A man arrested on suspicion of illegally wheelclamping a car was aggressive and intimidating, a police disciplinary panel heard today.
James Breeds is accused of gross misconduct for using force to enter Alexander Hamilton’s offices to retrieve a note left on the car, by pepper spraying him, and then lying about it in his report.
Mr Hamilton’s father, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, was also arrested during the incident for calling Mr Breeds, who was then a PC, a poofter. He was acquitted after magistrates said the homophobic insult was said too quietly to be a criminal offence.
Today, Mr Breeds told the panel he was in the office when he first heard about the incident in The Drive, Hove, which was taking up increasing amounts of the neighbourhood policing team’s time on August 19, 2019.
There had been some confusion amongst his colleagues over whether wheelclamping was an offence, but by the time he arrived, at 4.20pm, it had been established it was a crime, serious enough to be dealt with at crown court.
Mr Breeds said: “I considered it quite a substantial offence, particularly for the people it’s affected.
“He was hostile from the word go. There was no calm speaking to me. My main concern was for the people in their vehicle who couldn’t go nywhere and had been intimidated by the people they had had dealings with earlier.
“I mainly wanted to get them on their way and out of harm’s way. To get the clamp released from the vehicle.
“Mr Hamilton said money was owed and I had a duty to resolve it his favour.
“I was explaining that the way he had gone about it was illegal and he had to release the clamp and that I couldn’t release the driver’s details because my hands were tied on that.
“He was hostile and aggressive and wanted me to do what he told me to do.
“He stepped into my personal space, far closer than I would wish him to be. He was intimidating, unpredictable as far as his hands were going up when you weren’t expecting there was a very real perceived threat by me that I was going to get clonked at any point.”
Asked why he had gone inside the building, he said: “I knew that what I had in my hand was evidence and I placed value on that evidence because I was certain it had details of the car and the location, mention of immobilising the vehicle and how it could be released.
“I was aware it might go down the route where I had to arrest him but in that second my intention was effectively to get the evidence back off him.
At the point the paper is snatched from me my intention is to arrest him and secure that evidence from him.
He’s effectively resisting and trying to pass the evidence away from him and towards other family members who were there.
I was arresting him and he was actively resisting it.”
He said this is why he used the pepper spray, but that as they were so near to each other, he had tried to spray it onto the top of his head so it wouldn’t go directly into his eyes at close range.
He was also asked why he had attended the disciplinary hearing despite already having been dismissed from the force for unrelated reasons following a hearing last year.
He answered: “It wouldn’t have sat comfortably with me. It’s not the truth, this narrative.”
During yesterday’s hearing, Mr Hamilton said he had not given the order to wheelclamp the car, which had been parked without permission several times in a car park owned by his company.
He said he had been at the scene as a mediator, and to calm the situation down. He also said he had not snatched the note, but that Mr Breeds had passed it to him.
The hearing continues.
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