Unpaid work for policeman who assaulted woman motorist at Appleby horse fair

Date: Friday 26th May 2017

A POLICE officer has been ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work after he was found guilty of assaulting a woman motorist in Appleby during last year’s horse fair.

Lindsay William Clark (53), Howgill Close, Bolton Low Houses, Wigton, had denied the assault by beating charge at an earlier hearing but was sentenced at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court following a one-day trial on Monday.

The court heard that the victim, Karen Maskall, had been dropping off a friend and her two greyhounds on a private drive in Bongate on 4th June when she was approached by Clark who told her she could not park there and had to move her Skoda estate vehicle.

Ms Maskall said voices were raised when words were exchanged between the pair before the officer grabbed her right index finger and squeezed it so tightly it ended up dislocated and permanently bent.

Giving evidence during the trial, she said she had been travelling around in her touring caravan and the two women were friends because they both owned rescue greyhounds.

She added they had agreed to walk the dogs out of town on the day in question because Appleby was too busy with horse fair visitors.

They returned to the address in Bongate, near the Royal Oak pub, after 9pm and she had reversed into the private drive to allow her passenger and her dogs to get out of the vehicle.

She said: “There was shouting by the policeman saying ‘you can’t park here, move that car’. I was saying ‘she lives here, I am not moving this car, I am dropping the dogs off’.”

Ms Maskall said Clark was “banging” a no parking sign and repeating the order to move the vehicle. “He said ‘if you answer me back I will drag you out of the car and have you arrested’,” she added. “At that point I was terrified.”

She confirmed that as the discussion became more heated she had sworn at Clark out of “exasperation” because she felt he was not listening to her.

Ms Maskall, who was in the driver’s seat of the vehicle throughout the confrontation, said Clark then leaned in through her window and grabbed her wrist before squeezing her right index finger, causing her “excruciating pain”.

She said the finger became dislocated but she had placed it back into the correct alignment. When it was X-rayed at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary the following day extensive tissue damage was seen.

Sergeant Arthur Carter, who was also on duty in Appleby at the time of the incident, said that when he spoke to Clark about the incident the following day he had said he had “slapped her finger out of the way”.

Giving evidence, Clark said he had asked Ms Maskall to move her car because observation of parking regulations during that busy period had to be “consistent”. At the time he had been wearing full police uniform — including carrying a taser.

He said she was clearly annoyed and added: “There was something in my peripheral vision. I raised my right hand and knocked that object away and diverted it from my face. At the time I thought the object was going to hit my face. As soon as that occurred there was a shout of ‘you’ve broken my finger’.”

Clark said he could not have leaned into the vehicle because his uniform was too bulky and he thought Ms Maskell had been “feigning injury” to avoid having to move the vehicle.

District Judge Gerald Chalk found him guilty of assault and said the verdict would have a “significant” impact on his career.

As well as the one-year community order, which included the 180 hours of unpaid work, the judge ordered that Clark should pay £600 in court costs and £300 in compensation to Ms Maskall.

Cumbria deputy chief constable Michelle Skeer said: “The constabulary expects the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and conduct from all police officers at all times. Police officers are trained to use force as a part of their roles and responsibilities and only to the extent that is necessary, proportionate, reasonable and in accordance with national guidelines.

“We take any allegations of inappropriate behaviour from any of our officers very seriously to ensure our communities can have trust and confidence in us.

“Following the incident in question the officer was placed in a non-public facing role and remains under investigation for disciplinary matters.

“I can reassure communities that we investigate any reports thoroughly and would encourage anyone with any concerns to contact Cumbria police on 101 and ask to speak to the professional standards department.”