A lawyer says charges should be dropped against a man who was arrested for having a knife while a London police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck in a video that caused outrage because of its similarities to George Floyd’s death.
Marcus Coutain, 48, was filmed pleading with officers to ‘get off my neck’ as he was handcuffed on the pavement in Islington, north London, on Thursday evening.
After Coutain appeared in court charged with possessing a knife in public today, his lawyer Timur Rustem called on the police to apologise while speaking outside Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.
The police watchdog is investigating the manner of the arrest, which has resulted in one Metropolitan Police officer being suspended and another placed on restricted duties.
Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House described the footage as ‘deeply disturbing’ and said some of the techniques, which are ‘not taught in police training’, caused him ‘great concern’.
A police officer has been suspended after he was filmed kneeling on a suspect’s neck during an arrest in Islington, London, on Thursday evening
Coutain’s lawyer Timur Rustem pictured outside Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court said the incident ‘mirrors almost identically what happened to George Floyd’ in the U.S. in May
Coutain appeared in custody at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Saturday afternoon charged with possessing a knife in public.
He indicated a not guilty plea and the case has been sent to Snaresbrook Crown Court on August 17.
Scotland Yard said officers were called to a fight in Isledon Road at around 6.30pm on Thursday.
Footage posted on social media on Thursday evening shows two officers holding a handcuffed black man on the pavement.
At the start of the two minute, 20 second clip, one of the officers appears to be kneeling on the man’s neck and has his hand on his head.
The man struggling on the ground can be heard shouting: ‘Get off me … get off my neck, I haven’t done anything wrong, get off my neck.’
The court heard Coutain matched the description of a suspect in an assault case, but Coutain’s lawyer Timur Rustem said his client was initially searched for drugs.
He said his client was subsequently told he matched the description of a ‘someone involved in an attack’ before charges were brought for having a knife.
The video shows two male officers pinning a visibly-distressed man to the ground as he writhes on the concrete
He told the court Coutain had the blade on him for repairing his bicycle, adding: ‘He had a lawful reason to have that item on him.’
Speaking outside court, Mr Rustem said his client was ‘very distressed and very confused and not quite sure why he was targeted in this way’.
He told reporters: ‘Essentially Mr Coutain was stopped and searched for matters for which he has not been charged.
‘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 Coutain suffered ‘fortunately minimal’ injuries to his wrists and neck, adding: ‘Fortunately it didn’t lead to the tragic consequences that we saw in America.’
Officers were called to a fight in Isledon Road, Islington. They arrested a man at the scene on suspicion of affray and possession of an offensive weapon, the force said.
Inquiries continue and the Met has referred it to the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
At the start of the two minute and 20 second clip, one of the officers appears to be kneeling on the suspect’s neck and has his hand on his head.
The struggling man on the ground can be heard shouting ‘Get off me … get off my neck, I haven’t done anything wrong, get off my neck.’
One of the police officers is heard to ask him ‘Are you going to behave yourself?’ before telling him to ‘Stay down’.
He then stood up and asked onlookers who were filming the incident to ‘move back’, while another clip showed more police officers arriving at the scene.
The situation calmed down by the time the suspect was led into a car and taken to a police station. He has since seen a doctor.
The suspect shouts a series of pleas including ‘get off my neck’ and ‘I haven’t done anything wrong’
Sir House, Met deputy commissioner, said: ‘The video footage that I have seen today and is circulating on social media is extremely disturbing. I understand that many viewing the footage will share my concern.
‘The man involved was arrested, taken to a police station and has now been seen by a police doctor.
‘Some of the techniques used cause me great concern – they are not taught in police training.’
He said the decision to suspend one officer, and remove the other from operational duty, would be ‘kept under review’.
‘We have quickly assessed the incident, including the body worn video footage from the officers and their statements and justification for their use of force. As a result we have referred the matter to the IOPC,’ he added.
‘One officer has been suspended and another officer has been removed from operational duty, but not suspended at this time. This decision will be kept under review.
‘We will co-operate fully with the IOPC investigation.’
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said what he saw in the video was ‘an extremely concerning incident’.
He tweeted: ‘It is right that it is quickly referred to the IOPC and an officer has been suspended. I will be following this closely: we are policed by consent and that relies on the highest levels of respect and professionalism.’
The video showed two male officers pin a visibly-distressed man to the ground as he writhed on the concrete.
One officer had his hand pressed against the suspect’s face and a knee on his neck while the other restrained his legs.
The suspect shouted a series of pleas including ‘get off my neck’ and ‘I haven’t done anything wrong’.
Horrified witnesses urged the officers to stop and repeatedly shouted: ‘That’s a human being.’
After several seconds, the officer took his knee off the suspect before telling an onlooker to ‘shut it’ when they criticised his use of force.
He stood up and walked towards the crowd to order them back before the second officer eventually let the suspect sit up.
After several seconds, the officer takes his knee off the suspect before telling an onlooker to ‘shut it’ when they criticise his use of force
One officer has his hand pressed against the suspect’s face and a knee on his neck while the other restrains his legs
A second clip showed several more officers arriving on the scene as tension among the crowd escalated.
Witnesses urged officers arriving to ‘arrest the officer’ they had filmed kneeling on the suspect’s neck.
A woman heard giving a statement to a constable said: ‘It’s okay to arrest him but don’t push his head and then kneel on him. It might kill him, it might injure him.’
Another officer is then heard telling the crowd that the suspect ‘matches the description’ of a male they were searching for before the footage cuts out.
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: ‘Police were called by a member of the public at approximately 18.30hrs on Thursday, 16 July to reports of a fight in Isledon Road, N7.
‘A man, who matched the description of one of those involved, was detained by officers and arrested at the scene on suspicion of affray and possession of an offensive weapon. He remains in custody at a central London police station.
‘Enquiries into the circumstances continue.
A second clip shows several more officers arriving on the scene as tension among the crowd escalates with witnesses urging those arriving on scene to ‘arrest the officer’
‘We are aware of a video showing part of this wider incident where two officers have detained the man on the ground and appreciate this looks very concerning. This footage has been viewed, along with body worn footage from the officers who attended. Both officers involved have also provided statements.
‘The officers’ initial interaction with the man and the events that led to him being detained have also been analysed.
‘Our officers carry out their duty on a daily basis across London in often difficult circumstances. Where force is used, officers must be able to justify this as lawful, proportionate and necessary.
‘Our officers understand that their actions will be scrutinised as they go about their work and that the public have the right to hold them to account where appropriate.
‘On this occasion we have decided to refer this incident to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.’