Met Police must apologise for ‘knee-on-neck’ arrest says lawyer

Man with officer's knee on his head

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Footage on social media appears to show an officer with his knee on a man’s head during an arrest

The Met Police must formally apologise to a man who was detained while a police officer appeared to kneel on his neck, his lawyer has said.

Marcus Coutain, 48, was filmed telling officers “get off my neck” as he was arrested in north London on Thursday.

His lawyer Tim Rustem said the events “mirrored almost identically what happened to George Floyd”, who died after being restrained in the US.

One Met officer has been suspended and another placed on restricted duties.

The Met “quickly assessed the incident” and referred it to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which is conducting an investigation.

The force said it would not be issuing any further statements.

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A protest against the arrest was held outside Islington police station on Saturday

On Saturday, Mr Coutain pleaded not guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court to possessing a knife in public.

Police said officers were called to reports of a fight in Isledon Road on Thursday.

Footage posted on social media that evening shows two officers holding a handcuffed black man on the pavement.

In court, Mr Rustem said the police should apologise.

‘Deeply disturbing’

Speaking outside court, Mr Rustem said the Crown Prosecution Service should review the case, drop the charges and offer a “formal apology” to Mr Coutain.

Mr Rustem said his client was legally carrying a blade for the purposes of repairing his bicycle.

“Essentially Mr Coutain was stopped and searched for matters for which he has not been charged,” he said.

“It is the use of what I would regard as excessive force, a knee being placed on his neck … references which mirror exactly what happened to George Floyd in America.

“A man saying ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘get your knee off my neck’, while he was already handcuffed and while he was restrained by two police officers.”

He said his client was lucky to have only “minimal” injuries to his wrists and neck, adding: “Fortunately it didn’t lead to the tragic consequences that we saw in America.”

Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House described footage of the arrest in Islington as “deeply disturbing” and said some of the techniques, which were “not taught in police training”, caused him “great concern”.

In a statement, the Met Police said it had quickly assessed the incident, including the body worn video footage from the officers and their statements and justification for their use of force, and referred it to the IOPC.

In Islington, about 30 people gathered outside the police station in protest against how Mr Coutain was arrested.

The case has been sent to Snaresbrook Crown Court on 17 August.

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