A Waterside man, Jonathan Cloete was today acquitted of all charges at Derry Magistrates Court arising out of a weekend incident back in January of this year, in which police accosted him in a supermarket aisle because they believed he was not wearing a face mask without lawful excuse.
Ruling that the defendant had no case to answer, the District Judge said today that PSNI officers were “clearly misguided to their powers and could not have been completely aware of the legislation.”
Mr Cloete was shopping with his family at Tesco. Footage of the incident, which lasted approximately 90 seconds was widely distributed via various internet platforms.
PSNI from the Foyle DCU were heavily criticised at the time on social media for their actions, which were described as heavy-handed and disproportionate.
The 39-year-old male was charged with two counts of assault on police, obstructing police, resisting police and disorderly behaviour.
Our client, who was wearing a blue hoodie and navy tracksuit bottoms in the footage, complained at the time of being “pushed all over the place” by the officers.
A female police officer then involved herself in the incident, while the man said “let go of me and I will walk out with you”.
Ciaran Shiels, of Madden & Finucane, defending Mr Cloete said today, after his client was acquitted on every charge before the Court:
“A number of issues arose in respect of the police actions in this prosecution. One male arresting officer’s face mask did not even cover his own nose at all, whilst he was in the course of dealing our client.
“In addition, a much more serious issue arose when a female officer threatened the defendant’s partner when she began to film the incident, that if she did not immediately desist from recording, then the phone ‘would be seized as evidence’ as it was an ‘offence’. This occurred as the defendant was exiting the store with officers.
“This is in pointed contrast to the usual appeals that police make in other assault cases for members of the public to forward their mobile phone footage to assist the PSNI with their investigative enquiries and evidence gathering duties.
“There was also a clear undue haste in charging this defendant to Court as quickly as possible in light of the obvious PR disaster unfolding on social media, and before all footage of the incident had become available to be considered.
“We welcome the Court’s verdict today and confirm we will be issuing civil proceedings on behalf of our client and also his family, who can be heard in a highly distressed state throughout the incident.
“Had this case got as far as the defence case even opening, the defendant’s evidence would have been that this was the culmination of a number of concerning incidents involving Waterside police over a period of weeks.”