Report clearing police after death of Tasered man overturned by judges
A report clearing police officers of any serious wrongdoing following the death of a man shortly after being Tasered has been overturned by the High Court.
In the first case of its kind, two judges quashed the Independent Police Complaints Commission report on Jordon Begley at the request of the IPCC itself and ordered a fresh investigation.
But Dorothy Begley, the dead man's mother, said she remained "sceptical" about the police watchdog's ability to reinvestigate and produce a fair report.
Mr Begley, 23, a factory worker from Gorton, Manchester, died in July 2013 two hours after being shot at his home with a 50,000 volt stun gun from a distance of 28in (70cm).
He was also punched and restrained by armed officers, who believed he had a knife.
Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice Males, sitting in London, ruled the April 2014 report, which found officers had no case to answer in respect of misconduct or gross misconduct, was "an unsatisfactory report which cannot stand".
The judges said the IPCC had been prompted to think again and seek a fresh investigation by an inquest jury's narrative verdict in July 2015.
It stated that "Mr Begley had died from stress-induced cardiac arrest and that the discharge of the Taser and the manner in which the officers restrained Mr Begley materially contributed to his death".
Allowing the IPCC's application for a fresh investigation, the judges ruled the first investigation had failed properly to consider conflicting evidence as to whether, when Mr Begley was Tasered, he had his hands in his pockets, where there could have been a knife.
The judges said another key issue was whether officers had been under an obligation referred to in a police policy guidance manual to advise someone subjected to a Taser blast that its effect was "only temporary and that the individual should breathe deeply".
The judges said there was a conflict of evidence about whether it would have been possible to give such a warning, and that would need to be resolved before it could be said whether or not the policy had been infringed.
The judges stressed that the court's conclusion to quash the IPCC report did not mean that four named officers should necessarily face disciplinary proceedings for misconduct or gross misconduct. That was a matter to be decided by the fresh investigation.
Hugh Davies QC, appearing for the officers, had argued no compelling basis had been demonstrated for a reinvestigation.
Mr Davies said: "No credible witness has established a case of misconduct against the officers during what was a violent and threatening event."
He also said a further investigation would be unfair because of the delay involved. Four of the officers had already been placed on restricted duties, on and off, for over three years at an important stage of their careers.
Dorothy Begley said she remained "sceptical" about the IPCC's ability to produce a report into her son's death which would be fair to the family.
Ms Begley said: "The IPCC's original decision was a whitewash. Had it not been for the efforts of my legal team and the courage of the (inquest) jury we would not be where we are now.
"The IPCC have been told what to do. Only time will tell whether or not they can do it.
"I am sceptical because they have so badly failed me and my family before."
In their ruling, the judges referred to the whitewash allegation and described it as "wholly without foundation".
The family's solicitor Mark McGhee, of law firm Lexent Partners, said: "As far as the family is concerned, they are delighted at the judgment.
"But only time will tell as to whether or not this time the IPCC will do what they should have done in the first place - namely a full, proper and adequate investigation."
IPCC commissioner Cindy Butts welcomed the High Court's decision, saying: "Quashing the report, and the findings, is the most appropriate course of action for all involved, which is why we sought the judicial review.
"We will now take the opportunity to carefully consider the judges' comments in making their determinations, and apply these to a new investigation into the circumstances of Jordon Begley's death, and the actions of Greater Manchester Police on that day - this will involve a new investigative team who had no previous involvement with the original investigation."
Greater Manchester Police said in a statement that the force would "fully co-operate with any future reinvestigation", but was making no further comment at this stage.
In their written decision, the judges described how, on July 10 2013, officers were called to Mr Begley's home by his mother because she was concerned that he might become violent.
"He had been drinking and was upset about having been accused of stealing a handbag. H is mother said that he had a knife and wanted to go outside to confront his accusers."
A number of officers arrived, one of whom said he fired his Taser gun at Mr Begley because he thought he might have a knife in his pocket, and Mr Begley was walking towards him.
Once Tasered, Mr Begley fell to the floor and was restrained face-down by more officers arriving at the scene.
In the course of "bringing Mr Begley under control", one of the officers delivered two strong punches - referred to as "distraction strikes" - to his back to enable him to be handcuffed.
"Shortly after Mr Begley was handcuffed, it became clear that he was very unwell."
An ambulance was called but he died a short time later.
The inquest jury had found the length of time the Taser was deployed - over eight seconds - was "not reasonable", and there had been no need for Mr Begley to have been punched twice.
The jury also decided the police had not been "sufficiently concerned" with Mr Begley's welfare once he was handcuffed.