£100 payout to police 'torture' victim


Two members of police staff who twisted and grabbed the arms of a man in custody to make him answer questions have been ordered to pay him £100 in compensation.

David Healer screamed in pain as he was assaulted by police custody sergeant Stephen Harvey and civilian detention officer Michael Mount after his arrest in County Durham in March last year.

The attack was condemned as a form of torture by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Harvey, 50, and Mount, 61, were each convicted of two counts of common assault at a trial at Teesside Magistrates' Court in March.

Today, they were told to pay £50 each to Mr Healer as compensation.

Harvey was told to pay £1,395 in fines and costs for his role in the attack, while Mount was told to pay a total of £730.

Footage of the incident at Peterlee police station was played to the court today.

The footage showed Harvey twisting Mr Healer's arm behind his back as Mount held his other arm.

He was then grabbed by both wrists across the custody suite desk by both defendants after again refusing to answer questions.

DIY shop boss Mr Healer, who sat in the public gallery to watch the sentencing, left the courtroom wiping his eyes as his screams of pain were played on the DVD.

The 48-year-old, of Seaham, County Durham, who had recently been treated in hospital and was an angina sufferer, told the trial he thought he would die in the attack.

He is repeatedly heard requesting a doctor on the footage.

Harvey, of Chester-le-Street, and Mount, of Thornley, both County Durham, argued that they used reasonable force to restrain Mr Healer, who had been arrested on suspicion of breaching bail conditions and assaulting a police officer.

Both men had exemplary records during their time in the police and the incident last year was described as being out of character.

Steven Crossley, for Harvey, said: "The consequences of these convictions for Mr Harvey has already been great.

"He's someone who prides himself on being a good police officer, prides himself on his reputation.

"Of course, there has been devastating damage to that reputation as a result of these convictions. That represents real punishment to him."

Sentencing both men, Oliver Johnson, chair of the bench, said: "The greater punishment you will have received today is not the fine but the fact that your position in society will be severely downgraded in a bad way.

"Your unblemished character has gone."

Speaking outside court after the sentencing, father-of-six Mr Healer said he was happy with the outcome.

He said he would be pursuing a claim for compensation for injuries to his spine, which he said he received as a result of the assault.

He said: "At the end of the day, it's the consequences of what they did in society that's going to affect them.

"It's a shame that two people have ruined their careers over this."

Mr Healer continued: "As far as I'm concerned, it's over now."

Stephen Gowland, Mr Healer's solicitor, said: "Mr Healer suffered a great injustice but today at least he can be content that justice has been done."

He added: "My client's life has been affected greatly by the treatment he received both mentally and physically and he now has to live with severe pain for the rest of his life, due to the serious spinal injuries incurred in this incident."

Mr Gowland said Mr Healer was lucky to be alive after the assault.

"Stephen Harvey and Michael Mount were tasked to ensure the safety of the public and uphold the law and failed to do so," he said.

"Since 1990, nearly 1,000 people have died in police custody in England and Wales. My client thought he was going to die in the police station and it is only through luck that he was not part of those statistics."

Deputy Chief Constable Mike Barton, of Durham Police, said the excessive force used by the two staff members was wrong and should not have happened.

Speaking outside court, Mr Barton said: "Durham Constabulary aims to treat everyone who comes into custody with due respect, dignity and fairness and in accordance with the law and codes of practice.

"When this does not happen, then we take the appropriate action and, on this occasion, our professional standards were not upheld.

"The actions of our staff were completely out of character but they were wrong and this should not have happened.

"This was clearly a case where there has been a use of excessive force."

Mr Barton added: "Without wishing to condone the actions of these particular members of staff, I must point out that custody can be a very challenging environment for our staff. They regularly have to deal with people who are drunk, or violent, or both.

"We process around 20,000 people a year and, in the vast majority of these cases, there are no issues."