Police accused of brutality after officer beat woman during arrest at nightclub

An investigation into alleged police brutality was launched last night after a black teenager was filmed being repeatedly punched by a policeman, while two colleagues held her down outside a Sheffield nightclub.

Toni Comer said she suffered injuries to her neck, shoulders and legs during the confrontation which ended with the woman being dragged away.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to hold an inquiry into the alleged assault that took place in July last year.

A Sheffield race relations manager, who was passed the footage taken from a CCTV camera, told BBC's Newsnight: "It's absolutely shocking. To think that images like that can be coming out of South Yorkshire. This is not the deep South, this is South Yorkshire."

Ruggie Johnson said it reminds him of the beating of an innocent black man in Los Angeles - which prompted race riots in the city in 1991. "It's Rodney King all over again," he claimed.

But South Yorkshire Police, who have launched their own inquiry, have defended the action, saying they were happy with the way the incident was handled.

The officer involved, PC Anthony Mulhall, said he punched the teenager in the arm in order to subdue her and get handcuffs around her wrists as she resisted arrest.

Ms Comer, who is now 20 and is attempting to sue the police, had been drinking brandy in the club and by her own admission she had become aggressive and had been ejected by security guards. Apparently in retaliation she vandalised the guard's car parked outside - she pleaded guilty to an offence of criminal damage and was ordered to pay £250 compensation to the owner.

Following the vandalism, police were called to the scene and the security cameras captured the incident which lies at the heart of the allegations of police assault.

Broadcast on Newsnight, the film shows the teenager at the top of a fire escape with PC Mulhall. They fall down the stairs with the police officer landing on top and his helmet bouncing away.

He is joined by two other police officers and a security guard. As PC Mulhall attempts to handcuff Ms Comer he punches her - seemingly with considerable force - five times. It is not clear where she is hit, although it appears to be in her arm or shoulder area. Minutes later the young mother is dragged away with her trousers around her knees.

There are complications with the evidence. Ms Comer suffers from epilepsy and she says she was having a fit at the time, which is why, she claims, she was writhing on the ground. She says she cannot remember what happened on the night.

When she was shown the footage, she said: "I couldn't believe it to be honest. I couldn't believe the police could do something like that."

In a statement at her court case, PC Mulhall, said: "She began to kick, spit and made attempts to bite me. As her hands became free she tried to grab handfuls of my genitals and knee and kick me in the same place.

"At this point, I struck her as hard as I was physically able with my right fist in an attempt to subdue her. There was no apparent effect so I did this twice more."

He said she continued to resist handcuffs. "I now struck her as hard as I was physically able in an attempt to deaden her arm ... in the end I had to use brute force."

Superintendent Ali Dizaei, the legal adviser for the Black Police Association, said the images looked "awful", but may have been the best way to subdue the woman and prevent more serious harm.

Allegations of excessive force

* CCTV cameras caught a policeman kicking Delbo King, a 33-year-old former paratrooper, and spraying him with gas while trying to arrest him in Manchester in 2003. Mr King admitted resisting arrest, but felt that the beating had been gratuitous. No officers were charged.

* Christopher Alder, aged 37 and also a former paratrooper, choked to death in Hull police station in 1998. CCTV ishowed five officers dragging him unconscious into the custody suite where they left him face-down in his vomit for 10 minutes. Officers were cleared of manslaughter.

* Nuur Saeed, a 22-year-old Somali man from Woolwich, London, died two weeks after falling 25 feet from the balcony of a flat at roughly the same time it was raided by police. Officers found him unconscious with head injuries.

* Michael Powell died after he was detained by police outside his mother's home in the Lozells area of Birmimgham in 2003. Ten officers charged over the 38-year-old's death were aquitted.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable