Police officers lied in statements to justify Tasering a black social worker who was posing no threat, the high court has been told.
Edwin Afriyie, 36, had his arms folded and was standing at a distance from officers when he was Tasered by City of London police after a road traffic stop, body-worn video played in court shows. Officers at the scene had claimed in written statements that Afriyie was “steeling himself to attack officers” and had adopted a “fighting stance”.
The social worker is suing the force for assault/battery and misfeasance in public office, claiming that he was unlawfully handcuffed and Tasered. City of London police has denied liability, saying its use of force was “necessary and reasonable”.
Afriyie was driving friends back from a party in east London in April 2018 when he was pulled over by police in the City. Officers told him they believed he was speeding, but he was never prosecuted for this. He believes he was stopped because he was a black man driving a Mercedes.
He was breathalysed and arrested after the machine repeatedly failed to register a result. He was asked to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed, but pulled his arms away, saying he had been told to stop blowing into the device.
While standing apart from officers and discussing events with his friend, he was Tasered in the chest. Afriyie fell backwards and hit his head on a stone window ledge.
Medical evidence suggests he was briefly knocked unconscious. He suffered a head injury and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. He said the incident left him suicidal. City of London police argue that he did not lose consciousness.
David Hughes, representing Afriyie in London’s royal courts of justice on Wednesday, said officers lied repeatedly in their statements to justify the Tasering after the fact. “No honest person could describe Mr Afriyie as readying himself to attack anybody,” he said. “If this Tasering was justified, the officers wouldn’t need to embellish their accounts.”
Police are supposed to use Tasers when there is a serious threat of violence. Shortly after his arrest, video evidence showed Afriyie being told by an officer: “The reason you got Tasered is not doing as you’re told.”
Judge Jonathan Salmon said Afriyie’s reaction to being arrested “was not the best”, but he added: “Your best point is, why was that Taser used?”
Mark Lay-Morgan, representing City of London police, said Afriyie was “aggressive” when he pulled his hands away from officers and said: “I’m not doing it [being arrested].”
He was handcuffed while incapacitated on the pavement and was escorted by ambulance to the Royal London hospital. His handcuffs were only removed after a request by medical staff.
Afriyie was asked to take a blood test in hospital but offered to do a urine test instead, saying he had a phobia of needles. Lay-Morgan said this was not the case, pointing to vaccinations and acupuncture that he had received in the past.
Lay-Morgan argued that Afriyie had deliberately failed to blow hard enough in breathalyser tests and was not complying with police. Afriyie denied this.
Afriyie told police he had “breathing issues” and the court heard he had visited a GP as a teenager about the problem. But Lay-Morgan countered that a consultant said he was healthy and that there was no evidence that this affected him as an adult.
Afriyie was charged with failure to provide a sample for analysis. When the prosecution was ordered by magistrates to provide body-worn camera footage, it dropped the case.
In a witness statement to the court, Afriyie said of the aftermath of the incident: “I started to feel as though I should give up on life. I was a shell of the person I was before.
“I had always been a proud, strong black man. Now I was questioning everything about my appearance and identity. I believed that now I was a target because of the way I looked. I do not believe things would have escalated the way that they did had it not been for the way I looked.”