Police officer and PCSO jailed for misconduct after vigilante murder
A police officer and a community support officer have been jailed for misconduct following the vigilante murder of a disabled refugee.
Pc Kevin Duffy, 52, and PCSO Andrew Passmore, 56, were convicted of the charge in connection with the death of Bijan Ebrahimi in Bristol in 2013.
Mr Ebrahimi, 44, was punched and kicked to death and his body set on fire by neighbour Lee James, who wrongly believed he was a paedophile.
Duffy failed to respond to numerous pleas for help by Mr Ebrahimi two days before the murder, as he viewed him as a nuisance and a liar.
Former soldier Passmore lied to murder detectives by claiming he patrolled outside Mr Ebrahimi's home for an hour, when it was actually two minutes.
Both have been dismissed from Avon and Somerset Police since their convictions and subsequent misconduct hearings.
Judge Neil Ford QC, the Recorder of Bristol, said there had been "wider failings" by the force before Mr Ebrahimi's death.
The judge, who jailed Duffy for 10 months and Passmore for four, said they had "betrayed" the public's trust.
"It is with a heavy heart that in each of your cases I take the view that only a custodial sentence is appropriate," Judge Ford said.
"You have already lost your careers and in each of your cases there is genuine justification for mercy.
"You must not bear the responsibilities for the wider failings in the police which were beyond your control."
Mr Ebrahimi had a history of disputes with his neighbours in Capgrave Crescent in Brislington.
On July 11 2013, he filmed James drinking beer while playing with his young daughters on a communal green.
James wrongly believed that Mr Ebrahimi had been filming his children for sexual gratification and burst into his flat.
Mr Ebrahimi dialled 999 and two police officers, Pc Leanne Winter and Pc Helen Harris, arrived to find James crying with anger and frothing at the mouth.
Pcs Winter and Harris arrested Mr Ebrahimi for breaching the peace and led him out in handcuffs in front of a crowd, who jeered and taunted him.
Mr Ebrahimi was released from custody the following day and made 12 calls to the police non-emergency number 101.
"There was a developing theme of Mr Ebrahimi saying that he didn't feel safe and that a crowd was outside," the judge said.
Pc Henrietta Staveley-Brown emailed Duffy, the neighbourhood's beat manager, warning of "vigilante issues" after visiting the estate that day.
The officer also raised concerns to a sergeant and inspector but no patrols were arranged in what Judge Ford described as a "serious failing".
Mr Ebrahimi was informed that Duffy would visit, but the officer refused to see him.
"My life is in danger. Right now a few of my neighbours are outside and shouting and calling me a paedophile. I need to see Pc Duffy," Mr Ebrahimi told one operator.
Duffy told a supervisor: "It's Mr Bijan Ebrahimi. He's well known to me and I won't be taking any calls from him."
The judge said Duffy's omission to visit or speak to Mr Ebrahimi, whom he regarded as a "nuisance", was a serious failing.
But he added there was "much doubt" that Duffy could have prevented the murder.
Passmore drove to the estate after being asked to conduct a "bit of a foot patrol" by Duffy that evening, July 12, and spent two minutes outside.
Judge Ford said Passmore had "no need" to lie to murder detectives and claim that he had patrolled for an hour, but he deliberately did so.
The following day, July 13, Mr Ebrahimi attempted to contact Duffy and Pc Winter. He phoned police at 00.14am on July 14, about an hour before his murder.
Witnesses saw James repeatedly stamp on Mr Ebrahimi's head before setting him alight at 1.35am with neighbour Stephen Norley.
James was jailed for life for the murder, while Norley was sentenced to four years in prison for assisting an offender.
Pcs Winter, 38, and Harris, 40, were acquitted of misconduct following the seven-week trial at Bristol Crown Court last year.
Avon and Somerset Police are now beginning misconduct hearings with 15 members of staff and officers.
"As a consequence, we're unable to comment any further to avoid any prejudice to the disciplinary matters," a force spokesman said.
IPCC commissioner Jan Williams said the police watchdog would published its investigation findings into Mr Ebrahimi's death at the conclusion of all disciplinary proceedings.
Speaking outside court, Mr Ebrahimi's sister Manisha Moores said: "We hope the judge's words today send out a strong message to police officers across the country about the importance of protecting victims and the importance of telling the truth.
"We hope that today's outcome will help other victims and our search for justice continues."
Avon and Somerset Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan said: " Today it is important we should remember Bijan Ebrahimi and his family who are at the heart of these proceedings, and the lengthy and painful legal processes they have had to endure alongside their tragic loss. They have done this throughout with the greatest dignity and composure. I reiterate my heartfelt apology and condolences to the family today.
"In summing up in court today, His Honour Judge Ford recognised the appropriateness of custodial sentences for Kevin Duffy and Andrew Passmore. The principle job of the police service is to protect the public and in this case Bijan Ebrahimi was failed.
"The judge also made reference to the responsibility of the wider organisation today. Our focus has been and will continue to be to understand the circumstances around Mr Ebrahimi's treatment by our police officers and staff in the days leading up to his murder, and do all that we can to prevent such a dreadful event happening to anyone again.
"We are at the beginning of a series of misconduct hearings and meetings involving 15 members of staff and officers. It's crucial that these disciplinary proceedings are allowed to progress to their final conclusion without prejudice now that sentencing has taken place. As a consequence we're unable to comment any further to avoid any prejudice to the disciplinary matters.
"The gross misconduct hearings involving police officers will be held in public at Police HQ and further details will be published nearer the time."