PC Dean Burrowes Acted Reasonably After Using Bottle To Defend HimSelf And Others Officers Who Were Set Upon By Thuggish Doormen

Outcome of misconduct hearing of PC Burrowes held in private 25-27 January 2021

PC Dean Burrowes based at Central West Command Unit, answered allegations that his conduct amounted to a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour in respect of:

  • Discreditable Conduct

On 12 December 2018 PC Burrowes was off duty with colleagues on licenced premises when a disturbance took place.

It was alleged that during this disturbance PC Burrowes raised a glass bottle and brought it down with force towards an unknown person.

The matter set out above was alleged to amount to gross misconduct and was so serious as to justify dismissal.

Having considered all the evidence in the case, the Chair and panel members found that PC Burrowes had not breached the Standards of Professional Behaviour in respect of Discreditable Conduct and the allegations were found not proven.

No disciplinary action was imposed.

Public outcome notice for Misconduct Hearing of PC Dean Burrowes from Central West Command Unit

Hearing was held on 25-27 January 2021, due to the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic it was necessary to hold the hearing in private.

Relevant Facts

  • On 12 December 2018, you attended a team Christmas party at ‘Sink Pong Bar’ in Paul Street EC2.
  • CCTV footage from Sink Pong Bar shows that during the evening, a fight broke out involving off-duty police officers and bar security operatives.
  • During this incident, you can be seen on the CCTV footage raising a glass beer bottle, taking aim and bringing it down with force (towards an unseen target).
  • You were not conducting a lawful arrest or exercising a lawful policing power in Bar Sink Pong.
  • Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 and Section 117 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which permit officers to use reasonable force in defined circumstances therefore have no application to the facts of this case.
  • The common law allows for a person to use reasonable force in defence of themselves or another (see the case of Palmer v R that makes it clear that force used under the common law power must be ‘reasonably necessary’).

Allegations

  • You deliberately moved towards/into the fight without reasonable cause; and/or
  • You struck or attempted to strike a bar security operative or some other person with a glass bottle; and/or
  • Your actions were not reasonably undertaken in the defence of yourself or others; and/or
  • Your actions did not amount to a reasonable use of force at common law or otherwise; and/or
  • The force you used was not reasonably necessary and/or
  • Accordingly, your action amounted to Discreditable Conduct.

Such matters individually or cumulatively amount to gross misconduct which is so serious that your dismissal is justified.

Findings of Fact

PC Dean Burrowes, whilst a serving member of the Metropolitan Police Service your conduct is alleged to have fallen below the standard expected of a serving police officer such as to contravene the Standards of Professional Behaviour (Discreditable Conduct). Such conduct amounted to gross misconduct in that:

Decision on outcome

1. The Panel does not find the allegations proved because it is satisfied that the Officer acted to defend himself or others by using force and that force was reasonable in the circumstances.

2. The first task for the panel is to determine the issues in the complaint and determine whether the allegations are proved.

3. The burden of proof rests with the Appropriate Authority and the standard of proof is the civil standard, that is to say, on the balance of probabilities. The Panel applied this standard when considering the facts of the case.

4. The Panel has been provided with a large amount of written evidence from the officers that at were at the bar at the time, statements from the staff at the bar and oral evidence from some of the officers. There were 20 plus officers from the Response Team at the bar as well as other customers.

5. The Panel has been told about the circumstances that led to PC G being escorted out of the bar. PC J and PC O were found in the toilet cubicle by PC G. PC G told PC O to go back to the bar. The bar back/cleaner alerted the bar security staff to the officers in the toilet cubicle. Mr A was employed as security with the bar. He did not make a formal written statement but explained when he was interviewed by the police that he sought to remove PC J and PC G from the toilet. He says there was a lot of shouting from the officers. PC G described how Mr A forced his way over into the toilet cubicle and then set upon PC G.

