A POLICE custody sergeant who is an international martial arts expert has been cleared of gross misconduct at a Colwyn Bay disciplinary hearing after a prisoner broke his collar bone.
Powerfully built Sgt Jethro Christie, aged 43, appeared at a two-day hearing at North Wales Police headquarters where it was alleged that the collar bone of a prisoner, Jason Pritchard, 42, - who said in evidence he was 5ft 6ins tall - was fractured in an incident inside the custody suite at Caernarfon on December 27, 2015, in which a “full Nelson” double-arm lock had been used.
However the sergeant maintained he had never used such a hold, and that an arm restraint was necessary to get Mr Pritchard back to his cell as he feared he would be headbutted.
The three-strong panel heard an orthopaedic surgeon was of the opinion that the fracture was more likely to have been caused when Mr Pritchard fell from a bench in his cell, than by the restraining technique used by Sgt Christie.
Barrister Andrew Crossley, for the sergeant, said there was unchallenged evidence that a fall had occurred after he’d been escorted back to his cell.
“He was not trying to apply a full Nelson, what he was doing was trying to resist the potential threat of being headbutted in the face”, he added.
“You can be satisfied from the evidence that Mr Pritchard had behaved in an aggressive, unreasonable way.”
“Regrettably Mr Pritchard was an evasive and untruthful witness.”
On the first day of the hearing Sgt Christie said Mr Pritchard had been arrested on Boxing Day 2015 and this involved a claim he had driven from Llanrug to an estate at Caernarfon, CCTV showing him wielding a metal pole.
He’d pleaded guilty to threatening behaviour intending to cause fear or provocation of violence.
Barrister Andrew Waters, presenting the case against Sgt Christie, claimed he had not made allowances for Mr Pritchard’s vulnerabilities.
“He categorises him as being very disrespectful, intimidating and super-aggressive. Those words don’t fit with what you have seen on CCTV.”
Mr Waters suggested that Sgt Christie “felt slighted and over-reacted” after being called Big Boy by the prisoner.
Chairman Ian Boys, announcing the panel’s decision, said that the case against the sergeant had been that the arm entanglement was unreasonable force and had caused the broken collar bone.
However the panel had reached the conclusion the force used was neither unreasonable nor excessive and they were not satisfied the arm hold was the cause of the fracture.
Richard Eccles, secretary of the North Wales Police Federation said after the hearing: “It was the right result given the evidence.
“Sgt Christie is happy that the panel cleared him not only of using excessive force but of causing the injury.
“We felt from an early stage that there was not enough evidence to take the case forward but obviously the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) didn’t agree with that.”