PC Neil Copland had his life turned upside down by a lengthy investigation and a harrowing experience at court.
The armed response officer saw three suspicious men in a car. They made off at speeds of 80mph and jumped red lights. A passenger even attempted to throw a house brick at the pursuing officer. The driver, who was wanted for making threats to kill, decamped on foot and was struck by PC Copland’s car, suffering a fractured knee.
Within a month of the incident PC Copland had his driving and firearms authority revoked and was served notice of prosecution by the then Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitted at his plea hearing, at Magistrates Court – 14 months after the incident – that events were "a misjudgement in the heat of a pursuit with substantial mitigation" but they still pursued the case.
At the first Crown Court appearance, the CPS did not tell the Judge that PC Copland was a police officer in pursuit of a fleeing criminal. They instead
presented the case as a 'pedestrian' hit by a car and refused to call witnesses or even the suspect.
At the Crown Court trial, 25 months after the incident, the judge informed jurors that PC Copland was an officer "on duty trying to stop a criminal" and as such he had a defence in law. He was cleared but the CPS threatened to appeal, before backing down. PC Copland endured a further wait until a misconduct hearing was also abandoned.
He describes the investigation as "27 months of hell" that caused untold emotional distress to him, his family and colleagues. During the time PC Copland was under investigation, the criminal he injured had been in and out of prison three times.
PC Copland said: "If this had been a member of the public the investigation would have concluded in months if not weeks."
PC Neil Copland