The police watchdog has been branded “not fit for purpose” after an officer was cleared by a jury of allegations he used his dog as a weapon.
Pc Paul Jackson, 36, was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after complaints about his use of German Shepherd dog Jerry and excessive violence while working for Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) tactical vehicle intercept unit.
The probe led to the dog handler being put on trial accused of going on the attack with Jerry against five suspects who all abandoned cars followed by the unit in separate incidents between August 2015 and September 2016.
The Crown claimed Pc Jackson deployed Jerry to “vent his contempt” for criminals but on Friday a jury at Preston Crown Crown found him not guilty of five counts of wounding with intent.
His colleague, Pc Paul Lockett, 37, a plain-clothes officer in the unit, was also found not guilty of aiding and abetting one of the alleged assaults and a second count of misconduct in a public office.
Pc Jackson wiped away tears after he and Pc Lockett were told by the judge, Mr Justice Nicklin, they could leave the dock and sit behind their lawyers.
Both officers nodded their thanks to jurors as they left the courtroom.
The five complainants who gave evidence at the trial all have previous convictions – ranging from cannabis possession and driving offences to a career burglar and a convicted murderer.
They were all accused of lying to claim that Pc Jackson held them down to allow Jerry to continue biting them, and that their injuries were in fact caused by them resisting arrest.
Following the verdicts, Stu Berry, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, said the case had been “nothing short of a witch hunt.”
Writing on the federation’s Facebook page, Mr Berry said: “This whole case has been a farce from start to finish and an unnecessary waste of the public money in times of extreme austerity.
“This case has been nothing short of a witch hunt as the IOPC proactively sought evidence and built a flimsy case around evidence provided by convicted burglars and worse, a convicted murderer.”
Mr Berry called for a full and independent review of the case by the Policing minister and Home Secretary.
He said: “The IOPC is clearly not fit for purpose in its current form.
“The lives of two highly motivated and respected police officers have been ruined with long-lasting consequences for their professional and private lives.
“Have we got to the point where we as a society believe the word of career criminals over honest and hardworking police officers?
“We now face a situation where dog handlers are reluctant to do their job. Instead of focusing on catching the bad guys, their first thoughts are ‘we don’t want to be the next Paul Jackson’.”
Giving evidence, former lifeguard Pc Jackson, from Radcliffe, said he acted lawfully at all times in a reasonable and proportionate manner.
Jurors heard Pc Jackson had received three commendations – including two Chief Constable’s Awards – since he joined GMP in 2008.
His superior, Inspector Tariq Butt, told the jury Pc Jackson was the “ultimate professional” and added: “If I could clone the traits of a police dog handler it would be Pc Paul Jackson.”
Pc Lockett, from Altricham, denied acting as lookout in the alleged wounding of Kelly and said he did not report the incident because no wrongdoing had taken place.
IOPC regional director Amanda Rowe said: “These were serious allegations against the officers which clearly required criminal investigation.
“We respect the jury’s decision. The evidence has been heard in full and has been properly scrutinised via the judicial process.
“The next steps are to complete the conduct matters for these officers. Greater Manchester Police agreed with our findings, and we await their response with regard to any further proceedings.”