UK: Police who stamped on a mentally ill Somali man walks free from court
A police sergeant who stamped on a mentally ill prisoner’s foot during a strip search and told him ‘Welcome to Hackney’ has walked free from court.
Sgt Charles Pilbeam, 30, forced Somalia-born Abdi Ali-Ahmed to pick up scraps of paper in an interview room after twisting his ear and dragging him to the floor, St Albans Magistrates’ Court heard.
The officer then tried to initiate a cover-up of his brutal treatment, telling trainee constable Cordelle Sailsman not to report the incident, which occurred at Shoreditch Police Station on March 2 last year.
Two fully-qualified PCs, Brian Sharkey and Rob Baker, were also in the room when the incident occurred but gave statements which were ‘silent or very vague…on what actually happened’, the court heard.
The pair remain on active duty, while Pilbeam is currently suspended pending disciplinary proceedings.
The victim, who is in his twenties, had ‘a difficult childhood’ in war-torn Somalia and suffers from multiple mental health issues, the court heard.
During the incident, he was prevented from getting dressed after a full strip-search by Pilbeam.
Mr Ali-Ahmed had not been arrested but was being served with a dispersal notice, having voluntarily given up a small bag of cannabis.
Pilbeam, of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was also convicted of assaulting a taxi driver while off-duty when he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today.
He had denied the offences but was convicted of two counts of common assault and sentenced to 20 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.
PC Sailsman, now a fully qualified officer, had told a trial last month he was ‘very certain’ the assaults took place on March 2 last year.
He claimed PC Baker ‘turned and looked at me and raised his eyebrows’ while their superior attacked the prisoner.
PC Sailsman said Pilbeam later commanded him not to report the incident and said: ‘I’m sorry to have put you in that situation. Don’t make notes, I will write it up.’
The softly-spoken officer added: ‘I felt quite intimidated at the time.’
But PC Sailsman immediately reported the events to a superior at Stoke Newington police station.
He recounted Pilbeam was ‘breathing heavily, almost panting’, before the assaults, adding Pilbeam also stamped on Mr Ali-Ahmed’s shin.
He said when Mr Ali-Ahmed asked what the dispersal notice was, PC Baker replied: ‘We don’t want you in Hackney’.
After Mr Ali-Ahmed shredded the document and threw it on the floor, Pilbeam ranted, ‘You are going to f*cking pick that up. This is my police station and you are going to pick it up’.
Pilbeam then grabbed his homeless victim by the ear, pushed him to the ground and forced him to pick up individual shreds.
When Mr Ali-Ahmed asked why he deserved this abuse, Pilbeam replied: ‘Welcome to Hackney’.
PC Sailsman said later he heard Pilbeam on the phone to an inspector, calling Mr Ali-Ahmed a ‘local slag’ and reassuring him he would write up the incident.
In fact, documentation was completed late, only after Pilbeam had seen PC Sharkey and PC Baker in what he described as a ‘passing’ encounter.
Defence counsel Guy Ladenburg suggested Mr Ali-Ahmed was potentially violent, but PC Sailsman maintained he was ‘very compliant’ and seated at all times.
‘In my opinion, he was scared’, PC Sailsman commented.
Pilbeam had tried to undermine PC Sailsman’s testimony, telling the court the young officer was motivated to lie because of ‘constructive criticism’ he had dished out.
But District Judge John Zani, sitting at Westminster Magistrates Court, discounted the defendant’s account and found him guilty of assault.
As well as the suspended sentence, Pilbeam was also ordered to undertake 250 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 compensation to Mr Ali-Ahmed.
He was also handed a concurrent eight week jail term, also suspended for two years, after being convicted of criminal damage and assaulting the taxi driver while off-duty last February 6.
He was also ordered to pay the driver £100 compensation and £620 for the costs of the two trials.