A BUSINESSMAN who was “tortured” in a police station spoke of his disgust last night after he was awarded just £100 compensation.
Grandfather David Healer, 48, fled from a courtroom in tears when footage of the assault on him by custody sergeant Stephen Harvey and civilian detention officer Michael Mount at Peterlee police station was played to Teesside Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
Two constables who looked on without intervening now face disciplinary action from Durham Police.
Advisory: This video contains disturbing scenes.
Footage from the incident shows one officer twisting Mr Healer’s arm behind his back as another held his other arm as he screamed in pain. He was then grabbed by both wrists across the custody suite desk by both defendants after refusing to answer questions.
The attack was condemned as a form of torture by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Harvey, 50, and Mount, 61, were each convicted of two counts of common assault following a trial at Teesside Magistrates’ Court in March.
Yesterday they were ordered to pay £50 each compensation to Mr Healer. Harvey, of Chester-le-Street, was told to pay £1,395 in fines and costs for his role in the attack, while Mount, of Thornley, County Durham, was ordered to pay £730. But father-of-six Mr Healer, who was praised by firefighters for his bravery in 1997 after breaking down the door of a house in Cedar Crescent, Seaham, before battling thick smoke to drag an unconscious neighbour to safety, said: “It is disgusting and insulting that I have only been awarded £50 compensation and that these two will keep their pensions.
“I have donated the £100 to charity but I am planning civil action against Durham Police. I have suffered tremendous pain since this attack yet these officers are relatively unaffected. I was shocked by my treatment in the custody suite. It is not as if I am a troublemaker. I have worked all my life.”
Mr Healer, from Seaham, says he has had metal pins, referred to as “scaffolding” inserted into his spine during a painful operation since the assault.
Yesterday Deputy Chief Constable Mike Barton, of Durham Constabulary, revealed that neither employee had been suspended, instead continuing to work in roles that involve no contact with the public.
He said: “In this case, our expected professional standards were not upheld. The actions of our staff were completely out of character but they were wrong and should not have happened.
“This was clearly a case where excessive force was used.
“All of our cell blocks have CCTV monitoring, for the protection and safety of both detainees and staff.
“Without wishing to condone the actions of these particular members of staff, I must point out that custody can be a very challenging environment. Our staff regularly have to deal with people who can be drunk or violent or both.”
But Mr Healer’s solicitor Stephen Gowland said: “Mr Healer at no time resisted the officers [while in the custody suite] or was violent towards them.
“My client’s life has been affected greatly by the treatment he received both mentally and physically and he now has to live with severe pain for the rest of his life due to the serious spinal injuries [allegedly] incurred in this incident.”
IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long said: “A detained person is not under obligation to answer questions. It would appear Sgt Harvey and CDO Mount had forgotten this and decided it was necessary to try to gain compliance through the use of force.
“It is sad and frankly astonishing that in the 21st Century experienced members of the police service believed inflicting pain as a way of eliciting responses to questions was acceptable. I consider it completely unacceptable and it could be argued their actions amounted to a form of torture.”
The IPCC was also recommending action against the two officers who stood by and watched, and Durham Police said they would follow the watchdog’s recommendations.