Police officers sacked for lying about incident which left student in vegetative state

Julian Cole is paralysed and requires 24-hour care in nursing home

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 23 October 2018 12:29
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Three police officers have been sacked for lying about the circumstances in which a student broke his neck, leaving him in a permanent vegetative state.

Julian Cole, a former athlete and sports science student, suffered brain damage and a spinal injury known to medics as “hangman’s fracture” during the scuffle in Bedford five-and-a-half years ago.

The 25-year-old is now paralysed and requires 24-hour care in a nursing home.

An Independent Office for Police Misconduct (IOPC) disciplinary panel found PCs Hannah Ross, Nicholas Oates and Sanjeev Kalyan committed gross misconduct when they provided “dishonest” accounts of the night’s events during an investigation in 2016.

Mr Cole was restrained first by a nightclub bouncer, and then by police, outside Elements nightclub in 2013 after he was thrown out of the venue and kept going back to ask for a refund. After his neck was broken, the then-teenager went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.

He was dragged into a police van and taken to Greyfriars police station before paramedics were called when they found he was unresponsive.

Ross, Oates and Kalyan were found guilty of lying about the then-teenager’s condition when he was taken to and driven in the van.

The constables falsely claimed that he had been able to walk to the police van when witnesses said and CCTV showed he had to be carried with his legs dragging on the ground and his head was hanging down.

They also said he could move his legs and put his trainer back on while in the back of the van.

The three officers were also found to have committed misconduct by failing to do welfare checks on Mr Cole after he was restrained.

Mr Cole's mother, Claudia Cole, said: "Today is a good day for us. When we first saw Julian in a coma and on life support five-and-a-half years ago, and the police officer told us that he had been 'chatty' in the police van, we suspected a cover-up.

"This tribunal's decision makes it clear that not only did the officers lie about events involving Julian but they showed an inhumane indifference to his welfare.

"Clearing away the lies about what happened that night enables us to get closer to the truth and we won't stop until we know who put Julian into a vegetative state and until they have had to answer for what they did in a criminal court."

IOPC regional director Sarah Green said: “Julian Cole was a young athletic man whose life was changed forever. It will never be known exactly how his neck was broken, or if swifter care could have prevented the awful consequences of the break.

“The panel today have concluded however that the officers failed in their duty to provide adequate welfare checks, and worse, that three of them were dishonest in how they presented their version of events.

This tribunal's decision makes it clear that not only did the officers lie about events involving Julian but they showed an inhumane indifference to his welfare

Claudia Cole

“This dishonesty has only added to the anguish of Mr Cole’s family.”

On the night 6 May 2013, Mr Cole had been asked to leave the club at around 1.30am.

After repeatedly asking for a refund, one of the door staff wrapped his arms around the student and the pair fell to the floor, before PCs Ross and Oates helped to restrain him.

He managed to get up again, but a few seconds later was taken to the ground again by constables Ross, Oates and Kalyan and he was handcuffed.

They lifted him, put him down, and then lifted him again, before carrying him to a police van where he was arrested before being put in the back of the vehicle.

He was driven around a mile to the police station, where he was unable to stand when he was taken out of the van. A few minutes later PC Ross called an ambulance.

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The family's solicitor Rachel Harger, from Bindmans, said: "The findings today are an important step forward in establishing the true events surrounding the night Julian suffered catastrophic injuries.

"This hearing was not formally about who caused Julian's injuries, however the outcome has confirmed the family's belief that police officers gave deliberately dishonest accounts in order to avoid criticisms of wrongdoing and their behaviour demonstrated a callous disregard for his well-being.

"Fresh evidence has come out during the course of the hearing which will assist the family as they seek answers as to who caused the injuries Julian suffered.

"Julian's mother and father throughout this hearing have shown remarkable strength, while being in a position no parent can imagine being in, as they repeatedly watched CCTV images of their son's broken body manhandled by police officers. Their strength and determination to continue their fight for justice commands the respect and admiration of everybody who works alongside them."

Mr Cole's relatives will now ask police watchdog the IOPC to reopen its investigation into what happened.

The Crown Prosecution Service has already said that no criminal charges will be brought.

Assistant chief constable Jackie Sebire said: "At the centre of our thoughts today are of course Julian Cole, his family and friends. This case is an absolute tragedy which has had a devastating effect on a young man and his loved ones, and we should not forget that.

"It is clear that no evidence was found that any of the officers involved were in any way to blame for the catastrophic injuries suffered by Mr Cole.

"This misconduct hearing focused on the actions of our officers in the care given to Mr Cole and their honesty and integrity in the events following his injury. I apologise that their conduct following the incident fell well short of what we expect at Bedfordshire Police."

Additional reporting by PA

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