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Former police officer punched a drunk man four times while on duty in Watford

A former police officer who punched a drunk man four times cannot serve in the force ever again, Hertfordshire’s police chief has ruled.

William Owen, of Stationers Place, Hemel Hempstead, also sprayed PAVA, an incapacitant tool similar to pepper spray, at close range while on duty in Watford on November 7, 2021.

At a misconduct hearing on Tuesday, March 19, Chief Constable Charlie Hall ruled Owen’s name will be added to the College of Policing’s “barred” list.

But in a written statement read by his Police Federation representative, Owen accused the force of using him as a “political scapegoat in an attempt to bring confidence to a failing and corrupt institution”.

He claimed his use of force was “proportionate” despite a jury finding him guilty of two crimes linked with the incident.

Owen had been found guilty of administering a noxious substance – PAVA – at Peterborough Crown Court. He was also found guilty of common assault.

The 31-year-old is due at the same court on Friday, March 22 for sentencing.

Chief Constable Hall read a summary of the allegations levelled against Owen at the hearing.

Owen’s victim “was intoxicated and had been ejected from one of the nightclubs in Watford”. The victim swore at the former constable, who reacted “by swinging him by the arm into a wall”, the police chief said.

Owen punched the victim, who at one point tried to run away, four times. He also drew his PAVA spray “at very close range”.

PAVA – or pelargonic acid vanillylamide – is a synthetic pepper spray that some police officers carry while on duty. The victim suffered a bruised eye and sore shoulder.

Chief Constable Hall found the former officer had made three breaches of the standards of professional behaviour – around the use of force, authority, respect and courtesy, and discreditable conduct.

The force chief said Owen had a “high culpability” in this incident, and that the sequence of events amounted to gross misconduct.

He said Owen was on duty “which brings with it an expectation of trust and responsibility as a police officer”.

Chief Constable Hall concluded: “He has fallen short of these expectations – so short that he has got a criminal conviction.”

He said: “I acknowledge that the operational situation he was dealing with at the time had field challenges.

“These were not particularly unusual and were the sort of situations police officers expect to find themselves in when policing the night-time economy.”

He said although there had been “some mild provocation towards the officer, however, this should have been handled more professionally”.

Chief Constable Hall added Owen’s claim his use of force was proportionate was a “wholly mistaken belief”.

He said the former officer had shown “no remorse for his actions” even after the court case, which he described as “incredible”.

Owen did not attend the hearing and had already resigned before it began.

In his statement, he accused investigators of “bias” and creating an “untruthful narrative”.

He described his victim as an “extremely aggressive and violent individual”.

Owen said: “I believe my use of force to be proportionate and legal in the circumstances presented to me.”

He continued, saying that he believed the criminal case against him set a “dangerous precedent that individuals can assault, abuse and threaten police officers”.

He added: “It is police officers who are penalised for simply doing their job.”

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