Custody sergeant on trial for assault 'feared for his safety'
A sergeant accused of twice assaulting a man in custody told a court he believed the prisoner had a weapon and "genuinely posed a danger."
Sgt Nathan Legend was coming to the end of a double shift when he punched Rennel Walker-Arthur three times in the face whilst he was being restrained on the floor by other officers.
He also placed a foot on the prisoner's head to prevent him from moving.
"It was never intended it to be a stamp, there was no pressure," he told a district judge.
Minutes later, leading a hand-cuffed Mr Walker-Arthur into a custody cell to be searched, he performed a leg-sweep, causing him to fall and smash his head on the concrete floor.
The prosecution allege the 31-year-old officer from Wolverhampton used excessive force but he argues the level of force was necessary to keep control the prisoner.
Sgt Legend had been sent to help out colleagues at Perry Barr custody block in the early hours of December 22 after starting work at his Oldbury base at 1pm the day before.
He had been working for more than 16 hours when the alleged attacks took place.
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He described Mr Walker-Arthur, from London, as drunk when he was brought in just after 5am and thought he might have also taken drugs, claiming his behaviour was erratic, although the 24-year-old music producer said he had only been drinking champagne.
The officer claimed he had been "flippant and very rude" during the booking-in process and when he refused to remove a lanyard from his jeans, Sgt Legend came around the desk to remove it forcibly as the two arresting officers held him.
But instead the sergeant put the prisoner in an armlock from behind and tried to drag him to the floor. He claimed he thought Mr Walker-Arthur had a weapon because his hands were in his pockets, and he had wanted to "take him by surprise."
In the ensuing struggle, he was concerned the prisoner would bite or spit at him or colleagues as he had been arrested for biting a police officer. "I didn't trust him one bit." he said.
In interview, Sgt Legend said he then momentarily lost control of Mr Walker-Arthur and when he ignored his commands to relax his arms and stop tensing, he punched him in the cheek.
"It was short and sharp – not enough to hurt him but enough to make him listen. It was a distraction technique," he said. He struck him twice more in the face and put a foot on his head to stop him struggling to help officers who were trying to handcuff him.
"By that time I'd been up for 22 hours. My legs and arms are killing me, I'm tired because of the force I've had to use, I was exhausted," he said.
In the cell, he said the crash-mat moved when he and another officer lost their footing as they continued to grapple with Mr Walker-Arthur, so that his head hit the floor, causing a deep gash.
Quizzed by investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct why he didn't stay behind the custody desk, he replied: "I genuinely believed my colleagues would be attacked if I hadn't got involved
Sgt Legend denies two charges of assault by beating. The trial at Birmingham Magistrates' Court will continue on Friday.
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