On 10 October, the Daily Star reported that Suzanne Porter had been sentenced for “punching cop’s teeth out then gloating on Facebook”. So what’s the story?
Well, it appears that Porter and her friends had been drinking at a pub in Clitheroe, Lancashire. The police had been called due to the group becoming rowdy. When the police arrived, Porter was barefoot and drunk. Porter and her group were asked to leave the pub, however it appears that they had to be spoken to again by the police because their disruptive behaviour continued.
Subsequently, officers found Porter in the middle of the road whereupon she lifted up her dress revealing her buttocks. PC Pitcher followed Porter in a police van and challenged her about her having urinated in the street and revealing her buttocks to police officers.
Porter reportedly replied :”Oh, did I?” and the officers began to make arrests.
PC Pitcher first began to detain Porter before deciding to assist colleagues in arresting Porter’s brother who was also drunk and was struggling with officers and threatening them with Porter’s stiletto shoes. When PC Pitcher went back to arrest Porter, Porter punched her in the face, knocking off her glasses and causing to stumble and fall to the floor. Porter ran off but was subsequently arrested and found to have PC Pitcher’s blood on her dress.
PC Pitcher suffered distortion of the cartilage in her nose, a broken front tooth and three others were caused to become loose. She could not work for four weeks and needed to be accompanied by a colleague on her return due to the impact on her confidence.
Porter pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm under s.47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861. The maximum sentence is 5 years’ imprisonment.
The offence could have been charged as s.89 of the Police Act 1996 (assault on a constable in execution of his duty), however that carries a maximum of 6 months’ imprisonment and the injuries in this case clearly warrant a more severe penalty than that. It is presumed, for that reason, that the decision was taken to charge the more serious offence under s.47.
The Star reported that she “had a previous conviction for violence and intimidation”. The details are unknown but they are very likely to have been considered to have aggravated the seriousness of the offence.
Porter apologised to the police but it transpired that she had posted a picture of her blood-stained dress on the social media site, Facebook, with the caption “Ruined”. One of Porter’s friends commented: “All she will want for Christmas is her two front teeth” and Porter replied: “Ha, ha.” Porter also reportedly posted an image of a broken tooth on her Facebook page.
At the sentencing hearing at Burnley Crown Court, the prosecution said that this conduct added to the victim’s distress.
We don’t have the sentencing remarks as they have not (yet) been published. The Star reported that the Judge said: “The victim was particularly vulnerable in the circumstances. You targeted her.” This would have been considered to be an aggravated factor.
Reference would have been made to the Assault guideline (see page 12). Taking account of the judge’s remarks as to the vulnerability of the victim and that she was targeted, it seems the judge took the view that this offence involved greater harm (vulnerability of the victim, see page 13) and higher culpability (targeting of the victim, see page 13). That placed the offence into category 1 with a range of 1-3 years’ custody (which, on the information we have, appears to be a bit high).
The next step would have been to consider the aggravation and mitigation. It would have been an aggravating feature that the victim was an on-duty police officer, that Porter was drunk and that it was committed at night, after the police had told the group to leave the pub. Porter’s previous convictions are likely to have added to the seriousness. The effect upon the victim will also have been taken into account.
Additionally, it appears that the judge relied upon the Facebook evidence to demonstrate a lack of remorse and additional distress caused to the victim.
In mitigation, it is likely the judge would have taken into account that this was a single blow as opposed to a sustained assault. Further, although not mentioned in the news report, it is likely the defence would have submitted that the fact that Porter is a single mother and has a dependent child should have resulted in a shorter sentence or the sentence being suspended.
The judge appears to have taken a starting point of 15 months, and then (we presume) given full credit for the guilty plea, resulting in a sentence of 10 months’ imprisonment. It is likely that a victim surcharge would also have been imposed.
Porter’s brother Gary Place, pleaded guilty to using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour and was fined £75, with £85 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.