Ex cop from Hemel avoids jail after punching, shoving and swearing at drunk reveller while on duty

He also used pepper spray on the victim at close range
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A former police officer, from Hemel Hempstead, who punched a man in the face four times while on duty has avoided an immediate prison sentence.

William Owen, of Stationers Place, Hemel Hempstead, was on duty in Watford when he swung a drunk reveller into a wall and asked him “Who’s the f*****g big man now, eh?”

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A jury at Peterborough Crown Court found Owen guilty of common assault earlier in 2024.

Hertfordshire Constabulary. Credit: Will Durrant/LDRSHertfordshire Constabulary. Credit: Will Durrant/LDRS
Hertfordshire Constabulary. Credit: Will Durrant/LDRS

They also found the 31-year-old guilty of administering a noxious substance after he sprayed PAVA – a synthetic type of pepper spray – at his victim at close range.

His Honour Judge Sean Enright handed Owen a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, on Friday, March 22.

The former officer must also complete 160 hours of unpaid work.

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At a misconduct hearing held on Tuesday, March 19, Hertfordshire’s police chief Charlie Hall ruled Owen’s name must be added to the College of Policing’s “barred” list, which means he cannot serve in any force again.

Chief constable Hall revealed a colleague had reported Owen to Hertfordshire Constabulary, not the victim.

Christopher Harper, prosecuting, read a victim impact statement at Peterborough Crown Court.

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Hemel Hempstead police officer banned after punching drunk man four times

In it, the victim said he is now “fearful” in his interactions with police and that he had “declined nights out with friends”.

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He added the “blame cannot lie solely” on Owen, and that “Herts Police needs to take some responsibility” for the “excess force used to detain individuals” in social gathering areas.

“I do not believe he is a bad person and I would like to think it was an isolated incident,” the victim said about Owen.

Mr Harper also read a statement supplied by the former officer.

Owen accused investigators of “fabricating” evidence.

“I believe my force to be proportionate, legal and absolutely necessary in the circumstances I was presented with,” he said.

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“I have been criminalised by the same justice system I have dedicated the best part of five years of my life to.”

Rory Keene, defending, told the court the incident took place on November 7, 2021.

In the time between the incident and sentencing, Owen had faced “significant tribulation and pain and punishment”, the barrister said.

Mr Keene added: “He has lost his job. He has lost his income.

“Previous avenues of work are no longer open to him.”

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Mr Keene said the incident lasted for 17 seconds and involved a foot chase when the victim tried to run away.

“The court cannot be sure in the circumstances in this case that he did not genuinely and honestly believe force was not justified in this case,” he said.

“What happened here was not premeditated or planned.

“These were actions taken in the moment.”

HHJ Enright said he had heard Owen’s good character during the trial and said he is a person who “still has a valuable contribution to make”.

He said: “What took place was in the spur of the moment and lasted 17 seconds.”

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But the judge warned the comment “‘who’s the big man now’ says it all”.

He said Owen’s note handed to the court “smacks of anger” of a “young man who has fallen short of his high standards”.

The judge ordered Owen to pay £750 in compensation to the victim, in addition to the suspended sentence and unpaid work requirement.

Chief constable Hall previously said: “There can be no doubt there is no place in Hertfordshire Constabulary or policing for someone who conducts themselves in the way that former police constable Owen has.”

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The police chief viewed body-worn camera footage from the incident, which the jury saw at the trial, before deciding to bar Owen.

Chief constable Hall added: “He shows no acceptance that he has done wrong, that he is the one convicted of two criminal offences, no remorse for his actions, just a flawed belief that his use of force was proportionate, legal and absolutely necessary.

“I find this incredible. That’s not how I see it, not how former colleagues saw it, and not how the jury saw it.”