Glasgow & West Scotland

Police custody officer cleared of lighter assault

Glasgow Sheriff Court
Image caption John Mullen was also found not guilty of an alternative charge of breaching the peace

A police custody officer who held a lit cigarette lighter close to a prisoner's fingers has had the assault charge against him found not proven.

John Mullen, 51, who is employed by Strathclyde Police, claimed he used the lighter as a "diversionary technique".

But Sheriff Anthony Deutsch told Mr Mullen that his actions were "neither sensible nor appropriate".

The court had been told that the incident happened at Baird Street police station, Glasgow, in March 2009.

Mr Mullen was acquitted after he said that he was using the lighter as a "diversionary technique" to help deal with an unruly prisoner.

The court had been told that prisoner Bernard Gallagher - who has a string of previous convictions for violence - stuck his arm out of his cell hatch when Mr Mullen opened it to offer him something to eat.

Mr Mullen said: "I asked him to put his hand back but he refused and was shouting and swearing at me.

"I asked him three times and when he refused to do it I pressed the panic alarm to signal for help."

Alternative charge

The court was told that police sergeant Hazel Gibb then arrived with another custody officer and tried to get Mr Gallagher to put his arm back inside the cell but he again refused.

Mr Mullen said he decided to take action and asked one of his colleagues for the lighter.

In an examination by the police casualty surgeon Mr Gallagher was found to have suffered no injuries.

Returning a not proven verdict on the assault charge, Sheriff Deutsch said he did not agree with Mr Mullen's conduct.

The sheriff said: "I would like to make it clear that this verdict is not taken as an endorsement of your use of this lighter.

"I regard it as being neither sensible nor appropriate."

Mr Mullen was also found not guilty of an alternative charge of breach of the peace by brandishing the lighter.

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