryce walked away to the nearby tube station, believing his partner and friends would catch up with him shortly.
In fact unaware of this, Mr Feis walked round the corner to see where he was and came upon Police Officer Edward Power. Despite the fact that Mr Feis had done absolutely nothing wrong, PC Power moved directly up to Mr Feis, blocked his way and with no warning or reason given, and with no word spoken pushed him with force against a nearby wall. Mr Feis found himself pinned against the wall with the officer’s hands up against this neck. The officer took Mr Feis by the head and forced him to the ground and then a second officer, PC Bennet, who had instigated the initial incident, lay across him too. By now Mr Feis was face down on the pavement, in pain and fear, with two large officers pinning him down. No reason had been given for the great force and brutality being used, all the more inexplicable given that Mr Feis is 5’7” and of a slim build, offering no resistance against two considerably larger police officers.
Mr Bryce, who by this time had started looking for his group, saw there was something happening by the road barriers and was aghast on moving closer to see Mr Feis pinned forcibly to the floor with two officers lying across him, face down and clearly in distress and pain. Mr Bryce jumped over the barrier and shouted at the officers, urging them to stop the assault on Mr Feis. In response PC Power, who had been holding Mr Feis down, stood up and took hold of Mr Bryce with great force. The officer, the larger of the two by far, pushed Mr Bryce to the floor with great force, landing on top of Mr Feis who remained held down by Officer Bennet. Officer Bennet dragged Mr Feis further towards the wall, while Officer Powell forced Mr Bryce’s face into the concrete pavement and then lay across him. Mr Bryce was fearful of suffocating, as he could not breathe. Several members of the public were by now watching the spectacle, and a number of Mr Bryce’s colleagues from the House of Commons were witnessing the incident. Mr Feis was in a state of panic and crying. He felt utterly humiliated and criminalised in front of his friends and the work colleagues of his partner, and the general public who were very much in evidence in this busy part of Central London. Other officers arrived and became involved. Mr Bryce was raised to a seated position, and eventually stood up and then pushed towards a wall where he remained for some time before being handcuffed. Mr Feis was left prone and face down on the pavement for some time, and then was handcuffed to the back. Mr Feis was eventually brought up to his feet by the officer and held at the roadside for around ten minutes before being walked along the road to a waiting police van just after 11.00pm.
The entire incident took place in full view of the public and directly outside Mr Bryce’s place of work, the House of Commons, where he held a senior position. Mr Bryce was aware that several of his colleagues, including a number of MPs were in the area at the time and were witnessing the events. At times the thoroughfare was busy with members of the public, who were using the walkway on which the incident was taking place, passing close by to Mr Bryce and Mr Feis as they were held under restraint. Mr Bryce was distraught at the loss to his reputation and the humiliation of being the subject of a public spectacle, although he had done nothing wrong. Mr Bryce was extremely concerned for the well-being of Mr Feis, who seemed to be in great distress and tried to make sure that he was being cared for, since by this time people who knew the couple were on the scene. Mr Feis was taken from the scene and Mr Bryce waited in handcuffs for some time, before being led to a police van by police officers.
Arrest, detention and charge – Alex Bryce
Mr Bryce was told he was under arrest for the first time at the police van. He was arrested for assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty and for criminal damage to property valued at under £5,000 (relating to a police radio that was digging painfully in his back under the weight of Officer Bennett).
Mr Bryce was taken to Charing Cross Police Station, arriving at 11:32pm on 28 June 2011. The Custody Record log records bail granted at 6:37pm on 29 June 2011. He was detained according to the custody log for 18 hours and 5 minutes. He was bailed to return on 22 July 2011 and on this date was charged with:
1. Assault a constable in the execution of his duty
On 28 June 2011 at Bridge Street SW1 assaulted PC Power 59OP a constable in the execution of his duty CONTRARY TO SECTION 89(1) OF THE POLICE ACT 1996.
2. Criminal damage to property valued under £5,000
On 28 June 2011 at Bridge Street SW1 without lawful excuse, damaged a Metropolitan Police Motorola radio to the value of £400.00 belonging to the Metropolitan Police intending to destroy or damage such property or being reckless as to whether such property would be destroyed or damaged. CONTRARY TO SECTIONS 1(1) AND 4 OF THE CRIMINAL DAMAGE ACT 1971.
3. Obstruct/resist a constable in execution of his duty
On 29 July 2011 at Parliament Square, Westminster, wilfully obstructed PC Bennett 602P, a constable in the execution of his duty CONTRARY TO SECTION 89(2) OF THE POLICE ACT 1996.
Mr Bryce was bailed to return to City of Westminster Magistrates Court on 29 July 2011 at 10.00am.
Consequences of arrest and charge for Mr Bryce
As a result of the arrest and charge, Mr Bryce was suspended on 30 June 2011 pending a disciplinary investigation. He had his pass suspended by the House of Commons ‘due to the severity of the charges, and the need to preserve the reputation of Parliament’. He faced an investigation carried out on behalf of Tom Blenkinsop MP into the allegations against him that he brought the MP’s office into disrepute and was engaged in conduct which could amount to criminal offences if proved.
Arrest, detention and charge – Ian Feis
The first time it was mentioned to Mr Feis that he was under arrest was at the police van.
Mr Feis was taken to Charing Cross Police Station, arriving at 11:20pm on 28 June 2011. Mr Feis was in a state of shock and disbelief and had difficulty processing what had happened and understanding how British police had behaved in such a violent and arbitrary way, conveying this when he arrived at the police station. The circumstance of the arrests are described on the Custody Record as follows:
“D/P was part of a group of people who ran away from police when warned about their behaviour and asked to show ID. When detained a struggle ensued during which the arresting officer was assaulted.”
