Special PC guilty of 'violent' attack on Iraq war veteran

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The Independent Online

An assault on a drunken off-duty soldier by a special constable was "violent, excessive and unjustified", the police watchdog has said.

Peter Lightfoot, 40, was found guilty yesterday of assaulting L/Cpl Mark Aspinall after a jury viewed CCTV footage of Lightfoot pushing his head into the ground and striking him with a police helmet. The attack on the soldier, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, happened on 27 July 2008 outside a bar in Wigan.

Two other officers, Sergeant Stephen Russell, 34, and PC Richard Kelsall, 29, were cleared of assault and perverting the course of justice.

L/Cpl Aspinall was himself convicted on 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 last November, as the judge cited concerns about the actions of the officers.

Police were called to the Walkabout bar in Wigan town centre after it was claimed L/Cpl Aspinall had caused a disturbance as he shouted racial abuse at door staff when he was thrown out. The three officers then tried to arrest the soldier in the middle of the road.

The trial at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard evidence that L/Cpl Aspinall allegedly obstructed paramedics who attempted to treat a woman who had collapsed.

Lightfoot was also convicted of one count of perjury which concerned evidence he gave at Liverpool Crown Court about the incident with L/Cpl Aspinall. The charge of perverting the course of justice alleged the two other officers provided false accounts in their witness statements about the circumstances surrounding the arrest. The charges were brought following an investigation led by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Following the verdicts, the IPCC Commissioner Naseem Malik said: "It is clear from the evidence that Mr Aspinall was drunk, aggressive and causing a nuisance. He was exhibiting the kind of behaviour that police officers have the unfortunate duty to deal with on a regular basis. That is why officers are trained to deal with such individuals in a professional manner. However in this incident Special Constable Lightfoot's training would appear to have been replaced by a red mist. His actions were violent, excessive and unjustified. I have noted the jury's decision in relation to the other officers and we respect that. The IPCC and Greater Manchester Police must still consider whether it is appropriate for any of the officers to be subject to misconduct action."

Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), Garry Shewan said: "The conduct of ... Lightfoot that day fell well below the standard we expect at GMP. His actions in no way reflect the committed and professional attitude shown by the vast majority of our Special Constables, who are highly trained in the best ways to safely detain prisoners. We are even more disappointed that he knowingly lied before a criminal court.

"The force's Professional Standards Branch has carried out a thorough investigation, under the management of the IPCC. It will now examine the case to decide what disciplinary action against the three officers involved in this case is required."