6. At 22.13.17pm, the CCTV shows Mr A forcibly seek to remove PC G from the bar. Whilst escorting PC G through the bar, Mr A falls. He stated that he dropped his phone. The CCTV shows that the fall did not occur because Mr A dropped his phone but because PC G was trying to resist being removed from the bar. Mr A appears to lose his footing and he falls while still holding PC G’s left arm. While falling forward, at speed, Mr A also catches PC O on the left side of his head with his left fist which causes PC O to fall to the floor. When Mr A recovers his balances, he immediately lunges forward and throws himself onto PC G who described how he was being punched whilst on the floor. PC O says he does not remember being punched on the face and that is consistent with the CCTV. The impact to the right side of his face came out of the blue and was of such strength that it knocked him to ground. He said he was spitting out blood and bits of teeth as a result of the punch he received. PC W stated he saw PC G on the floor on his back with his arms out close to his body and Mr A was punching PC G in the face. PC W pulled Mr A off PC G and told him to calm down. He described Mr A as having the red mist. PC W said that his intervention appeared to momentarily calm Mr A. PC G then managed to get up and he can be seen going off screen which he said was to go back to the toilet to assist PC J.

7. The bar staff involved in the incident include two heavily built males both wearing baseball caps, a man with a walkie talkie and two others. Bar staff are seen removing a customer from the bar, but the disorder continues and escalates. The CCTV shows that the Officer was not involved in any of the fighting prior to raising his arm and striking with the bottle. After he did so, he then attracted the attention of the bar staff and we saw the Officer being punched twice on the left side of his face by one member of staff and then receiving another punch to the right side of his face by another member of staff.

8. The Panel notes that the bar staff and security did not provide formal statements. The Panel also regarded the content of the interviews conducted with the bar staff and security to be unreliable because the interviews each contained a number of inconsistencies. Mr A stated he dropped his phone when escorting PC G through the bar, but actually he fell as he delivered a punch towards PC G. He said that he observed drugs being used in the toilet cubicle, but that has not been confirmed by any other witness and does not fit with the evidence provided by PC’s J, G and O. He failed to mention the ferocity of his own attacks on the officers and he failed to mention that he used a beer bottle to strike the Officer and several others within the bar area, as the CCTV shows. It is likely that the failure by the bar staff to provide formal statements is because they would likely incriminate themselves.

Was the Officer acting to defend himself or another?

9. It is stated that Mr A dragged and pushed PC G out of the bar with a view to removing him out of the bar. The CCTV shows him doing so in a very aggressive manner. It is not clear what caused Mr A to trip and fall, but when he got up, he immediately started throwing punches in an aggressive manner and he continued to do so to anyone in his vicinity and he even seems to seek out anyone to punch. The Panel regards Mr A’s behaviour to be indiscriminate and disproportionate.

10. The CCTV shows at least two heavily built men wearing baseball caps who were part of the bar security team. But there also appear to others who are not wearing baseball caps. An issue highlighted at the time and by the investigation is that none of the security staff had their SIA badges on display and at no point did any staff identify themselves as being part of the bar staff or security.

11. The Officer only became aware of anything occurring at the bar when he saw PC G and PC O on the floor in front of him being punched. He did not know about what had occurred in the toilet and did not see how PC G and PC O fell to the ground. All he knew was that his colleagues were on the floor and were being attacked. He tried to assist PC O up but described him as being ‘dead weight’ and unresponsive.

12. The Officer said he was not aware that PC G got up off the floor and assumed he was still vulnerable to further attack. When PC O got up off the floor he described being disorientated and feeling the effects of the punch he received. PC O then appears to move towards Mr G and another member of the bar staff. The Officer tries to move the men back and uses his left arm as a way to put distance between himself and the bar staff. He does that twice. When he motions with the bottle, he said he did so because he was fearful for his colleagues.

13. The Officer does not dispute that he did raise his arm and strike out with the bottle. It is unclear whether the bottle made contact with anyone. Mr G, the bar back/cleaner, says he was struck on the front of the head with a bottle but that is not seen on the CCTV. PC O said he did punch someone when he got up off the floor and it is possible that Mr G mistook that punch with being struck on the head with a bottle.

14. The Panel has had the benefit of viewing the CCTV evidence many times, prior to the hearing and during the hearing. The Panel was mindful that it had the benefit of viewing that CCTV evidence frame by frame, whereas the Officer had seconds to react to what was developing in front of him. PC G comes into view on the CCTV at 22.13.43pm, PC O gets up off the floor at 22.14.12pm and the Officer then motions with the bottle at 22.14.16pm. There is a 4 second gap for the Officer, who said he had drunk alcohol but was not drunk, to assess a situation which included seeing two of his colleagues on the floor after being attacked and whom he tried to assist up off the floor and described PC O as being dead weight. The Panel accepts that when the Officer he used the bottle, which was already in his hand, he did so instinctively. He did so only after trying to use his left arm to put distance between himself and the bar staff.

