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Police officer guilty of assault over bus fare in Croydon – ‘major setback’ for Met as it tries to ‘restore trust’

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The conviction of a Metropolitan Police officer for assaulting a woman who was falsely accused of bus ticket fraud represents a “major setback” for the police, the deputy chief constable said.

PC Perry Lathwood, 50, was on duty assisting ticket inspectors in Croydon when Jocelyn Agyemang and her son got off a bus.

She described in court how she was falsely accused of fare evasion and was subsequently “mistreated” and handcuffed by the police officer.

On Friday, Lathwood was found guilty at Westminster Magistrates' Court of assault in connection with the incident on July 21 last year in Whitehorse Road, Croydon.

Matt Twist, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said the verdict was “a huge setback to our ability to restore the confidence of Londoners”.

He added that the police “will learn from this” and that “we apologise to the woman and the wider community who have been deeply affected”.

Deputy Chief District Judge Tan Ikram said it was “not necessary to grab the woman by the arm, arrest her and handcuff her.”

“There were no reasonable grounds that made an arrest necessary.”

He added: “The officer made an error of judgement and overreacted.”

Ms Agyemang, who was dropping her son off at her mother's before leaving for an appointment in Marylebone, suffered a bruised arm in the incident.

The court heard that she was asked by a bus inspector to prove that she had paid her fare, did not hand over a ticket and simply walked away.

“At this point PC Lathwood is called in,” said prosecutor Paul Jarvis.

He said Lathwood touched her, but she moved away, so he grabbed her arm and arrested her for fare evasion.

In footage of the incident filmed by passersby, Ms Agyemang can be heard asking the police officer: “Can you please get off me? Can you get off my arm?”

“You don’t understand, I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Lathwood, who at one point called her a “stupid cow,” continued to detain her, demanding that she show her card and handcuffing her.

Another officer took the Oyster card from her hand and walked away to see if she had paid.

It was confirmed that Ms Agyemang had paid her fare and she was released at the scene of the accident.

“I felt very hurt,” she said in court.

“I just felt like they didn't care. I just felt a little humiliated because I hadn't done anything wrong.”

In his statement, Lathwood said he felt he had no choice but to arrest Ms Agyemang.

“Because of their actions and their refusal to show the card to other people who had constantly asked for it,” he explained his actions.

He was asked why he did not tell her the reason for her arrest.

“If the card had come back as unpaid, we would have gone ahead and explained everything to her if she had allowed us to,” he said.

Lathwood also claimed she was an “unknown threat” to herself and to him.

The officer, who is from the Metropolitan Police's Road Traffic Policing Command, denied the charge of assault but was found guilty.

The verdict is scheduled for June 14.

Matt Twist, deputy chief constable of the Metropolitan Police, said: “This verdict is a major setback to our ability to restore the trust of Londoners. We will learn from it and apologise to the woman and the wider public who were deeply affected.”

“Anyone who has seen the footage of this incident is shocked at how this incident could have turned into a traumatic situation for a mother and her child.

“Despite today’s conviction, we will continue to support the officer and our staff to ensure officers have the confidence to act decisively and make arrests when they believe they have the authority to do so.

“When an officer is convicted of an offence, their conviction will often be considered in an expedited misconduct hearing as soon as possible after the conclusion of the trial. In this case, we will wait to see whether PC Lathwood appeals against the conviction and seek to fully understand the court's decision and its impact on policing. We do not intend to consider an expedited misconduct hearing in this case.

“The nature of this type of fare evasion unnecessarily puts officers in potentially difficult situations with the public. Since this incident, we have stopped supporting Transport for London's fare evasion operations, but we continue to maintain a presence on the bus network to help tackle violent crime.

“The Met will continue to work with communities to transform our culture and improve the way we engage with all Londoners – embedding our values ​​of empathy, integrity, respect, courage and responsibility throughout the organisation.”

IOPC Regional Director Mel Palmer said: “Today a judge found that PC Lathwood’s use of force against the woman after her arrest, including the use of handcuffs and restraining her arm, was unlawful and he was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

“Any use of force by officers should be appropriate, proportionate and justified in the circumstances.

“This incident attracted a great deal of attention and caused considerable concern, particularly in the Croydon community, after footage of the incident was posted online.

“We have conducted an independent and impartial investigation to establish the facts surrounding this incident, including the actions of the police officers involved.

“The decision to refer a file of evidence to the CPS for criminal prosecution is not one we take lightly. It was taken after careful consideration of the evidence, including consultation with the CPS.”

After the criminal proceedings have been concluded, the IOPC will contact the police to “initiate disciplinary proceedings against the officer,” the IOPC said.