A VULNERABLE west Cumbrian man suffered a fractured skull during what a human rights organisation has branded 'highly dangerous' conduct by the police officers attempting to detain him.

The officers found the young man walking his dog on a remote country road near Egremont in June 2021.

They wanted to detain him following a report that he was distressed and had a knife. Yet police video footage – obtained exclusively by the News & Star – confirms that during the ensuing incident he was not holding a knife.

A psychiatrist subsequently confirmed that the man was severely mentally ill at the time, while his lawyer says the footage shows clearly he posed no threat to the officers or anybody else.

Footage from earlier in the incident shows how the female police officer who initially approached the man was speaking calmly to him, asking him whether he was carrying anything that could harm her or him.

Moments later, as the man listened calmly to the female officer, a second group of police officers arrived in a marked police van - and within seconds a protracted struggle ensued.

Despite the man being unarmed and initially calm, the newly-arrived officers immediately tried to physically overpower him, making no attempt to engage him in conversation.

Graphic police video footage shows:

  • The officers immediately engaging physically with the suspect, yelling loudly at him and repeatedly swearing as they shout multiple instructions to the man to lie down or put his hands behind his back.
  • The suspect repeatedly holding out his empty hands and saying that he had done nothing wrong.
  • The officers tasering the man multiple times, including to the neck and body – and  tasering him as he lies on the ground moaning in pain and as he attempts to flee, at one point shouting 'Help'.
  • Ten seconds with the man sprawled on the ground, writhing and moaning in pain, and saying "Oh God" while being tasered three times in quick succession. 
  • Images of the man bleeding heavily from a head wound while groaning and struggling to breathe as he lies semi-conscious and seriously injured on the ground after being overpowered and handcuffed.

Cumbria Police is now facing civil litigation over the incident, while the human rights group Amnesty has described the police conduct captured by the video footage as 'alarming and distressing'.

The News & Star is not naming the injured man at the request of his family and nor have we identified the officers in view of the family's allegations.

A senior Cumbrian police officer said all the force's officers are trained to use force only when it is 'lawful, proportionate and necessary' and that the response of the officers involved was 'reasonable'.

The injured man, who is in his is 20s and has a history of mental illness, has been profoundly affected and suffered a life-changing brain injury as a result of the encounter, said his lawyer, Daniel Menell.

The initial report to the police suggested the man was 'distressed'. He was shoeless when found so it should have been obvious he was vulnerable and potentially suffering mental health issues, said Mr Menell.

Before the confrontation, said the laywer, the man was in the grip of paranoia, fearing he was being pursued by the Devil. He had carried a knife but when he saw the police, he felt safe and so discarded it. 

A knife was later found at the scene - but at no point during the confrontation was the suspect seen holding a knife.

'The man was cowering in fear'

The officers involved made no attempt to find out what was wrong with the man, who was found next to an isolated country road, with his hands in his pockets, posing no obvious threat.

Despite this, the officers immediately escalated the situation to a "wholly unnecessary physical confrontation", said the lawyer. “The video shows that he demonstrated no aggressive body language, and no verbal aggression,” said Mr Menell.

“The man was cowering in fear.” His actions, said the lawyer, were consistent with trying to protect himself." Mr Menell added: "The man's actions were clearly not those of a person resisting arrest."

READ MORE: 'We've been through two years of hell' - Grandmother of man injured in taser incident

Following the incident in June 2021, police charged the man with possessing a knife and resisting arrest, but the case was dropped after a Carlisle Crown Court judge ruled a prosecution was not in the public interest.

Judge Nicholas Barker described the video footage as 'unedifying.'

Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK's policing expert and a member of the independent advisory group to the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on tasers, said: “This is a distressing and alarming video which raises numerous worrying questions about how Cumbria Police are deploying Tasers.

“In some circumstances tasers can be effective devices if used by well-trained officers to prevent loss of life or serious injury, but to repeatedly use these potentially lethal weapons against an unarmed man posing no immediate threat to officers, himself or the public is shocking.

'Tasers were used in a chaotic and highly dangerous fashion'

“Rather than deploying standard de-escalation and arrest procedures, the video shows over-aggressive officers using their tasers in a chaotic and highly dangerous fashion which made a difficult situation far, far worse.

“Cumbria Police officers weren’t in control of the situation, and they weren’t in control of their tasers.

“The police have a disturbing record of using tasers in a trigger-happy fashion, including against people who are thought to be - or could reasonably be assumed to be - suffering from a mental health crisis.

“For years we’ve been saying that there needs to be improved and more comprehensive taser training for police officers, with better guidelines over their use and greater transparency and record-keeping over the circumstances in which these powerful weapons are being deployed on our streets.

“This tragic and thoroughly concerning case highlights yet again the urgent need for a formal review of the official guidance around all aspects of the police use of tasers.”

News and Star: Guidance for police officers on the how to manage potential conflict with suspects.Guidance for police officers on the how to manage potential conflict with suspects. (Image: Google)

Cumbria Police’s Chief Superintendent Mick Bird said: “Our officers were responding to information reported to us concerning a man carrying a knife in public.

"They encountered a challenging situation with an individual holding a knife, in company with his dog which was not on a leash.

"Two officers at the scene attempted to speak with the individual to ascertain if he was carrying any further weapons. During this interaction, the individual resisted attempts to be arrested and searched.

'The response was reasonable in the circumstances'

“Due to the potential risk and information available, including that the individual was seen carrying a knife, an officer discharged their taser. The individual became violent, assaulting an officer by punching him in the face as a struggle ensued.

“The officer was also bitten repeatedly by the dog. The level of violence and threat resulted in our officer discharging a taser on further occasions to detain the individual.

"Once the individual was detained, officers provided first-aid while awaiting medical assistance to arrive. Officers also recovered a knife from the scene.”

He said Cumbria Police made a mandatory referral on the same day to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) for independent review of this incident.

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Detective Chief Superintendent Bird continued: “Their investigation of the evidence found, in light of the perceived threat and the intelligence that an individual was in possession of a knife, the response was reasonable in the circumstances.

“Their investigation found no action to be taken against the officer or the organisation, and no learning identified.

"Following receipt of a complaint in June 2022, the Constabulary once again referred itself to the IOPC to ensure that investigators were aware of all available information.

'Our officers deal with difficult and complex situations'

“Following an assessment, lasting over six months, the IOPC confirmed that the outcome of their initial investigation remained the same.

"We respect the outcome of this independent investigation and its findings.

"Our officers deal with difficult and complex situations each day, some of which require appropriate use of force to ensure the safety of an individual concerned, officers and other members of the public.

“Decisions to use lawful force against an individual are not taken lightly, however split-second judgements are required to balance the vulnerability of a person and the risk of harm they present.

"Officers equipped to use taser receive regular training which align to national standards. We also continuously review use of force by our officers to ensure that it is done so when lawful, proportionate and necessary."

The News & Star has conducted a frame-by-frame analysis of unredacted police video recorded by two officers were at the incident.

News and Star: Stills from the footage showing no weapon in the man's hands during his arrest.Stills from the footage showing no weapon in the man's hands during his arrest. (Image: Cumbria Police)

The News & Star has also been given access to two sets of unredacted bodycam footage from the incident, each lasting more than 20 minutes.

Using this, we checked every stage of the incident, from the moment when the first police officers arrived at the scene, through the arrival of the second group of officers involved in the confrontation, and up to the point when an ambulance arrived some 21 minutes after the confrontation began.

At no point does the footage show the man holding a knife.

It is not clear when the man sustained his head injury but he was not injured when the officers first approached him and used tasers and a pava spray on him.