Special constable jailed for assaulting soldier

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The Independent Online

A special constable who assaulted an off-duty soldier while attempting to arrest him was jailed for three years today.

Peter Lightfoot, 40, attacked Lance Corporal Mark Aspinall outside a bar in Wigan, Greater Manchester, in the early hours of July 27, 2008.

The incident was caught on CCTV, which showed Lightfoot pushing the soldier's head into the ground and striking him with a police helmet.

He was found guilty of the assault on the soldier, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, by a jury at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court last month.

Two other officers involved in the incident, Sergeant Stephen Russell, 34, and Pc Richard Kelsall, 29, were cleared of assaulting the soldier.

L/Cpl Aspinall was himself initially charged and convicted of two counts of attacking the police officers by Wigan Magistrates, who did not view the CCTV.

He later won an appeal to have the verdict quashed at Liverpool Crown Court, as the judge cited concerns about the actions of the officers.

Lightfoot was also convicted of one count of perjury, in relation to the evidence he gave during the soldier's trial.

He was jailed for one year for perjury, and two years for assault, to run consecutively.

Father-of-two Lightfoot, who is single after two failed marriages, had been given a warning about using excessive force during an arrest in 2007, the court heard.

However, the haulage driver was nominated for a bravery award for confronting a robber who was wielding an imitation handgun in the same year and won a Special Constable of the Year award in 2003.

And Judge Jeffrey Lewis said he had received 20 character references from police officers commending Lightfoot, who resigned from his role as special constable following his conviction.

But he said Lightfoot had used unlawful violence when arresting L/Cpl Aspinall, and his behaviour was "unacceptable and intolerable".

Police were called to the Walkabout bar in the town centre after it was claimed the soldier had caused a disturbance when he shouted racial abuse at door staff after he was thrown out.

The trial also heard that L/Cpl Aspinall obstructed paramedics who attempted to treat a woman who had collapsed.

But Lightfoot used "unacceptable" force when making the arrest, Judge Lewis said, and it was fortunate the soldier did not suffer a head injury.

"It is a matter of profound regret that you departed from your usual standards, whether because the red mist descended or because you decided to inflict punishment because of his attitude and unpleasant behaviour.

"However badly he behaved, he did not deserve to be treated as you treated him during this short-lived bout of violence.

"You abused your position of trust and power and inflicted unlawful violence upon him," he said.

The judge rejected a claim for compensation for L/Cpl Aspinall.