A WOMAN who witnessed a brutal assault on a teenager was shocked when the police Professional Standards Unit ignored her, dismissed the victim’s complaints and justified the attacked a “proportionate”.
Anna Larkin was at her kitchen window filling up a hot water bottle shortly after midnight on 1st November last year when she says she saw two plain-clothed officers assault Agnelito Da Costa, aged 18, as he and a friend made their way home in full face paint after celebrating Halloween at an East London pub.
Larkin, who is a communications officer for a prestigious art institution in Angel, North London, said she was horrified as she watched one of the officers push handcuffed Da Costa’s face into the bonnet of a car and hold it there while a colleague kicked his legs away so he fell to his knees, kicked his legs apart, kicked him hard between the legs and stamped on his ankles.
But Da Costa and his friend, Matthieu Dufour, who works as a graphic designer in Shoreditch, were quickly released after Larkin’s camera began flashing as she took pictures of the scene on the corner of Mare Street and Westgate Street in Hackney moments after the alleged attack.
While Larkin’s account corroborates that of Da Costa’s and Dufour’s, who were all interviewed separately, Hackney’s Police Professional Standards Unit (PSU) did not acknowledge or deny her account, but admitted force was used saying it was justified in the interests of officer safety after the teenager became aggressive.
Responding to Anne Larkin’s complaint, PSU investigator Mark Simkins, who also works as a Special (volunteer officer), wrote: “[the officers] fully justify their use of force against the subject involved. … One male was fully compliant and the other was not. Whilst we do not expect every member of the public to bend over backwards for us we do not expect acts [of] aggression from the very outset. The two original officers who stopped the male in question were faced with just that.”
Da Costa admits he was verbally aggressive, but only after the police nearly ran him over and put him in cuffs. He said an unmarked car had driven past with the occupants looking at them as he and Dufour walked along Mare Street towards Hackney Town Hall when moments later it pulled up in front of them.
Two officers jumped out and handcuffed his friend. As he crossed the road an unmarked car drove at him almost knocking him over, he said. “I thought I was going to be run over. [The driver] came out of the car and I went up to him and said what are you doing … and he went straight to the conversation asking me what are you doing here, where are you heading? ”
Before he answered, Da Costa said he was handcuffed and threatened with arrest unless he gave his name and address. He continued: “I said I’m not going to give it to you and I was screaming at the officers because I was really angry because I was literally just handcuffed for no reason, but after a few minutes I decided to give them my name because I didn’t want to be arrested.” Da Costa said he then questioned why he had been stopped and cuffed when the assault occurred.
Simkins pointed out to Larkin that she had not seen Da Costa’s “aggressive” behaviour and was unaware of the potential risk the officers were facing.
Larkin admitted she did not see the point at which the pair were stopped and cuffed or Da Costa remonstrating with the officers, but said the arts student was handcuffed at the time of the “assault” so posed no threat.
In a letter to Simkins complaining of the “flimsy” investigation, Larkin wrote: “Whether or not the young man was initially fully compliant, the incident I witnessed occurred when he was fully incapacitated. … I find it incredible that you believe the subsequent kicking and stamping was a reasonable and necessary course of action following the officers’ risk assessment. What possible risk could the young man pose on his knees, handcuffed from behind and his face being held down on the bonnet of the car?”
Larkin and Da Costa also complained of the officers laughing at him when he asked for their identification numbers, which they are obliged to give during a stop, after being released.
Da Costa, who also sings in a band with Dufour, said: “They were just messing around literally just laughing saying I’m not going to give you my number. I asked them a few times. … One of the officers decided to make a joke. … They were just saying random long numbers … and every officer was just laughing.”