Officer guilty of assault over Croydon bus fare 'huge setback' for Met as it tries to 'rebuild trust'

Officer guilty of assault over Croydon bus fare 'huge setback' for Met as it tries to 'rebuild trust'

A Metropolitan Police officer convicted of assaulting a woman as she was wrongly accused of bus fare evasion is a “huge setback” for the force, the assistant commissioner has said.

PC Perry Lathwood, 50, was on duty and helping ticket inspectors in Croydon when Jocelyn Agyemang and her son got off a bus.

She told a court how she had been wrongly accused of fare evasion, and then “manhandled” by the officer who placed her in handcuffs.

At Westminster magistrates court on Friday, Lathwood was found guilty of assault in the incident on July 21 last year in Whitehorse Road, Croydon.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said the verdict “is a huge setback to our ability to rebuild trust with Londoners”.

He added that the force “will learn lessons from this” and “we apologise to the woman and the wider community who were deeply affected”.

Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram said it was “not necessary to grab the woman’s arm, arrest her and handcuff her.

“There were not reasonable grounds to suggest arrest was necessary.”

He added: “The officer made an error of judgment and overreacted.”

Mrs Agyemang, who was dropping her son off at her mother’s house before heading to an appointment in Marylebone, suffered a bruised arm in the incident.

She was asked to show that she had paid her fare by a bus inspector, did not hand over a ticket and simply walked off, the court heard.

“It is at this moment that PC Lathwood becomes involved”, said prosecutorPaul Jarvis.

He said Lathwood put a hand on her, but she moved away, so he then grabbed her arm and arrested her for fare evasion.

In footage of the incident shot by bystanders, Ms Agyemang can be heard asking the officer: “Can you get off me, please? Can you get off my arm?

“You don’t understand, I have done nothing wrong.”

Lathwood, who at one point called her a “daft cow”, continued to hold her, demanding she tap her card. He also handcuffed her.

Another officer took her Oyster card from her hand and went away with it to see if she had paid.

It was confirmed that Ms Agyemang had paid her fare and she was de-arrested at the scene.

“I felt very violated”, she told the court.

“I just felt like they did not care. I just felt a bit degraded because I had not done anything wrong.”

In his evidence, Lathwood said he felt like he had no choice but to arrest Ms Agyemang.

“Because of her actions and her refusal to show that card to other people who had continuously asked her to do so,” he said, explaining his action.

He was asked why he did not tell her why she was being arrested.

“If the card had come back as not paid we would have progressed and explained everything to her if she had allowed us,” he said.

Lathwood also claimed she was an “unknown threat”, to herself and to him.

The officer, who is attached to the Metropolitan Police’s Road Traffic Policing Command, denied but was convicted of one charge of assault by beating.

He is due to be sentenced on June 14.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: “This verdict is a huge setback to our ability to rebuild trust with Londoners. We will learn the lessons from this and we apologise to the woman and the wider community who were deeply affected.

“Anyone who has seen the footage of this incident will be upset by how it escalated into a traumatic situation for a mother and her child.

“Despite today’s conviction, we will continue to support the officer and continue to support our workforce, to ensure officers have the confidence to act decisively and make arrests when they believe they have the powers to do so.

“When an officer is convicted of a criminal offence, their conviction will often be considered at an accelerated misconduct hearing as soon as possible after proceedings have finished. In this case we will wait to hear if PC Lathwood will appeal the conviction, and work to fully understand the decision of the court and its implications for policing. We do not intend to consider an accelerated misconduct hearing in this case.

“The nature of this kind of fare evasion operation unnecessarily places officers in potentially challenging interactions with the public. Since this incident happened, we have stopped our involvement in supporting Transport for London fare evasion operations, but we continue our presence on the bus network tackling violent crime.

“The Met will continue to work with communities, to transform our culture and improve how we engage with all Londoners – by embedding our values of empathy, integrity, respect, courage and being accountable across the whole organisation.”

IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: “Today a judge has found that the use of force by PC Lathwood against the woman after her arrest, including the use of handcuffs and holding onto her arm, was unlawful and he has been convicted of assault.

“Any use of force by officers should be reasonable, proportionate and justifiable in the circumstances.

“This was a high-profile incident that caused significant concern, particularly in the Croydon community, after footage of the incident was published online.

“We carried out an independent and impartial investigation to establish the facts surrounding this incident, including the actions of the police officers involved.

“The decision to refer a file of evidence to the CPS to consider criminal charges is not something we take lightly and this was done after careful consideration of the evidence, including liaison with the CPS.”

Following the conclusion of criminal proceedings, the IOPC said it will liaise with the force to “progress disciplinary proceedings for the officer”.