IPCC says Bedfordshire officers could face criminal charges over arrest of Julian Cole, injured and left paralysed after night out
A gang of Five police officers are facing action following the beating of a university student who was left with a broken neck and in a vegetative state, the police watchdog has said.
The officers, from Bedfordshire police, are to be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service over whether they should face criminal charges,
An investigation by the police watchdog has also decided that they could have a case to answer for discipline charges of gross misconduct.
The case concerns Julian Cole, who suffered a severed spinal cord after a night out in Bedford in May 2013. Cole, then 20, was beaten by police outside a Bedford nightclub and carried to a police van.
The IPCC investigated six officers in total; it has decided that five may face gross misconduct disciplinary charges for failing in their responsibilities and duties.
The IPCC also says that four officers it investigated might have a case to answer for “honesty and integrity” concerning accounts they gave, and that one officer should face a misconduct charge for the attack. One officer the IPCC investigated will face no action.
The officers are understood to have denied any wrongdoing. The IPCC believes they should be suspended; the police force say four remain on active duties and one has “retired”.
Cole’s case was first reported by the Guardian. His mother, Claudia Cole, said: “Following the attack that night, he has been left paralysed and in a vegetative state and he will need 24-hour care for as long as he lives. Julian is still alive, but it cannot be said that he is really living. This year Julian was supposed to be graduating from Bedfordshire University with a degree in sports science, but he never got a chance to do that. Julian had big dreams, big ambitions, and all of those are dashed. We miss him so much every day.”
The family were misled about details of the case after the incident. They say one officer lied to them saying Cole was talking after his arrest, but this would have been impossible with a severed spinal cord. Another said Cole was drunk. He had consumed alcohol, but tests showed he was under the drink-drive limit.
Claudia Cole added: “It has been the hardest three years waiting for the IPCC investigation to conclude. We want to see the report and all the evidence to learn the full truth of what happened. We also want to see justice for Julian – it will not bring him back, but we hope the CPS makes a swift decision on criminal prosecutions against the officers.”
The incident happened when Cole returned to Elements nightclub in Bedford to request a refund after he and friends were asked to leave. CCTV captured some of the incident, but not the moment when Cole was attacked and lost consciousness. He reappeared on CCTV handcuffed and being carried by officers into a police van.
He was attacked shortly after 1.30am and taken to a police station. At 2.08am an ambulance arrived and Cole was assessed as being in a coma. By 2.18am he had gone into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated.
The IPCC deputy chair, Sarah Green, said: “This has been a complex and lengthy investigation involving examination of over 900 documents, interviews with witnesses, a number of medical expert opinions, CCTV trawls and forensic analysis. We are now satisfied we have gathered all the available evidence to enable the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether or not charges should follow. We have kept Mr Cole’s family and Bedfordshire police updated on our progress.”
A referral to the CPS is made when an IPCC investigation indicates that a criminal offence has been committed. It does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow. The CPS will decide whether charges should be brought, based on the test set out in the code for crown prosecutors.
Cole was arrested by police on suspicion of a public order offence, which was dropped because of the injuries he suffered.