Declan Jones: Community welcomes jailing of former police officer following attacks on Black men
Campaigners have welcomed the jailing of a police officer who assaulted two Black people – including a child – as a positive step towards justice.
Ex-West Midlands Police PC Declan Jones, 30, was captured on CCTV committing both offences on consecutive days while on duty in Birmingham, starting with an assault on a man who was kneed, punched and pepper-sprayed in Aston on 20 April last year.
The disgraced officer’s actions led to his chief constable issuing an apology to both victims amid what the senior officer described as concerns by the Black community about police use of force.
A trial held last summer was told Jones had also kicked and punched a 15-year-old in the back of the head, after wrongly accusing him of possessing drugs in the Newtown area on 21 April.
“This sadly happens to the Black community but at least today justice has been obtained,” Errol Robinson, a prominent criminal lawyer of McGrath and Co solicitors, told The Independent following the hearing.
Sentencing Jones to six months in jail at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Friday, District Judge Shamim Qureshi spoke of “a lack of faith in the police force” among local communities and went on to say “there’s a feeling among Bame [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities that only video evidence leads to being believed in cases like these, because courts often believe the word of police officers”, after acknowledging that these attacks were caught on multiple surveillance cameras.
“What we have here in this case is not simply an isolated incident,” he added.
“It was a difficult situation for the whole country, the first lockdown that this country has ever seen. The streets were pretty well deserted… there were not many people around to witness what was going on.”
“I would be failing in my public duty to suspend your sentence.”
During mitigation for Jones, the mother of the teenage victim left court after shouting: “He made my son come to court [to give evidence] as a child. Lock him up.”
Speaking exclusively to The Independent, she described her family’s anguish leading up to today.
“It’s child abuse, isn’t it? When my son explained to me what happened I was upset – but when I saw the video I was heartbroken,” the distressed parent said.
“It’s been hard. Excuses were made for the former police officer’s behaviour [through the court hearings]. My son will never trust a police officer again; prior to this attack, we gave him the talk about discrimination and racism across society, what to expect but even then, he didn’t think anything like this would happen to him and it has really shaken him up.
“There were other police officers there at the time who witnessed what happened; this sentence is what we expected, it is some justice, but I would say that more needs to be done.”
In their victim impact statement, the older complainant said: “I know there are good and bad officers but the way I was treated makes me feel wary of all of them.
“I think police officers feel they have more power because of the uniform they’re wearing,” they added.
Mr Jones was also ordered to pay a total of £1,000 in compensation to the victims and £3,500 in prosecution costs, as the judge condemned his “degradation” of his teenage victim, who started crying in the back of a police car after being assaulted as viewed through police body-worn video footage.
“He starts crying, he’s a 15-year-old – you’ve just beaten him up twice and the way you talk to him, the sarcastic comments you made to him,” said Judge Qureshi.
“That was your behaviour at the time. It shows how you looked down on him.”
He added: “He was simply a child and nothing more.”
Mr Jones, who was dismissed from the force earlier this week, pleaded not guilty to these charges and told the court it was his “honest belief” the teenager had made a downward movement with one of his hands, causing him to fear for his safety.
But Judge Qureshi ruled that totally unnecessary force had been used against the 15-year-old after he “stood in a surrender pose”.
The judge previously described videos of the incidents, in which officers were shown not wearing masks, as “disastrous” for police-public relations and “embarrassing” to watch.
Speaking to The Independent, prominent anti-racism campaigner Bishop Desmond Jaddoo said today’s outcome ought to serve as a “big wake-up call” to West Midlands Police force and called for an inquiry into its relationship with Black people.
“Clearly, this must now send a strict message: police officers are not above the law,” he said.
“The uniform shouldn’t protect them but, more importantly, this officer was conducting his behaviour in front of colleagues who did nothing.
“So it’s a big wake-up call for West Midlands Police to say ‘what are you doing about this?’. There’s a wider issue within West Midlands Police and it’s time they take stock.
“We’ve got a new police and crime commissioner who says that Black lives matter, that was in his manifesto, [yet] he’s been quiet on this. It’s time that he open his mouth and order an inquiry into what’s happening with West Midlands Police and its relationship with the Black community.”