Storm over video of woman punched during arrest

London, United Kingdom

08 March 2007 11:40

An English police force faced a civil lawsuit on Thursday from a young woman who was punched five times by a police officer as he arrested her during a scuffle outside a nightclub last year.

The South Yorkshire Police in northern England defended the conduct of the officer, who said he punched Toni Comer in order to subdue her so that she could be handcuffed, and expressed outrage at suggestions it was a racist incident.

Closed-circuit footage shown on BBC television shows Comer and a police officer falling down a set of stairs outside a club in Sheffield, with the officer landing on top.

Two other officers and a security guard arrived. As the first officer tried to handcuff Comer, he hit her five times with his fist, though it is not clear where she was struck.

Police had been summoned when Comer vandalised a car after being ejected from the club.

Comer, who was finally handcuffed and dragged away with her trousers down, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal damage and was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £250 compensation.

She admitted that she had been drunk when she was arrested and could not remember the incident. She decided to pursue legal action after watching the footage of the incident.

She is epileptic and believes her movements may have been caused by a fit.

I got quite a few cuts and bruises on my arms and my face and the back of my neck," she told BBC television on Wednesday. "I really don't believe it. I didn't think they would actually do something like that at all."

In the Guardian newspaper, which initially obtained the footage, she said the police would not have known of her medical condition and said that her father had told her she can be aggressive during an epileptic fit. -- AFP