UK police arrest 'mirrors what happened to George Floyd', lawyer claims

The lawyer for a man who was arrested as a police officer knelt on his neck has called for an apology from Scotland Yard.

Marcus Coutain, 48, was filmed pleading with officers to ‘get off my neck’ as he was handcuffed on the pavement in Islington, north London, on Thursday evening.

His lawyer claimed the case ‘mirrors almost identically what happened to George Floyd’.

The police watchdog confirmed it is investigating the manner of the arrest, which has resulted in one Metropolitan Police officer being suspended and another placed on restricted duties.

Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House described the footage as ‘deeply disturbing’ and said some of the techniques, which are ‘not taught in police training’, caused him ‘great concern’.

Coutain appeared in custody at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court this afternoon charged with possessing a knife in public.

He denied the charge and the case has been sent to Snaresbrook Crown Court for a hearing on August 17.

Scotland Yard said officers were called to a fight in Isledon Road at around 6.30pm on Thursday.

Footage posted on social media on Thursday evening shows two officers holding a handcuffed black man on the pavement.

At the start of the clip, one of the officers appears to be kneeling on the man’s neck and has his hand on his head.

The man struggling on the ground can be heard shouting: ‘Get off me… get off my neck, I haven’t done anything wrong, get off my neck.’

One of the police officers is heard to ask him ‘Are you going to behave yourself?’ before telling him to ‘Stay down’.

He then stands up and asks onlookers who are filming the incident to ‘move back’, while another clip shows more police officers arriving at the scene.

The court heard Coutain matched the description of a suspect in an assault case, but Coutain’s lawyer, Timur Rustem, said his client was initially searched for drugs.

He said his client was subsequently told he matched the description of a ‘someone involved in an attack’ before charges were brought for having a knife.

He told the court Coutain had the blade on him for repairing his bicycle, adding: ‘He had a lawful reason to have that item on him.’

Speaking outside court, Mr Rustem called for a ‘formal apology’ from the police and said his client was ‘very distressed and very confused and not quite sure why he was targeted in this way’.

He told reporters: ‘Essentially Mr Coutain was stopped and searched for matters for which he has not been charged.

‘It is the use of what I would regard as excessive force, a knee being placed on his neck… references which mirror exactly what happened to George Floyd in America.

‘A man saying “I can’t breathe” and “get your knee off my neck”, while he was already handcuffed and while he was restrained by two police officers.’

He said Coutain suffered ‘fortunately minimal’ injuries to his wrists and neck, adding: ‘Fortunately it didn’t lead to the tragic consequences that we saw in America.’

Sir Steve added: ‘We have quickly assessed the incident, including the body worn video footage from the officers and their statements and justification for their use of force. As a result we have referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

‘One officer has been suspended and another officer has been removed from operational duty, but not suspended at this time. This decision will be kept under review. We will co-operate fully with the IOPC investigation.’

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