Rotherham man cleared of assaulting police officers

A Rotherham man narrowly escaped prison today after being cleared of assaulting two police officers.

Jamie Fitzmaurice, 24, arrived at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court knowing he could face six months in prison if found guilty, but a last-minute plea bargain led to the assault charge being dropped.

Pete Large, defending, agreed with the two officers that his client would plead guilty to a lesser charge – resisting arrest – and the spare the prosecution a trial.

In the dock, Fitzmaurice spoke only to confirm his name and address, and to agree with the magistrate, District Judge Naomi Redhouse, that he would never have been in trouble if he had complied with the two officers as instructed.

In October last year, Fitzmaurice had been out drinking in Rotherham city centre with his girlfriend, Kaya Bowden, 24, and some other friends.

The court heard that Fitzmaurice was not drunk, but had already had four pints when a “misunderstanding” broke out between him and Ms Bowden.

Ms Bowden said Fitzmaurice “gets scary” when he has been drinking, and had squared up to her that night as they shouted at each other in the street.

Fearing that Fitzmaurice might turn violent, Ms Bowden took out her mobile phone and threatened to call the police if he did not calm down, but after punching 999 into her keypad in mock frustration, she accidentally hit dial.

The police then took the call and could hear a commotion at the other end of the line.

Two officers rushed to the scene and attempted to arrest Fitzmaurice, but he ran away and tried to hide from them behind a parked van.

CCTV footage aired in court shows Fitzmaurice skulking behind the van, trying to avoid the officers in pursuit, but the officers find him and confront him.

The CCTV footage is then partially obstructed by the vehicle, but John Kavanagh, prosecuting, confirmed that Fitzmaurice can be seen with a red dot on his chest, shouting at the two officers.

The red dot was the laser-guided cross-hair of a taser, which the officers threatened to use if Fitzmaurice refused to comply.

The officers grabbed Fitzmaurice and pinned him down to the floor, with one officer clamping down on his right leg.

Fitzmaurice then shouted: “Get off my skin grafts!” and attempted to fight his way out from under the officers.

The officers claim Fitzmaurice then hit back at them, flailing wildly and impulsively.

The court heard that Fitzmaurice had had a motorcycle accident earlier this year and had undergone major surgery on his right foot, which almost had to be amputated.

After riding his motorcycle into the back off a moving car just outside Rotherham, Fitzmaurice said he was catapulted 20 metres down the road, scarring his right shin down to the bone.

A lorry then ran over Fitzmaurice’s injured foot as he lay helpless at the side of the road, crushing his ankle.

Mr Large said the skin on Fitzmaurice’s foot was still “exceptionally thin” at the time of his arrest, and there was no doubt he was in “immense pain” when the police pinned him to the ground.

“It was resisting arrest, with no malice involved,” said Mr Large.

“The defendant was panicked and acted instinctively.”

Sentencing, District Judge Redhouse said Fitzmaurice had showed “poor judgement,” and could have averted the incident by cooperating with the police.

“If you had just gone quietly with the police, this never would have happened,” she said.

“You knew you had an injury, whereas the police did not, and yet you still chose to turn this into a situation.

“It is clear that there is still a lot you need to learn, especially regarding alcohol and social relationships,” said District Judge Redhouse.

Fitzmaurice was given a one-year community order and a 20-day rehabilitation program, which will focus on anger management, alcohol misuse and conflict resolution with his partner.

Fitzmaurice will also have to pay a police fine of £50, and £85 towards the costs of the trial.