Charges against Willetts protesters thrown out after 'shocking' police inconsistencies exposed

Two student protesters who faced charges of assault, obstruction and resisting arrest have had the cases against them thrown out after a YouTube video revealed, what the judge in one of the cases said were, “shocking” inconsistencies in police officers’ accounts of the events.

The incident, occurring at a protest during a talk by education minister David Willets at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in June 2011, involved the two students being wrestled to the ground by the police, arrested, strip-searched, fingerprinted and charged.

Former London School of Economics student Ashok Kumar, 29, who had been invited to interview Mr. Willetts, attempted to intervene in a dispute between a teenage student filming police and PC Paul McAuslan.

PC McAuslan claimed Mr. Kumar pushed him twice before running away, but the case against Mr. Kumar was dropped in court after YouTube footage revealed the police account to be wrong and that no assault or obstruction had taken place.

Scotland Yard have agreed to compensate Mr. Kumar, now studying for a PhD at Oxford University, £20,000 in damages for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution.

Mr. Kumar told the Evening Standard: “what was astonishing was I was sitting in court and there were officers there ready to testify that I had done something when it was as clear as day from the video that I hadn’t”.

The other case involved former Birkbeck law PhD student Simon Behrman, 36, who went to SOAS to demonstrate against Mr. Willett’s policies.

Mr. Behrman is also set to receive £20,000 in damages, after a court testimony given by PC Chris Johnson contradicted photo evidence of the incident. Mr. Behrman claimed he fell after PC Johnson grabbed his rucksack and the protest group he had joined surged forward.

Mr. Behrman’s defence claimed that he was then punched in the chest by PC Thomas Ashley and then being taken in a headlock by another officer

A spokesperson for the Met said it had begun an investigation, adding, “Three officers are the subject of the [Independent Police Complaints Commission] supervised investigation. At no time had we previously received a public complaint in relation to this matter. As soon as we were aware of the video evidence an investigation was launched.”

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 6 (27/01/2014)