A POLICE officer has been charged with neglect of duty and discreditable conduct after he and a number of colleagues allowed a skinhead gang to make a vicious attack on two black students and then sprayed one of the victims with CS.
The skinheads surrounded the students' car, smashed the windscreen and, at one point, attempted to push a pitbull terrier inside the vehicle.
When the students tried to escape they were apprehended by police officers and one was sprayed in the face with CS. The incident, in a busy Cardiff street, was captured by closed-circuit television cameras, and an investigation was started by South Wales Police under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority.
Yesterday, the authority announced its recommendation that one officer should face disciplinary charges. Another officer who was at the scene is to be admonished and three others will "receive advice".
The two students, Marcus Walters, then aged 19, and Francisco Borg, then 17, are taking a civil action against the force because of the incident in August 1997.
Both students were charged with violent disorder, although the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges before they came to court.
Only one of the gang of six skinheads was arrested at the scene. Three more - aged 27, 29 and 40 - subsequently admitted their involvement in the attack.
Last night, Hilary Brown, of the Citizens' Advice Bureau, who took up the students' case, said the pair had been "totally vindicated" by the investigation. But she said: "We feel very strongly that the recommendations of charges are totally inadequate. All five officers failed the boys on that day and should have been sacked. Some of them should have been charged with criminal offences against those boys."
The attack began as the students were driving near Cardiff city centre. They were accompanied in the car by Mr Walters' five-year-old sister, Emma.
A skinhead on a bicycle kicked the vehicle, and when Mr Walters got out to inspect the damage he was racially abused and assaulted. A second skinhead then approached the car and tried to force his dog through the open window. The students passed the terror-stricken young girl to a passer-by, but were forced to drive away to escape the skinheads' attention.
The two students then flagged down a passing police patrol car and the officer told them to follow him back to the scene to retrieve Emma.
As soon as they arrived, they were surrounded again by the skinheads and subjected to a sustained attack, during which the car windscreen was shattered. Four more police had arrived on the scene, but the students said the officers failed to come to their aid until Mr Walters tried to defend himself and was promptly arrested. As he protested, Francisco Borg was held down by two officers and sprayed with CS by a third.
Tony Burden, Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said the force fully accepted the Police Complaints Authority's recommendations.
But he added: "In the light of the fact that a number of officers are now to face disciplinary action, it would be inappropriate for me at this stage to publicly comment on this matter."
None of the five police officers has been identified.
Since the incident, Mr Walters, who had been studying forensic science with a view to working in law enforcement, has changed his career plans and switched to a chemistry course.
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