The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) conducted seven investigations into complaints related to eight incidents involving one of the officers, PC Paul Jackson, a dog handler.
PC Jackson and PD ‘Jerry’ worked for the tactical vehicle intercept unit of Greater Manchester Police (GMP).
Between May 2015 and December 2016, GMP referred five complaints to the IOPC, all of which involved the use of force against male suspects.
Five suspects, all of whom abandoned vehicles during pursuits and attempted to flee on foot, disobeyed officers’ lawful orders during the separate incidents.
Some of the suspects were severely bitten by dogs after failing to stop for police.
One complainant claimed that a second officer, PC Paul Lockett, failed to challenge or report a colleague during one of the incidents.
In July 2017, the IOPC made an initial referral to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which authorised wounding charges against PC Jackson and misconduct in public office and aiding and abetting wounding charges against PC Lockett.
The Crown claimed that PC Jackson used Jerry to “vent his contempt” for criminals, but a Preston Crown Crown jury found him not guilty of five counts of wounding with intent.
PC Paul Lockett, 37, a plain-clothes officer in the unit, was also found not guilty of aiding and abetting one of the alleged assaults and of misconduct in a public office.
There were no charges filed against two other officers who were investigated by the IOPC for their use of force in one of the incidents reported.
PC Jackson wiped away tears after the judge, Mr Justice Nicklin, told him and PC Lockett that they could leave the dock and sit behind their lawyers.
The five complainants who testified at the trial all had prior convictions, ranging from marijuana possession and driving offences to a career burglar and a convicted murderer.
They were all accused of lying when they claimed that PC Jackson restrained them to allow PD Jerry to continue biting them and that their injuries were caused by their resistance to arrest.
Stu Berry, chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, stated shortly after the not guilty verdicts in 2019:
“From start to finish, this case has been a farce and an unnecessary waste of public money in these times of extreme austerity.”
“The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) proactively sought evidence and built a flimsy case around evidence provided by convicted burglars and, worse, a convicted murderer.”
“Questions must be asked about the IOPC investigation’s standard and their staggering levels of incompetence.” How are these individuals held accountable for their actions?
“The time for talk and half-measures is over, and we are calling on the Policing Minister and Home Secretary to conduct a full and independent review of this case.”
“The IOPC is clearly unsuitable in its current form.”
“The IOPC investigators had no qualms about visiting Her Majesty’s prisons to gather some of this so-called “evidence” against our colleagues, believing that this slew of lies was sufficient to bring two of our members to court, jeopardising their livelihoods and liberties.”
“Police officers have no objection to being held accountable for their actions; we are, after all, the most accountable and scrutinised public service, and rightly so.”
“However, investigations must be fair, timely, and proportionate.” Most importantly, they must be balanced.
“The lives of two highly motivated and respected police officers have been ruined, with long-term ramifications for their professional and personal lives.”
“Right-thinking citizens will be appalled at the amount of public money spent on such a case.”
“Have we reached a point in society where we believe the word of career criminals over honest and hardworking police officers?”
“We now have a situation in which dog handlers are hesitant to perform their duties.” Instead of concentrating on apprehending the bad guys, their first thought is, “We don’t want to be the next Paul Jackson.”
“We risk our dog section becoming nothing more than a dog-walking service if we are not careful and do not have the appropriate protections from these so-called investigations.”
“I emphasise once more that police action should be scrutinised.” But as a society, we cannot seek to punish and prosecute police officers for simply doing their jobs. It’s absurd. That can’t be right – and the public will be the loser in the end.
“I’d like to thank our colleagues PC Paul Jackson and PC Paul Lockett for their professionalism and dignity throughout the process.” We wish them and their families the best as they move forward with their lives.
“We also thank Slater and Gordon’s legal team for their continued professionalism and hard work.”
However, the police officers’ ordeal was far from over.
After initially agreeing with the IOPC’s findings that all four officers under investigation had a case to answer for gross misconduct, GMP informed the IOPC in April 2020 that, based on the outcome of the criminal hearing, it no longer believed the officers should face disciplinary proceedings.
However, the IOPC disagreed with GMP’s decision and informed the force in December 2020 that they believed misconduct hearings should be held for both PC Jackson and PC Lockett.
Following additional representations, the IOPC directed the force to hold the hearings in May 2021.
During the misconduct hearing, which began on May 10, the independent panel heard submissions from the officers’ representatives and agreed on May 30 to end proceedings in one of the cases after a witness indicated they no longer wished to participate.
The misconduct hearing concluded on June 10th that neither officer’s case had been proven.
Amanda Rowe, Director of Operations at the IOPC, stated:
“This was a complicated case with some very serious allegations, and some of the men involved suffered significant dog bite injuries.”
“As a result, it was critical that the issues be investigated independently and thoroughly.”
“Our work has ensured that these officers’ actions have been scrutinised at public hearings, providing the transparency necessary for public trust in policing and the complaints system.”
“We appreciate the panel’s consideration of the issues presented to them.”