A member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee said yesterday he would subpoena police video footage to help him sue the Lancashire Constabulary for assault over an incident which left him in hospital during a third night of violence in Burnley.
Shahid Malik, who is also one of Jack Straw's appointees to the Commission for Racial Equality, needed five stitches for a cut above his left eye after an incident which set back attempts to ease racial tensions in theformer cotton town in Lancashire. There had been riots in the town at the weekend.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Stephenson, insisted his uniformed officers had come under such "sustained attack" in Abel Street, Stoneyholme – where the incident involving Mr Malik happened – that they had to be replaced by officers in riot gear.
But even before Mr Malik had lodged an official complaint yesterday, the force was concerned enough to have appointed a senior officer to investigate the allegations and had voluntarily referred them to the Police Complaints Authority.
Mr Malik, 35, who was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder but later released pending further police interviews, claimed he had twice acted as conciliator between officers and a crowd of 70 potentially unruly young Asians in the Stoneyholme district when, just after 7pm on Monday evening, a missile was thrown.
Mr Malik said he had immediately told the Asians that the police were "not the target" when he saw four officers "moving up" in his direction from a position 100 yards away.
"I put my hands up ... saying 'there's no trouble here'," said Mr Malik. "Within three seconds one of the officers had lifted his riot shield, turned it 90 degrees and smashed it into my face." Mr Malik said he believed he had been unconscious for "two or three seconds" when he heard officers accuse him of attempting a PR stunt and say: "Stop f***ing acting, get up."
Mr Malik said he was kicked while on the ground before he was handcuffed. He also thought officers were about to challenge his 63-year-old father Rafiq, Burnley's deputy mayor, who was with him.
The incident provides the second high-profile complaint about the use of a riot shield in this summer's disturbances across the North. In Harehills, Leeds, two weeks ago, West Yorkshire Police were criticised when a journalist was in collision with one. An official complaint has been filed.
Mr Malik Snr said his son's arrest had thwarted his attempts to convince disbelieving young Asians that "the police are there to maintain law and order". Mr Stephenson said the use of riot shields was justified if "the officer is in fear of his own safety". He said: "The response has to be proportionately justified."
A total of 22 people were arrested during Monday night, mainly for public disorder offences. The most serious incident was the petrol-bombing of an Indian restaurant in a village outside Burnley.Reuse content