TWO police officers who smashed a pensioner’s car window after pulling him over for not wearing a seatbelt have been told they were “justified” in their actions.
The two officers, who have not been named, were cleared of all wrongdoing at an internal disciplinary hearing held behind closed doors this week.
In a statement, Gwent Police said the two officers “met the highest standards of professional behaviour”.
The family of property developer Robert Whatley, 71, criticised the hearing.
Mr Whatley’s son Peter Whatley, 47, said: “The message it sends out to the public is that this is a green light for police officers to act in whatever way they see fit and they will be protected by the bodies that are supposed to be there to separate right from wrong.
“At the end of the day we didn’t expect a lot, but for the officers to not even get a slap on the wrist is a disgrace.
“If we do something wrong you or I have to be punished for it, but it seems to be getting to a stage where it looks like the police are just no longer accountable. They do what they want and there are no consequences. These officers have been exonerated in a private hearing behind closed doors in front of a panel of friends.”
Mr Whatley was pulled over last year after driving off without wearing a seat belt and being pursued by a police car along country roads between Cwmbran and Usk.
Police video footage of the incident showed one officer smashing his driver’s window 15 times with an “asp” baton and another leaping onto the bonnet and kicking his windscreen.
At the time, Gwent Police said it had “great concerns” over the incident and an internal investigation recommended a disciplinary hearing be held to look into the officers’ actions.
Labour MP for Newport Paul Flynn called for greater transparency from the police.
“I think there is a very strong case for saying we should know more about this hearing,” he said. “I don’t like criticising police in any way but I believe there is the raw material here for people to demand transparency.
“Otherwise people might suggest that there is a closing of ranks and that the police are looking after their own, when this does seem to be a case of bad behaviour.”
Solicitor Nogah Ofer of London-based Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, who accompanied Mr Whatley to the hearing, said: “Our view is that the outcome was against the weight of the evidence.
“We were quite surprised actually and we really feel that the police are protecting their officers.”
She added Mr Whatley would be seeking redress in the civil courts.
“When the police complaints process lets you down the only way you can get some accountability is to sue the police,” she said.
In reply to a request from the Western Mail, Gwent Police refused to publish any of the text from the hearing.
A spokesman for the force said: “Gwent Police follows strict national guidelines and procedures when dealing with complaints and any subsequent disciplinary hearings.
“In this case, the internal investigation was supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the disciplinary panel, in accordance with standard national guidelines, was made up of senior officers from another force area.
“The complainant had the right to attend proceedings and did so. Public hearings are held when the IPCC deems it appropriate and only in IPCC independent investigations and not supervised investigations.
“It must be remembered that the disciplinary panel came to their decision after hearing and viewing evidence relating to the entire incident and not just the isolated CCTV footage.
“The panel concluded that the actions of the officers were justified and met the highest standards of professional behaviour expected of Gwent Police officers.”