It is stated on the custody record that Mr Feis was arrested for “assault police officer, Affray.”
Mr Feis was seen by a Custody Nurse Practitioner at 1:24pm on 29 June 2011, which sets out in the opinion:
“Sober. Slight injury to R/hand/L shoulder (alleges from police contact) – no obvious fracture of concern.”
2 x 500mg Paracetamol was prescribed.
Mr Feis was bailed to return to attend Charing Cross Police Station on 22 July 2011 at 5:00pm without conditions at 6:54pm on 29 June 2011, with his property returned at 6:56pm.
Mr Feis duly attended on 22 July 2011, arriving at Charing Cross Police Station at 4:52pm. Mr Feis was charged with:
1. Assault a constable in the execution of his duty
On 28 June 2011 at Bridge Street SW1 assaulted PC Bennet 602P a constable in the execution of his duty CONTRARY TO SECTION 89(1) OF THE POLICE ACT 1996.
2. Obstruct/resist a constable in execution of his duty
On 28 June 2011 at Parliament Square, Westminster, wilfully obstructed PC Power 590P, a constable in the execution of his duty CONTRARY TO SECTION 89(2) OF THE POLICE ACT 1996.
The affray was NFA’d “as an alternative offence had been charged.”
Mr Feis was bailed to return to City of Westminster Magistrates Court on 29 July 2011 at 10:00am.
Both Mr Bryce and Mr Feis attended Court on 29 July 2011 and entered not guilty pleas to all charges. Unconditional bail was granted. A trial date was fixed for 15-16 December 2011 for 1.5 days.
Both men attended for their criminal trial on 15 December 2011. The Prosecutor gave to Mr Bryce’s barrister a copy of the CCTV footage, which Counsel viewed for the first time. It wholly supported the account given by Mr Bryce and Mr Feis and undermined the police version of events.
Under cross examination of PC Bennett by Counsel Mr Baumber, it was established:
• PC Bennett had no power to request the pass
• PC Bennett had no power to take hold of the pass once Mr Bryce refused to give it to him
• PC Bennett did not intend to arrest Mr Bryce because of the swearing
• PC Bennett considered the initial event trivial
• The initial push from Mr Bryce was no more than necessary to push PC Bennett away as he was trying to grab the pass
• PC Bennett could not think of any power which justified the stop on Mr Feis
• PC Bennett could not explain why he was justified in assisting PC Power in holding onto Mr Feis
• Mr Bryce did not jump onto PC Bennett, rather he was grabbed and taken to the floor when he tried to intervene
• Mr Feis was handcuffed before he was arrested
• PC Bennett was not informed that Mr Feis was under arrest by PC Power at any stage
• Mr Feis was only arrested as he was being taken to the van
Under cross examination of PC Bennett by Counsel Mr Morris, it was established:
• In relation to Mr Feis, the punch referred to occurred purely in relation to him struggling to free himself
Further to Officer Bennett’s evidence, District Judge Barron rose suggesting that the Prosecutor “think about the law in this case.” The Prosecutor took instructions. Subsequent to this no evidence was offered.
A defence cost order was granted in respect of Mr Bryce and Mr Feis.
Impact on Mr Bryce and Mr Feis
It was only on 16 December 2011 that the suspension of Mr Bryce’s employment at the House of Commons was lifted and full pay reinstated, but without any back pay for the sums withdrawn as a result of the period of suspension.
Although Mr Bryce resumed work, his relationship with his employers had become strained as a result of the suspension. Further, as the incident had taken place directly outside the House of Commons, and Mr Bryce had to regularly pass officers who had been involved in the incident, who appeared to have faced no consequences as a result of their false accounts; his sense of security and well-being at a place he had previously experienced a real sense of pride and satisfaction had been tarnished to such an extent that he felt unable to continue in his position and has since sought employment elsewhere.
Mr Feis was due to take exams in America and so the setting of a trial date at this time interfered with his academic arrangements considerably, causing additional stress and anxiety. Mr Feis had to arrange with his lecturers to cram all of his exams into one day, so that he could leave for the UK in time for the trial. He had to revise for all of his exams in a condensed time frame, with a criminal prosecution hanging over his head.
As a result of the incident, Mr Feis did experience great difficulty in obtaining his Visa in October/November 2011. This was despite paying an additional fee for a 48 hours priority service. In fact, his case was assessed as ‘exceptional’ because of the outstanding criminal matter and it took over a month for the process to complete. It was only after considerable time and effort; and intervention from the American Consulate that matters were resolved and his application processed.
As a result of the police assault, Mr Bryce’s nose has been disfigured and is now crooked.
As a result of the police assault, Mr Feis suffered bruising and discomfort in the shoulder region for around two weeks. He still has some difficulties with the shoulder.
As a result of the civil proceedings damages have been paid, an apology given and legal costs will be met.
Footage of this incident, a still from which appears below and can be used for publication, is available through Alex Bryce on 07725 747 247.
The link to the original article with CCTV footage is here: http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/1201616
The original incident was covered on Sky News, BBC London Tonight and the Evening Standard.
Please click on the links below for the related media coverage:
Met Police ‘sorry’ after violent arrest of two men (ITV, 29 August 2013)
MP’s Aide To Sue Met Police Over ‘Assault’ (Sky News, 13 January 2012)
MP’s aide to sue Met after being ‘punched’ by police (Evening Standard, 13 January 2012)
‘Assault’ Involving Police Outside Parliament Causes Labour MP’s Researcher To Complain To Police Watchdog (Huffington Post, 13 January 2012)