Tuesday 17 January 2012

Diminished Responsibility or Bad Policing?

 "18 year old male, going out of his mind"

In my line of work I often get the opportunity to work at various events as a medic with private companies. I mainly work at festivals as it's a good chance to see some good music whilst getting paid. Win win! Last year I worked as a medic at Bestival on the Isle of White. It was a great weekend, I got to work with new people, got to work on an array of different vehicles and although the majority of jobs were drink and drug related it was pretty easy stuff. Pick 'em up and drop 'em off at the field hospital where they were monitored then discharged. It worked pretty well. At about 9pm on the Sunday evening, which was the last night, and while the headlining act was on I was sent to one of the campsite hubs to attend a girl with breathing problems. We jumped in our 4 x 4 buggy and headed over. It was a panic attack. Nothing special. Whilst talking to her however a steward came running over.

"Can you come and help us, there is a guy just up the hill going out of his mind, I think he's on something"

I radioed it in and headed over. I left my cremate who was a first aider to stay with the panic attack and went with the steward in the buggy to the space cadet. It was about 200m from wherer I was and about 20m into the campsite. I clambered over the guide robes and tents and eventually got to the guy. He was about 6ft fall, skinny and clearly wired. His friends were all stoned and laughing at him and said he'd taken a 'molly' of MDMA. MDMA or Methylenedioxymethamphetamine to be flash is basically ecstasy. A 'molly' means that instead of a tablet it's in crystalline or powder form. This was the drug of choice for this years festival. Last year it was Ketamine but MDMA was the order of the day this year and by all accounts it was a pretty potent batch. 

I gathered that the patients name was John. I tried talking to him but he was indeed out of his mind. He was hallucinating and begin to get quite panicked. I wanted to get him out of the campsite and onto the path but when I turned round to get assistance from the steward he had gone. I was on my own. As I turned back to John he punched me in the face which knocked me to the floor and then proceeded to jump on me and try and strangle me. His friends came to my aid and between us we sat on him. I was able to press the emergency button on my radio and after a few minutes stewards came running over and we got him to the buggy. He head butted me and spat in face numerous times until the police arrived and handcuffed him. I had a fat lip, a swollen face, cuts to my neck and general bumps and bruises. He was arrested and taken to the hospital. Once at the hospital the Dr gave him a hefty dose of Midazolam to subdue him. My boss made it clear the company would fully support me to press charges and were absolutely fantastic about the whole thing. I was told  by the police to come back in a few hours to give a statement. 

In the hours that passed, I returned to work and John came to. He was taken to the welfare tent to sleep it off and had been rather apologetic by all accounts. Too little too late! At about midnight, after my 12 hour shift I went to give my statement. It started off as all statements do, blah blah blah but then the following conversation occurred.

"So do you want to press charges?"

"Yes, definitely"

"Why? Don't you think that's a bit selfish?"


"Well he's only a kid and it will stay on his record, that'll ruin his life, besides he had diminished responsibility because of the drugs"

"So, he assaulted me, drugs or no drugs, it's no excuse"

The other officer in the room then came wondering over and pulled up a chair as if I was being interrogated. I was only a desk light in my face away from a scene from Law and Order!

"I know it's no excuse but be realistic. If you press charges we have to provide officers to take him back to mainland, what a waste of resources, especially when he won't be charged with anything?"

"Why won't he be charged, he assaulted me?"

"Yeah but you've got no lasting injuries and at the end of the day it's your word against his"

"So what!! Look at me"

"Well if you do press charges we won't be recommending it goes any further, you'll just be wasting everyones time for no reason. At the end of the day, it's a festival. Things work differently"

"OK, this statement is ending here, it will be continued after consultation with my bosses and your inspector in control. I have both of your shoulder numbers. Goodbye"

With that, I stormed off to the office. A expletive filled rant ensued and my boss marched me off to see the inspector. A long conversation followed and at 2am the inspector decided to take be back for my statement and to press charges. I waited outside while the inspector had a very heated discussion with the officers. He then came out to me with an awkward look on his face.

"I'm afraid that since you left here earlier your attacker has been released without charge. We have his details but don't know if they are correct. I'm very sorry, we can take your statement and if we make contact with him charges will be pressed."

I just walked away. Since when did the police show such disregard for the law and for procedure. I wrote a 2000 word complaint letter but just received a pathetic standardised response. John wasn't caught, not that I believe any attempt was made to find him. Am I over reacting? Do drugs provide a reasonable defence for violence to emergency services? Was it really diminished responsibility? Or was it just a lack of willingness to do paperwork and put in the time? I hope the latter. If copious amounts of drugs is a reasonable defence then that gives all drug user carte blanche to assault who they like, when they like with no repercussions. Shameful policing.


  1. I don't think it is an excuse at all! I think police behaved outrageously... If he were drunk would that be an excuse - of course not! Smacks of lazy policing to me.

    Hundreds of thousands of people take all manner of drugs prescription and recreational and don't try to beat the s**t out of people.

  2. I also work at festivals and whilst there have been a few scary moments luckily have never had anything like this. I generally find security & police very helpful (probably cos they know the alternative is them having to deal) commiserations on your experience, hope it doesn't put you off festivals

  3. I am shocked the police didn't do anything, violence goes nowhere! I am disgusted to be honest! I hope you are ok now


  4. Had it been a police officer assaulted, there would have been no excuse. You know as well as I that this happens on the job on the street as well. Both I and my colleagues have come across this, one instance is that working as a Raoid, I get sent to a 'patient' mortal and high, Police officer in attendance, guy swears at me, spits at me, copper warns him, spits at the Police.........lifted and off down the nick to be charged!

  5. Hmmm, I don't know why the offender wasn't charged. No, actually I probably do know why, but I shall keep those thoughts to myself. I keep hearing whispers about how the IoW Festival is run and it doesn't inspire confidence. I have worked Glastonbury Festival many times and a zero tolerance policy is adopted. Yet that doesn't affect the Festival goers, who 99.9% are there to have a good time. Policing wise we engage and have a good laugh with everyone present.
    In my Force any assaults on NHS staff or Ambulance staff are not tolerated. It doesn't matter if the suspect was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they get arrested. They made the conscious decision to partake and responsible for their actions. They only thing we ever ask is if they are fit to be detained, which strangely enough they usually are.
    There should be a blanket nationwide zero tolerance to assaults on NHS and Ambulance staff. After all you're there to help them..

  6. I'm a police officer and frankly I'm shocked! You don't expect to be assaulted and if it were me you came to you'd have had the exact opposite reaction. I'm afraid that is bad policing.

  7. No excuse at all. I am seriously annoyed at this. I think he should have had the book thrown at him. Drugs or no drugs, that behaviour is not acceptable, what if his friends hadnt been there....I wonder what the world is coming to at times.

  8. Last festival I was at where EMS got punched the police offered the EMS provider a free hit. The EMS provider was decent enough to decline, but I will forever approve of that officer.


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