Assault case settlement costs pounds 90,000

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Home Affairs Correspondent

A teacher, a trainee solicitor and a prize-winning photographer were yesterday paid more than pounds 90,000 in damages and costs for assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution by the Metropolitan Police.

Officers were said to have attacked Paul Demuth, 41, Claire Roberts, 31, and Malcolm Glover, 40, as they were making their way to a London restaurant to celebrate Mr Glover's Sunday Times award for the best documentary photographer of the year.

A court was told the incident, in June 1991, led to Mr Demuth, a teacher, lying unconscious in a pool of blood on the steps of a police station in the West End and ended with the police fabricating evidence, charging him for assault and his two friends for obstruction. It took four months and several court appearance before their innocence was finally established.

The Metropolitan Police yesterday denied liability, but in an agreed statement read to the court agreed to pay a total of pounds 44,000 and a similar amount in costs. The statement recorded that the officers involved stood by their allegations against the three, as they had from the outset.

The payout is the latest in a string of court awards and settlements by the Met which in 1994 totalled nearly pounds 1.4m plus costs. Out of 304 civil actions,the police won only 24.

Yesterday Mr Glover said the award was a "hollow victory". "This has left all of us incredibly paranoid about the police. I am still at a loss to understand it."

Central London county court was told that the three, all from Hearn Hill, south London, were in Soho when Constables Martin Heap and Colin Baker walked by and one shouted "stop". Mr Demuth dropped a tiny amount of cannabis onto the ground and, on seeing this, PC Heap ran up, pushed him against a wall and cuffed his hands behind his back. He threw Mr Demuth on to the pavement, where he landed on his face. "PC Heap then placed his knee or foot on Paul's head, forcing it into the pavement."

When his friends tried to intervene, they too were seized, the court was told. All three were thrown into a police van. "Get that tart out of there," another officer, PC Bruce Wilson said. In the van PC Heap held Mr Demuth in a headlock, "laughing and joking about what he was doing".

Mr Demuth alleged that at the station he was pushed or swung out of the van so that he fell headfirst, landing on the ground and losing consciousness.

He was taken to hospital where his wound was stitched.

As well as his physical injuries, Mr Demuth suffered "trauma and psychological damage", the court was told. He was awarded pounds 20,000 and his friends pounds 12,000 each.