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Dog walker, 76, awarded £5,000 after being pounced on by off-duty police officer

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Jean Mitchell, 76, said she was held in “vice-like grip,” causing huge pain under her arms, in the arrest. She had been walking her two pooches in a woodland when she became in a dispute with another dog walker, reports Chronicle Live.

The other dogs began to jump up at Jean and her Bedlington Terrier but the dispute ended when the other woman, who unbeknown to Jean was an off-duty officer, arrested the pensioner. 

The officer claimed Jean had thrown two objects which hit her back and Jean was charged with assault, after spending eight hours in a cell.

But the pensioner was found not guilty after a trial at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court.

Now, almost five years later, police have agreed to compensate Jean after a civil damages claim heard in court this month found the arrest to be unlawful.

Since the ordeal in 2016, Jean has suffered mentally and physically.

Speaking today from her home in Pegswood, Northumberland, Jean said: “It was an absolute nightmare what happened and I’m still suffering with it. I feel as if I’ve been let down by the police and I feel frightened to ask the police for help.

“I volunteer to help in the woods, which I love doing, but now I’m really wary of doing it because of what happened there, I don’t know who will be out in the woods.

“When she said ‘right, you’re under arrest’ I just couldn’t believe it, I didn’t even know she was a police officer. She put me in a vice-like grip and I felt this terrible pain. I was screaming my head off, screaming for help, because I was terrified.”

Jean, who at the time of the arrest was still taking medication following a breast cancer diagnosis in 2012, suffered severe bruising to her arms.

Lawyers, who spoke on her behalf at Newcastle Crown Court, told the judge the force used against Jean was unnecessary.

Richard Hardy, of Ben Hoare Bell LLP, said he’d entered into discussions with the force, which has now agreed to offer £5,000 in compensation for her detention and the force used against her during the arrest.

Jean, who worked as a school escort for children with learning disabilities before she retired, said she was “pleased to get justice after such a long ordeal” but that the impact of the incident is still affecting her.

“It was very very frightening,” she continued.

“I used to love being outside but since this happened I’m extremely wary.”

Northumbria Police said the officer has since received “words of advice”.

A spokesman for the force said: “We can confirm that compensation has been paid to an individual after a jury sitting in a civil court hearing earlier this month found an off-duty police officer had made an unnecessary arrest following an incident in 2016.

“As a result of that incident, the member of public was charged with assaulting the off-duty officer but was found not guilty at a magistrates hearing later that year.

“Our Professional Standards Department conducted an investigation when a complaint was made in 2016 relating to the arrest and found there was no case to answer.

“However, words of advice were provided to the officer around how the incident was handled.

“Representatives of the complainant appealed the finding to the Independent Office for Police Conduct but the appeal was not upheld.”



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