Allegation of assault against PC dismissed
By Truro People | Thursday, January 27, 2011, 09:00
AN ASSAULT case against a long-serving police officer was thrown out of court after the judge agreed that his accuser’s claims could not be trusted.
The two-day trial of PC Richard Mantle, who covers the Perranporth beat, was abandoned after only a few hours when District Judge Paul Farmer said the evidence of alleged victim Laura Jane Hodges and her friends Sophie Louise Green, Sammie-Jo Green and Travis Hughes had been “tenuous, inconsistent and selective”.
In the private prosecution brought by Miss Hodges at Bodmin Magistrates’ Court, he agreed with PC Mantle’s solicitor Jeremy Leaning that there was “no case to answer” over the incident, which followed her arrest in Calenick Street, Truro, in the early hours of February 9 last year.
After Miss Hodges’ solicitor Terry Eastwood had set out their case, including personal accounts of the events from four witnesses, Mr Leaning said it was “inconsistent, contrary, contradictory and inherently weak”.
The judge, who also pointed out that Miss Hodges’ allegations had changed between her initial police interview and the trial, awarded costs from court funds to PC Mantle, aged 43 and of Melville Road, Threemilestone, the witnesses and an expert who was not called to give evidence.
Miss Hodges had alleged PC Mantle pushed her forcefully against the door frame of her friend’s car, put his hand around her throat and pinned her down in the back seat.
She then bit him as she was unable to breathe, the prosecution alleged.
The court was told there was no dispute that Miss Hodges’ arrest had been lawful.
She was later charged and convicted of a public order offence but acquitted of assaulting PC Mantle.
Mr Leaning said PC Mantle had been trying to calm the situation after Miss Hodges shouted and swore in the street and there was clear evidence she had resisted arrest, meaning he was entitled to use force. PC Mantle suffered two bite wounds to his arm from Miss Hodges which it “would not have been humanly possible to inflict” if he had his hands around her neck.
She was restrained across her collarbone, said Mr Leaning, and showed no visible neck injury, despite her claim that she had been held for two minutes by PC Mantle.
Mr Farmer, dismissing the case, said the witnesses all had “somewhat differing views of what occurred”.
Miss Hodges and Mr Hughes had both been drinking and Mr Hughes had to be pepper-sprayed during his intervention in the incident.
The judge added that there were some “surprising differences” between what she had said in interview and what she told the court, and repeated the “lack of noticeable injuries” or indication of marks around her neck at the police custody suite. Referring to CCTV footage of the incident, Mr Farmer said: “It was quite clear Hodges had a lot to say for herself.”
All the witnesses had described seeing PC Mantle’s hand on Miss Hodges’ throat but it would not always have been easy for them to see the position of his hand in the car, said Mr Farmer.
While their recollection of what they had seen was clear, he said, they had not been able to say whether Miss Hodges had been swearing and shouting at the officer in the run-up to the incident.