Force says sorry for ‘unsatisfactory conclusion’ to historical assault case in arrest of Clash drummer
West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson has berated his force after it took more than ten years to apologise for the “appalling” treatment of a man who was racially abused and attacked by a group of officers.
The PCC said “lessons must be learned” by West Midlands Police and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over the complaint by Donville Lorenzo – who was thrown down five flights of stairs during an arrest in November 2007.
In 2013, some 19 force personnel including two retired officers, two civilian staff and 15 serving officers were placed under investigation by the IOPC’s forerunner – the Independent Police Complaints Commission – for the incident, which started in Mr Lorenzo’s Birmingham home and left him covered in bruises in a custody suite at Bournville Lane police station .
On Tuesday (February 20), WMP Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said she was sorry about the “unsatisfactory conclusion” to Mr Lorenzo’s case – three months after the IOPC agreed with the force that misconduct proceedings should not go ahead.
Mr Lorenzo has reportedly said that the public apology – made at a meeting of the WMP Strategic Policing and Crime Board – was a “small step forward”.
The attack left the father-of-four, who had a career as an African drummer, with wrist injuries and carpel tunnel syndrome.
Mr Jamieson had asked WMP to apologise following the news any misconduct action against the officers involved in Mr Lorenzo’s arrest had been dropped.
The West Midlands PCC, who has personally met with the former Clash roadie and drummer, told Police Professional: “Don Lorenzo was treated in an appalling way by the force.
“And I am disappointed that after so long there has been no misconduct action taken against the officers involved.
“This undermines the trust the public have in the force and is incredibly serious.
“Lessons must be learnt both at West Midlands Police and at the national police watchdog, the IOPC.”
He added he was pleased that at least the force “has now apologised”.
Ms Rolfe told the Strategic Policing and Crime Board: “I think it is important we apologise for the poor service Mr Lorenzo received from West Midlands Police in investigating his complaint and addressing his concerns arising from his arrest in November 2007.”
She added: “I wanted to express my personal apology to him and an apology on behalf of the organisation.
“I am determined we will learn from this case.”
Mr Lorenzo, 65, had previously said he wanted a public apology from the force to make what he had been through “worth it”.
The decade-long case began November 2007 when Mr Lorenzo arrested over assault allegations.
Officers had been called to the flat by his then teenage daughter who falsely alleged that he had hit her.
She later withdrew the accusation. He was, however, charged and found guilty of assaulting an officer in custody – later quashed on appeal.
The following year, the force’s professional standards department found its officers had no case to answer.
But in October 2011, Mr Lorenzo pursued a civil legal action after he was held in a police cell for more than 23 hours, assaulted and called a ‘f****** n*****’ by officers. A jury at Birmingham County Court found he was assaulted and racially abused by officers.
Mr Lorenzo was awarded £17,063 in damages.
In December 2012 the force failed in its appeal against the judgment at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The judges also ruled in Mr Lorenzo’s favour and ordered the force to pay 100 per cent of his costs, estimated at the time to be £50,000.
The following June, the IPCC decided to investigate Mr Lorenzo’s treatment in 2007 and the 2008 internal investigation.
The investigation took three years and in October 2016, the IPCC decided eight police officers and one member of police staff would face misconduct proceedings.
In November 2017, the newly-named IOPC agreed with West Midlands Police that proceedings should not go ahead.
In 2014, Mr Lorenzo’s advocate Alex Kendall – a former forensic scientist – said his life had been “destroyed” by the incident.
He added: “He lost his business through this and he almost had a nervous breakdown. It has ruined his life.
“Muddy waters is what the police rely on and it means the whole complaint process is a facade. It’s just not fit for purpose.
“They just don’t look at the possibility that they are ever wrong, they only consider that they are right.”