POLICE VIOLENCE

French police officer gets suspended jail term for attack on British volunteer

Would-be migrants wait near the northern French port of Calais, hoping to cross the English Channel.
Would-be migrants wait near the northern French port of Calais, hoping to cross the English Channel. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

A French court has handed a riot police officer an 18-month suspended jail term for assaulting a British migrant-support activist during an operation in the northern port city of Calais. The court also barred the police sergeant from serving for two years over the events of 31 July 2018.

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The northern port of Calais is a key crossing point for migrants trying to reach Britain.

There are several informal camps around the city, housing people hoping to stow away on a truck crossing the Channel to England.

Several British migrant support groups are active in the area.

The convicted officer was one of a team deployed to remove migrants from an area near the ring road around Calais.

A standoff with a group of British volunteers ensued, during which the accused knocked Tom Ciotkowski, a volunteer with the Help Refugees group, to the ground.

Officer claimed he acted in self-defence

The police claimed Ciotkowski had shoved the officer and called him a "bitch bastard", prompting the officer to push back in self-defence and causing both men to fall over a security barrier.

Ciotkowski was arrested and charged over the incident but was cleared of any wrongdoing at his trial in 2019 on the basis of a video showing the attack on him to be unprovoked.

The footage showed him alone falling to the ground, close to the path of an oncoming lorry.

The officer's 18-month suspended sentence was stiffer than the year-long suspended sentence that the prosecution had sought.

Two junior police officers, who lied in support of the accused man's version of events, got off, one with a reprimand while the other escaped disciplinary action.

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