In the Media

Solicitor acted for David Healer in police custody assault case

PUBLISHED June 8, 2012

Friday 08 June 2012 by Jonathan Rayner

Who? Stephen Gowland, 40, personal injury solicitor at north-east firm ILS.

Why is he in the news? Acted for a client who was assaulted by police officers during questioning at Peterlee police station, County Durham. CCTV footage showed custody sergeant Stephen Harvey and civilian detention officer Michael Mount twisting the arm of Seaham resident David Healer behind his back.

Both officers were each found guilty at Teesside Magistrates' Court in March 2012 of two counts of common assault. They were sentenced in May and each ordered to pay Healer £50 compensation.

Independent Police Complaints Commission commissioner Nicholas Long said: 'A detained person is not under obligation to answer questions. It would appear (the officers) had forgotten this and decided it was necessary to try to gain compliance through the use of force. I consider it completely unacceptable and it could be argued their actions amounted to a form of torture.'

Route to the case: 'A friend of a friend referred [it].'

Thoughts on the case: 'Although it is disappointing that a police officer and a civilian employee have acted in this way, it was also interesting to deal with a civil action against the police after years spent defending such claims.

'It brought home to me the shocking statistic that, in a civilised society, almost 1,000 people have died in police custody since 1990.'

Why become a lawyer? 'I began a legal apprenticeship straight from school, loved it and did my exams part-time to become a legal executive and then a solicitor.'

Career high: 'Taking on clients who are in a bad way after an accident and helping them rehabilitate and rebuild their lives.'