15. The Panel saw PC LW holding the Officer’s right arm in which he had the bottle before he moved forwards. She described being drunk and she was unable to recollect much of what occurred that night. She can be seen holding the officer’s arm even when the Officer is trying to help PC O up.

16. PC O could not have known who punched him because he was looking away from the direction of Mr A’s as the punch struck him. When PC O gets up, the security staff in baseball caps are no longer near him. PC O moves towards the bar staff, including Mr G, whom he thinks were responsible for what occurred to him. When the Officer moves towards the bar staff with the bottle that is as a result of how PC O reacted after getting up.

17. Counsel for the AA argued that the account the Officer had given in his interview (2 months after the incident) and what he had stated in his Regulation 22 notice differed. The Panel disagrees. The Panel felt that the Officer gave a consistent account of what occurred and any difference in his accounts was a matter of semantics.

18. The Officer described that his decision to intervene by holding out his left arm was a message to the bar staff to calm down. When they did not after a second time of holding out his left arm, he then went in with a strike. The Panel finds it relevant that PC’s G, O and W all said in their oral evidence that because of the level of violence directed at them that had they been on duty they would all have drawn their batons. They all rated the Officer and said he was “a communicator” and was a level-headed type. The Panel did not regard that evidence as them closing ranks. The Officer’s approach, seen on the CCTV, is consistent with a dynamic risk assessment and he used the best tactical option available to protect his colleagues. The Panel is satisfied that the Officer used a pre-emptive strike because he was concerned about the safety of his colleagues. His use of the pre-emptive strike was reasonable in the circumstances, namely the level of violence he witnessed which was directed at PC G and PC O.

If he was acting in self-defence, was the force used excessive?

19. It was suggested that the Officer adjusted his grip on the bottle before striking with it and that was relevant when considering what he intended and whether he sought to use the bottle as a weapon. If foam had come out then that might indicate that the Officer adjusted his grip on the bottle by inverting it. The Panel was told how foam came out of the beer bottle the Officer was holding, but PC W explained that occurred when the bottle was knocked and was before the time when the Officer struck out with the bottle. It is not clear from the CCTV whether the Officer adjusts his grip on the bottle. The Officer denies that he adjusted his grip and he said he held the body of the bottle and not the neck.

20. The Panel’s Assessor explained that the strike used by the Officer with the bottle was a ‘Hammer Fist’ strike consistent with ‘Officer Safety Technique’ training where a closed fist would be brought down on an assailant. It might look unusual but was a recognised strategic strike technique. Importantly, the Officer had sought to de-escalate the bar staff by holding out his left arm and only motioned with the bottle when his attempts create distance failed.

21. It was argued that the Officer’s use of the bottle as a weapon escalated the level of violence; he brought a bottle to a fist fight. The more the Panel sees of the CCTV, the more the Panel is satisfied that the violence was initiated by the bar staff and continued well after it needed to because of the behaviour of the bar staff. The Officer had the bottle of beer in his hand before the fighting started directly in front of him. He did not seek out a weapon because he was already holding the bottle. He did not appear to adjust his grip in order to use it as a weapon. He used one strike only. It appears to have been directed his strike at an individual. His use of his left arm outwards to establish distance and then use a ‘Hammer Fist’ strike all suggest that his actions were measured and controlled.

22. The Officer claims he sought to defend others through use of a pre-emptive strike. The Panel accepts that was the case. The Officer did not instigate the fighting. The CCTV shows how he tried to assist a colleague off the floor and tried to calm the security staff who were acting aggressively. He struck out with the bottle he was holding, but he did not seek out to use the bottle as a weapon.

Findings on Gross misconduct/Misconduct

1. The Panel is satisfied that the Officer did use  necessary force in the circumstances.

2. The Panel does not find the allegations proved because it is satisfied that the Officer acted to defend himself or others by using force and that force was reasonable. We are satisfied that the Officer’s behaviour does not amount to discreditable conduct.

Metropolitan Police Service
  • Stats since 1st January 2022
  • 113 Misconduct Hearings
    88% held in public

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS / "the Met") is the territorial police force responsible for law enforcement in Greater London, excluding the square mile of the City of London which is the responsibility of the City of London Police.

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