I heard this story on the news the other day and to be honest it’s not that surprising this police officer was cleared of the charges. Even if it may be viewed by an outsider as being over zealous or aggressive. When you examine the law closely you then begin to understand why he was acquitted.
If you watch the video clip which I have included in this post, you can see the background to the event. In other words what was going on before this particular event actually took place. In the video you can see members of the public being aggressive and surging towards the police. They are moving towards the police aggressively and the police are clearly vastly outnumbered, which could cause them to fear for their lives.
Then Miss Fisher approaches Sgt Smellie in an aggressive manor and he uses what we call clearance strike to push her back and out of his way. You can see he uses the back of his hand – he didn’t use his fist or his baton.
After the strike, she then moves towards him again, in possible retaliation and she seems to have items in both hands. From the video you can’t tell what she has in her hands. They could be anything.
So Sgt Smellie honestly believed he was under attack and consequently under Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act was fully entitled to use reasonable force to protect himself. You can see on the video he drops his body level so he can strike Miss Fisher’s legs, rather than a strike at head height, which could have caused severe head injuries. Because he takes this approach he is demonstrating a measured response which shows he is trying to use reasonable force.
He only uses two strikes, he bends his knees and strikes twice. They are not life threatening blows but you have to remember he also didn’t know if she had a weapon or not. She had already been warned both verbally and with the clearance strike. It is my understanding that the CPS weren’t even interested in the clearance strike, they were only interested in the use of the baton, but the judge decided it was reasonable force and threw it out.
The IPCC still might sanction the police officer in some way. However, the police officer could theoretically sue the police for removing his human rights, Article Two is the human’s right to life. He could say you have taken away my right to defend myself.
The circumstances of the case were extremely public and I believe the Government had to be seen to be doing something but the judge just threw it out. It shouldn’t have gone to court in the first place. The problem is many people simply don’t know how these laws work and they cause confusion.