G20 assault case verdict

31 March 2010, 14:55 | Updated: 31 March 2010, 15:35

A riot squad officer who hit a G20 protester from Brighton twice with a metal baton was cleared of assault on Wednesday.

Metropolitan Police Sergeant Delroy Smellie, 47, clashed with animal rights activist Nicola Fisher outside the Bank of England last April.

The officer, a member of the controversial territorial support group, went on trial accused of assault by beating last week.

He was cleared today at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court. But he could still face misconduct proceedings over the incident.

Smellie, who was standing in the dock for the verdict, smiled widely and gave two thumbs up to his supporters as he was cleared. See the video

District Judge Daphne Wickham said there was no evidence that his use of the baton was not approved, correct or measured. She said the officer had a ``mere seven seconds'' to act and other witness also feared for his safety.

She said: ``It was for the prosecution to prove this defendant was not acting in lawful self-defence.

``I have found the prosecution has failed in this respect and the defendant has raised the issue of lawful self-defence and as such is entitled to be acquitted.''

Ms Fisher, 36, ran in front of Smellie hurling abuse during a vigil to mark the death of Ian Tomlinson the previous evening. District Judge Wickham, who heard the case without a jury, watched video footage of the incident and looked at dozens of photographs.

Nicholas Paul, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Smellie lost his self-control because of Ms Fisher's irritating, aggressive and confrontational actions.

He said the officer was justified when he shouted at her, pushed her back and struck her with the back of his hand, knocking off her sunglasses. But Mr Paul said the officer went too far when he struck Ms Fisher across the thigh with the extendable metal weapon, known as an asp.

The clash attracted attention worldwide when amateur video footage of it was posted on the YouTube website.

Ms Fisher, of Brighton, suffered two bruises to her leg and enlisted Max Clifford to sell her story to a national newspaper for around £26,000. She failed to attend the trial claiming she was suffering depression and did not want to be in the public spotlight again.

In his defence, Smellie said he feared for his safety when he was left isolated behind a line of his colleagues who were facing the other way. The highly-trained and experienced officer, who has been suspended from duty for almost a year, said his actions were reasonable and proportionate.

Smellie said he mistook a carton of orange juice and a camera in Ms Fisher's hands as weapons when she approached from his ``blind-side''. He had been on duty for about 28 hours with only a three-hour break when his unit received an urgent call to join colleagues in the City on April 2.

A line of City of London Police officers had complained of being hit by missiles as a large group of people gathered, some of whom were hooded and carrying flags.

Smellie has served at some of the most volatile protests of recent years, including those marking a visit by US president George W Bush. Colleagues described him as an exceptional and totally dedicated officer who served as an example to others.