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Police launch criminal investigation after officer was filmed ‘kneeling on teenager’s neck’

Police have launched a criminal investigation after an officer was filmed apparently kneeling on a teenager’s neck during an arrest as Leeds United fans celebrated promotion to the Premier League.

It comes as new footage emerges of the incident, which saw a 17-year-old boy being restrained by officers on the ground outside Elland Road stadium last month.

The new video shows what happened inside the police van after the 17-year-old was bundled inside after seemingly being sprayed in the face and cuffed.

The teenager is shown bent over sitting on the back of the van as the officers stand around the doors being heckled by the furious crowd.

He says: “My face is stinging – my face. My lips are burning. My lips are burning.”

The lad, who has his hands tied around his back, complains his bonds are hurting and an officer leans forward to loosen them saying: “All this could have been avoided.”

He then pleads for a drink of water.  

The police watchdog has now confirmed the West Yorkshire Police officer who appears to kneel on him, who was suspended from the force last month, will be interviewed on suspicion of common assault and investigated for gross misconduct.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is appealing for witnesses to the incident at around 5pm on July 18.

IOPC regional director Miranda Biddle said: ‘We understand why the images that were circulated caused considerable public concern.

‘After the footage was shared on social media, a voluntary referral was made to us in relation to the conduct of the officer.

‘Having examined a range of evidence including body-worn video and initial accounts from the officers involved in the restraint, we have taken the decision that this is now a criminal investigation.

‘A criminal investigation does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow.

‘It is vitally important that the circumstances of this incident are subject to an independent investigation so we can fully understand what happened and impartially determine the facts.

‘We have already begun to gather evidence but would like to speak to anyone else who was at Leeds United’s ground at the same time for these celebrations and may have witnessed the incident.’    

West Yorkshire Police assistant chief constable Catherine Hankinson said last month: ‘Officers were in attendance at Elland Road football stadium on Saturday 18 July at around 17:10.

‘A 17-year-old male was arrested for a public order offence and obstructing a PC. He has since been released from custody and given a youth community resolution order.

‘This morning, we have been made aware of a video showing the arrest of the male. We have reviewed the footage and looked into it as a matter of urgency to establish the full circumstances.’ 

The assistant chief constable said the matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct while the officer in question has been removed from front line duties.  

Emergency workers spent the entire weekend dealing with drunken Leeds fans following their top flight return. 

One man was rushed to hospital with serious injuries after falling from a lamp post.  

In a separate incident a woman PC was seriously injured as 7,000 fans celebrated in Leeds city centre. 

A huge clean-up operation was under way in Leeds the following Monday after an estimated 7,000 people gathered to mark the club’s return to the Premier League after 16 years, leaving a sea of broken glass in a city centre square.

West Yorkshire Police said a female officer was hit by a bottle and taken to hospital with serious head injuries.

A number of other officers were also hurt along with members of the public as nine people were arrested, the force said.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Oz Khan said: ‘Throughout the weekend, fans have gathered across Leeds to celebrate the promotion of Leeds United into the Premier League.

‘We have continued to impress upon fans the importance of the Covid-19 Government guidance and our approach has primarily remained as one of engagement and encouragement.

‘On Sunday, almost 7,000 people gathered in Millennium Square in Leeds.

‘Whilst the vast majority of fans were enjoying themselves and celebrating, there were a small minority of people who began to throw bottles at police officers.

‘A female officer suffered a serious head injury and was taken to hospital for treatment, a number of other officers suffered minor injuries and a further 15 members of the public were injured.’

Mr Khan said officers were deployed to Millennium Square at noon and began to disperse the crowds in the evening.

He said the area was cleared by 11.55pm, with nine people arrested for public order offences.

The officer said: ‘The safety of fans and the wider public is our primary concern.

‘Violence towards police officers will not be tolerated and we deployed an appropriate police response to ensure that the festivities concluded safely.

‘It is important to remind the public that we must not lose sight of the fact that Covid-19 is still with us and that large gatherings are still not permitted.’ 

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