At 11am on Thursday 20th August 2020, I entered into a conference call with Derby Magistrates’ Court, during yet another hearing in the case of PC Mark Knights. The purpose of the hearing was threefold:
- To find out if the CPS intended to take over the prosecution.
- If the CPS did intend to take over the prosecution, were they going to end it?
- If the CPS intended to continue the prosecution, Mark Knights would be expected to enter a plea.
Before I tell you the outcome of that hearing, let me bring you up to date with events since the last article I published on the subject. I would invite you to read that article first as it sets out all the various obstructions and complications I have had to deal with along the route of bringing a private prosecution against a police officer.
I originally charged PC Mark Knights with common assault and the statutory offence of police criminal misconduct, as provided by s26 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. District Judge Taaffe repeatedly refused to summons Knights under section 26, due to his total lack of understanding of the make-up of the offence. I was not satisfied that a mere common assault charge would suffice for such a brazen abuse of a police officer’s powers, so I began the process of judicial review. However, before the first stage of judicial review could commence, the CPS contacted me to inform me that they would be taking over the case. In so doing, they assured me they had contacted the court to notify them of this intention.
I contacted the court myself and they told me that no such communication had been received by the CPS. So I contacted the CPS again and asked them to clarify. They ignored my email. I wrote to them a second time as a matter of urgency, telling them that I would have to travel a considerable distance to reach Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court and I did not expect my time to be wasted. Again, no response from the CPS.
PC Mark Knights headbutted victim Ben Joynes in the face during a road rage incident in November last year.
As the hearing date grew closer, it became clear that, due to personal circumstances, I would not be able to travel to Derbyshire on the 20th, and therefore I asked the court to allow me to access the hearing remotely. During the Covid outbreak the courts have readily allowed both parties of criminal and civil trials to participate via Skype, or telephone. The court did not confirm that I would be granted a conference call until the hearing was taking place. And when they did, they used an obsolete number to contact me.
Luckily, my emails were switched onto constant update, as only then did I see the court were trying to contact me. It took two attempts before I was finally put through to the live hearing via conference call.
The District Judge informed me that, yes, the CPS had taken over the case. Better still, they had furthered their intention to prosecute. To my surprise, the judge told me that the CPS had ‘upgraded’ the offence from common assault to assault by beating. PC Mark Knights had entered a plea of not guilty and the case had been sent to trial for the 2nd December. I then asked for permission to withdraw from the prosecution, which was nothing more than good manners on my part, as once the CPS take over the case the private prosecutor’s involvement ends. I asked if there was any evidence or information I held that the CPS would require and I was told by the judge that they would contact me.
Needless to say I never heard from the CPS again, who it seems have gone out of their way to do whatever they could to prevent Knights from being prosecuted.
To my understanding, ‘assault by beating’ is the same charge as ‘common assault.’ I assume the only difference would be at sentencing. I’m not sure I would regard this as an ‘upgrade’. But as far as I am concerned, this is a good outcome and I am pleased that PC Mark Knights is now being sent to trial. I’m not going to speculate on the potential outcome, except to say that any trial is better than none at all. Bear in mind that without my involvement both Derbyshire Police and the CPS would have dropped the matter. In fact, Derbyshire Police conducted a deliberately defective investigation into the assault as a means to ensure their officer was never prosecuted.
To my knowledge, nobody has ever successfully brought a private prosecution against a police officer that has gone to trial, let alone resulted in conviction. I may be wrong in that assumption, but private prosecutions are extremely rare, and nigh on mythical when it comes to prosecuting the police.
This has been an extremely important case to me. I intend to continue bringing private prosecutions against dangerous police officers that believe they are above the law. It is the corrupt practises of the police complaints process, IOPC and the CPS that make people such as myself necessary. I expect to meet the same obstructions every time, but I will persist, and keep you updated on this website.