Independent investigation tells kneel arrest officer to ‘reflect’ on actions

‘We’re extremely surprised by the decision to downgrade the incident as almost a non-issue’

Friday, 6th August 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Marcus Coutain

Video footage of Marcus Coutain’s arrest went viral on social media

A POLICE officer who appeared to kneel on the neck of a man during an arrest in Finsbury Park has been told to “reflect” on his actions after an independent investigation.

Passers-by filmed Marcus Coutain being restrained in Isledon Road in July last year and shared the footage on social media.The 48-year-old could be heard shouting: “Get off my neck.”

One Met Police officer was suspended at the time and another was placed on restricted duties after the arrest.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct has now completed its investigation into the incident and has not recommended further sanctions beyond the officer being asked to learn from the sequence of events.

Mr Coutain was charged with possession of a knife in public. He is due to stand trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court next year.

His solicitor Timur Rustem said: “As solicitors, but also as members of the public, we were extremely disappointed by the decision to downgrade the incident so much so that it’s dealt with almost as, I suppose, a non-issue by being asked to reflect on their behaviour. I can’t see in any other sphere of life where that would be allowed.”

He added: “I think it surprised us to have a situation which went viral on social media, with so many members of the public expressing their concern about the behaviour of the officer. It was serious enough that it went on social media and it’s serious enough it concerned the assistant commissioner enough to suspend the officer.”

Sal Naseem and Cllr Sue Lukes

There were racial injustice protests across London last summer in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died after having his neck knelt on by a police officer in Minnesota. Demonstrations were held outside police stations and Mr Coutain’s treatment has been raised on several occasions as one that needed a full independent investigation.

Islington Council’s crime chief Councillor Sue Lukes said: “The incident in which a police officer in Islington knelt on Marcus Coutain’s neck in July last year shocked us all. The fact that this happened to a black man so soon after the murder of George Floyd compounded the situation for many and damaged the trust of local people in the police.”

She added: “We are disappointed that the officer involved will not be facing disciplinary action. No one is safe until everyone is safe, and no one is safe if they do not believe they will be treated fairly and with respect by local services such as the police, and that there are consequences if they are not.”

Cllr Lukes said: “It is vital that local people and all our communities feel able to trust local police but that trust needs to be earned. Incidents like this damage that trust and undermine the police’s ability to do their work well, and we all need that trust to be regained. We will work with our communities to ensure that policing in Islington is done with fairness and respect and that, where this is not the case, justice is served.”

The IOPC’s regional director Sal Naseem said: “Following our investigation, we now understand the whole picture and on this occasion we found that officers had initiated the stop and search appropriately, based on the information they had been provided with.

“However, one of the officers may have used more force than necessary and his communication with the suspect and members of the public nearby may have been inappropriate.”

He added: “This was a thorough and detailed investigation of an incident that attracted considerable concern at the time because of a video going viral on social media. Stop and search is an intrusive and contentious police power which must always be used reasonably, proportionately and, where possible, should be intelligence-led. In these circumstances the officer will now work with their supervisor to reflect, learn and improve from what occurred to prevent this from happening again.”

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