Chalking trial: police officer falsely claimed to witness assault, court hears
• Defence footage shows constables’ view was obstructed
• Student was arrested after writing in chalk on UoL property
A police constable falsely claimed to witness a student assaulting another officer because he was told to do so by colleagues, a court heard today.
The defence for Ms K Duff, who was arrested after writing in chalk on University of London (UoL) property in July 2013, accused special constable David Inwood of “simply corroborating what you were told to” when he claimed to see her kick an officer in the leg.
Defence barrister Benjamin Newton showed Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court video footage in which SC Inwood is seen positioned behind a van door that obstructs his view of where he claimed to have seen Duff assault police constable Siobhan O’Grady on Malet St.
After showing the clip, Newton told SC Inwood: “You didn’t see anyone get assaulted.”
SC Inwood, who claimed he had done so both in an earlier statement and again in court today, replied: “I thought I did at the time.”
Duff was arrested on 16 July last year after writing “sick pay, holidays, pensions now” and “support the cleaners’ struggle” on UoL’s foundation stone in chalk as part of a 3Cosas protest. The 25-year-old was charged with criminal damage and two counts of assaulting a police officer, all of which she denies.
The prosecutor in the case, barrister Dilichi Onuzo, told the court today that Duff assaulted another officer, acting special sergeant Liam Suter, by kneeing him in the cheek as attempts were made to handcuff her inside the University of London Union (ULU).
Sergeant Suter told the court: “It caused my hat, which is designed to stay on, to fall off. It caused me to unconsciously bring my had to my cheek and produced an immediate degree of numbness.”
In cross-examination, defence barrister Newton suggested an alternative account: “Her legs don’t come up to your face, but your face comes down to her legs.”
Sergeant Suter and SC Inwood both said the student had been actively resisting arrest, with the latter claiming she had been “struggling and lashing around”.
But Newton said Duff’s behaviour was “a classic example of passive resistance”.
Prosecutor Ms Onuzo said Duff had also caused in excess of £600 worth of criminal damage on the foundation stone.
Paul Nicholson-Lewis, UoL’s deputy director of property, told the court that because the stone was a limestone that might be damaged if cleaned with a brush and water, “it was resolved to use a high pressure steam to lift it [the chalk] off the stone”, costing £320.
He went on to explain that the steam damaged the stone’s gold lettering, which then had to be repaired, at a cost of £490.
The court heard that Nicholson-Lewis called the police after consulting with UoL managers, having been informed by a receptionist that someone was writing in chalk on the stone.
Sergeant Suter, who responded to the call, claimed that Nicholson-Lewis was “very keen to press charges” because of Senate House’s Grade II listed status.
The defence accepts that Duff wrote in chalk on the stone, but denies she did so with reckless intent. Newton told the court use of chalk at university was common during student union elections.
The trial, which was adjourned last October after the defence said it had not received evidence it requested, continues tomorrow, when a verdict is expected.
Additional reporting by Daniel Hayeem